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BLANCHARD RYAN - Actress ("Capers" / "Open Water")
CINEQUEST FILM FESTIVAL - The Vortex - San Jose, CA - Sat. March 7, 2009

Actress Blanchard Ryan came into prominence with the terrifying film, “Open Water,” where she played one half of a couple who are lost in the open ocean during a diving expedition. Before, and since, Blanchard has appeared in a number of films and on TV, and seems to be a fan of film festivals as well. During one of the soiree parties, I had a chance to catch Blanchard for a few minutes of interview to discuss her career, her looks, and, yes, her rather impressive intelligence. It is true, there can be beauty and brains in one location, and Blanchard Ryan proved it.

To begin with, I was made clearly aware that Blanchard is not a fan of press or interviews, mostly because she finds the subject of herself boring, as opposed to having someone see her on film. That being said, she was quite pleasant and chatty, tossing in a few topics of philosophical musings. We had already met a few times during Cinequest, but it was nice to actually have a few minutes to chat. When we started talking, I quoted an “IMDB” forum statement that referred to Blanchard stunning supermodel good looks.

K2K: We’re here with Blanchard Ryan. Why do you go by your middle name?
BR:
Because Susan Ryan was already taken by SAG [Screen Actors Guild]. And I didn’t want to be Susan B. Ryan.

K2K: To begin with, you’ve been acting for about 10 years, right?
BR:
Yeah, at least.

K2K: [From the IMDB forum] “Such a stunner, with so few roles.” Why aren’t you doing more?
BR:
Oh, I work a lot. I just try to stay under the radar. I don’t like a lot of attention, and I don’t like the press. No offense. I like a lot of money, with very little work. That’s my goal. That’s why I like my TV commercials so much. I work for a day and get paid for years, and no one knows who I am. It’s in the back of my head.

K2K: I guess it’s cool if you don’t care for fame, but would you turn it down?
BR:
Um, sure. I have. It’s just not for me. I did it a couple of times, and I’m grateful to have those experiences and have been part of those films, but I don’t need to keep doing it. I’ve done it. It’s done.

K2K: Did you start off in modeling?
BR:
I did print work, growing up. Yeah. I went to college in New Hampshire, so I did L.L. Bean, and Bass shoes up in the outlets in Portland, Maine. I’m a New Englander, so I did all that. And in college, you know, they’d give you a thousand dollars. I could buy beer for about three years for that, so it was fantastic. So instead of having a job at the mall. I love print work. It’s so nice. And there’s no union. They just give you random chunks of money. Sometimes you’ll get a job and it’s $500., and sometimes you’ll get a job and it’s $10,000. You work for a couple of hours. It’s a beautiful thing.

K2K: I know some people complain about jobs not having unions.
BR:
I don’t do a ton of print {work] anymore. I’m sort of a recovering model. I fall off the wagon every now and then.

K2K: But you have the looks though.
BR:
Oh, God bless you. No. You’ve had a cocktail or two. Thanks. What can I say. I’ll take your word for it. I certainly don’t agree with you, but...

K2K: And as we had talked about earlier, your advice for keeping your looks in tact is...?
BR:
10 hours of sleep. Don’t smoke. And drink lots of beer. It pickles you. (laughs)

K2K: Aside from beauty, you also have brains.
BR:
Uh, no. Dumb as a post. (laughs)

K2K: Being so dumb, you graduated with a B.A. in Political Philosophy.
BR:
Yes. Philosophy is a great major, because you can’t be wrong, so long as you can defend your position. It’s not like a Math degree, where you have to add the figures up and divide them, and... in any case, you can be wrong. You can’t be wrong in Philosophy. As long as you have the gift of gab, of BS, you can cruise. And I loved it. You can torture people. We would sit in class, I remember, during Freshman year... I wasn’t a Philosophy major to start with... I was in advertising. I’ve always loved advertising and still do. I remember taking a Philosophy class, and we spent the whole day talking about a river. It’s old Greek. Basically, is the river still the same river the next day, when all the water is different? It’s not the same water that’s been in there. Every stone has been moved to a different place. The river banks have changed slightly. All the dirt has moved. It’s a totally different river, so how can you still say that it’s the Thames or the Mississippi, because every single thing in it has changed? So is it inherently the same river? And I thought, “This is the greatest day of my life. I will talk about this stuff until the cows come home.” Other people would have flung themselves off of a building, and I get why it would be tedious and painful and persnickety, but I happened to love it. So I changed my major immediately, and was a Philosophy major for the other four years.

Political Philosophy is why certain groups of people group themselves together in a certain way. Why Germans were attracted to Fascism, or the Italians. Why in our country you can lie, cheat, and... you can’t have an affair here. You can do all sort of other things and get away with it. In Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy drove a girl into a river, but the people there were, “Oh well. It’s not a big deal. But our taxes are low. We don’t care.” But if he had... It’s just certain things in certain... I took a course called The Politics Of Scandal one time, which is fascinating about why different countries and different groups of people... what is it that bothers them about... they can accept that Mitterand had a wife and a mistress at his funeral. No problem in France. “Oh, everyone has a mistress.” They don’t care. But, they’re very big on the environment. They don’t want to be lied to. They’re very tough on racism. In our country, you can be as racist as you want, but you’d better not cheat on your wife and get caught. It’s interesting why certain groups of people in a certain way, and that’s what I ended up focusing on. That was my thesis.

K2K: Going back to your river story - that’s existentialism.
BR:
Yes it is. And I can plan existential crisis's like crazy.

K2K: That’s how I drive people crazy, is being able to go off on tangents about any little subject.
BR:
Oh, that’s like college. But the sad thing about college is that they make you think that you’re going to live the life of the mind forever. But when you graduate, it all just screeches to a halt. Then you don’t have a discussion like that for time immemorial. That’s why I read a lot, and I try to hang out with bright and curious people, because it’s too bad.

K2K: As a blonde? Interesting. (laughs)
BR:
Well, I’m not a real blonde. (laughs)

K2K: Aside from your experiences in college, has the Political Philosophy come in handy?
BR:
Oh God, I don’t think so. My father used to laugh at me, “What are you going to do, go to Greece and preach on the street corner?” I don’t know. You know what? It got me through school in New Hampshire when it was really, really cold. I had 8 am classes, and had to get my ass out of bed to get to class. I loved it enough that I graduated in 3 1/2 years, and got good grades. To me, if you’re getting a B.A., and you’re going to swing a Liberal Arts education, you need to pick a major that’ll get your ass out of bed when it’s 20 below zero at eight in the morning. That’s what my major did for me, so I’m very grateful for it. Have I used it necessarily? I don’t know. I still like talking about it, and thinking about it.

K2K: Have you considered a career in TV, like as a political analyst or something?
BR:
No, no. I don’t like modern politics in the slightest. Especially in this country. We’re all Capitalists. It’s basically Roe vs Wade, right? It’s not like we’re running a Fascist against a Communist.

K2K: Well, yeah. There’s no difference in Democrats and Republicans.
BR:
There is a difference. I’m not dismissing the impact of something like Roe vs Wade, which is very important to me. I’m not saying it’s not important. But in the scheme of things, it is not a Fascist against a Communist. People don’t change. That’s one of the things that I love about people, and I think it’s a little misanthropic to think that... people like war, they like conflict... we are the way we are because that’s what we like. I don’t know. I don’t believe in change, really, that much. I know that’s probably sad, but... I embrace Homo Sapiens for what we are, and all the good and bad that comes with it, and I do think it’s misanthropic to say that we want peace. We’re not like that. We never have, and we never will. If we wanted peace, we’d have peace.

K2K: I take it you have religious ideas as well.
BR:
Oh, no, no. Just talking about politics. I don’t think about religion. I just talk about politics.

K2K: You worked with MTV, in promos?
BR:
I did. I loved it. It was called Emerging Productions Technologies, in the department I worked in. It was so much fun at that time. I call it bleeding edge technology. MTV didn’t own any of the music, record labels owned all of that. So they didn’t have to pay for anything. They were making money hand over fist. They had nothing to spend it on except our promos. The promos were the only thing we owned. So the promos department was such a cool place to be because they spent so much money on it. We had one of the first Avid Suites in the whole city, back when it was first starting - which was a long time ago. I remember doing motion capture for the first time, where they put the little dots on you, and you have to move your hands. I was like [gasps], “This is fascinating. This is technology I’ve never seen before.” It was so much fun.

K2K: I see that stuff at San Diego Comic Con. They show examples.
BR:
Oh, I bet. But this was before... I’d never seen it before anywhere. The first time I ever saw it in my life was at... Carlos Montalvo, who hang out here [at Cinequest]. He used to work for Apple. He used to bring all that stuff in. That’s how I met everyone here at Cinequest. He’s such a neat guy.

K2K: What year did you start?
BR:
At MTV? It was 15 years ago, so you do the math. [1994 - Ed.] I’m a Philosophy major, so I can’t think of that. We don’t do math. An amazing, wonderful time. All the women ran that company. About 75% young women, under 30. Such an amazing, amazing place. They had to kick me out of there kicking and screaming. I was starting to audition and had gotten a bunch of jobs. I had done a couple of commercials where I tripled my salary. My boss was like, “Get out. You’re never here and you’re driving me crazy. You don’t need the money.” But I loved it there and didn’t want to leave, but... eh. You don’t want to quit your day job.

K2K: Were MTV cheapskates back then?
BR:
No, not to me. They treated me great. I’m not going to say that they hadn’t treated other people badly, but they treated me very well.

K2K: How did you get into acting?
BR:
I kind of stumbled into it. I did a bunch of print work in college and got to New York. Was working at MTV. There was a girl there who wanted to take an acting class. I took it with her. I ended up getting an agent. Yeah, that’s it.

K2K: What did you want to be originally?
BR:
Teacher. I wanted to be a teacher.

K2K: Do you still think about that now?
BR:
Um, I could. Sure.

K2K: What was your first role?
BR:
I don’t know. You tell me.

K2K: Your most notable role was in “Open Water.”
BR:
Yeah.

K2K: I had read a review that said what didn’t work about the film was that your character and her husband were not likable.
BR:
No, we were obnoxious yuppie... you know.

K2K: So the reviewer said it was an hour and a half of basically just waiting for you both to just get killed already.
BR:
Oh yeah. I’m sure people were rooting for the sharks. I don’t blame them.

K2K: How did that work for the story? When normally you’d try to have a little sympathy for the characters [in that situation], of whether you would make it or not.
BR:
Well, I think those were a few of the reviews. I think people found us quite sympathetic. I don’t know quite what to say about that. I just act.

K2K: I thought about you immersing into the role.
BR:
Oh no, you can’t judge your characters. Even if you played the most hateful characters on Earth, you can’t judge them. I had to love her, so that’s my job. How her [character] is interpreted, I can’t help that.

K2K: How did you like the film overall?
BR:
I was very proud of it. I loved the filmmakers, and we worked so hard on it.

K2K: From what we talked about earlier, and now, I should watch it again. It was the marketing that threw me off.
BR:
I don’t blame you. Believe me, it’s very difficult when you take something that you love so much, and [the producers] sold it and put it into someone else’s hands. It’s very painful. It would not have been the way that any of us would have chosen to market it, but guess what... we sold it, and it’s theirs, and they can do with it whatever they please. It’s out of our hands, so it’s not something I concern myself with.

K2K: Where did you shoot? Australia?
BR:
Oh, no, no. Bahamas.

K2K: Was there any danger while shooting? Sharks?
BR:
Sure, yeah. I was bitten by a barracuda. We swam with sharks for about 15 hours per day.

K2K: Already well fed, I hope.
BR:
We tried. Lots of tuna in the water.

K2K: Nude scenes. Gratuitous or necessary in that film?
BR:
Every nude scene is gratuitous. But the beginning of that movie was a little dull, and if it shocked people into paying attention for another couple of minutes, then I’m totally behind it.

K2K: You did other cool stuff like “All My Children,” “Sex And The City,”... How did you like “Sex And The City”?
BR:
Loved it. Wonderful. Fine experience. Amazing. Sarah Jessica Parker came like a little executive producer to make sure I was happy, even though I had a tiny part. They were wonderful to me. I loved it. It was a great experience.

K2K: You did some Broken Lizard films. Was that because you were married to Steve [Lemme, of Broken Lizard]?
BR:
No! I’ve never been married.

K2K: Wow, people online are really stupid.
BR:
You don’t believe everything you read online, do you?

K2K: No, but I do my homework. There were a lot of angry posts that you were “unavailable.”
BR:
Steve is an amazing guy, and if people want to believe we’re married, let great, but we weren’t. I’ve never been married. He’s wonderful. One of the most wonderful people on Earth whom I’ve ever met.

K2K: How did you get involved with their movies?
BR:
I knew their producer. He and I used to bartend together, and he introduced me to the guys, and we’ve been friend forever.

K2K: You did two films?
BR:
In “Super Troopers,” I’m a photograph. I’m just a photograph on a billboard. Steve and I... Steve likes to call it our “love scene,” because he’s basically pleasuring himself to my image. He and I dated for a long time, so I was so thrilled to be part of it. We weren’t dating at that time, but I remember seeing it at the wrap party, and thinking, “Ewww.”

K2K: What’s your favorite line out of that movie?
BR:
Oh God, don’t make me choose. It’s such a wonderful script.

K2K: “That’s right, you are freaking out... man.”
BR:
God, I love it And I like “The Schnozberries taste like Schnozberries.” I love the pootie [sic] line because I’m half Canadian, so that cracked me up. The opening scene with Steve in the Miata and the stoners. The “Meow” scene slays me, with Jim Gaffigan.

K2K: That was Jim Gaffigan?
BR:
That’s Jim Gaffigan. He’s awesome. We went to see him doing stand-up in LA. All the Broken Lizards and all the girlfriends. Jim does this little thing with the little, like inside voice [imitating high pitched voice]. So we go see him, and the voice says, “Oh they put me in the first movie, but they didn’t put me in the second movie.” During the whole show, the audience is, “What is he talking about?” [Sadly pouting] “They put me in the first movie, but no, not in the second movie. I think I did a good job.” We were bright red, blushing, howling. It was so funny.

K2K: You were a Club Med GO.
BR:
It means Gentile Organizateur, which means “Kind Organizer” in French.

K2K: I was thinking of General Officer. But as that, for Club Med, it made no sense that you weren’t then put into [Broken Lizard’s] “Club Dread” film.
BR:
Oh, it was based on... the Instructor was me. That’s how they created that character.

K2K: How did you like doing the film “Capers”?
BR:
“Capers” was a joy. It really was. I loved it. I had so much fun. Julian and Bret and I have been friends for years and years. I worked on their short film. I was so thrilled that they included me in their feature. Julian was so calm and wonderful. Their pre-production was so amazing in that the set was so calm and organized. We laughed ourselves sick. It was such a true collaboration, and there were so many people there. Nobody had to really do any heavy lifting. We all sort of shared the burden. No one was too stressed. There was never that one person had all the responsibility and everyone else was bored. We all shared everything so much that, it was wonderful. It was like the last day of school and you don’t want it to end. It was such a short shoot, because they were so well-organized. I’ve been on those three-month movies were you want to kill yourself. It was one of those where I wish it had been less-organized so it could have dragged on for another month or two. We had a ball. And it was in New York, so we got to sleep in our own beds. You didn’t get kidnapped out of your life for three months and get your mom mad at you. It was fantastic.

K2K: [Bret, the producer interjected with] You would have done it for free.
BR:
I would have done it free. Not “for” free. You can’t modify an adjective, an adverb.

K2K: If you answer this question, I won’t bug you again about the lesbian-ish scene... Some actors have a bit of homophobia, some don’t. Was it an issue, or did you even care, while doing the kissing scene with Dominique Swain?
BR:
We were nervous. We giggled a lot. Dominique's a lot younger than I am. But to all you women out there, I’ve got to say, Dominique Swain is the sexiest girl out there. If you have to kiss a girl, kiss Dominique.

K2K: Is that getting a lot more attention than it should?
BR:
A lot. It’s such good, clean fun. It’s so stylized and exaggerated. You know what, it’s just funny. If it’s in the slightest way titillating, then I guess it’s just because guys like to see girls together. But in any case it’s stylized and silly and such a genre thing. I think people just appreciate it with the “Boom chicka boom,” like this fake porn thing. And Michael’s performance - Michael Cecchi, who produced and is in it - is freakin’ hysterical. People enjoy it on a comedy level. And it was lovely, and they made us look very pretty, thank you. Thank you to all the post-production people who made us look all glossy and glow-y. I get a little embarrassed watching it, but generally I just think it’s funny.

K2K: Any future projects?
BR:
Um... nothing.

K2K: What would you rather be doing right now... if not acting or teaching?
BR:
Yeah. I’m a writer. I sold a pilot a few years ago. I enjoyed that experience. Economy’s slow, and work is slow. I got my new thing of Final Draft. [“Welding” is suggested by someone. - Ed.] Yeah, welding. I think I’d like to be a cobbler. I like to cobble. I’d like to cobble with Daniel Day Lewis.

And with that, Blanchard and her crew had to run to get to another party or meeting, and we had a film to attend.

Written by Philip Anderson

Philip Anderson is a musician, in addition to being a writer/photographer. He has performed as a guitarist/vocalist, as well as songwriter, in several bands over the past 20 years. As a writer and photographer, he has been published by several magazines and in several books, and had his works appear on television.

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