Alison Brie in Spin Me RoundImage: Courtesy of IFC Films
It should come as no surprise that Alison Brie, the actress who played Community’s Annie Edison, Mad Men’s Trudy Campbell and GLOW’s Ruth Wilder, is just as adept at writing such brilliant characters as she is performs. In fact, it was her acting skills that shaped the largely improvised page-to-screen process in her debut screenplay Horse Girl – a psychological depth of horror indie that also had audiences wondering, “Oh damn, is Alison Brie okay ?”
“Spin Me Round,” a wild, dark Eat Pray Love that marks Brie’s follow-up collaboration with writer-director Jeff Baena, maintains that inner nuance while recapturing the light-hearted comedy she and her co-stars Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen and Co Aubrey Plaza are best known. In his role as the executive of a restaurant chain whose fully-funded corporate retreat to Italy goes more than a little awry – particularly under the auspices of company founder Nick (played by Alessandro Nivola) – Brie walks the fine line between plausibility and outright absurdity. As the writer-star tells The AV Club, her take on Nick was inspired by real manipulators of male belief.
The AV Club: Asking what a movie is about can oversimplify it, but turn me around does and says so much and covers so many genres that I have to ask, Alison Brie, what do you think your film is about?
Alison Brie: I like doing the same, I like stripping a story down to its most basic elements! Spin Me Round is about a woman who goes on a journey. She thinks she’s going to have the journey of a lifetime and fall in love… and things get out of hand. Things don’t go as expected. That’s all I have to say about it.
AVC: There are so many absurd yet realistic scenarios in this film. How much improvisation was there in writing compared to acting? Horse Girl and your other collaborations with Jeff Baena were more improvised, yes?
G/O Media may receive a commission
AWAY: Yeah, unlike all the other projects I’ve done with Jeff, we actually wrote the full script for it and wrote all the dialogue and all that. But with such a talented cast, there was certainly some riffing on set, especially with Molly Shannon. Her character is so much fun – and talks about getting off the track. She had a lot of different things to play with, so we really let her do her thing, which was really great.
AVC: Did you write with these actors in mind?
AWAY: Molly and Aubrey, of course, who sort of belong to the “Jeff Baena players”. Molly, Aubrey and I have all been in four out of five of Jeff’s films and Fred Armisen is also a repeat offender. The rest of the cast, no, we sort of dabbled with the characters and once we secured the cast we went back and then tailored the roles more to the actors we cast.
AVC: So you didn’t have to rely so much on improvisation during the shoot?
AWAY: That’s correct. As with many indie films, we were a bit short on time. It was usually easier to stick to the script that way. But there’s a great scene where Zach Woods and Ben Sinclair get into some sort of kerfuffle that certainly involved some improvisation. It’s always nice to just let the material breathe. When you have such a talented cast – and these actors are all really gifted at improvisation, comedy and drama – when you approach it from all angles, to have them act a little bit fast and loose I think offers so much. We get so much back. [Each take was] quite different.
Spin Me Round – Official Trailer | HD | IFC films
AVC: How often do you break character and laugh at all those hilarious co-stars?
AWAY: I never. I have to say, I’m one of those who I hardly ever break. And I think with this project I found it especially important not to break up, because my character is the one who witnesses and absorbs all this crazy behavior. Not that she’s the audience; I think the audience has a different perspective than her and can see things a bit clearer than her. She’s a bit naive. But as a co-writer on the project, I found that my clean play would keep everything anchored as we experienced all of these characters that were kind of out there.
AVC: As for your own cinematic inspirations, do you have a favorite film? Or how about a dream partner you would like to work with?
AWAY: My favorite movie is Rob Reiner’s The American President, starring Annette Bening and Michael Douglas. It’s easily my favorite movie of all time. I mean, I would like to work with Annette Bening. But one collaborator, one director… there are just too many to pin down. I mean I could say [Quentin] Tarantino. Wouldn’t it be fun to work with him while he was alive? But it feels like a long shot. [Laughs]
AVC: You and Tarantino and Bening!
AWAY: Yes, me, Tarantino and Annette Bening! It’s like Tarantino’s dream cast. It feels like child’s play. [Laughs]