Anna Faris’ grumpy white cat, Mrs. White, once had an acting career and starred in the movie Stuart Little. At the moment, Mrs. White sits in a patch of sun on the floor of the actress’ bright Hollywood Hills living room. Faris adopted the cat when everyone else in town had written her off as a diva past her prime. She can’t resist revealing that Mrs. White, whose framed picture hangs in the hallway, insists on using the dining room rug for a litter box — and that her fluffy tail looks choppy because Faris had to groom it with scissors after the cat suffered a particularly clingy case of diarrhea. Faris’ retelling of the story is at once charming and cheerfully gross, which is a lot like the specific brand of comedy that has made her famous.
Starting in 2000 with her first of four dizzy, wide-eyed turns in the Scary Movie franchise, Faris has made a career out of gamely playing the butt of the joke. She appeared as a deliciously vapid movie star in Lost in Translation, a nymphomaniac singer in Just Friends, and, in last year’s surprise delight The House Bunny, a wannabe centerfold who gets kicked out of the Playboy Mansion for having the nerve to turn 27 years old. Now, in the dark comedy Observe and Report, Faris plays a grating makeup saleswoman who in one scene gets so wasted on tequila shots and prescription pills that she ends up drooling vomit out of the side of her mouth. Her shamelessness enchanted costar Seth Rogen. ”She would always be, like, coughing or sneering or making these gross noises,” he says. ”It was amazing.” Says John Krasinski, her costar in 2007’s indie stoner flick Smiley Face, ”She’s doing some of the bravest things I’ve ever seen in comedy. She’s got guts I don’t think many people have.”
Faris’ parents, who live in the same small Washington town where she grew up, sometimes have to steel themselves for her movies. ”My mom wants me to play characters who are role models,” Faris says with a sigh. ”My dad is amazing, though. He’ll tell her, ‘Guys don’t get criticized for playing the bad guy or the goofy guy. She should be able to play whomever she wants.”’
So where does a petite, pretty 32-year-old woman with a tremendous gift for physical comedy fit into Hollywood’s current definition of funny? The genre’s ruled by Everydudes — Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell and Judd Apatow’s snuggly crew of beanbag men like Rogen and Jason Segel — and women are relegated to the bland role of pert sidekick. ”What is that all about?” Faris wonders. ”Is it that funny women are scary?” Observe and Report is a rarity, partly because Faris’ character isn’t required to land a man. ”I didn’t have to flirt or be charming or plucky or clumsy or unintimidating. And it was so great to feel like ‘Oh, this is what guys in Hollywood get to do all the time!”’
Outside, on the deck of her pool, Faris opens a bottle of wine and describes her original idea for The House Bunny, which she executive-produced. ”At some point, these [Playboy Bunnies] have got to go. Why do you get kicked out? Because you won’t get the eighth boob job?” Faris pauses and politely insists on switching seats so her guest isn’t facing directly into the sun. ”Let’s say she’s addicted to meth and has to go back to her tiny Christian town in Alabama — and she has a horrible father and the whole town hates her.” Faris took her idea to the female writers of Legally Blonde. ”They came back a couple weeks later and were like, ‘So, we really like your character, but what if she becomes the house mom of a sorority?!”’