Produced by Judd Apatow, the “Life of Brian”-flavored flick stars Jack Black and Michael Cera as quirky cavemen who, after being banished from their tribe, set out on a journey and encounter various Old Testament denizens as played by Wilde, Ramis, Hank Azaria, David Cross, Oliver Platt, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Vinnie Jones, Bill Hader and Paul Rudd.
“I think I would have taken any role in that film because of the people involved,” Wilde told the Irish Echo in a recent phone interview. “I would have taken a walk-on, gladly. It was definitely irresistible.”
So, what was the vibe like on the set with all these funny people in one place?
“It was fantastic!” the down-to-earth actress exclaimed. “We were literally singing songs between takes. Harold Ramis is a very cool guy. He’s a Buddhist and very, very relaxed. It takes a lot to get him stressed out. We’d be sitting in the middle of this five-acre city that we built on the outskirts of Shreveport, La., and they’d be setting up a [giant scene] and we’d sit there all around the monitors and Harold would start strumming the guitar and we’d all sing Beatles songs. It was dream.”
Trained at Dublin’s Gaiety School of Acting, the 25-year-old beauty is best known for her work on the American television dramas “The O.C.,” “The Black Donnellys” and “House,” as well as in the movies “The Girl Next Door” and “Alpha Dog.” Born Olivia Jane Cockburn in New York, she recently topped Maxim magazine’s Hot 100 list.
Wilde said she feels her time studying drama at the Gaiety has prepared her well for her varied career.
“I think Irish actors, in general, have a very humble and hard-working way about them,” she observed. “You go do a play in Dublin and then you go have a pint with the actors right after. There’s no sense of hierarchy, at least, nothing like there is here. I think the idea of the Gaiety was to really learn how to be a craftsperson, to really learn this craft and not expect any sort of nonsense to go with it. So, I think that definitely prepared me. I think the plays I studied there and the lessons I learned definitely were integral parts of my training for this profession and I would love to do it all again.”
Despite her impressive resume, Wilde said it was her audition for Apatow’s 2007 comedy blockbuster “Knocked Up” that led to her being cast in “Year One.”
“I had met the Apatow producing team when I auditioned for ‘Knocked Up’ and we had gotten along very well and they remembered me, and so they brought me in for this one,” recalled the actress, who through her marriage to documentary filmmaker and musician Tao Ruspoli, a member of Italian royalty, holds the real-life title of princess.
“As a sort of family, (the Apatow crew) tends to be very loyal and so they brought me in for this and it went well and it was great,” she added. “As soon as I met Harold Ramis, I really felt I had found a kindred soul. He’s very, very cool and the audition was really fun.”
Wilde said she was attracted to the script, which Ramis penned with “The Office” scribes Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, because it was both hilarious and smart.
“People who watch it will realize how it calls on different stories from the Bible and different religious texts and I thought it was great that it was sort of picking up on the classic humor of Mel Brooks or ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,’ or all these different great comedies that actually have some sort of context in religious literature. I always think [that] is really funny, because there are all these details people remember, sometimes from their childhood, suddenly being played out by Jack Black or Hank Azaria or Paul Rudd as Cain,” she laughed.
As great as the script was, Ramis also encouraged his comedic cast members to improvise when they felt they had conjured up something even better, Wilde explained.
“Harold really allowed people to play,” she said. “I think when you have that many comedians in one place, you have to let them cut loose. You’d be doing yourself a disservice [if you didn’t.] You wouldn’t be taking advantage of them. I’d say every single take, people would throw in a few bits of their own. The script was totally evolving as we went along, which was really fun.”
While her flattering princess costumes may have been helpful when it came time to getting into character, Wilde confided they didn’t keep very warm during the chilly film shoot last spring.
“It was rather cold in Shreveport when we were shooting,” she said. “There is one scene where you can see it snowing, which is unusual for Louisiana, and everyone’s standing around practically barefoot, trying to grin and bear it and hope that it doesn’t show up on film.”
“Year One” is in theaters now.