In the indie rom-com “Results,” Cobie Smulders and Guy Pearce play fitness gurus, the former who gets involved with a slubbish customer (Kevin Corrigan). They’re the first name actors to star in a film by Andrew Bujalski, the indie wunderkind of “Funny Ha Ha” and “Computer Chess,” and for all involved it was clearly a revelatory experience, even if for Smulders and Pearce it took them to the gym — a place they know very well.
You’d both known Bujalski’s work before you signed on. What was it about his films that drew you into his world?
GP: I just really liked him. I think he’s got a really interesting take on the universe. I want to work with that.
CS: Watching Andrew’s older stuff, I thought we’d be making stuff up a lot and playing around. Maybe because Andrew worked so hard on the script — and listen, the script was so good — that wasn’t that much that needed to be tweaked. We had about a week of rehearsal. I remember when we started we had a week. I thought we only needed two days. We were getting along so well. It was like, let’s just shoot it.
This is his first time directing big name actors. What do you think he brought to the process that was really unique?
CS: He gave us a lot of freedom, which was more freedom than I’d ever had on a project. He would say, “What do you want to do?” He allowed you to have an opinion and have a voice.
GP: Some directors are like, “I have this thing in my mind, it has to be like this.” And then it’s awkward for you as an actor. You say, “This isn’t feeling natural,” and they say, “No, this is what I want you to do.” Whereas with Andrew there is this looseness. He won’t let something go onscreen that doesn’t feel real. Even if he hasn’t worked with many card-carrying union member actors in the past, that ability to detect truth in a scene is a very experienced part of who he is.
Sometimes your characters do surprising things. It’s a shocking moment when the driven Kat whimsically makes out with the slovenly Danny.
CS: Everything she does makes sense to her, but I was like, “Why would she kiss him then the next day yell at him?” It’s crazy. If I was making out with somebody I think there would be a progression there. But I like that she chooses to be like, “What are you talking about? That was nothing.” It took me awhile to wrap my head around it.
Both of you have a deep history with gyms. It's not a world Bujalski's films tend to cover.
GP: It’s a newish world for Andrew. He said he’d put on some weight a couple years ago, so he thought he’d try to get fit and lose some weight. He thought it was a fascinating world. But it was also a new world for him. It was interesting to discuss what things have changed over the years, which he’s only experiencing now.
How has gym culture changed?
GP: Well, they’re fad-oriented, gyms. F—ing kettlebells are in now. Everyone is doing kettlebells now, and they all look like they’re about to wrench their neck muscles. It looks horrendous. When I started going to gyms in ’81 or ’82, aerobics was huge. I don’t see anyone doing aerobics now.
CS: No, but they’re doing spin classes. I do SoulCycle a lot, and I had a friend who said, “Have you tried SoulCycle underwater?” I was like, “What are you saying to me right now?” It’s like soul cycle, but your bike and you are submerged. You’re underwater and you’re peddling so it’s adding this resistance. I was like, “Come on.” You have to constantly be changing if you’re in the fitness business.
GP: With fitness, there’s a big belief that all your answers are in there somewhere, for every problem you have in your life. People come out of relationships or difficult times or they don’t know where they are in life, and they get obsessed with going to the gym — obsessed with fitness and with diets.
CS: It’s all about control too. In your life the one thing you have some control over is how you look.
Cobie, though it’s hard to tell, you actually made this while you were pregnant.
CS: I was full-on pregnant. I was five to six months pregnant. It was actually quite fine. I hit it at a good place in my pregnancy. I just kind of made it work. But in terms of the working part of the role, I definitely wasn’t able to push myself to places I wanted to go. I just had to make sure I was it all in a healthy way.