THE INVENTION OF LYING
"Believe it or not, I've cast myself as a tubby, middle-aged loser. It's a stretch," quips co-writer/director, producer and star Ricky Gervais, who may be taking his famous self-deprecating humor to a new level in "The Invention of Lying."
In a world without lies, everyone is a realist. Life is straightforward and simple. There is no imagination, no fiction, nothing that isn't the absolute truth. So if you were the only person in the world who could lie, what would you do?
This question intrigued Gervais. "I was really attracted to the idea," he states.
That idea first came to co-writer/director Matthew Robinson after a weekend spent watching episodes of "The Twilight Zone" and reading Harlan Ellison. "Somehow," he offers, "the combination of those two had given my brain the food for strange, large concepts."
The concept was completely original," recalls producer Oly Obst.
Declares fellow producer Lynda Obst, "This notion that lying didn't exist and people said exactly what was on their minds as a matter of course was absolutely intriguing. What the world would be like if people utterly told the truth--completely unfiltered--was both hilarious and sort of philosophically fascinating to me."
--I'm Mark. How are you?
--A little frustrated at the moment. Also equally depressed and
pessimistic about our date tonight. I'm Anna. Come on in.
With apologies to the film's star, Robinson describes Gervais' character Mark Bellison--actually inspired by Geravis himself--as "a loser with no options who is less than averagely smart, less than averagely wealthy, less than averagely confident...less than average in every single area.
"At the same time," continues Robinson, "if Mark is truly honest with himself, he'd have to admit he has a little bit of anger inside of him about his status in life. And he also has a little bit of life in him just waiting to come out. And we see that he has heart. So once he gets this power, once he learns to lie, it's not a huge jump for him to become a much more vibrant, full-of-life character."
That first lie. It begins innocently enough, but the outcome is beyond Mark's expecations. Then one thing leads to another and the floodgates open, bringing Mark the kind of success that would make most men feel like they're at the top of the world. But Mark Bellison is not most men. And, as often happens with a liar, once you start, you can't stop.
But before any of that can happen, in this world where the truth is as plain as the snub nose on your face, rank is openly determined primarily by looks and wealth. As the film opens, Mark--40, single and schlubby--embarks on his first date with the beautiful Anna, the longtime object of his affection. "Anna is the cousin of Mark's best friend," relates Gervais. "She's gorgeous and Mark's had a crush on her for years, even though she's completely out of his league."
Playing the role of the genetically blessed Anna is Jennifer Garner, who thought the script was "unlike anything I've ever read. I laughed out loud."
Oly Obst says of Garner, "She brings so much heart and so much goofiness to the role, and no pretense. Anna wears her heart on her sleeve and Jen's emotions just register on her face so quickly and perfectly."
"Often in acting, when you say a line you really mean something else," says Garner. "There's subtext. But because of the way this world is, subtext doesn't exist. You say exactly what you mean all the time. So it was just a matter of stripping away the normal actor tricks and trying to be as honest and clean and uncomplicated in the delivery as possible."
Lynda Obst offers, "Jen is an amazing comedienne, her timing and her deadpan performance as Anna just light up the screen. It's
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