The comedy All About Steve is the hilarious tale of a woman who, after falling hard for a guy, thinks they’re an item. Unfortunately, as far as Steve is concerned, she’s just a crazy stalker that he can’t seem to get away from.
Mary Horowitz (Sandra Bullock) is a cruciverbalist, or crossword puzzle constructor, for a local newspaper. Her brain is full of an endless stream of arcane information, which she is happy to share with anyone she comes across, whether they are actually interested or not. Nothing in Mary’s life is typical, from the fact that she lives with her eccentric parents, to her bright red go-go boots, to her conclusion that handsome cable-news cameraman Steve (Bradley Cooper) is “the one,” after only one blind date. Once she decides to pursue Steve relentlessly, as he crisscrosses the country covering breaking news stories with reporter Hartman Hughes (Thomas Haden Church) and their producer (Ken Jeong), Steve becomes increasingly unhinged, before eventually learning to truly appreciate Mary for all of her uniqueness.
At the film’s press day, co-stars Sandra Bullock, Bradley Cooper, Thomas Haden Church and Ken Jeong told IESB about making this quirky, off-beat comedy, and joked about the possibility of teaming up with Sandra for The Hangover 2.
Q: Sandra, did you have a lot of input into your character’s look, with her clothing, hair and boots? What kind of voice did you have in that?
Sandra: A loud one. It’s an amalgamation of our writer, Kimberly Barker, and a 3 ½-year-old little girl that I spend a lot of time with. There was the shag hair-cut. We’d try things on and they wouldn’t work, but oddly, that worked. There was the evolution of the red boot. The boot was written as a red boot, but there are so many different ways to go with a red boot, as we women now. But, that was the right way to go, and that was $14.95, off of Shoe.com. It was genius. I had an idea of what her body felt like and what she was going to look like, but that’s how it came together.
Q: Why did you choose blonde hair?
Sandra: Why not? I saw Mary that way. Kim Barker looks very much like that. I don’t think she would wear the red boots, but she has that shaggy blonde hair. And, the 3 ½-year-old that I love so much is very much like that. When I read it, I didn’t see me. You read something and you go, “If I were me in it, it wouldn’t have the same lightness and sweetness.” I didn’t think you could suspend your belief as easily, unless I went, “Okay, wipe out everything you know of me, as much as you can, and here’s this sweet person, based on several people that I think are pretty amazing and special.” It’s just what comes to you.
Q: How did you relate to your character? Did you have anything in common?
Sandra: Yeah, very much so. It’s that part of us that we’re told to lose once we become an adult. It’s that freedom of expression, joy, excitement and innocence. I had a lisp that I had to get rid of, and I had to have speech therapy. I just go, “Why? Why did I need to get rid of a lisp?” It’s that whole, “What is normal?,” thing. Why can’t we embrace adults like her? We’re very excited to embrace children like that, but we don’t trust adults who are naive, kind and happy. We want that jaded, cynical and street wise. Why is that?
Ken: In a similar way, my character was a parallel because he was brand new to the job of producer. He was very intimidated by Steve and Hartman Hughes, so there was a little bit of an arc where I felt like, towards the end, he’s coming out of his shell too. I was consciously trying to do that. And, it was great because it wasn’t unlike actually working with them. They’re all so great. It was the second movie I had ever done, and I was so nervous, being around them. I was naturally intimidated, in a good way. I was like, “Instead of fighting that, just embrace that and use that for the character.”
Q: Sandra, your character is the Queen of Trivia. What was that like to play?
Sandra: My head is filled with so much crap, or facts that I find important, but that some others don’t. Kim Barker’s train of thought is brilliant, in the knowledge of things that she has. She’s brilliant. All the knowledge that I have doesn’t necessarily make me brilliant, but I love acquiring knowledge and then sharing it with everybody else. I love trivia. I love the knowledge of stuff, and I get very excited about it, very much like Mary Horowitz.
Q: What kind of preparation did you do, to play members of the media?
Bradley: I shadowed an NBC field cameraman, and I actually learned a lot of little tidbits and terms that they used. It was very beneficial.
Sandra: He was good at it. A lot of the on-camera stuff that he shot with Hartman Hughes, we used.
Thomas: I learned Spanish.
Bradley: Which I always thought was odd.
Thomas: When I was supposed to be learning my dialogue, I chose Spanish instead. It really had very little to do with the movie. It was just one of those things. I’ve always wanted to be able to speak Spanish.
Ken: It helped with the Vasquez line.
Thomas: Yeah! I was able to nail that. There was an authenticity there. If I had tried to say, “Vasquez” when I was Spider-Man 3, it would have come out very different.
Ken: It would have turned into sand.
Thomas: Yeah, exactly!
Q: Sandra, your character is at peace with all of her flaws, by the end of the film. Do you have any flaws that you’re at peace with now?
Sandra: We think we have all these flaws, but Mary Horowitz didn’t think she was flawed. Society made her feel flawed and question how she lived her life. She questioned it and made everything all about Steve, thinking, “I must go on this path because that’s what society says,” and she realized it wasn’t right for her. But, she met others like her that validated that they aren’t flaws. They are unique traits that make special human beings.
Why is it that young boys and men are unique and eccentric and are mavericks when they’re different, but women are odd when we are eccentric or different? What would I wish someone would have said to me at 12, or 8 when I had my speech impediment? What do I want to say to little girls that I know? I keep saying, “Don’t change. Be who you are,” but society is really strong in their opinions. So, I’ve made peace with the fact that the things that I thought were weaknesses or flaws were just me, and I like them. But, it took me awhile to figure it out.
Q: Sandra, what was one of the funniest or most surprising things that happened on set?
Sandra: Ken Jeong getting naked, which now apparently he’s doing, in every film he’s in. It was a hard shoot because it was 112 degrees, and we had to accomplish a lot. Our director, Phil Traill, will tell you that it was very ambitions. You had to balance that tone. All of us come from a different comedic style, but I was surprised at how well it worked. If we wanted to improvise or go off book, it happened. And, I was surprised at how well these three got along. It was a little scary, how well they got along. I was surprised at how effortless it was, when they were together.
Bradley: Who would have thought that six months or a year later, Ken Jeong would be naked on my neck, as Mr. Chow in The Hangover.
Q: Was this statement on media hype one of the reasons you joined the project?
Bradley: I chose to audition for the movie to be able to work with Sandra Bullock, primarily. And, I liked the story. And then, I met Phil Traill on the audition, and I really liked him. And then, I was lucky enough to get the job.
Thomas: I also wanted to work with Sandy. That was the breadth of my interest in the movie. No. The fact that the story exposes the manufacturing of drama in the media [appealed to me]. Bradley made a comment, a couple of days ago, about how it’s over-taking primetime television, in terms of this entertainment fascination factor, which is so true. The movie is coming out now, with all of the hype surrounding the National Health Plan and Cash for Clunkers. Every single news item becomes a shark frenzy. And then, whenever the next thing comes up, it’s completely over. They’re pouring hypoxia in car engines. Those are the clunkers.
Bradley: Breaking news is a thing that’s on TV all day. Ten or 15 years ago, breaking news would get everybody around the table because it was going to be something huge.
Ken: Now, it’s anything but breaking.
Thomas: Rick Sanchez is talking about one thing, and tweeting his ass off to people in Columbia, and the whole time, they’re running all these other things across the bottom of the screen, like “Walter Cronkite died,” but that’s just zipping by.
Q: Bradley, you’ve had such a great summer, with the success of The Hangover turning you into one of Hollywood’s leading men. How are you dealing with all of the attention?
Bradley: There’s no attention. Other than promoting the movie, that’s about it. There’s no real difference. I haven’t noticed that big of a difference.
Q: The paparazzi isn’t following you around?
Bradley: Occasionally, yeah.
Q: Will you be doing The Hangover 2?
Bradley: I think so, yeah. It looks like it.
Bradley: Yeah. You say that as if it’s a bad thing, like, “Oh, God, no!”
Sandra: You didn’t learn your lesson, the first time around?
Bradley: I think Warner Bros. would like to find out.
Sandra: I’d like to see it.
Bradley: We’re actually really excited about doing the second one. We were talking about it while we were filming the first one because we were having so much fun. And then, Warner Bros. actually wanted to do it before it even came out. It will be cool.
Sandra: Can I be in it?
Bradley: Absolutely! We’re gonna hold you to that, though?
Sandra: I’m trying to think of who I would play.
Ken: Mrs. Chow.
Bradley: That would be phenomenal!
Sandra: Oh, my God! That would be fantastic!
Bradley: You don’t talk, ever.
Sandra: But, I do jump on people’s heads naked, like my husband.
Q: There is a lot of great, quirky, off-beat humor in this film. Was that on the page?
Sandra: It was the stuff that would come out of Kim Barker’s mind, and she was on set, all the time. If something was brilliant on the page, but we couldn’t make it work within the scenario that we were playing, at that moment, she would write something else, just as brilliant. We’d go, “Okay, Kim, it’s about rocks. We have rocks here. We need it to be metaphysical, but Bradley’s got this funny sound.” And, she’d go, “Okay, hold on, just a second,” and she would spit out a page of thoughts and knowledge, and I don’t know where she gets it.
Bradley: She was incredible.
Sandra: I think we were all on the same page of what it shouldn’t be. We’d push the envelope, every once in awhile, and then you’d go, “Oh, that’s not so good,” and Phil would pull us back. You know when it’s not working. It’s very specific humor, but it had to be very real and emotional, to make it worth the journey. If we went to broad and crazy, the pay-off wouldn’t have been there, at the end.
Q: Sandra, you and Thomas both live in Texas. Had your paths ever crossed, before this?
Sandra: We tried not to.
Thomas: Absolutely not.
Sandra: When we wanted to go out to Thomas [for the role], someone said, “He lives in Austin.” I was like, “Really?” And, they said, “Oh, yeah, he lives in Texas,” and I said, “Just ‘cause someone lives in Texas doesn’t mean he lives in Austin.” We found out he’s nowhere near Austin. He’s on some farm with pigs and cows.
Thomas: I had a Twitter follower named Bullock, and I was afraid it was Sandra.
Sandra: Did you really? No. You don’t go on Twitter.
Thomas: No, I don’t. I don’t tweet.
Q: Thomas, did you base your character on any news people that you saw, like maybe Geraldo?
Thomas: You saw Hartman Hughes as a Puerto Rican jew? I didn’t even dig that deep. Honestly, I really did not. In my early conversations, when we got into rehearsal with Phil, Kim, Sandy, Bradley and Ken, we just talked about how the guy was gonna look. Sandy and Phil, everybody was like, “He’s just gotta be super-blonde and super-tan.” Nothing else mattered. That’s all I had in my head. And, I think we succeeded. We completed that mission.
Q: Sandra, how difficult was it for you to remember all of this dialogue?
Sandra: What’s weird, and most actors will probably attest to it, is that when you have a full page of well-written dialogue that has a thought process to it, it is pretty easy to memorize. It’s a lot easier to memorize than if you’re in a scene and other people are talking, and you have maybe one word or one sentence that you have to interject at the right time and in a natural way.
The one-page monologue is far easier to memorize. And, because Kim and I are frenetically the same, with the way that we spew out information, her writing [was easy to remember]. When I want to get information across, it’s like the firing of pistons. One goes off, and it sets another one off, and I just can’t stop. I have to explain everything and get it out of my head, and she’s that way too, so I felt very comfortable with that rhythm, and we matched it up with the physicality or running after them or chasing, or something. She just wrote in a rhythm that made a lot of sense to me.
Q: Sandra, this character is very sweet and determined, but everyone else labels her as a stalker. How do you feel about that label?
Sandra: It depends on what side you’re looking at it from. It’s not a he said, she said. But, she heard society saying, “You’re not living a normal life,” so she started to doubt herself. At the same time, this guy says, “I wish you could be with me, but you have a job.” She doesn’t think twice about that, until she loses her job and says, “Maybe it’s the universe saying that I need to go in this direction. I was invited.” And, as Angus said, Steve should have just told her to get out of the car, if he didn’t want her in the car.
Bradley: But, it’s not until Mary starts to physically injure Steve [that he thinks of her as a stalker]. So, his logic is going down a whole different avenue.
Sandra: And, at the end, both sides meet, and that’s what I like about it. He’s like, “I’m sorry. Don’t change.” And, her rebuttal is, “I’m Jewish Catholic.” In her quiet way, she goes, “I know I was an idiot. I went down the wrong path.” There’s the meeting of the minds, and they can both go on their way and admit their short-comings, but they also take away something. I didn’t want her to change at all. I wanted her to continue being who she was, and be okay with it.
Thomas: But, all of us change.
Q: Sandra, you said that you won’t do romantic comedies anymore because they’re not romantic or funny. How do you see this film?
Sandra: This isn’t a romantic comedy. Why should it be? It’s just as loving, funny and unique without needing her to end up with the guy, and that’s the reason I made the film. Why does Mary Horowitz have to end up with the guy to be a complete woman, but we don’t do that to men? Why can’t we women have a diverse selection of comedies to play in and be actors in and make people laugh with? Why do we always have to end up being the woman who, thankfully, gets the guy? She could have had Steve, if she wanted. She just didn’t want any more of that. So, I made it for the very reason that you asked the question.
If I can do anything, in this time of my career, I want to make it easier for other actresses and girls who are growing up to go, “I get to be a part of a comedy or an action film or a romantic comedy or a thriller or just a romance, without having to wind up with someone to complete us.” I complete me. I just got lucky that, after I completed myself, I met someone who could tolerate me. I love good romantic comedies. There just aren’t a lot of them. But, I love comedies, and I’ll never stop doing them.
Q: Sandra, what is your own personal relationship with crossword puzzles? Have you ever been a clue in a crossword puzzle?
Sandra: I have, and I get that one, every time. I get very excited and I’m like, “I know that one!” But, the other ones, not so much.
Bradley: Is it, “Actress Bullock”?
Sandra: Yes. But, if you read quickly, you could just see, “Actor Bullock,” and they’d throw you off with “Jim J.” Or, “Musician Bullock,” which could be Anna Mae Bullock, who is . . .?
Bradley: Your mother?
Sandra: Tina Turner.
Credits: Written by Christina Radish by IESB.net
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