Zoe Kazan tends to play serious or, if it’s a rom-com like “What If,” quasi-serious. But in “Our Brand is Crisis” she gets to play LeBlanc, a character whose primary function is as a comic foil. LeBlanc is the crafty right-hand person of Sandra Bullock’s political advisor, who’s lent her services out to a probably crooked Bolivian pol (Joaquim de Almeida), whose political race isn’t going so well. It’s based on a 2005 doc of the same name, though it’s been fashioned into a satirical comedy that milks laughs out of Ugly Americans foisting American ideals upon other countries.
First off, one thing unusual about this — other than it’s a studio film about politics — is that it was directed by David Gordon Green, of indies like “George Washington” as well as the odd stoner comedy like “Pineapple Express.” He brings a real personality to it.
The thing that surprised me the most about working with David is how relaxed he is as a director. He’s completely laidback, which is not an adjective I would ever use to describe any director I’ve worked with. It goes with the job description that you’re tearing your hair out and freaking out. He’s just not like that. That created a really happy atmosphere. The one time I saw him lose his temper was when people weren’t working as hard as they should be. He’s incredibly hard-working and incredibly calm.
LeBlanc is unusual for you, because she’s mostly a comedic character.
That was part of it — the idea of getting to play this enigma. I had also accidentally done a lot of romantic comedies. I was just tired of that genre. I liked the idea of being able do something about a bunch of people using their minds. And there was getting to speak Spanish in a movie. It’s a language I grew up speaking, which I never get to use.
How did you wind up growing up speaking Spanish?
My mom was a Navy brat, and their family was stationed in Barcelona for a portion of her childhood. My mom spoke Spanish. And then my parents are both writers and worked full-time seven days a week. So they hired this woman to come and not nanny me but raise me. I became incredibly close to her. And she doesn’t speak any English. So I grew up speaking Spanish with her.
Given your character primarily serves as a translator, I assume your grasp of the language is what got you the role.
I auditioned for the part. I had to improvise in Spanish in the audition. I think everyone thought I was much better at Spanish than I actually am. My accent is good; it fools people.
So you’re no longer that good at Spanish?
My Spanish is not as good as it used to be.