The Arty Semite

Ari Graynor on Jewish Mothers and Phone Sex

By Curt Schleier

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What do two nice Jewish girls in Manhattan do when they’re short on rent? Silly question. They open a phone-sex line, of course.

That’s the premise of “For a Good Time Call…” which opens in select cities August 31 and nationally in September. It may sound silly, but the plot is loosely based on fact. Katie Anne Naylon, who co-wrote the script with her college roommate, Lauren Anne Miller, actually ran a phone-sex service during her freshman year at Florida State University. And she wasn’t even a business major.

Ryder Sloan/Focus Features
Ari Graynor, right, stars in ‘For a Good Time Call…’

“For a Good Time Call…” is a feminine bromance, funny in a raunchy and silly way, with some tender moments of love and friendship. Miller plays Lauren, while Katie is portrayed by Ari Graynor, perhaps best known as the drunk sidekick in “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.” Now 29, she’s been acting since she was 7 and had the distinction, at age 13, of being in both a Korean production of “Annie” and an all-female re-imagining of “King Lear.”

She’s had plenty of roles since then — in fact, there’s been an explosion of Ari Graynor films lately. In addition to “For a Good Time Call…” she had roles in “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” is in “10 Years,” which opens next month, and will star in “The Performers” on Broadway in October. Graynor spoke to The Arty Semite about talking dirty in front of her mother and being a role model for Jewish girls.

Curt Schleier: It’s hard to turn a corner in Manhattan without bumping into a poster with your face on it. What happened?

Ari Graynor: It’s funny the way things work. It’s just timing. Last year I shot three independent films in a row. They were all made with very little money and a lot of passion. They were all made for film festivals and it just happens that they all are released within several months.

”For a Good Time Call… “ is a little different because you are also an executive producer. Why is that?

Lauren and Katie sent me the script very early in the process. It was all very flattering; they said they’d written the role [of Katie] with me in mind and asked me to come on early as executive producer. So I got involved in hiring Jamie Travis as director. He is a genius as far as I’m concerned. We all formed a very close creative bond and decided who these characters are.

What attracted you to the script?

There’s a lot of schlock out there. [It’s rare that you get a] smart script that is unique and brash and funny. This was all of those things. [Also,] I’ve been around a long time and have been in many movies and played a lot of special characters. But I haven’t had an opportunity to play [many] leads. I was happy to be given this opportunity to carry a film. It felt like a special gift.

As part of the promotion for the film, you had to do some, er, interesting voice-overs. [They can be heard on 1-877-MMM-HMMM or the film’s website, foragoodtimecallmovie.com.] I understand you had an interesting visitor as well.

When we were recording my mother was there and it made me blush. Both me and Lauren are nice Jewish girls with overly supportive parents who are constantly helping run our careers.

On that subject, could you tell me a little about your upbringing?

I was one of those kids who coming out of the womb knew that [acting] was what I was going to do and who I am. My parents never questioned it and helped me find roles in children’s theater. They schlepped me around and were incredibly supportive, and it’s been a slow but steady ascent for 22 years.

What about your religious upbringing?

I went through a little hippy dippy program at Brandeis and was bat mizvahed by the rabbi who married my parents. We celebrated the High Holidays and had the traditional Rosh Hashanah dinner. I don’t have much of a religious life right now, but I’m very culturally Jewish. A lot of adorable girls come up to me and say they are all excited about seeing Jewish girls up there [on the screen]. It makes me proud to be a Jewish face for young people. There’s something innately funny and warm about being Jewish. I think it’s something to be embraced and respected.


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