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Elizabeth Banks: Katie Morgan Loves Taking Her Clothes Off

“I get away with a lot because I look like the girl next door and have an all-American sweetness to me, which is a huge part of my personality,” explains actress Elizabeth Banks, [pictured] before pausing. “But I also love to talk about my vagina as much as possible.”

It’s a good thing, given that she’s spending most of the week hyping her latest movie, raunchy comedy “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.”

In it, the gorgeous, cheerleader-esque Banks plays high school loser Miriam (Stinky) Linky. Miri is so short of cash that her water and power are switched off, and so decides to crank out a gonzo X-rated flick co-starring roommate and best friend Zack (Seth Rogen) and a ragtag bunch of endearing losers. That ensemble includes iconic porn stars Traci Lords and Katie Morgan, and for good reason.

“If we had regular actresses who had to come to set and take their clothes off for the first time, anyone who had insecurities about that. …” Banks trails off, smiling, “Katie Morgan loves taking her clothes off – she’s perfectly comfortable.”

Banks notes that Morgan and company are undercover superstars – beloved by many, but rarely discussed, Angelina without the magazine covers and endorsement deals. “They’re secret celebrities. I knew who Katie Morgan was going into it – she’s a huge star. She was on an episode of ‘Entourage’ where she flashed her boobs at the guys and they went nuts.”

Another reason to hire Lords and Morgan: The actors had to be willing to simulate the awkward-but-explicit sex scenes that form part of the film-within-the-film. Banks says adult-movie loving types won’t find the title a bait-and-switch. “You can’t call the movie ‘Zack and Miri Make a Porno’ and not deliver on the porno. But it wasn’t until I was on the set looking up at one woman’s vagina that I thought, ‘Oh, right, I forgot about that,'” she laughs.

Banks, though, is the sole star to expose little more than her dignity. “I got a lot of comments from people who said, ‘I thought you were going to be more naked’ – they were strangely pissed off at me,” she marvels. Indeed, though she remains fully covered, even Rogen flashes his ample buttocks.

Maybe the shock of those fleshy cheeks is what nabbed the movie its initial NC-17 rating, though it ended up with the more commercially viable R. “The fact we got an NC-17 for stuff you could see any time of day on cable TV in your living room I thought of as ridiculous and hypocritical,” Banks complains.

But for all the sex talk and sex acts, the Kevin Smith-helmed romantic comedy has a tender heart. It’s an off-kilter, off-color take on a stumbling, fumbling romance.

It’s another example of Banks cornering the market in quirky blonds, Monroes with a Sarah Silverman edge. Indeed, in conversation, she has the same combination of flinty and flirty that she’s brought to past parts like J.D.’s baby mama Dr. Kim Briggs in the sitcom “Scrubs” and “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” where she was also paired with Rogen.

But in her next role, Banks had to tamp down her wry beauty: She goes from O-faced to po-faced as Laura Bush in Oliver Stone’s biopic “W.” – for which she’s getting critical praise.

“I always thought she was boring. I was indifferent to her,” says Banks. “But she’s an extremely intelligent woman with a bit of a feminist edge who’s deeply uncomfortable in the public realm.”

Though offered a copy of “American Wife,” author Curtis Sittenfeld’s searing take on a Laura-based character, Banks refused even to take a look. “I feel oddly defensive about the First Lady right now. I’m very protective of her, so to read a book like that would piss me off.”

Banks would much rather talk sex than politics anyway. “Someone asked me specifically to list the porn movie titles I watched as my research and I am sure he was just looking for a list for himself. Porn isn’t any more part of my life than it was before – I didn’t do any additional research for this movie. Though when you sign up for porn online, always use a totally random e-mail address,” she teases.

This latest gig may have unforeseen benefits, albeit not Oscar nominations. “I’d love to be a cult porn celebrity, but I don’t plan on participating in any Q&As in Vegas.”

She can leave that for the sequel.


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