In the deliciously off-kilter Barry Munday, out now, actor Judy Greer plays Ginger, a world-weary misanthrope who gets knocked up after a one-night stand with Barry (played by the unexpectedly hilarious Patrick Wilson). Shortly thereafter, Barry, a lecherous schmuck, falls for an underage woman, whose father then bludgeons his private parts in a movie theater. He’s left unable to reproduce after undergoing an emergency operation, which is precisely when Ginger, the mother of his unborn child, re-enters his life. It’s a comedy with heart but, as the delightful Greer explains, no balls.
Although she’s loveable, Ginger is also a total curmudgeon. What drew you to the character? I loved the idea of playing someone who was sort of caustic. She takes a real journey throughout the movie, which is pretty rare for me. I’ve gotten to work with amazing people and do amazing movies, but sometimes my roles don’t have a beginning, middle, and end, so this was a really big one for me. I was also so intrigued by the idea that Patrick Wilson had signed up to play Barry Munday. I was like, What—he’s the most amazing actor and he’s going to play this crazy, weird character?
He kind of plays a buffoon. Patrick is so funny. That’s been established on stage for him, but not so much in film. I’m sure people will be totally shocked and excited by his performance in this movie. Barry is really funny, but in this weird, quirky way, and Patrick’s sense of humor is weird and quirky. I think the two of them are similar in that they both have a lot of heart and they’re both really good people—Barry just isn’t as evolved emotionally. And they both love Van Halen to a degree that I’ve never seen before.
Did you learn anything from this film? Working with Patrick, Chloë Sevigny, and Jean Smart—it was bananas. I really wanted them to be impressed by me and I think that sometimes it’s good to go into a job wanting that. I guess you could say this movie inspired me.
Were you in a rut prior to Barry Munday? I got cast in this movie during the Writers Strike, when there was a frenzy about getting work and about how long the strike might last. Things got really bad. Everything was weird and it felt so business-y to me. I kind of forgot about the art of making movies. This movie was inspiring to me because it reminded me that you don’t need millions and millions of dollars to make a movie, and it’s fun, man. Every single day my alarm would go off really early and I’d pop out of bed, go to Starbucks, and get to work so happy to be there.
Chloë Sevigny, who plays your sexpot sister in the movie, originally eyed the role of Ginger. Could you have seen her playing that part? I think that Chloë would have been an amazing Ginger, and the fact that she took the role of Jennifer after I had been cast as Ginger… I was just so flattered. I was so in awe of her and nervous to meet her. It was so great to meet her and have her say, “I’ve always liked watching your movies.” I was like, Oh my God!
It’s funny to hear you say that you’re still in awe of other actors. I enjoy thinking that they’re not just like us, you know, like the celebrity section of tabloids where it says, “Celebrities are Just Like Us!” I like the mystery and glitz of Hollywood.
Have you ever been photographed shopping for groceries or filling a tank of gas? David Schwimmer and I were having lunch one day in New York, and there was some shot of us in a magazine. My aunt Judy was so excited that she cut it out and put it on her fridge. It was kind of embarrassing.
Speaking of being in awe of actors, you recently filmed The Descendants with George Clooney. This was the second time you two had worked together, after David O. Russell’s Three Kings from 1999. What was it like to reconnect with him? Nothing against George at all, because he is the bee’s knees and everything that anyone says about him is true—he is such a gentleman and so disarming and wonderful—but I was completely star-struck by [director] Alexander Payne. One of the movies that made me want to be an actor was his film, Citizen Ruth. I was already in theater school, but I didn’t know if I was ever going to be an actor. But when I saw Laura Dern’s performance in that movie, I was just like, That is what I want to do. My audition for The Descendants was hard because I was trying to pull it together, but I was just like, Oh my god, you’re so good! I filmed that one in Hawaii with Alexander and Payne and George Clooney and I kept thinking, I’m in Hawaii? With these two? What the fuck! Who am I? It was so bananas!
Do you still get nervous on the first day of filming a new movie? I never, ever sleep the night before my first day of work. It’s not panic, exactly, but I think there is a healthy dose of nerves, which I actually find to be helpful: What’s it going to be like? Who am I going to be friends with? Who am I going to like? Who am I not going to like? What if I forget my lines? I’m not going to forget my lines! What if I look ugly? I won’t look ugly. It’s like talking to my evil twin. She’s always like, “You’re gonna mess up!” And then I’ll talk to a friend who’ll say, “No you’re not! You’re a professional, Judy! This is what you do.”