CULVER CITY, California — Adam Sandler knows what makes men laugh. Katharine McPhee and Tyson Ritter know how to get guys’ heads bobbing and toes tapping. Factor in fast-rising funny lady Anna Faris, and you’ve got a cast that can say with confidence: “I Know What Boys Like.”
During an exclusive visit to the wild set of their so-named comedy, the movie seemed fun enough that it might attract a few girls to show up on opening weekend as well.
“I came up with this character about a year ago, and we wrote it with the writers of ’Legally Blonde,’ and now we’re shooting it!” beamed Faris, whose pitch about a Playboy bunny too old to be a centerfold was quickly swept up by Sandler and his Happy Madison productions. “I wanted to do something that was a really fun character but also a leading lady.”
At a time when comedies typically pair a male comedian (Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, Sandler) with a female actress (Jessica Biel, Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Jessica Parker) attempting to be funny, “I Know What Boys Like” has the potential to be a lot more revolutionary than you might think. For the first time in a long time, Hollywood is making a movie about a funny, sexy character with a comedienne in the lead role.
“Oh, God, all her ’Scary Movie’s just killed me,” actress Dana Goodman said of Faris, who also serves as executive producer on the film. “I just saw ’Just Friends’ the other day, and ’The Hot Chick'; she was great in ’The Hot Chick’ too.”
“I would say ’Just Friends’,” McPhee said of her favorite Faris flick. “She was adorable in that!”
When we visited the suburban home where the “Boys” shoot took place, there was plenty of adorable to go around. Walking around the set, McPhee constantly broke out into song, while Colin Hanks kept the camera crew cracking up. As 19-year-old Rumer Willis spit out one-liners inspired by her padded bra, Sandler favorite Alan Covert (serving as producer) stood a few feet away, ribbing All-American Rejects singer Ritter. Presiding over them all was Faris, transformed into a test-tube hybrid of Jessica Simpson and Paris Hilton, stumbling around in super-high-heels with the only emblem of her true self being a coffee-stained white bathrobe she’d shed when “Action!” was called.
“Every day I pass the doughnut cart, and I’m like, ’Aw, man, I just want a doughnut!’ ” Faris said. “But I have to be in my bikini half of this movie.”
Faris may have finally found herself an Austin Powers-like character in disgraced Playmate Shelley Darlingson. “We shot with the girlfriends, and with Hef, and we have a big party scene at the mansion,” she explained. “Initially [my character] gets thrown out, because she’s just too old. There’s no second-tier bunnies, and when it’s time to move on, what are ya gonna do?”
“She’s on the streets, homeless,” laughed Kat Dennings, who plays a geeky sister of Zeta Tau Zeta, along with Goodman, Willis and others. “And then Shelly meets a sorority full of losers. … They know who they are, just a little too intensely. They don’t let themselves have fun, and they don’t leave this house.”
“Shelley finds a sorority of, well, we’re just total misfits,” explained “Cheetah Girls” star Kiely Williams , who plays the shyest of the makeover candidates. “We’re socially awkward girls. And she turns us into bunnies — but it’s more about being ourselves; she gives us so much confidence.”
Two people who aren’t lacking for confidence, however, are the newest Hollywood stars on this set. “It started with a call from my agent, and then I went on an audition,” remembered McPhee, whose supporting role in the film formerly known as “House Bunny” marks her big-screen debut. “I thought [the script] was adorable. It reminded me of that ’Legally Blonde,’ ’Clueless’-type thing, and I thought it would be a good move to be in an ensemble and to do something very sweet and uplifting.”
“Basically what happens is I come in, I look good, I throw my man meat all around, and I’m like, ’Hey, ladies, who wants a piece of the Ty show?’ ” Ritter grinned. “And people start pulling off little morsels; by the end of the movie, I’m completely ravaged.
“No, honestly, I’m just like the nice frat guy who tries to be completely cool, but is just too goofy to be totally cool,” he continued. “I think people who are cool suck anyways.”
When Ritter and McPhee met with their new boss for the first time, however, they quickly discovered that, unlike his “Billy Madison” character, he didn’t need to pee his pants to be cooler than Miles Davis. “I met with Adam — well, I didn’t really meet with him [so much as] I just said, ’Hey, how’re you doing?’ ” the “American Idol” runner-up laughed. “Then I went into the other room and auditioned. That was a little nerve-racking, but I was excited just to be in his office and his world, because I grew up watching all his movies.”
“Adam has been so supportive of this project,” Faris said of her boss. “We’ve got the comedy that you can expect from me, but we’ve also got the broad comedy that you expect from Happy Madison. We’ve got a really strong, quirky lead character … which … with the Happy Madison projects, is what Adam [usually] does. I think it’s cool, because we haven’t seen a leading female in a long time that’s also a character who’s weird and quirky, a little bizarre and just a little bit off.
“Shelley Darlingson is very innocent and naive,” Faris said proudly of her creation, looking forward to the film’s 2008 release. “I would not call her stupid — but I also wouldn’t call her terribly bright.”
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