The Emoji Movie pits a group of rebellious emojis — including Meh man Gene (T.J. Miller), handy Hi-5 (James Corden) and codebreaker Jailbreak (Anna Faris) — against the most ubiquitous of their digital kind: the smiley-faced Smiler, voiced by Maya Rudolph. Faris, at least, has had a run-in with this yellow beacon of relentless happiness in the past. Ten years ago, before smartphones popularized emoji-speak, the actress starred in the cult 2007 stoner classic Smiley Face, as Jane F, a slacker actress who embarks on a marijuana-laced odyssey across L.A. after consuming many pot-laced cupcakes.
In addition to its presence in the title, the smiley face symbol was also emblazoned across the movie’s posters and marketing materials. And Faris tells Yahoo Movies that her own face bursts out into an enormous smile whenever the movie is brought up in conversation. “When someone approaches me on the street and mentions that movie, my heart just swells,” she says, laughing. “I just loved doing it so much. I’m very proud that one of the only awards I’ve won is my Stony Award.” (Faris accepted the Stonette of the Year Stony, presented by High Times magazine, in 2007.)
Directed by indie film veteran, Gregg Araki, and penned by actor/writer, Dylan Haggerty, Smiley Face is something of an outlier in the pot-comedy tradition in that it’s the rare film where a female stoner is front and center instead of a male duo like Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, Kal Penn and John Cho, or Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott. “I would ask Dylan all the time, ‘Why did you write this for a woman?'” Faris remembers. “He would just shrug his shoulders and say, ‘I think a little differently.’ I was like, ‘You’re not giving me the answers I need!'”
In the absence of specific instructions from the screenwriter, the actress took her inspiration from the opportunity to play a woman who isn’t defined by her sexuality or attraction to a guy. “Most roles you do as a woman, there’s some kind of love interest or someone you’re trying to please. With Jane, it was just, ‘I’m in my weird pajama top, I love my mattress, and I love weed!’ There’s nothing sexualized about my character, and I was so grateful for that.” In fact, the one guy who is into Jane — the painfully geeky Brevin Ericson (John Krasinski) — never has a realistic shot at displacing her true love: cannabis. “One of my favorite scenes I’ve ever shot is the scene where I’m in the car with John and start maniacally laughing at him,” Faris reveals. “It felt cruel, but also awesome!”
Despite, or maybe because of, her history with smiley faces, that particular emoji isn’t one that The Emoji Movie star is especially enamored of. Instead, she tends to prefer the emojis less texted. “There’s an emoji of an eagle landing that I love,” Faris says. “I also love the hammer, crossed swords, and the half-burned cigarette. I was very late to the game with emojis and texting, because I thought the importance of human contact was being lost. Now, I love them! It’s a very efficient way of expressing what I need to express.”
Asked whether there’s an emoji that doesn’t exist yet that she’d like to use in her day-to-day life, Faris pauses and glances out the balcony of her hotel room in Vancouver, where she’s been filming the remake of the 1987 Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russell comedy, Overboard. (She’ll be playing the Russell role, which is only appropriate since the actor played “Dad” to her husband, Chris Pratt, in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2.) “There’s a seagull I feed on my balcony that I’ve named Hank. I’d like Hank to become an emoji. He’s a little mad at me right now.”
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