This summer, Alison Brie is starring in Spin me around a twisted, alfredo-soaked romantic comedy she co-wrote with her friend and frequent collaborator, Jeff Baena. The film follows Brie as Amber, a manager of a fictional restaurant chain who flies to Italy for a disastrously and hilariously unsatisfactory corporate retirement. For their Eat Pray Love meets Taken send, Brie and Baena called on the actors for their nunsploitation movie the wee hours, including Molly Shannon, who recently called her co-star for a steamy chat about saunas, sad songs and her real-life romance with hubby Dave Franco.
ALISON BRIE: Hey Molly!
MOLLY SHANNON: You’re so pretty!
BRIE: Thank you, too!
SHANNON: My God, and your house is so beautiful too. So let me start by asking you – because I consider you a very disciplined, very prepared actress – did you have lunch today?
BRIE: [Laughs] I did it. I have some applesauce before I work out. I literally had one of those baby pouches. I squeezed it in my mouth and then did some exercise. Did you have breakfast this morning?
SHANNON: I did. Well, I just went swimming before our interview.
BRIE: You love swimming.
SHANNON: I love swimming and I listen to books on tape. I have waterproof headphones, so I read and swim.
BRIE: That’s cool.
SHANNON: But going to the movies, it was so much fun filming with you in Italy.
BRIE: It’s funny how different our journey was from the character journeys. It’s like we’re all on the journey that the characters want to have. And eat delicious food all the time.
SHANNON: It was so special. But what I want to ask you is that you’ve collaborated with Jeff Baena on so many movies now. horse girl, spin me around, The small hours, and is now writing, for the second time, a full screenplay. What is the difference between writing and acting for you?
BRIE: I always had ideas in my head, but I didn’t have the confidence to share them with anyone. My first breakthrough was watching my husband, Dave [Franco] write Location, with Joe Swanberg. He came home every day super charged. Then with Jeff it all happened so organically. Dave and I live in the same neighborhood as Jeff and Aubrey [Plaza]. I would go on these really long hikes with them, and we would talk about everything. I finally thought, “I’m going to share this movie idea with Jeff,” because he’s non-judgmental and has a lot of crazy ideas.
SHANNON: That’s half the battle, being comfortable with someone. Now let me ask you, because this movie is about people working in an Italian restaurant, have you ever worked in the restaurant business?
BRIE: As a teenager, I worked at a place called 21 Choices in Old Town Pasadena that was, like, a frozen yogurt room on 31 Flavors. We would cut out all the trimmings. I just remember it was so stressful because we had a manager timing us and saying, “You’re taking too long to make the toppings. You should do it in less than a minute! You were supposed to smile and be “turned on” all the time, just cut and make conversation.
SHANNON: [Laughs] It looks exhausting! So when you’re feeling your best, what do you do to take care of yourself?
BRIE: I’m resting. When I was working on Community, we had notoriously bad hours. We ended the week shooting until Saturday morning. Dave and I take Lazy Sundays very seriously. At the same time, this is going to sound counterintuitive, but I also think exercise is like meditation to me.
SHANNON: That’s so good, I’m the same. I do it because I have a lot of energy, and it calms me down. I remember during The small hourswe would swim in the pool of this hotel and then let off steam together.
Brie: That was great!
SHANNON: Have you ever done an infrared sauna?
Brie: Yes! I love it.
SHANNON: I have a bunch of scripts to read for this new project I’m doing, and my plan is to just sit in an infrared sauna and read.
BRIE: I just bought a sauna blanket. It’s like a sleeping bag. You lie in it and you have to wear a sweatshirt and sweats because it will burn you. I’m just gonna put my computer right above me, I have a little finger up and I’m just gonna read a script, or watch the bachelorette. And then I take a freezing shower for two minutes.
SHANNON: It’s very different!
BRIE: [Laughs] It’s good for your circulation.
SHANNON: Your skin is so beautiful it has to work. So your character in spin me around goes to Italy, and she hopes to fall in love. Do you have a favorite romantic comedy or comedy that inspired you while writing the screenplay?
BRIE: Well, my favorite movie is The American President with Annette Bening and Michael Douglas. I’ve seen it over 100 times.
SHANNON: It’s amazing.
BRIE: Although we’re doing a more traditional movie send-off like, Eat Pray Love. But when the trip doesn’t quite turn out the way Amber thinks it will, her mind wanders elsewhere. Like, “Well, if it’s not Under the Tuscan sun it is Taken.” We wanted to play a little with the misconceptions Americans have about foreign travel and the ways we can go overboard in either direction.
SHANNON: Do you remember the laundress we met? Alison and I had this lady who cleaned our clothes in a little shop outside our hotel. She didn’t speak a word of English and could clean everything.
SHANNON: I called it the Magic Washer.
BRIE: I would come in with my phone trying to translate and say two interrupted sentences to her, and then she would respond with a monologue. And I stood there saying “I don’t understand, I don’t understand” in Italian. And she would keep talking. It was so endearing. When I said goodbye to him, I ended up translating “Goodbye forever”. And she put her hands over her heart and we hugged for so long, I thought I was going to cry. We loved him. She really took care of us.
SHANNON: An angel. Do you have a song that makes you cry?
BRIE: Yes, but it turns. What is your?
SHANNON: I like “Annie’s Song” by John Denver.
Brie: Yeah! It’s funny when a happy song taps into something.
SHANNON: What’s your happy song?
BRIE: It’s called “Marathon” of Tennis. It always reminds me of Dave because we listened to him in New Orleans the night we met. Unbeknownst to him, for weeks afterwards, when we were just texting and getting to know each other, I was just putting this song on and I had this drop in my stomach, thinking about this new boy that I had met. I still have that feeling, even though we’ve been together for over 10 years.
SHANNON: What did you do for your first official date?
BRIE: It’s hard to pin down because we met in New Orleans and had a crazy weekend together there, and then we had five weeks apart. Our first real date was in New York, where he was shooting a movie and I was going to sing with my band. He came to my hotel with wine, cheese and crackers, and we went to Central Park.
SHANNON: That’s too sweet. I didn’t know you had a band.
BRIE: I briefly had a cover band with my two best friends. The three of us were singing Hall and Oates and Bruce Springsteen songs.
SHANNON: That’s so cool!
BRIE: It was something we did to bide our time while waiting for an acting job. We wanted to feel like we were in control. Writing filled that hole for me. Now you’ve done so many different things, you just wrote this amazing book, you’re working on white lotusbut you also do The two others and I like it for youthat Dave and I love so much.
SHANNON: Oh my God, thank you! [Laughs]
BRIE: I’m blown away by your ability to do it all. Is there a strategy?
SHANNON: I’m just following the flow. I really like being a mom, so that’s my main thing. So it depends if it’s fun or not. As simple as that.
BRIE: Sounds healthy.
SHANNON: Do you prefer to shoot in Los Angeles or are you eager to shoot out of town?
BRIE: I definitely prefer to shoot in Los Angeles, because even though I don’t have kids, I have cats.
SHANNON: Yeah, and home!
BRIE: When I was younger, it was really exciting to go and shoot something on location. Even staying at a Holiday Inn, I would just feel like “I’m playing, I’m outdoors!” [Laughs] And now it’s more like, “I don’t know if I want to be away from home that long.” That’s why Dave and I write more stuff together, because then we’re like, “We’re gonna write it together, we’re gonna shoot it together. If we go there, we will go together! We will bring the cats!
SHANNON: It’s amazing.
BRIE: I could chat with you for hours, but I don’t want to take any more of your time. Should we conclude?
SHANNON: Yeah, great! It was so much fun!
Brie: Yes! Bye Molly!