As cutthroat management consultant Jeannie van der Hooven on Showtime's "House of Lies", Kristen Bell (who officially declared her excessive love of sloths in a recent "Ellen" interview) has lately gone a long way in deviating from her reputation for playing "good girl" parts - and her role in the new whale-rescue flick "Big Miracle" isn't likely to change that.
While Jill Gerard - the ambitious news reporter the actress plays in the forthcoming Ken Kwapis-directed film - isn't nearly as bad as the execrable Ms. van der Hooven, she's still not exactly what you'd call "warm and fuzzy" either. Still, Bell took a decidedly measured view of the character when I sat down with her last weekend to discuss the true-life tale, which opens this Friday.
"She's not an angel and she's not a villain," she told me. "She's a girl who really, really wants a story to validate how good of a journalist she is. She is very, very hungry to become the next news anchor and it's very cutthroat, especially in the 1980s when there weren't all these journalistic outlets that you could write for or report for. ...So she knew that she really had to prove herself. That's why she was so, so dedicated to getting the story."
As the film is based on the 1989 book "Freeing the Whales", which recounts the attention-getting 1988 effort to free a trio of gray whales trapped in the ice in Point Barrow, Alaska, Bell fortunately had the opportunity to have a little fun with the role in the wardrobe department, with her highly-polished character perennially decked out in an assortment of fabulously over-the-top '80s fashions complete with shoulder pads and big, volumized hairdos.
"We had a wonderful costume designer who pulled a boatload of amazing '80s suits that anchors would've actually worn," said Bell. "And I feel lilke in a young journalist who's really attempting to appear put together and on the nose, and like she deserves the next best job, she was very, very specific [in] how she dressed. Because she always wanted to be extremely presentable. So it was a lot of fun, because we had to have her hair perfect and '80s all the time, and huge shoulder pads, and wonderful Lee press-on nails."
One particular item of clothing worn by Bell in the film that caught my eye was a gigantically ugly white pull-over knit sweater with some garish flower detail on the shoulder.
"That's actually the one thing that I took from the movie," she said to my surprise. "Because sometimes you want to keep a memento, and I asked at the end...'Can I take this? Cause this is so Jill Gerard.'"
You can check out the full interview above, in which Bell also reveals that a significant sub-plot involving herself and co-stars Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski was almost completely done away with in the finished film.
"Big Miracle" opens this Friday.