Q&A

Ari Graynor on For a Good Time Call…, Phone Sex, and Prop Dildos


A hit at this year's Sundance Film Festival, For a Good Time, Call… stars Ari Graynor and Lauren Miller as broke former frenemies turned roommates who launch a phone-sex line as a way to make ends meet. On the surface, the film's Judd Apatow-style plot is just an excuse to watch two women say hilariously dirty things for 90 minutes. But it also proves to be a poignant story of human relationships. And for Graynor (best known for a recurring role on Fringe and parts in a string of recent movies, including last month's Celeste and Jesse Forever), it's a chance to prove that she can hold her own as the lead actress in a comedy—and happily, she does.

Details spoke with Graynor, 29, about the nostalgic feel of For a Good Time, Call…, the current state of female sexuality in film, and the use of prop dildos.

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DETAILS: How did you first learn about sex?

ARI GRAYNOR: I had a babysitter named Jill, when I was around 7. I have a very clear memory of her teaching me "the bases." I was the first-grader at school, like, "You guys, wait till I tell you what I learned yesterday!"

DETAILS: At such a young age, did you understand what each base correlated to?

ARI GRAYNOR: As far as I can tell, what I learned in first grade still holds up now. I remember being in a book store, prepuberty, and there were books like What's Happening to My Body—far before anything was happening [to mine]. I was fascinated by what was going on in those books and what I had to look forward to. I always wanted to be an adult as a kid. I wanted to be 27 for as long as I can remember. Maybe my awareness or interest in learning about sex was in part because I couldn't wait to be an adult—whatever that meant.

DETAILS: With all the technology we have to help us get off today, the idea of phone sex seems so retro. It's refreshing.

ARI GRAYNOR: The film has a nostalgic feel to it—we're running a phone-sex line using a hot-pink box phone. But phone sex still exists. If you watch TV late at night, there are still ads. Certainly, those other sexual avenues [like Internet porn] are getting a lot of traffic, but I think the thing about phone sex—and why it's still around— is that it offers up a certain anonymity that sending naked pictures of yourself or going on a webcam can't afford. To look at porn—while lots of people do, and while it's good for certain things—there's really no connection whatsoever. Phone sex will always be around because it provides a certain amount of intimacy while also allowing for fantasy and something to hide behind.

DETAILS: Prior to making this film, had you ever had to prepare for a role that involved a lot of sex?

ARI GRAYNOR: I did a Paul Weitz play a few years ago in New York called Trust. Both myself and Sutton Foster play dominatrices. I had done quite a bit of research about that. I feel like I'm a very open, nonjudgmental person when it comes to a lot of things. In work, when the writing of a project is really smart, I have no problem jumping into waters that for others might seem a little dicey. It's interesting to me on a psychological level to learn about these things. In this movie, we just wanted to tell a fun story about friendship. The setting of "phone sex" was just the delicious little pink bow that it was wrapped up in. We actually didn't call phone-sex lines [for research], because we wanted to keep it light and fantastical in our own reality, rather than make it a documentary-style phone-sex movie.

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DETAILS: Between the success of HBO's Girls, the BDSM novel Fifty Shades of Grey, and now For a Good Time, Call…, it seems like women and sex have been examined in a very unusual way this year. Is something happening in the culture right now that's acting as a catalyst for that?

ARI GRAYNOR: Something is in the Zeitgeist right now. The issue of female sexuality, and women owning their sexuality—and that being a positive thing—has been a very slow and steady journey for ages. The success of Bridesmaids in the entertainment world—that wasn't necessarily about sex, but it was about women being in the focal front, [without being] centered around a man. That revealed an appetite for entertainment [focused on women], but also geared toward men. I think it's a constant evolution of women finding their voice. We hope this movie is sex-positive and not just about, "Oh, girls are dirty and raunchy." It has nothing to do with that. There's a beauty in owning your sexuality as a way to better know yourself. That's true of a lot of the escapades on Girls. None of it's there for shock value, but rather as an avenue for them to learn about themselves. Hopefully that's part of the culture that's starting to loosen up a bit.

DETAILS: And audiences today are smarter and probably aren't going to put up with the same old tropes.

ARI GRAYNOR: This movie is a little bit of an homage to the movies we watched in the eighties. Shelley Long, Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn…the women had character, they had depth and gumption, spirit, and strength. They had stories that weren't just about "getting the guy." There were friendships and fun and outrageous stories, and somehow that's gotten lost a little bit. But it feels like it's starting to come back in its own way. Women are starting to take things into their own hands. Almost every actor that's doing well is also a producer.

DETAILS: Still, there are a lot of raunchy moments in this movie. Which scene was the hardest to film?

ARI GRAYNOR: The joke is that the more outrageous it was, the easier it was. The stuff that was more challenging, or made me embarrassed and made everyone more blushy, was more the intimate moments. I could be on all fours, smoking a fake joint, on the phone with [costar] Kevin Smith [talking dirty], and it was all fun and games, but when the language got more real, we had to pull back a little bit on that.

DETAILS: That's not what I would have guessed. I would have said the dildo-in-the-mouth scene was probably the worst.

ARI GRAYNOR: Well, it's a blue dildo in your mouth—what are you going to do, not laugh? It's so ridiculous. We had a prop master there, and you'd hear things on the set like, "Hey, do you guys want the dildos in or out? Yeah, I think we'll have the dildos in." Or [director] Jamie Travis saying, "The dildo's not big enough!" And no one bats an eye.

DETAILS: It's like dildo white noise.

ARI GRAYNOR: It's all talk, as we say in the movies.

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For a Good Time, Call… stars Ari Graynor, Lauren Miller, Seth Rogen, Justin Long, Mimi Rogers, Nia Vardalos, Mark Webber, and James Wolk. It opens in select theaters on August 31 and across the U.S. on September 7.

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—Mike Ayers (@themikeayers) is a New York City-based arts and entertainment writer.


Also on Details.com
Q&A: For a Good Time, Call… Director Jamie Travis
Q&A: Rashida Jones on Celeste and Jesse Forever
Q&A: Ruby Sparks' Paul Dano

Photos: Focus Features
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