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Anna Faris Recalls Leslie Nielsen and Her Reluctant Move to Big-Screen Comedy

Anna Faris, with co-star Tom Cavanagh, stars this month in a live-action Yogi Bear.

Anna Faris is free to speak her mind.
 
The 34-year-old Baltimore native, who earned High Times magazine’s coveted Stoner of the Year award in 2007 for her starring turn in the comedy Smiley Face, knows the drill when it comes to televised interviews – smile for the camera, stay peppy and keep the tone light.
 
But here at press day for the live-action Yogi Bear, in which Faris stars opposite Tom Cavanagh, Justin Timberlake’s animated Boo-Boo Bear and Dan Aykroyd’s even more animated Yogi, she’s free to be candid.
 
“Everyone is talking to Tom first and he keeps throwing me under the bus, telling everyone that I’m a crazy prankster on the set,” she says. “I have no stories about pranks. I’m not funny on the set. I’m there to work. Movie sets are so stressful as it is.
 
“I wish actors were more laidback, but generally we’re an uptight bunch. We’re so fortunate to do jobs that everyone would love to do, but it’s still a work environment.”
 
One genuine on-set prankster was the late Leslie Nielsen, with whom Faris appeared in later installments of the Scary Movie franchise. She says the Naked Gun star, known for comedy later in life after a lengthy string of workmanlike dramatic roles, had a weakness for whoopee-cushion gags.
 
Like Nielsen, Faris graduated from drama to become the face of farcical comedies including The Hot Chick (2002), Waiting… (2005) and 2008’s The House Bunny. Now, as she stars as nature documentarian Rachel in Yogi, it might seem natural to expect more of the same. But Faris says that’s not who she is.
 
“I was a really dramatic child and took myself too seriously,” she says, attributing her temperament then to a complex about her tiny size. “When I started getting cast in all these comedies, I felt fortunate, but I’m not funny. I wanted some way out of it. I can do more than comedy, and I wanted people in this town to take me seriously.
 
“But it’s still the same approach, be it drama or comedy. I approach the performance from the perspective of my character, and that’s why I like Rachel so much. She’s very earnest, and it’s through her and Ranger Tom that we show the audience how people react to Yogi. There’s something very funny about a silly line being read so earnestly, which was also a talent of Leslie’s.”