Lizzy Caplan hasn’t really done many huge films. “Cloverfield” aside, it’s mostly TV or small comedies: “Party Down,” “Masters of Sex,” “Bachelorette” and Janis Ian in “Mean Girls.” With “Now You See Me 2” she takes a detour into a globe-trotting semicomedic thriller, playing the new addition to the “Four Horseman,” the Robin Hood magicians filled out by Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco and Woody Harrrelson. And yet Caplan says it felt like making one of those raucous comedies, everyone doing their best to crack each other up. The actress, 33, talks about magic tricks and that teeth-grindingly annoying question: Are women funny?
Did you pick up any magic tricks doing this?
I did learn a few parlor tricks. Unfortunately when I bust them out in front of my friends they totally dismiss them. “Oh, you did a magic movie, you think you can do magic.” Even when I pull off the trick perfectly, they don’t buy it.
Can you do the coin-in-the-ear trick?
The dad trick? I feel like my dad used to do that.
I feel like it’s more of an uncle trick.
Yeah, the one with the ponytail.
The ponytail gives you the power to hide the coin.
That’s why so many magicians have those terrible, greasy ponytails.
But Penn Jilette’s is fine.
He’s the only one. If he wants to have a ponytail, have at it. But some of the lower level, fourth-tier Vegas magicians, no.
In this movie, your character spends a good chunk of the movie mocking the casual sexism of the other characters — like when they ask if you’ll be OK riding a motorcycle but not asking, say, Woody Harrelson.
Exactly. And a lot of that stuff we just added as we were going along. I felt really strongly — since she’s the only female Horseman — about not making her purely eye candy or, even worse, a straight man to the guy’s zany antics. I wanted her to be annoying, really. They let me be overeager and kind of irritating. And she’s kind of aggressive towards [romancing] Dave Franco’s character, which you don’t see too often.
You get some weird asides and even get to fake-cut your arm with an electric knife.
[Director] Jon Chu would let me go and improvise and say whatever I wanted in later takes. We called it “milking it.” He’d call out, “Milk it!” and pretend to milk a cat or something. I could go off and say all kinds of stupid s—, just to make my co-stars laugh. But I thought they’d cut that out, because it was too much and they would try to jam the character into a more familiar box. But they really left a fair amount of it in. In a way I felt more comedic freedom on this than on a lot of comedies.
Of course, we still have to have that discussion about whether women are funny or not.
I know, ugh, God. Yes, I think it’s changing, but it’s changing at such a snail’s pace that it’s hard not to be consistently disappointed by it. “Bridesmaids,” for example, worked great. So that restarted the conversation — “women being funny,” which makes me want to bash my head into the wall. And then “Trainwreck” did really well. But still it feels if “Ghostbusters” doesn’t do well then they’re not going to have female-driven comedies for awhile again. It’s this neverending quest to prove that women can be funny. It’s so exhausting.
And then we get “men’s rights activist” dudes posting videos about how they’re not going to see “Ghostbusters” only because the trailer wasn’t funny.
Trailers are bad sometimes! And “Ghostbusters” — fingers crossed — will be good. But I feel like all the elements are in place: Paul Feig directing, all those girls are amazingly hilarious. How is that not going to be funny?
But on this you get to be funny. Despite it being a blockbuster thriller it looks like everyone’s trying to crack each other up. Is that good vibes thing common?
Most of the time. I’ve been really lucky. I’ve had fun experiences. I know a lot of actors who’ve had no fun experiences, and I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of them. There was something about this that reminded me of doing “Party Down,” where it was just all funny people acting dumb all the time. And Jon Chu, he’s one of many siblings, so he can focus and go off into his head and be razor-focused when we’re being total idiots around him. He’s used to his siblings creating pandemonium in the house growing up. He was the perfect director for this thing, because he never reined us in.
That’s not fair to those of us who only have one sibling and don’t know how to control everything.
I know, it sucks. I have two, and I have a hard time controlling anybody.
We can never be directors. Directing is not easy.
It’s hard. I don’t think I’m interested in that.