“I felt right away that she connected in some way to Laura Bush,” says Stone, who offered Banks the part after a brief meeting just weeks before shooting started in May. “And because we don’t know the real Laura very much from all the manufactured reality around that couple, Elizabeth has unveiled to me what this woman feels like, and whatever shadow areas are in her life as well.”
Yet although Banks admits to relishing the credibility and publicity that have come with playing the first lady, it’s comedy—preferably the screwball, gross-out, as-silly-as-it-gets kind—that gives her creative kicks. “Making people laugh is very addictive, so if you have any talent for it, it just kind of takes over,” she says, despite the fact she’d never get near a comedy club’s stage. “The best stand-up,” she explains, “is always, ‘My life sucks. I can’t get laid. My car doesn’t start.’ There are no very pretty stand-up girls that are successful. And there’s a reason. I don’t want to hear pretty girls complain about their problems.” Instead, Banks foresees directing and doing improv, which made up the majority of her turn opposite Steve Carell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, as inevitable next steps. “You don’t have to say the most clever thing every time; you just have to not be afraid to fail,” she says. “And if you’re gonna fail, go big. If you’re gonna crack a joke and it’s not gonna work, you should at least really go for it. That’s my motto."