by Kase Wickman
One of the cardinal rules of phone sex, as explained in the new indie comedy “For a Good Time, Call...” is this: Don’t lead the conversation to a sexy place until the other person does. While speaking with Ari Graynor, the film’s star and executive producer, who may be most familiar from the recent release “Celeste and Jesse Forever” or as hot mess Caroline in 2008’s “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” we can’t say that we followed that rule. At all.
Graynor plays Katie, a saucy New York City girl who maintains her bottom line by operating a phone sex line. After a rocky start, Katie and new roommate Lauren (played by Lauren Anne Miller, who also co-wrote and co-produced the film) start an independent hotline together, as well as a friendship. Co-written by Katie Anne Naylon and based loosely on Naylon’s time as a real-life phone sex operator in college, the film celebrates female friendship, entrepreneurial can-do and the twin powers of a hot pink rotary phone and bright blue dildo.
BUST chatted with Graynor on the phone ahead of the film’s release about the psychic stresses of Twitter, feeling like a surrogate mom, and the infinite struggle between fashion and easy bathroom access.
Congratulations on the movie. How’s the press tour going?
It’s so funny, we’re traveling across the country for a couple weeks and doing this sort of daily. I’ve never done anything like this for any other film. It’s like we’re politicians. I’m running for office next.
Running on a phone sex platform?
In the movie, your character and Lauren’s character sort of clash at first, then settle into a lovely friendship. I can tell that you and the real Lauren and Katie are all good friends now, but how was your first meeting with them? The first time I met them was actually at a table read for another movie. We all sort of looked at each other like, “Hi! Hi! Hi! It’s so nice to meet you!” There was just that sort of nervous excitement that I almost felt like they were parents adopting a baby and I was the birth mother. That feeling like you’re sort of ginger with somebody and nervous and excited and you just want everybody to like each other. We quickly found our own kind of friend love and started having lunches and working on the script. It makes me feel really cool when Katie and Lauren talk about the first time we hung out, when they were in their car like, “Do you think she’ll like us? Do you think she’ll be friends with us? Do you think we’ll go to her apartment and stuff?” I just love that they ever had a question about that, and we’ve all become really great friends.
You’ve also all recently joined Twitter to promote the movie and interact with fans. How are you feeling about that so far?
I mean, Katie is kind of like, the queen of Twitter. Lauren and I are still figuring out how to use it. I’m intimidated, but I love this movie so much, and it’s so our baby that I will live on Twitter if need be, to help get the word out. It’s hard! It’s harder than I thought. You have to be so clever, otherwise it’s so boring.
You can’t just say, “I’m eating a sandwich, go see my movie.”
Yeah, it’s so much pressure!
Katie and Lauren wrote this leading role for you after seeing you in “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.” Lauren told me that after she saw that movie, she was “obsessed” with getting you to star in this. That must be an awesome feeling.
It was incredible. It was so incredibly flattering and humbling, especially because they wrote such a genius character and such a beautiful, fun, zany movie. It was a deep, deep, deep honor, especially because this is loosely based on them and their lives and I just wanted to make them proud and happy and not regret their decision. They also invited me to be an executive producer. They invited me into this process that is unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of, in terms of how closely the four of us [Graynor, Miller, Naylon and director Jamie Travis] work together and developed this story together and sort of fine-tuned it in a way to come up with one voice from the four of us. To make it all come together was such an exciting and inspiring process, and they were so generous in that -- they didn’t have to be, but they were. It’s just an incredible gift.
Would you like to spend more time on the other side of the camera, producing?
Absolutely, yeah. It’s something that I had wanted to do before, and I think that once you’ve done it, it’s a hard part of your brain to turn off. I’ve learned so much in this process and it’s fun and empowering and creative in a totally different way. Sometimes as an actor you feel helpless and at the whim of other people. This has been one of those really empowering and inspiring situations where it’s like, OK, you want to do something, make it happen! Now I feel like I have a better understanding of how to go about making something happen.
There’s a whole montage in the movie of your character teaching Lauren’s character the art of phone sex, so to speak. But before you can teach it, you have to know how to do it yourself. Did somebody give you a little how-to in phone sex at all?
The truth is, the goal with the phone sex is always to be funny and not overtly sexual or titillating. So, if anything, it was kind of about turning off the sexual part of your mind and trying to turn on the sort of slightly dirtier comedic side. I didn’t want to call a phone sex hotline, I didn’t want to get too involved in the realities of that world. We wanted to make it into our own little bubble world, but real enough that people would buy it. Luckily, I have a naturally scratchy voice which sort of lends itself nicely to talking on the phone in a sexy way.
Open your heart and the phone sex will follow.
It’s true, very true.
One of the things I loved about you in “Nick and Norah” was how convincingly wasted you were for pretty much the entire movie. Did you always know that you could do an A+ drunk?
That was a special skill that I did not realize I had until “Nick and Norah.” It’s tricky, because it’s so easy to go over the top, and once you go over the top, you lose that sense of reality and your audience. It’s true of all things, with this movie as well. We more than anything wanted to ground their friendship so that it feels real. The second it doesn’t, you lose the good graces of the audience, I think. But the drunk thing was a good lesson to learn, and I think I’ve probably exhausted that skill in my lifetime now.
Did you keep anything from the set? Is there a souvenir dildo somewhere in your apartment?
I have some of the clothes. Lauren and Katie, those bitches, took the phones. Jamie and I, I think, are going to have like a craft night and get some phones off eBay and spray paint them pink because that’s all those are anyway. I think that’s all I took. I look fondly at the white jumpsuit hanging in my closet often. I wish I had the denim one. Oh, and I have my weave! I have my hairpiece.
One thing was nagging at me, looking at you wearing all those jumpsuits throughout the movie: How did you possibly pee?
I mean, you have to, you gotta take it all off to pee. It’s definitely a lot of work, but I really, really love a jumpsuit, as you can probably tell from the movie.
I have a lot of jumpsuit commitment.
Kase Wickman is a writer in Brooklyn. She has never operated a hotline, phone sex or otherwise. Follow her on Twitter or visit her site.