Were you nervous about being directed by Tom Hanks?
God, no. We knew each other socially. When I was in Rome, shooting Eat Pray Love, Tom sent me the script and said, “Tell me what you think.” I couldn’t stop smiling when I read it: It’s topical, but very positive. It contains this moment in history in a very interesting way. The movie says, You can lose your job and your way and still rescue yourself. Larry Crowne creates a self-excavated utopia, and I love that idea, that message. And Tom is so good at making fun of himself. In the beginning of the film, he’s wearing pleated khakis. No one should wear pleated khakis onscreen.
Your character is something of a mess. She drinks a little too much.
I spend a lot of the movie woozy. Why did Tom Hanks think of me when he thought of a drunken schoolteacher? What does that mean? He has me chugging margaritas. It’s hard to chug a margarita! [Laughs] I asked why it couldn’t be straight liquor, and he said it was funnier if it was a drink made in a blender.
Both you and Hanks are known for romantic comedies, and yet in recent
years you’ve both stayed away from that genre.
I think it’s called growing up. Light and funny has a more compelling quality when you’re younger. But I haven’t abandoned the genre: I love falling down; I love Lucille Ball. It’s just that a lot of those stories revolve around problems that I can’t convincingly portray at this age.
Do you ever think of directing?
No. I can direct breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I take pride in my kitchen, but I’m not going to direct a movie.
You were responsible for spotlighting Javier Bardem’s performance in
Biutiful. You threw him a bash, invited Academy members, and helped to
get him nominated for best actor.
Yes, I was the loudmouth on that. It was such a crazy travesty that the movie wasn’t getting attention. And it’s fun to throw your weight around. That’s one of the perks of what we do.
You became powerful and famous early on—after Pretty Woman, you were a
huge international star. You were only 21. Was that overwhelming?
No, because the business was different then. It was a less loud, in-your-face sort of business. It would be awful to be a young actress today. Back in the good old days, before e-mail, you could decide how you wanted to be, how you wanted to define yourself.
Did you keep the red gown from Pretty Woman?
No, even though it was made for me, they didn’t let me keep anything from the movie. But I did get to keep the wedding dresses from Runaway Bride. They’re all boxed up in my garage. I’ve never opened them. It’ll be fun one day when Hazel [Roberts’s daughter] is taller. She can play dress-up with her friends.