When recruiting subjects for The Real Deal issue, Lake Bell was a natural choice. You see, although Bell is beautiful and talented (she acts, writes and directs), she also knows how to keep it real — not an easy feat when you’re BFFs with Cam (that’s probably what she calls her) Diaz and you’ve been lucky enough to make out with James Spader. She tells us how she does it.
Alice Cavanagh: Lake is such a cool name! Do you know any other Lakes?
Lake Bell: When you have a name that’s as odd as Lake, you tend to have other people say, “Oh, I knew a Lake growing up.” I met one dude named Lake, but he was younger than me, so I won that one. Plus, there have been a couple of Hollywood pals of mine who have kids named Lake.
Named after you?
No… I mean, they say, “No no, we just like the name.” And I’m like, “Where the hell did you hear that?” It’s a source of odd conversation.
Do you think it gave you a certain start in life? Like, if your name had been more conservative — like, Constance, or something — your life would have been different?
Well, Constance is quite esoteric as well…
OK, maybe that was a bad example.
Well, I do know that from a very young age, when we were taking road trips, I would always see my name up on billboards. You know, like Lake Michigan or Lakeville or Lake Street.
What were you like as a kid?
I was super precocious. I put on all sorts of childlike plays in order to procrastinate from going to sleep. I was always an insomniac. I remember telling jokes improperly, as well. The first joke I ever told at the dinner table was when I was, like, four, and all I said was, “To get to the other side!”, because I only knew the punch line. I just wanted the payoff.
You’re a writer as well as an actress, but you’ve kept your interest in writing a secret because you didn’t want to be derided as a ‘slashie’. Now that you are onto your second film project [Bell is directing her first feature] do you still find it a challenge?
It’s like if you were a model and you wanted to all of a sudden be a designer — because that is what you have been around — but then people are all of a sudden looking at you and judging you for something completely different. As with anything, you have to prove yourself a little bit. I never wanted to be guilty of being all talk; it’s a turn-off for me. So, the idea was that I would not call myself a writer until I was writing and things were out there. Now I feel much more comfortable with it, though. It feels right. I am proud of my short film [Worst Enemy], I am proud of my script and I am proud of the column I write.
Yes — you write a car column for The Hollywood Reporter. How did that come about?
My father owns race-car tracks and so I have grown up with a motorhead dad. The only father-daughter moments we really had were at the auto show or at the racetrack, so I acquired a lot of information and opinions about cars over the years.
You’re so humble about the slashie thing. Do you think someone like George Clooney ever felt weird about it?
He’s George Clooney, though! He could tell me to eat chicken fat and I would! He’s got the charisma of a politician and the cool of a movie star. I think I felt more self-conscious about being a woman, first of all, and doing comedy — you know, directing and writing comedy — as a woman. And, on top of that, to be someone who will occasionally be hired as a piece of ass. Even if you’re in a comedy and you’re playing some sort of sexy something, even though it’s a joke, I think you feel that you’re going to have a hurdle to jump over to get people to take you seriously … People wear different hats [though]. I’m respectful of that.
You declared 2011 to be “the year of nudity”. Why?
Yup, and it’s coming to an end. I don’t know, I think I just turned 32 and I was like, “I don’t really care, let’s just do this for a year while I still got it.” It’s just for me. I think it’s sexy, but it’s important not to take it too seriously. Being naked is pretty funny in the right setting, but I’ve never done this much [nudity] in my life. My poor family!
So, what’s next year?
It’s going to be the year of ‘prudity’ [laughs].
[Laughs] Is it true your favourite body part is your boobs?
[Laughs] I think they’re pretty fun. Boobs are funny in general, but then they are also sexy. Airplane! was one of my favourite movies when I was younger, and because of it, any time I am scared on a plane I just look down at my boobs. Because if there is turbulence, I can’t be afraid if I remember that quick cut-shot in a speedy montage in the movie, when everything is going haywire and they cut to some chick’s boobs bouncing. It’s such an arbitrary, absurd shot.
[Laughs] So, that’s your coping mechanism for turbulence?
Yup. I remember Airplane!, look at my boobs and I always laugh.
Our theme for this issue is The Real Deal. You seem very grounded — kind of a girl-next-door character. Do you like being perceived in that way?
Yeah, absolutely. I am terrified of bitches. I’m terrified of ‘complex’. I don’t like it; it makes me feel very uncomfortable. I hope to be categorised as someone who is accessible. I do want to be the ‘friend’. And it’s great as well, because in terms of public recognition I travel on the subway every day, but I can also rock the red carpet. Nobody bothers me and people are very respectful. I am so thankful for that.
You have the best of both worlds.
I really do. I feel really lucky. I have friends who are megastars, it’s a whole ‘thing’ for them. I remember being at Urban Outfitters and I was getting my basics for fall, and I remember being like, “Oh, this shit is so good, so many good t-shirts…” So, I called Cameron Diaz and was like, “Look, this is ridiculous, you gotta get down to Urban — it’s a small Urban, nobody will know.” And she said, “Oh my God, I love Urban, I’m coming.” We bought all this stuff and within ten minutes there was a swarm of paparazzi outside. That Christmas I got her a wig and said, “We can’t have you walking around with those legs and the blonde hair all the time. Can we take it down a notch?”
How do you avoid that stuff? How do you maintain a sense of normality?
I feel like I keep it pretty real, to be honest. I think the thing that we always have to be careful of — and it’s not even just in this industry, because I have siblings in other industries and they talk about it all the time — is not talking about yourself too much. Obviously we are doing an interview and it’s serving a purpose right now [laughs], but that is the thing that makes me cringe the most: not everybody wants to hear about your shit, you know? I am genuinely excited with everything I do, I think it’s exciting — but I don’t necessarily assume that everyone else thinks it’s exciting.
One thing that is definitely exciting — and I know it was a long time ago — but you got to make out with James Spader on Boston Legal.
We made out all the time. I was, like, the 23-year-old fresh-out-of-college heap of naivety that came into the office. His character was, like, 44 and starts dating me. We totally had to make out, a lot.
Is he a good kisser?
You know, I was always into James Spader — like, eighties James Spader, Less Than Zero, and he was hot and weird. And thenSecretary came out and it was so morbidly sexual… But, you know … he’s as cool as shit and an incredible actor; an awesome comedic actor. That [Boston Legal] was years and years ago. He was so fun, though.
Interview: Alice Cavanagh