Coming to Theatres August 17, 2012

In Depth

People In Film | Leslie Mann

Leslie Mann | The In Outsider

In the scary fun PARANORMAN, Leslie Mann gives voice to Norman’s mom, Sandra Babcock, a caring parent who must watch her son being ostracized because of his special ghost-whispering talent. While Mann, a mother of two, clearly understands the maternal dimension of her character, she also connected to Norman on a personal level. “As a kid, I always felt like an outsider and felt left out,” Mann explains. “In the fourth grade, though, I said I wanted to be an actress, and now it’s fun to be able to use the thing that everyone made fun of me for – my high voice.” Despite such early humiliation, Mann persevered to become one of Hollywood’s most talented comic actresses. And while she connected with Norman’s spirit, she also loved the spirit of the film and its filmmakers. “I had seen and loved CORALINE, and LAIKA sent over pictures of the PARANORMAN characters so I knew I would get to be part of the creative process with all these animators. Also, I enjoyed being able to come in to work looking like a slob.”

Leslie Mann | Life by Accident

Born in San Francisco in 1972, Leslie Mann spent her adolescence in Southern California, graduating from Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach in 1988. Even while in high school, she was reaching out to pursue her dream to become an actress. At 17, she got her first gig, a TV ad for nail polish. “I had crazy big hair and orange spandex,” she told Backstage. “I had to audition on roller skates, dancing to “Kiss” by Prince.” For the next few years, she plugged away taking on odd jobs, eating (discount) ramen, and going to many, many auditions. Her detours into side work kept her focused on her goal of becoming a working actress. She joked to Backstage that she got fired from a bookstore-coffee shop because she “didn't want to learn how to do the espresso machine, because all of the girls who did it had scars all over their hands.” After a few years, she got her first real role, as Nurse Mary in the hospital drama Birdland. While the TV gig ended after seven episodes, Mann started getting small parts in various films and shows. Then in 1995, she beat out 500 other actresses to land the role of Matthew Broderick’s girlfriend in Ben Stiller’s dark comedy The Cable Guy. The film changed Mann’s life, but not because it gave her a chance to star in a big Hollywood film, or because it showcased her comic skills alongside Jim Carrey. Rather it was her introduction to the film’s producer that was so significant.

Leslie Mann | The Family Business

The producer of The Cable Guy, Judd Apatow, a writer/producer who was best known for his work on The Ben Stiller Show, was more than a little intrigued by the ingénue. As Leslie Mann later told Australia’s The Vine, “When I left the room he said to Ben Stiller, 'There goes the future Mrs. Apatow.' I guess he had some kind of plan worked out. He asked me out on a date, and I thought it was just a drink with a friend. But I remember looking at him and thinking, ‘This is the type of guy I should be with, not those jerk-off guys who don't treat me right.’” The meeting changed her life in ways she could hardly anticipate. While she had worked hard to map out a future as a successful actress, things got in the way, as she explained to Backstage: "I always had that little plan for myself…And then I had kids, and all my plans fell to shit. And I learned that you just can't plan." While she put her role as mother first, Mann continued to work, often in her husband’s films. Indeed her two daughters joined her, appearing in Knocked Up and Funny People (as well as the upcoming This is 40). Mann has been in a number of Apatow’s productions, including The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Drillbit Taylor, as well as in shows associated with Apatow’s friends, like Jonah Hill’s animated comedy Allen Gregory (for which Mann voiced one of the main characters). Despite such connections, Mann's reputation was clearly of her making. As Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers wrote in his review of Funny People, “Mann, one of the strongest arguments for nepotism in the business, is simply sensational in the role, finding the right blend of humor and heartbreak in a woman who is understandably reluctant to give her trust to a man.” The comic team that Mann and Apatow have become was hilariously demonstrated recently when Apatow accepted an award at the Writers Guild East and read from a speech hastily written at the table for him by his wife: "Leslie Mann is the reason I am standing here. I'd like to thank Leslie Mann, my brilliant, beautiful wife. I was so much less talented before I met her."

Leslie Mann | Accidently Funny

Starting off, Leslie Mann didn’t initially consider herself a comedienne, but experience soon taught her otherwise. Clearly attractive, she would be noticed by her looks, but her actions, rather than coming off as dramatic, appeared humorous. Mann told Backstage, “I have a memory of being at an audition and reading something very seriously, and people in the room started laughing. That was my first memory of people's perception of me, then I just sort of seemed to head in that direction. Which is fine by me, because I love it and feel comfortable doing it." Recently she confided to The New Yorker that her serious-to-comic turn happened even in Funny People, where she attempted to give “my impression of Nicole Kidman in The Hours. I just try to be a dramatic actress, and it comes out wrong, which seems to be funny.” Despite her intentions, her comic effects are real and memorable. Entertainment Weekly singled out her performance in Knocked Up as “embodied with showstopping authority and killer comic timing.” While Mann has never exhibited stand-up comic presence in her work, her contributions to a number of films continually demonstrate the unique light touch she adds to productions. After describing her character in I Love You Phillip Morris as “delightfully played by Leslie Mann,” Slate’s Dana Stevens echoed many when she added that Mann “deserves a movie of her own already.”

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