The other day I got into quite an unusual phone conversation: Talking dirty with Ari Graynor. Or rather, Ari phoning me up about her exceedingly uninhibited excursion into extreme acting as a phone sex operator in the ultra-kinky sex comedy, For A Good Time Call…
So, for starters, we talked sex scenes. No, not those. You know, the ones where the sex is pretty much Ari’s impressively enticing, well, gift of gab. So of course we wanted to know stuff like if she happened to do any research by actually calling up a sex line, in order to um, flesh out her character who happens to be, real life potty mouth operator and co-screenwriter, Katie Anne Naylon.
Also of prurient interest during this exchange, was how Ari perfected her verbal skills on the phone with eager cameo co-stars Seth Rogen and Kevin Smith on the other end; whether Seth minded those lusty episodes Ari shares with his spouse Lauren Miller on screen; and what exactly is a sex line sweet spot. And if it’s possible to be freaky on the phone and a feminis, too.
Your phone sex operator in this movie is uninhibited in the extreme, sexually and otherwise. So what did you do to get yourself into that radical place inside your head, and beyond feeling awkward or strange about talking dirty in a movie?
Right! Well first of all, we weren’t making a phone sex documentary! We always wanted it to be…funny first! Well, funny period. You know, being sexually titillating was never a goal on the table. So that allowed a certain safety net. And also, difficulty. Because when you’re doing a movie about phone sex, you need the phone sex to feel real enough, so that you don’t lose your audience. But not so real, that it’s in any way gonna uh…turn anybody on! So finding that sweet spot, was tricky. And that’s what I think was done so brilliantly in those scenes.
Did you do any research to get into the head and body of a phone sex operator, like meet them in the flesh? Or even maybe call them up to practice a little?
Well, it was so important for us to have it be funny, and not too…real! You know? And so if anything…
But you seemed like the real thing. Like you could really be a phone sex operator.
Ha! Well…thank you! Um, Katie…really was a phone sex operator. She ran a phone sex line out of her college dorm room at Florida State. And her telephone number was 1-866-FSU-TITS. And her and Lauren were really put as a random roommate match. And they did not run the line together. But Katie had been doing it before she met Lauren. And then was thinking about doing it again. So she presented her with her a very chaste phone sex flyer! And you know, she and her roommate at the time before Lauren, really ran this line. And they became an LLC. And they really had a 10 minute minimum. So a lot of that was by Katie’s lead. She was sort of our…phone sex captain!
What do you think made you the perfect choice to play a phone sexy operator?
Um, I have a nice low scratchy voice! Which lends itself well to these things. And I think it’s like anything in any work you do. You know, you wanna be creative and present. And be true to what you do. But our look at phone sex, we wanted to ground the friendship as much as possible. And have that piece of the movie feel as real as it could. Then we wanted to take a little bit of liberty with the phone sex. And to make it a slightly fantastical look at that world.
Did you add anything from your own imagination to spice up the phone conversations?
We did tweak them with our phone sex cameo callers. Like Seth Rogen and Kevin Smith just completely knocked it out of the park. And found that tone perfectly. And as an actor, I think it’s much like anything else. It’s about trying to lose all of your self-consciousness. And be free, and be open. And be present, and non-judgmental towards yourself. You know the first thing we shot in the movie, our first day on set and the first shot off, was my side of the phone sex call with Kevin Smith. So that was quite an auspicious beginning to a shoot! And it was quite a way to introduce yourself to the crew! But you know, you just have to go for it. And of course, the really clever hook of phone sex was, eye catching! But it’s just this unique, funny, irreverent, smart film.
What is it exactly that fascinates you about phone sex, that got you to make this movie?
Well, it was such a little gem. And it’s mind boggling to me, that there are so few movies about female friendship. You know as a woman, your friendships are such an enormous part of your life. And in film, especially recently, so often female friendship is painted as competitive. Or jealous. Or, it’s centered around, you know, one of them trying to get the guy. It’s very rare to see a movie that is solely centered on what it is to open yourself up to somebody. You know, as a means to getting to know yourself better. And what the support of a friendship can do for you. And I was so honored, not only that they sent this movie to me. But that it was written with my voice in mind. Yeah, I was just incredibly honored.
And what was it about your wild character Katie that made you go, I’ve just got to play her?
Katie has such an incredible spirit. And it really came across on the page. Um, and you know also, it’s so rare to find really beautifully drawn characters. So it’s such a rarity, to find somebody that’s complicated. And suprising. And especially in comedies. And I love how Katie presents herself one way. She’s so well defended, and she seems so confident and brazen. So brassy. So all knowing. And really, her inner life is such a different story. And her facade can come crumbling down, quite easily. And that was really quite exciting to me as an actor, to be able to play both sides of that coin. Which I find to be incredibly true to life. And very true about myself as well.
And you miraculously make your character both a compliant objectified sex object for men, and at the same time a kind of freaky feminist who’s really the one in control. How did you manage to do that?
Well, thank you for saying that! Um, I think this is a sex positive film. But first of all, it’s not a message movie. You know, it’s meant to be a fun comedy. But at the same time, I think it does say something wonderful about women owning their sexuality. And not having to feel shameful about it. And to be able to talk about it, to embrace that part of yourself as a means of finding yourself. And as a way of becoming your most authentic self. And I was proud to be a part of something that said that. But I guess by being a sex worker, there is an innate idea of objectification. But I also think, especially for Katie, it’s a way for her to feel powerful. Because she certainly doesn’t feel like a sexual object in her life. You know, there are some revelations that come in later in the film, that I think are very surprising. And that are sort of the antithesis of her being out in the world as an overtly sexual person. And I think it’s that fine line where women, fortunately or unfortunately, sometimes feel their sense of power. Or validation, through sex. You know, I think that’s why Katie hides behind the phone line. Because it gives her that sense of validation, where she doesn’t necessarily feel it in life. And then she’s able to open herself up to real intimacies in life. Which is obviously much more fulfilling.
Do you think there’s a certain type of woman who becomes a phone sex operator?
You know, in terms of who becomes a phone sex operator, I think it’s anyone’s guess. But I think people have a lot of judgments about phone sex in general. Or about people who go into work or jobs in the sex industry. That’s a whole other can of worms. But Katie – the real Katie! – was just a sweet college student who needed to make some money. And she was in college, and couldn’t work during the day. So it was an inventive idea to…Sorry, I just felt something weird on the phone! Um, it was an inventive idea for her to do, while she was in school.
Now after making this movie, what is your hunch about why men crave phone sex?
I think everybody wants a sense of intimacy. And I think there are very few people in this world, who would say they wouldn’t want to have that intimacy in real life. But I also think there’s a lot of fear. And you’re able to hide behind the phone, or even now the way people hide behind message boards.Or hide behind text messages, and emails. And I don’t even mean that in a sexual way. I just mean in the general ways that people are communicating now, you get to present a certain version of yourself. Or for some of the phone sex callers, potentially they get to reveal their truest self. That they feel like it’s unsafe for them to reveal that to other people, for fear of being judged. Or for the Katie’s of the world – movie Katie’s of the world – running the phone sex line, she’s able to present a side of herself that is a certain kind of confidence that she wants to have. And that she doesn’t have in real life. And I think that it also allows her a certain amount of general intimacy. And a certain kind of anonymity. And you know, I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.