Funny business

UNITED STATES - Contrary to popular opinion, Jennifer Aniston is a bona fide boxoffice magnet when it comes to comedies.

The US actress' movies - Horrible Bosses, Just Go With It, The Switch, The Bounty Hunter - turned out to be global hits, no matter how critics panned most of them.

She now teams up with US funny man Jason Sudeikis for We're The Millers, which opens here on Sept 5.

Everybody loves a good laugh, and with two of Hollywood's top comedians leading the way, what can go wrong?

Little, in fact.

Within three weeks of its US release, We're The Millers has amassed US$114 million (S$146.3 million), more than triple its production budget of US$37 million.

That's perhaps the sheer power of Aniston and Sudeikis.

It helps that the sexy Aniston, 44, bared all - well, almost.

She plays Rose, a foul-mouthed, streetwise stripper who reluctantly accepts her drugdealer neighbour David's (Sudeikis) offer to pretend to be his wife as part of his grand plan to smuggle an enormous stash of marijuana across the Mexican border.

David also recruits runaway Casey (Emma Roberts) and lonely latchkey kid Kenny (Will Poulter) to play his teenage children.

Calling themselves the Millers, the fake family head South in a recreational vehicle.

Both Sudeikis and Aniston are veteran comedians, having honed their skills on the small screen. Aniston's claim to fame is, of course, the long-running hit sitcom Friends, while Sudeikis, 37, became popular through the sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live.

Here, the pair - who also shared screen time in Horrible Bosses - talk about their reunion and how Sudeikis had to keep his eyes only on Aniston's face during the seductive lap dance she performed for him.

What was it about We're The Millers that drew you in and made you want to do the movie?

ANISTON: Well, I thought it was an original and really fun road-trip movie. The idea of playing a stripper was intriguing and the idea of getting to work with Jason again was, of course, a big selling point for me.

SUDEIKIS: Yeah, my experience was similar. I really liked the whole premise of the movie, and then, as an actor, I liked that the character starts out as a charming enough jerk, but eventually turns into a sort of paternal figure.

And then, also, Jen was the only one I knew for sure was going to be in it besides myself, and that was certainly a draw as well.

Jennifer, Rose is a very tough woman, which is kind of a departure for you, isn't it?

ANISTON: Well, she's tough, but at the same time, there's the very vulnerable person inside. I think where she has ended up in her life is certainly not where she expected to. There are a lot of defences built up, so that tough attitude is just a little bit of armour.

I think that in going on this crazy adventure, the soft parts of her, the maternal parts of her, are sort of just naturally pulled out. I thought that was a really fun little arc to see, and then they end up truly caring for each other as a family.

What was it like for you to do those stripping scenes? How did you prepare for that?

ANISTON: Well, I prepared a lot. Training, first of all, and I had an amazing choreographer. But I've never quite danced like that before, so it was interesting to try to figure out how to do it. I belly-danced as a kid, but never like this. (Laughs) It was pretty much the extent of me trying to publicly seduce someone, like in the lap dance.

SUDEIKIS: Yeah, I received that. It's very believable, having been forced into those situations in my life.

ANISTON: Yes, forced.

SUDEIKIS: Yeah, forced. (Laughs)

ANISTON: So, I trained, but then I got into it. It was so much fun. These girls were so much fun.

The hardest part, honestly, for me was that I had to have knee surgery, literally, at the end of May, and we were shooting in July. I was slammed down on the floor and had to do these squats. So, the timing of everything was a little bit challenging, but it was all right.

SUDEIKIS: Yeah, it looks great.

ANISTON: I think we did all right.

Did you surprise yourself? When you saw yourself on camera, were you like, "Wow, that's me"?

ANISTON: No, I kind of was like, "Oh, yeah."

Jason, what was it like for you to do the lap dance scene with Jennifer?

SUDEIKIS: It was good because it is not sexualising Rose. When we talked about this while we were making it, I think David knows that he likes her, but she's unwilling to let him in, and he's unwilling to try too hard. This is an example of when he does need something from her - he needs her to go on this road trip with him. So, the lap dance is the only way he can get her attention, by paying for it.

My eyes are always up, looking at her face, during the lap dance. And that, for me, made it easier or probably more in character as David and Rose. That would probably be similar to Jason and Jen. If she were giving me a lap dance in real life, I think I'd probably keep it just as gentlemanly.(Laughs)

ANISTON: Right. And I would probably as well.

When you were making the movie, how did you balance being funny with making it real and finding the heart in it?

ANISTON: Well, I have to say the comedy is pretty grounded in reality. Nothing is played for laughs, like little Kenny getting bit by the tarantula; that was played like, "Holy crap!" And then, one of my favourite lines is, "It's all right. Just rub some dirt on it."

We just played everything as real as possible, even poking fun at ourselves. Even our attempt to escape or save the day didn't take itself too seriously.

SUDEIKIS: So yeah, it still has the playful spirit of fun, which you want to keep because we didn't go to those excessively dark places. There's definitely a version of this movie that you could have won an Oscar with.

ANISTON: Oh, absolutely.

- Interview transcript courtesy of Warner Bros.

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