Kristen Bell cut her teeth in New York theater before embarking upon a series of small film roles that exemplified her knack for quirky, offbeat characters. That came full circle when she landed the title role on Veronica Maras, a show whose cult following helped make her a star. Other prominent roles include Fanboys, Reefer Madness: The Musical, House of Lies and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. She brings her Broadway singing talent and patented quirkiness back to the big screen this fall, voicing the heroine in Disney’s newest animated feature Frozen. She talked about her character and other projects as well during a lively round-table interview for the film.
Question: So you and Idina Menzel became very close during this process.
Kristen Bell: She was so intimidating to me to begin with simply because I didn't know her personally and her skill set is so alien to any other skill set. She’s one of the best singers on the planet, in my opinion. I can hold a tune, don't get me wrong. And I studied music and I'm very proud of my capabilities. But she has a ferocity. It's next level. There are only a couple of singers on the planet who have that ability. And that you can't practice that. Her belting comes from her guts, her pure talent. So I was really intimidated when I first met her, especially because she plays stronger, tougher characters. But she's so warm in real life that it just became a treat. And she was able to comfort me really quickly. We would rehearse at her house by her piano. It was like exploding. I'm like, “What am I doing here?” And after I'd sing my verse she'd go, "You sounded really good." And I'd be looking for someone to see it, "Did anybody see what she said to me!?"
Q: Do you have siblings of your own, anyone like Anna and Elsa? Do you understand sibling rivalry?
KB: I have two older sisters, so yes. It was all phases for the three of us. Sometimes we got along splendidly and other times we fought like crazy. I was the baby so I looked up to everything that they did. They taught me how to peg leg my jeans in the '80s. It was before skinnies existed. I felt like a million bucks. And then they would turn around and ignore me for a month. And I would go on with my life.
We were at odds sometimes and they were lovely sometimes. One year, I had been really lazy about my Halloween costume, which I rarely ever am, and at the last minute decided I wanted to be Madonna. They surprised me with making me a pair of tattered jeans and sewing bows and all this crazy Madonna stuff all over it. It was the best! Then other times, they would put me in a laundry basket and push me down the stairs. They ping-ponged in between being angels and devils. Like a lot of sisters, I suspect.
Q: Have you got your revenge on them since?
KB: No, but one day. [Laughter.] The greatest thing about growing up with siblings is that you actually have someone to go through it with, to feel like you're not alone. Growing up is the pits. You forget that as an adult, but man, it sucks. Your body hurts. Your hormones are wonky. No one understands you. Your parents are embarrassing idiots. Pimples come and you're like, "Oh my God! What is this life?" But if you have siblings you kind of have people in the same lifeboat as you. It's really special, I think.
Q: Anna is one of the most accessible Disney princesses out there. So did that appeal to you? Was that part of it?
KB: I've always wanted to be a Disney princess because I'm an American girl, and that's what you're supposed to want. But I never saw a Disney heroine or an animated heroine who was like me. Who was awkward and spoke too fast and spoke before she thought and tripped and said a lot of dumb stuff. And who was vivacious and eternally optimistic and adventurous. I never saw all of those qualities. I sometimes saw vague interpretations of them but I knew that I always wanted to be that type of character, if I ever was allowed to.
I met Chris Buck and he said, "I'm working on a very traditionally Disney story, and I think your voice would fit it." I have a very traditional singing voice. Then I read it and thought that this story was anything but traditional. I never wanted to play a girl with good posture, and here was this girl who was just like that!
When I got the role, I just asked Jen and Chris if I could add stuff. I would say things like, "She should snort right here." Or, "I'll talk to myself here." I talked to myself all the time growing up; I still talk to myself in my car. They kept that in, all of it. The first time you see Anna as an adult is when she wakes up. So when we recorded it, I started coughing and snorting, which is what I do when I wake up. I had some of my hair in my mouth, which if you're a girl you do sometimes. I also wanted her to sit up and fall asleep again – I’m a fiend for the snooze bar – and then pretend like she wasn't sleeping. They just kept letting me add it and it turned into the character. Definitely not your mother’s Disney princess.
Q: How amazing is it that the Veronica Mars movie is going to happen, and that it happened through Kickstarter?
KS: I've ping-ponged between knowing it was going to happen and believing that it wasn’t. I’m eternally optimistic – that’s the only way to live – but it didn't seem very realistic for most of the last seven years. Rob Thomas had this idea about Kickstarter. I was familiar with Kickstarter and I think his agent told him to, to fund it that way. But, you know, we spent a lot of time going through rewards because we wanted to make sure that people wanted to do it. So we said, “we'll sign six thousand posters, not five hundred. I'll do a thousand outgoing messages.” I'll spend a good three or four weeks doing people's outgoing voice messages. We wanted to really have it be an exchange of love and not just “give us your money.”
We did not want to take advantage of our fans at all.
So now, we are desperate to deliver something that they're satisfied with. I have confidence in Rob because I think, besides being one of the best writers out there, he's a charming, selfless writer. He wrote a movie that the audience would want to see. So I hope that they like it
Q: Would it be easy for you to just get back into that character because you never really left her? And does she completely reflect your personality, do you think?
KB: She reflects the snarky side of my personality for sure. I'm about fifty percent Anna, fifty percent Veronica. It really depends on the day and the time of the month. I was really nervous that I couldn't get back into her. There wasn't any specific reason. I haven't done it in a while. But man, Rob Thomas writes dialogue that already exists in my head. I've always said that about him. He's the only writer where I can look at his work, read it once, and have it. It’s unreal.