Talented actress, mother of two – and it turns out, she’s something of a midfield maestro on the football pitch too – it seems there is very little Cobie Smulders can’t do. Needless to say, it was a pleasure to speak to the Canadian ahead of the release of her latest production Results – where she discusses working with Guy Pearce, whether she’s a fitness freak herself, and the joys in being associated to the Marvel Avengers franchise, where she plays Maria Hill.
Well I was a big fan of Andrew Bujalski. I watched his movie Computer Chess and really found it fun and quirky and dark and funny, so I was interested to meet him. I read the script and we had a Skype meeting. I’m used to that kind of technology, so I’m still getting comfortable with it, but I feel like the point of those meetings is just to figure out if you’re a jerk or not. When it’s a business venture, you just wanna know if they’re a normal, nice person to work out if you can work together and it won’t be a terrible experience. So I passed the jerk test, and then he came out to LA and we played around with some scenes and I basically got the job, somehow. Plus, Guy Pearce was attached before that, and I’ve been a fan of his forever. He’s a genius, so talented. So when I heard he was doing it, I was very much in.
So when it comes to film choices, just how much is done to simply getting on with people? Does it really just boil down to, I really like them, they’re really nice – I’d like to spend a few weeks working with them.
Yes, but I think that comes with age. You know, when you’ve done a few movies and you’ve had great experiences with people and some bad experiences, you think, life’s too short. I’m not going to go and do a project for months, seeing these people every day that I dislike, that’s not worth it to me at this point. When I was in my early 20s, I probably would have done anything, with anyone, but now, I have a family now and I have kids, so if I’m going to take time away from my family, it better be a fun, great experience – or else it’s just not worth it to me. There is the creative draw though – and even if Guy was a total asshole, which he’s not, I would still be like, ‘I wanna work with Guy Pearce’, so it does differ from project to project.
“Guy was a total asshole”. I have my headline for this piece anyway…
I said he was not an asshole!
I’m kidding. Anyway, as you mentioned, you have got a family now, and two children of course – do you find you’re attracted to a different sort of character now?
Um… I think that maybe I’m looking for roles that are more varied in terms of character, and playing something I haven’t played before and finding something great within them. Or finding something dark, and trying to find the balance between dark and light comedies and infusing both into each project – I’m just more interested in that, I wouldn’t say because I have kids now I love mother roles, I’m just interested in many more things that I was before, but that’s because I’m now in my 30s and I’ve had more life experiences.
Andrew had only ever worked with non-professional actors prior to this project – was that noticeable in his approach, was it different to what you’re used to?
Yes and no. He was very mellow, he allowed things to happen at their own pace and what I did find interesting, though maybe it’s just because I’d come out of projects with a lot of coverage, and so many people – to go from that to doing scenes with just two actors on a shoot. There would be funny moments though, like we’d have somebody show up and they’d be playing a guitar in the scene or something and Andrew would be like, ‘oh yeah he was the lead in one of my old movies’. Or the editor of this movie, she was in his last film as an actress. It’s like he chooses people before hiring through agents. It’s not the standard Hollywood way – what he would do, is meet somebody and find them really interesting and then just make a movie for them. In line at Starbucks and be like ‘you’re really interesting, do you wanna be in this movie?’ But when he hired us, he was just like – ‘why don’t you do your thing? That acting thing, and I’ll watch and comment sometimes.’
Your character is a personal trainer at a gym of course – are much of a fitness freak in real life?
Me? I would say no [laughs]. Though given this role, I wondered about being a personal trainer and what that job entails. I was educating myself on the body, muscles, positions and the correct way to do things – which is really what a trainer does, that’s why you pay for them, because when you’re working out they come and adjust you and you realise you’ve been doing it wrong the whole time. A trainer’s job is to have a second pair of eyes on you to make sure you’re doing everything correctly. Also, my character runs the entire movie, and I’m not a big runner. I’m not down with running, I like being in classes where you can turn your brain off. I played soccer for 12 years and it’s like, you don’t realise that you’ve been running for an hour because your mind is focused on the ball and on the game. I like things where you aren’t focused on working out. So I had to reconfigure my brain to try and like fitness. I liked it for a while, but I’m definitely back to my old ways now. Oh, and I was pregnant during this movie, I was five months pregnant, so I had to make sure I was working out safely.
I didn’t know you played soccer. What position do you play?
Well, I was a centre mid for most of it. But I was also a right wing forward for a while too. I like that, because I liked scoring goals and I was good at it. But then my coach decided I would make a better centre mid. That’s inevitably why I quit because there was too much running involved [laughs]. When you’re a centre mid you have to do everything. I couldn’t do it.
My football team plays every Thursday night and we need a centre mid actually. Assuming you’re probably unavailable?
Oh, if I was there I would totally do it. I would love that – I need to get back into it, I love it so much. I hit that place where it was like, I can decide to keep going and play at college, or do something completely different, which is obviously what I ended up doing. I feel like with sports sometimes, if you’re not going to try and play professionally, at some point you have to put it aside.
Anyway – I’m assuming given your time playing sports and at gyms, you’ve encountered a few people like Guy Pearce’s Trevor in your time?
Yeah, yes. I feel like there are more Trevors out there than there are Cats. Personal training is like any job in the service industry, it’s quite challenging. I went to this personal trainer in the past and he had his own business and he was always talking about how nobody had been in for a while and it would fluctuate so much in terms of revenue, and it was so stressful on him. He was this huge, buff, crazy dude and he had a similar Trevor philosophy, he was a little bit new-age and a little bit out there, but he was having a really hard time. He was always like, “where are your friends? Why don’t you tell your friends to come in?” I was like, I’m here to work out. But there’s that sort of desperate energy, because it’s sort of self-promotional. It’s a weird business, I really would not want to do it, because you rely on other people to live yourself – it’s tricky.
And finally, you’re a key, recolouring role in the Marvel Avengers universe, which is really dominating both cinema and the smaller screen at the moment. You must be so thrilled to be a part of that?
Absolutely. I was just out at a convention and it’s just so amazing how many people love these movies, and love these characters. They support everything that Marvel does and they’re so excited. It’s so cool to bear witness to how much creative energy comes out of the fans for these movies and characters. I was given a painting of Maria Hill, and somebody made me my own Lego figure, it’s such a fun world to be a part of, and I’m very grateful for it. For both, to be in these smaller movies that are very character driven with a small crew and a low-budget, and then also in this massive movie with special effects and supported by so many fans. It’s very cool. I have a good, you’re right, things are going great. I have nothing to complain about. Ever.
Results is released in cinemas across the UK now.