One thing you get right away from Elizabeth Banks is that she's at home in her skin.
She strolls into the luxury room at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills without makeup but with an appetite. The room wants light; she immediately raises blinds to let in what sun the overcast day surrenders. She plops comfortably on the couch and rattles off the main draws of her new film, "The Next Three Days": " Paul Haggis and Russell [Crowe] and the script and the character. I mean, I masturbate in bathtubs half the time [in other movies], so this was totally different for me."
Based on the French film "Pour Elle," Haggis' remake (which opens Nov. 19) finds Laura (Banks) imprisoned for a murder she swears she did not commit. Her schlubby professor husband, John (Russell Crowe), and their young son watch her deteriorate over years behind bars, their legal options exhausted, until John becomes convinced the only way to save her life is to take drastic action. The film is by turns family drama, studious caper movie and action flick.
"Ours is a little bit like 'The Fugitive' at a certain point. It's sort of three movies in one," she says, quickly adding that writer-director Haggis never described it as an action movie, rather more relationship driven. He "was very interested in making a statement about, if you have to give up your entire self to save someone you love, can that person still love you now that you're a totally different person?"
Banks clearly enjoyed taking on a character seen struggling mentally and emotionally over a period of years — most of her scenes were shot on location at the Allegheny County Jail in Pittsburgh.
"It's really interesting what people take away from it. People who have kids react in a totally different way from those who don't have kids. They find it so emotional when she's away from her son. Or when he doesn't want to connect to her because she's not around. Whereas other people see the love story" between the couple, says the actress, who is married with no kids.
"We worked very hard to show a couple that needed each other in a way that you'd believe that someone would go to these great lengths to get his wife back. I think it's all those little moments between us that I love, like when he shows up with glasses: 'My God, you have glasses? When did you get glasses?' All those things — you don't take your partner for granted. We're still noticing things about each other and surprising each other. Having a full relationship despite the fact that we're apart."