Lucy Punch’s charmingly delicate British accent belies the roles she’s known to American audiences for playing — namely loud, mouthy strumpets in movies like “Dinner for Schmucks” and “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.” In this summer’s “Bad Teacher,” Punch is again playing it shrill and obnoxious, this time opposite Cameron Diaz.
“I hate to admit how easy it comes to me to play irritating people,” Punch says with a laugh. “You know, I’m such a fantastic actress because I’m actually really such a nice person and it’s a huge leap for me to play these irritating characters. Yes, it’s the role I’m destined for: bitches. Crazy, annoying people.”
In “Bad Teacher,” Cameron Diaz plays a lazy, uninspired junior high school teacher. Punch, as her foil, plays an overzealous co-worker. When a hot new instructor — played by Justin Timberlake — comes to their school, the two women begin competing for his attention. Playing the nemesis of an already unlikeable character, says Punch, requires special skill.
“As she got bitchier and bitchier, my character became more and more irritating and I look worse and worse in the movie,” Punch says. “It’s sort of inconceivable, frankly, that I’m supposed to be any sort of competition for the affection of Justin Timberlake.”
This film is getting buzz particularly because Diaz and Timberlake had previously dated. But Punch disappoints by providing very little dirt about their interaction on the set.
“All my friends are like, ‘What’s it like? Is it awkward?’ It’s not at all,” Punch explains. “They’re great friends and I don’t think either of them would’ve agreed to do it if it was going to be weird. You’d never know that they dated. They were just laughing a lot and it was very easy.”