Interviews

INTERVIEW: MISSI PYLE

By • Sep 20th, 2011 •

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Actress Missi Pyle is an icon of sorts here at Films In Review. A favorite of FIR’s editor and a native of my hometown in Shelby County, Tennessee − she’s fully capable of character driven drama, yet is probably best know for her comedic performances.

She virtually stole the film GALAXY QUEST from a massive cast full of leading actors with her portrayal of Laliari, an alien with a slight naiveté for all things Earthlike. With her cover girl looks and height (5’11), she’s practically unrecognizable under prosthetic teeth and make-up as Fran Stalinovskovichdavidovitchsky, the deadliest woman on Earth with a dodge ball for the endeared film DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY.

When not in front of the camera, she can be heard and seen on stage as half of SMITH & PYLE; a desert country-rock band she formed along with fellow actress Shawnee Smith of television’s BECKER and the SAW franchise.

This November, The Weinstein Company will release Michel Hazanavicius’ THE ARTIST, where she will share screen time with Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell and Penelope Ann Miller. The film had its premiere at last May’s Cannes Film Festival and tells the story of a silent film star desperate to fit in with the advent of “talkies.”

Months ago, I had a chance to ask Miss Pyle a series of questions that seemed to center on her natural comedic abilities and her love of performing music.

Bryan Layne: Do you have any websites or new projects coming out your fans can look for?

Missi Pyle: Yes, there’s www.smithandpyle.com and I also made a couple of things on funnyordie.com. Just look my name up on there.I also did a short film called BARRY MUNDAY which was released last year. Also, my band is in the process of pitching a reality show based on our music. We would very much like to build a fan base for our music because it is so much fun to do.

BL: Tell me about your music. How’s it going and how did it all come about?

MP: Basically, I met Shawnee Smith on a television pilot. I told her I had always wanted to be in a band and she agreed to start a band with me. I told her not to “f” with me. She said she had already been in one and had a bunch of songs ready to record. I had written a few songs, but they were mostly comedy songs like, “I Wish You Were Dead.” Then, low and behold, she happened to know Chris Goss who is a musical genius out of Joshua Tree. He’s produced the White Stripes and is heralded as the Godfather of desert country rock. Our music is country rock. So, add Chris Goss and we created a new genre…Desert Country Rock. Yes, a genre all to ourselves. But i-tunes hasn’t picked up on it yet, so we are just country on i-tunes… where you can buy our full-length album, which would tickle me if you did.

BL: I know most of your work from comedic performances. I was wondering where you developed your penchant for humor and who do you find funny?

MP: Well, to be honest, I think it developed in high school and college where I did a lot of plays. The movie PRINCESS BRIDE which I watched over and over again as a kid was an influence. I may have seen that one a couple hundred times. I couldn’t believe how funny it was. I think my brain has somehow been sculpted by Mandy Patinkin and Albert Brooks… not necessarily in that order. When you are on stage and you can make an audience laugh, well, there is really nothing like it. You have a palpable connection with them. You can hold out and make them wait to laugh. God it’s fun. Making someone laugh I think is maybe one of the greatest gifts you can give someone. But mainly, I am a giant and I auditioned my balls off for drama and lawyer shows. I was always too freakishly tall for the male lead. So, if anyone was looking for a weird alien, well…

Who do I find funny? Sarah Silverman. I love her. She always goes just a little too far, but she never apologizes and I think she has really opened a lot of doors for women. She is always “on,” like an old vaudevillian stage performer. Who else? Trey Parker and Matt Stone. I think SOUTH PARK is the most genius and funny piece of social commentary there might have ever been. Lucille Ball… Mercy. John Michael Higgins, Catherine O’ Hara and Wendi McLendon-Covey from RENO 911 and BRIDESMAIDS have always made me laugh.

BL: You stood out in GALAXY QUEST and that title had a massive cast that is capable of carrying a film on their own. Is it complicated or easier to take on such a role against so many seasoned actors?

MP: Well, I was completely in my element and I barely spoke. So, that was easier. I could just stand there and be weird. I actually loved it. That cast was incredibly generous. Alan Rickman ate lunch with us every day. And he had his own giant trailer. You know, most stars – they just don’t do that. And Enrico Colantoni was a great alien leader. God we had so much fun.

BL: What did you first think of the make-up they put you in for DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY?

MP: I thought it wasn’t enough. She should have been a wee bit more gruesome. When I auditioned, I drew in a unibrow, put weird Princess Leia braids in and painted on giant red lips. I was so glad the audition was not in a building where there was a parking valet, and I had to go to the front desk to see people. It was in the upstairs of a place like a strip mall. I parked, went up the stairs and walked in. The girl at the desk almost did a spit take and I thought, “Ahhh. I am going to get this job.”

BL: Does hiding behind make-up that totally changes your appearance enhance a comedic performance?

MP: I don’t know. I think that it can hinder it, too. I think it just depends on the actor, the role and the director. I think in SOCCER MOM, which is a kids movie in which I wore prosthetics, it hindered me. It was just too much. It was four hours to get into and then we had to worry about it melting. I was almost lost in it all. On the other hand, a good wig and some simple make-up can take you just enough outside of yourself to find a character that you might have never been able to find on your own.

BL: How is Tim Burton as a filmmaker?

MP: He is awesome. I think he really sees the film from the very beginning to the end in his head. He is extremely gifted visually in that way. He knows what he wants, but he also really wants you to bring yourself to it. And damn is he loyal. He has a whole crew that he works with over and over again. CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is truly one of the last epic movies. We were on 16 soundstages at Pinewood Studios. And you know, the studios, they still let him do whatever he wants. I think with all the digital effects, you lose something wonderful. I think you lose wonder. And magic.

BL: Which of the roles you’ve portrayed are you most recognized for?

MP: It varies.TWO AND A HALF MEN I get a lot. Also, SOUL PLANE, BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE and CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. What’s really great is young kids, like 14 year olds who say they loved GALAXY QUEST. I think that’s great because that film is 10 years old and parents loved it so much they are making it a staple for their kids to watch.

BL: Is there a preference between television and films?

MP: I like film better. I think my performances can often be too big for television. I sometimes tone down the life out of them, yet I am dying for the stability of T.V. the older I get. I would love to do an old fashioned sitcom that was really funny.

BL: What film do you seem to watch over and over on your own time?

MP: I still watch THE PRINCESS BRIDE. Also, LADY JANE. Cary Elwes gives an insanely beautiful performance in that film.

BL: Is there anything you’d like to talk about or promote that I may have failed to bring up?

MP: You? I don’t even know you… 🙂

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One Response »

  1. well Byran first of all I love Missi and anyone named that as a matter of fact…..She rocked my world in BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE….nobody does racist bitch like Missi…..The interview was a far too short to cover the appeal of this fine actress…..I sense however that you choose her for the same reason we all like her so much and that is she is total camp…..and for most of the time so are you sweet thanng……

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