Chatting up Hollywood starlets is an occupational hazard for Exit Interview. Yet Penn grad Elizabeth Banks made us feel like it was the eighth-grade dance all over again — tongue-tied, palms sweaty, and having to pee real bad. Maybe it’s the 32-year-old’s hilarious turn in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, or her upcoming Eagles movie Invincible, opening August 25th, that made us nervous. But all it took was some talk about Mark Wahlberg, Madonna and forced castration for Banks to put us at ease. And point out our stupidity. Which is why we like her.
Exit Interview: Well, um, we’ve been following your career, and since you’re a proud Penn grad, we’re happy to have a chance to talk to you. [Exit Interview is embarrassed by such blatant tuchas-kissing.] Um, so I read a magazine that described you this way: “Beneath her polished beauty lies a reservoir of emotional complexity.” Are you used to hearing that?
Elizabeth Banks: [laughs] No, that makes me laugh. It sounds like I’m 67 years old.
EI: Where in the reservoir did you find inspiration for your autoerotic nympho in The 40-Year-Old Virgin?
EB: Well, you have to go to those deep places. [laughs] I mean, you don’t use all your gifts all the time, y’know? It’s a toolbox. You use different tools for different things.
EI: Take us back to Penn. Any good campus mugging stories?
EB: I never was mugged. I was walking down Spruce Street one night by myself and this guy followed me. At one point he pulled something out of a bag, and I was like, “I’M OUT! SEE YA LATER!” I ended up sleeping on a couch in a frat house. I loved it when I was there, but it’s gorgeous now.
EI: You met your husband at Penn, but for the purposes of my fantasy that you’re single, I’m going to refer to him as The Guy Who Lives In Your House.
EB: Fine. That’s how I refer to him as well. [laughs] I met him my first day of school. We got into a fight. I tried to give him my phone number and he told me he didn’t have a phone. I was like, “Duuude, if you don’t want to call, that’s fine, but don’t make up stories.” He really hadn’t hooked up his phone yet.
EI: Some of your first acting gigs were TV commercials. Did you feel like you’d arrived when you scored a Wendy’s ad?
EB: My favorite ad was for Zima. The malt beverage. I got to roller-skate in a latex nurse’s outfit. Then there’s a guy in the commercial with a steaming steak. A steaming pile of meat. It was hilarious.
EI: What about the indie film you shot here?
EB: Surrender Dorothy. I believe [laughs] it was about a drug dealer who uses drugs to get this addict to do all of these feminine things. He’s plotting the entire time to lobotomize him and give him transgender surgery.
EI: Such a tired story. You must see a million scripts like that.
EB: Every day. I’m like, not again! I have no idea what happened to it. Someone told me you can rent it at really seedy places, or mom-and-pop shops.
EI: We’ll try to track that down.
EB: I’ll really love it if you do that. [We did. Banks shows up at 31:19, hitting on the smack-addled, would-be sex-change lobotomy victim at a laundromat while he folds underwear. Best line: “Hmmm. … BVDs? Hanes? Fruit of the Loom?” She later has very sweaty sex with said gender-imperiled dude.]
EI: When you filmed Invincible, did you revisit any old haunts?
EB: Yeah, [The Guy Who Lives In My House] and I did the tour around campus, went to the button, sat next to Ben Franklin. I loved going back there. Philly is one of the most underrated cities in America.
EI: Did anyone warn you that if this movie is a hit, every drunk in a McNabb jersey is going to shout “E-A-G-L-E-S” at you?
EB: I hope. Philly fans are great. I saw T.O. play before he got booted. We rode the subway and it was on, right at 11 a.m. Open-container boozing [laughs] with everybody singing the fight song.
EI: Did you meet any Eagles?
EB: Y’know, you’re so, ah, you can’t print this. I met two players, and I don’t remember their names. We went to Buddakan with a group. … Dhani [Jones]! And his roommate. Please make it look like I know what I’m talking about.
EI: I’ll do my best.
EB: Thank you. And by the way, I don’t believe you at all.
EI: So what’s your role in Invincible?
EB: I play Janet, the love interest. I work with Mark Wahlberg’s character.
EI: Is it true that the first rule about Mark Wahlberg is “Do not talk about Marky Mark or his Funky Bunch”?
EB: [laughs] Well, if you do, just know that there are consequences.
EI: Like he’ll kick your ass? Or just bust into “Good Vibrations”?
EB: He’s clearly not busting into “Good Vibrations.” He’s great. It’s really hard not to call him Marky Mark. When you’re talking to him, you call him Mark. When you talk about him to other people, you call him Marky Mark. [laughs]
EI: What about your appearance in Swept Away, the ill-fated Madonna shipwreck movie?
EB: Madonna’s such a professional. But I’m barely in that movie. I take no responsibility for how it came out.
EI: Were you starstruck hanging with Madge?
EB: I was weirded out by the fans and the paparazzi. We would go to restaurants, and there was one time, I think it was Guy Ritchie who got up, and someone came over and said, “Can I smell this chair?”
EI: Guess that’s when you’ve really made it — when strangers want to inspect your furniture.
EB: They want to smell it. Crazy.
EI: Maybe I should say I hope one day soon, men will ask to smell your chair, too. But I don’t wish that on you.
EB: No, I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.
EI: Well, thanks for taking time to talk with us. Don’t worry about looking bad. I’m usually the one who comes off like the idiot.
EB: You are. So that will be fine. [laughs]