Lucy Punch is quickly becoming the new sexy funny girl. Seductively comic roles in Dinner for Schmucks and You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger got her on our radar. In Bad Teacher, she plays the stuffy foil to Cameron Diaz’s titular bad girl. Amy Squirrel (Punch) is the teacher who takes everything seriously and gets all uppity when the principal ignores her complaints.
Punch was just delightful and lovely when I got to interview her for the film. She’d just rushed her lunch before I got to her room, as it can be difficult to squeeze simple necessities like food into a busy press schedule. Well nourished and lively, Punch humored my schoolboy crush on the good teacher.
Q: You know that guys find the red haired pony tailed teacher totally hot, right?
Lucy Punch: I have not heard this. I think this might just be you.
Q: I think I represent a whole group of people.
LP: A small, tiny group of people.
Q: Why do you doubt that?
LP: Well, I don’t know. They may do, but I don’t think that my character was attractive or sexy in any way whatsoever. But I’m pleased that you appreciated the red hair.
Q: Was it conscious to go from playing sexpots in You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger and Dinner for Schmucks to the modest schoolteacher type?
LP: It was a welcome relief and it was funny playing both those very vampy characters. I’d never played anything like that before and I found myself playing this sort of slutty hooker. Then I got back to back these two roles. It was certainly an immense relief to not have to worry about fake tan on my legs and doing a situp. I could just let it all hang out. I was stuffing my face at craft services while Cameron’s maintaining her beautiful physique. I was chowing down on donuts and chips.
Q: Could you have any better movie star name than Lucy Punch?
LP: Thank you. I think it works quite well for these comedy movies I’ve been playing recently. It’s not a very serious name.
Q: If you did an action movie, no one would believe it.
LP: Yes. You know, I know an actor in London called Lex Shrapnel. Isn’t that incredible? He’s also very handsome. Lex Shrapnel.
Q: Where do you start when you’re building a character?
LP: Fortunately with this, the script was fantastic. So it was on the page who this woman was. They said when you see her, she had her hair in big pigtails. Which I didn’t do. I thought it was a step too far, and she was wearing Tevas, those Velcro sandals. The writers set up quite a vivid image of who this person was. For me personally, getting the wardrobe right, starting from the feet up, very sensible, quirky clogs. Also developing her sound. I was trying to do at least this sort of Midwestern accent, which to my ears is very sweet and cutesy and all American which fit her. Also adding a slightly nasal irritating twang because she is meant to be a fairly unlikable annoying character.
Q: Do you look at the long history of comedy stuffy foil characters?
LP: The only person that really sprang to mind, for some reason when I was reading it and also working on how she moved, I was thinking of what would Sarah Palin’s cousin be like? For some reason, I thought of Amy Squirrel. That’s not to say that she’s annoying or unhinged, but she’s very perky. She’s got a lot of energy and I thought that was a similarity between them both.
Q: When did comedy become an outlet for you?
LP: Gosh, I don’t know. My family’s quite funny and quirky and eccentric. I remember making people laugh when I was a kid but I wasn’t trying to be funny. Whatever I was doing, I’d be reacting, telling the story of something terrible that happened to me or sad, and it would make people laugh. Instead of going “Oh, poor you,” I’d have people go, “Oh, you’re hilarious. You’re so funny.” I’m like I wasn’t trying to be funny. Perhaps from then, I’ve actually played Cinderella’s ugly sister three times before on camera and I had an ugly stepsister themed birthday party when I was about 10. So I always went into that direction, character parts rather than princesses.
Q: I remember Ella Enchanted. What are the other two?
LP: The first one I did was with Kathleen Turner. That was a British TV movie. Then 10 years later I did another and that was the smallest one. It was a series of fairy tales being told again on the BBC. Extraordinary, three times. I had this birthday. There’s pictures of me aged 11 with a beauty spot and pink kiss curls for my ugly sister’s birthday party.
Bad Teacher hits theaters Friday.