From doing the rounds with Doc Martin to cook-ins with Cameron Diaz, Lucy Punch is our kooky new queen of comedy
22:16 GMT, 9 August 2012
Lucy Punch is looking slightly strange. She has this fringe which is uneven and far too short. In her words: ‘It looks like it was done by someone who is mentally unstable.’ Lucy did it herself.
In fairness it was for a role — her latest film Stand Up Guys, which stars Al Pacino and Christopher Walken. ‘My character is a bit of a disaster so I thought it would be a good idea to look really hideous, so I took out my scissors and cut.’
But her part took only three days to film and now she has to live with the result of her temporary madness.
‘The day after I finished I looked at myself and thought, “Oh God no! What have I done”’ she shrieks. ‘Now I have to live with this crazy haircut.’
The new Queen of comedy: Lucy Punch with Robert Webb (left) and Rufus Hound in the hilarious new film about the traumas of planning a wedding
Not such a good idea as she is about to start her latest film and is also talking about her first big romantic lead role in new — and utterly hilarious — British comedy The Wedding Video.
You may remember Lucy from TV’s Doc Martin or Vexed, but it is six years since she decamped to Hollywood and she has not looked back.
The ditzy star — ‘I am very chaotic, I am always late and walking into things’ — fits right into La La Land. But she has had to learn the rights and wrongs of celebrity etiquette.
Her stand-out Hollywood role was as the prostitute Charmaine in Woody Allen’s You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger two years ago. She won the part after Nicole Kidman pulled out. She was so happy that on one of her first days on set she hugged the director. Big mistake.
She says: ‘I got whisked away and told “Woody doesn’t do hugs.” It was so embarrassing. But for the rest of the shoot I was itching to do it again, convinced I could win him round to hugging. It’s a bit like when you are in church and you just want to scream out. I only resisted because I knew how important the job was.’
Toast of Hollywood: Lucy Punch has come a long way since Midsomer Murders
Indeed it was. The role put her on the Hollywood map and she has not stopped working since. Her biggest role to date was in Bad Teacher playing the geeky rival of Cameron Diaz as they both try to win the love of Justin Timberlake’s character.
‘You are constantly working with unbelievably gorgeous people,’ says Lucy. ‘I don’t compare myself. I can’t. When I worked with Cameron I thought how lovely that she had a gorgeous bottom and face and a perfect figure. She was a delight and a half.
‘She has it figured out, is very down to earth. She might have the entourage with assistants and bodyguards but that is because the business of being Cameron Diaz is a well-oiled machine and she needs people to help her do it. In the mornings she would get to her trailer early to cook breakfast. She would be cooking me egg-white omelettes and I would be thinking “How does she manage to fit that in”’
‘It must be nice to be in the rare position to pick and choose your work and act alongside incredible people. That would be a dream,’ says Lucy, 34, in her jolly-hockey-sticks accent.
Not that Lucy has time to wait around for the phone to ring. The Wedding Video is the most funny wedding film since Four Weddings And A Funeral, with an uproarious performance from Harriet Walter as mother of the bride.
A big part of the film focuses on how stressful weddings are to organise when just having the perfect white dress is not good enough — particularly in the nouveau riche world of Cheshire society. ‘The high drama of weddings can turn perfectly normal people into crazed lunatics,’ says Lucy. ‘It’s no longer just about the bride and groom. It’s everyone else’s dramas and egos and I think that all adds to the comedy pot.’
No wedding bells: The actress says that she finds weddings too stressful and managed to get her friend's wedding ring stuck on her finger
Made by the people behind Calendar Girls and Made In Dagenham, Lucy plays Saskia, whose pushy Cheshire society mum has taken over her wedding to reluctant Tim (played by Peep Show’s Robert Webb). To add to the chaos, Tim’s younger brother Raif (Rufus Hound) falls for the girl his brother is supposed to be marrying.
Lucy says going through the wedding experience has put her off the whole shebang. She admits to living alone but refuses to say if she is dating.
‘My friends asked me to be a reverend at their wedding in France a few years ago. I went on the internet and within 15 seconds I was printing out a certificate which allowed me to officiate at their wedding.
‘I was already finding it stressful when I lost the only folder I had with all the readings about 20 minutes before the service. Somebody found it in a laundry basket. Don’t ask me what it was doing there. I was freaking out. I had her wedding ring and I put it on my finger during the service for safe-keeping then I couldn’t get it off, so I nearly married myself to her fiance.
‘I can see why people love the idea of a big white wedding — it is a day when they are the centre of attention and get to wear a beautiful dress. But that sounds awful to me because that is like getting ready to walk down the red carpet.
‘I find all of that stressful. I’m always worried about how I look and getting hair and make-up right. Inevitably something goes wrong. I find I’ve torn my dress or spilled something on myself or had a fake tan disaster.’
She admits she feels the pressure to be Hollywood skinny but refuses to let it take over her life. ‘I don’t play the gorgeous girl parts. If I did I would never work. The only time I bowed down to it was when I did the Woody Allen film and there were references to my character going to the gym, so I put away the chocolate and wine and got healthy.’
Coming home to shoot The Wedding Video was a joy, says the actress whose parents run a market research company. She attended the private school Godolphin and Latymer and found her love of acting in school plays. ‘It was so nice to be back in London,’ she says. ‘It’s different from filming in Hollywood. There’s no hierarchy. Everyone talks to everyone.’
‘When I get back to London I always feel, “It’s so great, why did I leave it” but then a few weeks later I am pining to get back to LA and some nice weather. It’s a lovely way of life; you can go to the beach, go hiking.’
After several years living in the same one-bedroom flat, she has just moved into a new two-bedroom apartment in West Hollywood.
She has so many projects coming up we look at the film website IMDB to help her remember. She’s filmed a pilot for TV series Ben And Kate, she’ll play an obnoxious bore in Someone Marry Barry and is about to start shooting a comedy with the director of Bad Teacher.
‘People ask why I always play crazy people and free spirits,’ she says. ‘I guess it is because I like to have fun. But I am more ambitious than your average free spirit. This job is hard enough that without drive and hard work you will never make it work.’
Watch out Cameron Diaz. Lucy Punch is after your Queen of Ditzy comedy crown.
The Wedding Video is out in cinemas next Friday.