To hear Anna Faris speak is to realize that playing dumb is more complicated than it looks. The actress, cool and slender as the bottle of water she’s drinking, is in a Hollywood bar, talking about why she’s scornful of monologues and how all acting is about human interaction. “The script isn’t as important as what actors do together,” she says. “It’s the dynamic between people.”

There’s a pause. Faris feels obliged to explain the origins of her theory. “Everyone in my family is a sociologist,” she says. “My brother, my dad, one of my grandfathers—everybody.” She knows that as she’s saying this you’re probably thinking about her goofier onscreen exploits, like the scene in Scary Movie 4 in which a green hand emerges from behind her to shave her armpits.

Faris’ career has been built on such golden cinematic moments (a fifth Scary Movie is on the way) in masterpieces like Smiley Face, in which she plays a stoner who fries cannabis in butter for breakfast, and Just Friends, in which she’s a pop diva who sets her private jet on fire by leaving the tinfoil on her microwave dinner. In The House Bunny, out this month, Faris, 31, portrays a Playboy Bunny who gets booted from the mansion and ends up in a sorority house—as they like to say in Hollywood, The Battleship Potemkin it’s not.

“You watch some of Anna’s movies and you think, hmm. Kinda wacky, right?” says Luke Wilson, Faris’ costar in My Super Ex-Girlfriend. “Turns out she’s sharp as a tack and really has her shit together.” Faris majored in English at the University of Washington, and her acting chops have impressed Sofia Coppola, who cast her in Lost in Translation, and Ang Lee, who put her in Brokeback Mountain. As she says, “That version of me onscreen? It’s me at work.”

It was Faris who cooked up the premise for The House Bunny and who was savvy enough to enlist the writers from Legally Blonde to get it on the page. Then she pitched the project to Adam Sandler’s production company. Within three months, she was shooting at the mansion with Hef, having added a lead role and a producing credit to her résumé. “Anna’s relentless on the cell phone,” says Colin Hanks, who costars in The House Bunny. “She’s a player.”

What you see onscreen, though, is what you see in person: long, blond curls that frame enormous blue eyes in a way that makes her a dead ringer for Goldie Hawn in her spacey prime. Not that Faris remembers the image. As a kid growing up in a small town north of Seattle, she was forbidden to watch television and movies. “My brother and I ran around in the woods or we made up plays. It was all a little sheltered,” she says. For a long time, Faris was a wallflower.