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Q&A: Elizabeth Banks Talks ‘Man on a Ledge,’ Working in Comedy, and Woody Allen

Evan Crean Evan Crean
January 27th, 2012 1:00pm EST

Elizabeth BanksWhether you’re into television junkie or a film nerd, you probably know Elizabeth Banks.  In television the actress has had memorable turns on “30 Rock” and “Scrubs,” while her film credits include a mixture of comedic and serious efforts like “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “The Next Three Days.” 

This week, in the thriller “Man on a Ledge,” Banks plays a police negotiator named Lydia Mercer.  When a disgraced ex-cop Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) climbs up on a New York hotel threatening to jump, Mercer is tasked with talking him down.  What she doesn’t know is that the stunt is merely a smokescreen to hide his true plan.  Certain shady characters discover his motives, so they set attempt to stop Nick, causing chaos to ensue. 

Recently I had the chance to sit down for a roundtable interview with Banks about the movie.  Below are some highlights of the conversation.   

Q: One of the cool things about your character in this movie is that she’s a “police officer” and not a “police woman.”  There’s not anything mentioned about her being a woman in the movie. Was that important to you to just play a character where it didn’t matter?

Elizabeth Banks: I really, I was very drawn, (pauses) thank you for noticing, I was drawn to the fact that she was nobody’s wife or girlfriend.  I also felt the same way. I felt that gender really didn’t matter.  It definitely goosed it a little that she’s a woman, but it could have easily been a man.  It felt to me like a younger John McClane.  That definitely drew me to it. 

And the other thing is that I met with some actual NYPD negotiators and I asked specifically to meet a woman.  And I said, ‘They have women right?’  And they were like ‘Oh yeah we’ve got a few.’  I met this great lady from Staten Island via Ireland, so as you can imagine her accent was incredible. She was very girly and she was like 42, a mom, wore a cute Banana Republic suit, and carried a cute purse that had her piece in it. 

Q: That’s what makes it fun for you to go toe-to-toe with Ed Burns.  It’s just cop-on-cop and it’s not anything else.

EB: Yeah, exactly.  And we were really intent on presenting that camaraderie.  It’s a very serious job the negotiator I met has.  She has talked most people down actually.  She has a very good track record, as they mostly do.  In all honesty, their whole motto is ‘Jumpers jump.’  In other words, if you want to off yourself, you go to the top of the building and you jump off. 

If you’re still standing there by the time I pull my pants on and get in the taxi, go uptown, get a coffee and start talking to you, your rational mind has hopefully taken over and you may want to get saved. But the problem is, if you then go over, it’s really on them ‘cause then they really take it as their fault, because they couldn’t figure out a way to get you in. 

Q: Did you actually go out on the ledge?

EB: I did…We were 220 feet, 22 stories above Madison Avenue, straight down, nothing, 14 inches of ledge.  And one string, two string size wire holding us there in a harness.

Q: So you don’t have vertigo then?

EB: Everyone has a little bit of vertigo.  Vertigo is like your body’s notion that you should get to your center of gravity as fast as possible.  In your body that means let me hurl you off this building to get you to the ground really fast…But I don’t particularly have a fear of heights, I’m a bit of a thrill seeker actually, so I thought it was going to be really fun, and it was.  And that’s the view (pointing to the poster).  That’s what it looked like right there. 

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Photo Credits: "Man on a Ledge" Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals , Grauman's Chinese Theatre , Hollywood, CA, USA 01/23/2012 , Tina Gill / PR Photos , , © Summit Entertainment