More Banks for your buck
Following success of Pitch Perfect 2, Elizabeth Banks plays major role in Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy
"I am pretty proud of myself and I haven't felt this good about myself maybe ever before."
That's what Elizabeth Banks told M at the Four Seasons Los Angeles and she has every reason to be on top of the world.
As a first-time director, her musical comedy Pitch Perfect 2 beat action adventure Mad Max: Fury Road as the highest-grossing film of its opening weekend at US$70.3 million (S$95.4 million). Mad Max: Fury Road raked in US$44.4 million.
So far, Pitch Perfect 2's worldwide box office gross is over US$249 million.
As if that isn't enough, Banks is also appearing in two upcoming films: Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy which opens here tomorrow and stripper comedy Magic Mike XXL which opens on July 9.
And there's the final instalment of The Hunger Games which, slated to open on Nov 19, where she'll reprise her standout supporting role as Effie Trinket.
The 41-year-old US actress said: "Six weeks ago, I just wanted to beat Avengers: Age Of Ultron in its third weekend.
"I was not that concerned about Mad Max: Fury Road. It did close in, but we felt confident that we would win that weekend.
"But the margin by which it happened was an overwhelming surprise. It's a very surreal feeling."
When asked if she was a tough director in a male-dominated field, she said: "When you look at me, I don't think the expectation is that I am going to be very tough.
"But no movie has enough time or money. Every day, I had a long checklist that I needed to get through and I had 10 actresses on my set almost every day to wrangle. We had a lot to get done.
"I think it's just that we didn't mess around as much as I think you do on other sets. And I also know all the tricks."
Banks is looking for something else to direct, though she hasn't decided it will be Pitch Perfect 3.
"I would love to do more action and something visually really cool but I don't want to work in full CGI (computer-generated imagery)."
When asked about the lack of female directors, she paused before saying: "I think it's very complicated, deep-seated and institutionalised, a bad habit. But I feel there's a willingness now and awareness.
"I produced the first movie (Pitch Perfect in 2012), so I was standing in the right spot that I created for myself.
"When we (the producers) looked at the list, I didn't put myself on it right away but I thought I could be just as good as any of these people doing the job."
In Love & Mercy, Banks plays Melinda Ledbetter, the wife of songwriter-musician Brian Wilson from the 60s US group The Beach Boys.
Paul Dano and John Cusack play Wilson for two different periods of his life.
A car saleswoman and former model, Ledbetter is credited by Wilson for saving him from drugs and mental illness.
Growing up, Banks didn't know much about The Beach Boys but she knew the words to their songs.
She said: "I sort of knew the legend, that Wilson became a recluse. So when I read the script, I was absolutely seduced by it."
Meeting the real Ledbetter, who adopted five children with Wilson, was key to her characterisation.
"I don't think I had a way into the movie until I met her," said Banks.
"I really needed a lot of questions answered and she was very, very generous.
"You go to their home and it's children and dogs. He's the last one standing when he's supposed to be the one that died.
"I just think they created something really beautiful out of their mess."
Banks' own domestic life is much more conventional. Her husband Max Handelman is also her producing partner. They have two children.
She said: "I don't pretend that I don't have a pretty traditional marriage because I do. My husband does not cook, he does not go to the grocery store.
"All those reports about women who still do all the work, that's my household. That's how my house is run.
"But I get great help, including from my husband. I get to be with my kids a lot, so I consider myself and my kids very lucky."
Banks attributes her success to not playing the Hollywood game.
"I've been told: 'You didn't get that job because you didn't play it right.' Not everybody likes an uppity chick but this is who I am.
"It's how I approach the business - I am very optimistic and I come to set with a good attitude every day.