In Fox Searchlight’s “Baggage Claim” out today, Paula Patton plays the charming flight attendant, Montana Moore, who tries to get engaged in 30 days, so she can bring a date to her younger sister’s wedding.
Q: Tell me, what did you love about the script?
Patton: What didn’t I love? First off I loved the movie as a whole. I thought this was a really well-crafted film when I read it and I laughed out loud. And then I love the character Montana. I love what she goes through, when you first meet her she’s so hopeful and full of life; she’s got a great job as a flight attendant, she’s happy with her life. She thinks she’s met the man of her dreams and she soon realizes he’s so not dreamy and then to make matters worse, right when she gets home and she’s crying her eyes out on a pint of ice cream her younger beautiful sister played by Lauren London comes in saying, ‘I’m getting married and it’s going to happen in a month.’
She’s got this pressure cause she’s got a mom played by the amazing Jenifer Lewis who has made marriage so important and you’re not a lady unless you’re a wife and she’s at a cracking point. So at this point she loses herself and she’s just like, ‘I cannot go to one more wedding without at least a ring on my finger and a proposal, if not married.’ Then here everybody goes, ‘The clock is ticking, what about you?’ So then you see this woman go on this desperate search over 30 days to find a man and then she comes up with this idea with her best friends played by Jill Scott and Adam Brody, who do a magnificent job, so funny, and there’s a realization obviously she’s not going to be able to meet someone new because unless they’re in jail or need a green card it’s like she’s got to go to the past and see maybe if these ex-boyfriends…if they’re not married yet, maybe she was too picky or maybe she could do something more to please them. So you see a woman compromising herself, that’s why she’s in so many different outfits, so many random costume changes she has just to fit in with these guys. But at her core there’s something about Montana that just…needs real love. I don’t want to give away too much but she just has such a journey you get to see her go through, a funny journey at that.
Q: This character’s very different from your life, so where did you get the inspiration for her?
Patton: Well, you know, there are a lot of parts of her that I can connect to. I always try to find some piece of me in every character that is me, so that I can truly embrace that person, become her. Then of course I have a lot of girlfriends, beautiful, smart, successful, wonderful girlfriends and they are desperate. They’re trying to find love, but it shouldn’t be about finding the husband or getting the ring and having the party, it should be about enjoying your life, being happy with who you are and saying one day it would be nice to find someone to share my life with cause the rest of it, the party, the ring, that goes away very quickly.
Q: This film is also about traveling and airports, do you have a fun airport fan encounter you can share?
Patton: I am always thankful when someone recognizes me and wants to take a picture, they appreciate your work. I dreampt of doing this since I was a little girl so I’m always thankful for anybody saying I like what you do.
Q: So basically, all readers go say hi to Paula at the airport!
Patton: I’m not good at no’s. So it’s probably a good thing I’m married.
Q: “Baggage Claim” is also about traveling, can you talk about your favorite traveling destinations.
Patton: I think one of my favorites is going to Bora Bora. We hadn’t had a vacation in years and my husband and I went there and that was just so beautiful. You could jump off from the deck of your room into this blue water, so it was pretty special.
Q: Jill Scott, she was just so funny. Can you talk about working with her and Adam in all those scenes?
Patton: Oh I really loved every day that we got to work together because the three of us…we had never met each other before! I think, first of all, Adam does a great job playing a gay best friend in a really unique way. Jill’s hilarious in the movie and we’re really a threesome. That’s my family outside of my family in the movie and it was a lucky thing that we had great chemistry, the three of us, and it just worked.
Q: You also have a scene where you’re singing badly on purpose, but everyone knows you could actually sing!
Patton: No! I really can’t…I wasn’t given the gift. I mean, I’m not completely tone deaf, but I wasn’t given the gift.
Q: I was going to ask if you had any musical aspirations in the works.
Patton: Not unless there’s going to be that magician behind the thing making me sound better than I really am.
Q: Can you talk about working with this fabulous ensemble? There are so many great actors.
Patton: There really are. This movie is a collection of all these people doing amazing work. Our director being so talented and such a great writer and we were so lucky that all of these actors came and they came with their A game. Everybody felt passionately about the movie and wanted to give it their all and they’re great actors. It was just such a lucky catch for us.
Q: Your character is such a hopeless romantic, can you share a fun romantic story?
Patton: My husband he likes R&B music as well and so he has kind of a very romantic side to him…In general, one of the best things he does, it doesn’t matter where he is, he always sends me flowers like that. Whether it’s my press junket to say ‘Good Luck’ or my first day of shooting a movie, he knows I love flowers and he always remembers. I’m like, ‘How did you remember that? You’re all the way across the world,’ and he’s like, ‘Cause I love you babe.’
Q: You had the opportunity to work with Denzel Washington again in this summer’s “2 Guns.” What was it like to collaborate with him again?
Patton: That was the best because I learned so much with Denzel. I had only had a lead role in a movie one time before I got to work with Denzel, so I was a real newbie. he didn’t teach me by telling, but I learned by watching him and I soaked up everything I could from him and I took what I learned and I brought that with me on every movie I did afterwards. And then to find out he wanted to work with me again was such an honor and just a refresher course in so many ways.
Q: You also are very funny in this, so can you tell me about your love of comedy?
Patton: I do, I like to laugh when you probably should be crying. I’m one of those people that when things get tough…in our family, we tell jokes. My husband’s quite funny as well, so we use humor to help lighten up dark situations and so I do, I like to laugh. You know, I think our job in life is try to be happy as we can. That’s not to say I’m not miserable and sad sometimes, but I try to laugh as much as I can.
Q: This film also captures a funny mother / daughter relationship, can you speak about your relationship with your mom and how she inspires you?
Patton: My mom is the best. She’s one of the strongest women I know. She’s a giver, she was a school teacher for 32 years in the public school…those people…it’s just all heart. She’s the best mom I could have asked for and an amazing grandmother. I can only sing her praises. She’s a little old fashioned in her ways…I’ll tell her about a girlfriend who’s doing great and then she’s like, ‘Well, has she met a man yet? Is she getting married?’ I’m like, ‘Mom who cares! You got to stop with this archaic stuff.’ So she could be a little traditional in that way, but other than that she’s pretty darn perfect.
Q: Back to your on screen mom, the iconic actress Ms. Jenifer Lewis, can you speak about bonding with her and anything she taught you?
Patton: We bonded just off the top. She’s so open and full of life. I just connected with her; I like people with big personalities. She and I just clicked. We had so much fun working together and she has a really big heart, so the love was real between the two of us.
Q: What do you admire about the director, Mr. Talbert?
Patton: First of all his writing ability. But the way he works with actors is really amazing. He gives you so much room to find your character, he’ll never tell you a note out loud he’ll always whisper it in your ear. He always creates levity on set, you’d be hard-pressed to find him without a smile on his face and he makes it a really inviting, fun, celebratory mood on set. He’s a man with a great vision.
Q: Finally, what was your favorite scene in the film?
Patton: Well one of my most fun and also because it took the most work, we had to really train for it, was when Derek and I did our New Edition dance. I mean, who knew it was that hard, those guys made it look easy. I was sweating bullets, it was ridiculous. They had to mop me up after each take. But that was really fun probably because it was also so much work to get to it.
Q: Any final thoughts?
Patton: I just think that it’s a movie that everyone will really enjoy and it’s a feel good movie but with a lot of surprises and a lot of laughs.