No Dummy: Emily Mortimer

Photo: Matt Carr/Getty Images

Talk about being a supporting actress: In Lars and the Real Girl, Emily Mortimer plays the sister-in-law of a depressive shut-in (Ryan Gosling) who falls for a mail-order sex doll. She spoke to Logan Hill.

What was it like working with Bianca?
She gave a very subtle, totally intimidating performance. She taught me a lesson I should have learned years ago, which is that it’s so much cooler to not speak: You get an automatic dignity.

But since she’s a sex doll, was it tough keeping your composure?
No, that was the weird part: There was a very respectful vibe around her. Ryan [Gosling] and the director [Craig Gillespie] made sure it was a no-go to take the piss out of Bianca. You had to be cool. But your natural instinct wasn’t to do that anyway.

I was expecting something raunchy and gimmicky, but the movie isn’t like that at all.
I thought, Fantastic—I want to be in a film with a sex doll! But I worried that it had to work irrespective of the sex doll. I just get irritated by art-house movies that present a kind of dramatic, strange take on the world and then resolve it neatly: They’ll present a sex doll and pretend to be all dark and indie, but they’ll give you a very easy solution.

So what does this movie do?
This is the opposite. It’s quite nice and sweet from the start. It wrong-foots all of your expectations—and it’s really moving. There’s something so clever about how this whole town decides that they will accept this sex doll, that she goes to the hospital and reads to the sick children, and becomes a kind of pillar of the community.

Speaking of the community, you and your husband [actor Alessandro Nivola] are living in Brooklyn now, right?
I kept fighting the sense that to not like L.A. is a real cliché—so I was really trying to be into it. But I couldn’t. When we got here, though, I did not know where the fuck I was. And that’s a real disadvantage here. That’s all everyone talks about: real estate, restaurants, the neighborhood. I’m not even sure what this neighborhood is called. I think it’s Boerum Hill. Or is it Gowanus?

What’s your favorite spot so far?
I like riding my son very dangerously to school on the back of my bike—I’m reckless—and it’s embarrassing, but I spend an awful lot of my time in Starbucks. My best friend and I concocted a scheme to write a screenplay, so I sit in Starbucks with my laptop and talk for hours on my mobile phone. It’s a terrible institution, probably. Are they as bad as McDonald’s? What would Oprah say?

It’s up for debate.
It’s really lame. I’ve visited the most extraordinary cities in the world, with Alessandro or me doing some project: Madrid, Paris, Vancouver, Mexico City. And I’m always just writing in some Starbucks, ordering the same chai latte. I wish I took a photograph in every one—they’d all be the same, just slightly different. Here, I’m always in the Starbucks on Court Street or Smith Street.

Lars and the Real Girl
MGM, October 12.

No Dummy: Emily Mortimer