Entering the room in a sunny yellow dress like the last breath of summer, Kristen Bell looks the part of a glamorous, unattainable movie star. But right away, she proves that she can roll with the punches.
With a smile as infectious as her laugh, Bell’s demeanor permeates the room with good humor and a side of loveable sarcasm. In person she is sassy, evoking her character Veronica Mars more than one would expect.
Bell’s roles display not only her talent but also her versatility. From debuting as a teenage detective in Veronica Mars to having guest stints on Heroes, voicing the deliciously evil narrator on Gossip Girl and becoming one of Judd Apatow’s leading ladies in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, it appears that Bell is on the brink of superstardom — which makes her latest choice of projects so fascinating. It doesn’t appear as if she will be portraying any Nicole Kidman-esque wilting flowers any time soon.
“I mean for me, my appearance lends itself more to being cast as an ingénue, but so often ingénues are boring,” Bell said. “They don’t have a lot of depth.”
So bring on the sass. Bell prefers the challenge of a strong female character, which is evident in her newest project, Astro Boy. A huge pop culture icon in Japan, Astro Boy comes with a heavy history behind it — something Bell was not familiar with before.
“I had known the name in the back of my head for a while, but I didn’t know why he was so significant or what the story really was,” Bell said. “But after I read the script, I became familiar with how iconic he was overseas and how he’s kind of the Mickey Mouse of Japan.”
Not entirely new to the field of voice-over work (she lent her voice to Ubisoft’s 2008 game Assassin’s Creed), Bell was excited to once again test her vocal chops on this film. But, some of the same challenges still arose.
“In the recording booth you have to give the director the option of a less intense line or a more intense line depending on what your co-star gives,” Bell explained.
Another challenge? Wardrobe.
“You don’t realize that animated characters don’t change clothes. In a movie you can tell a lot about a character by how they dress: Are they preppy or are they disheveled? You have one choice in the animated characters life, you show one outfit,” Bell said.
Despite the lack of wardrobe choices, it seems that Bell had no problem connecting with her character, Cora, a down-and-out orphan who befriends Astro. The two shared (what else?) sassiness.
“She’s spunky, she’s opinionated, she’s kind of rebellious. She’s got a tough exterior but she’s a marshmallow on the inside and all of that appealed to me,” she said. “I sometimes have a tougher exterior and it’s always covering up for some insecurity or another. I’m probably just as sassy as she is.”
With a smile full of mischief, Bell adds: “People have said that.”
But it wasn’t just Cora’s character that intrigued Bell. The screenplay and the subtleties in the writing were an added bonus.
“I just really liked the script in general. It had a lot of really great themes and I was excited to be a part of it. It has a great message that’s not shoved down your throat,” Bell said. “It’s a great adventure movie and despite the name I think little girls will like it as well. I mean I get to say that because I’m representing the females in this film.”
Being the only girl with a gaggle of guys is no new feat for Bell. She recently starred Couples Retreat with comedy heroes Vince Vaughn and her on-screen husband Jason Bateman, who were as funny off-screen as they were on.
“One thing I can say about them is they are exactly how you want them to be. They are two of the funniest and nicest guys that you’ll ever meet,” Bell confessed. “Jason prided himself every morning by telling me how bloated I looked because he knew it would make me laugh.”
With two movies opening within two weeks — the other being Couples Retreat — and a series of others to follow (When In Rome, Sheepish and You Again) it appears that Bell has no intention of slowing down. Although the business can be a harsh environment, it is refreshing to find that Bell always strives to keep it light.
“I realized you’re kind of a joke if you ever get jaded because this job is fun, it’s meant to be fun and it’ll be fun until you’re 87,” Bell said.