By all appearances, Marisa Miller is a stunningly beautiful, 5’8,” blonde model, but looks can be deceiving. Miller, who was named the Sexiest Woman on Earth in FHM‘s 2010 poll, is actually a 200 year-old cowboy lawman with a sculpted mustache and goatee—or at least, she plays one in the upcoming summer sci-fi action film R.I.P.D.
R.I.P.D., or Rest In Peace Department, based on Peter Lenkov’s comic book of the same name, stars Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds as supernatural police officers who are rounding up malevolent souls that have escaped the afterlife. In the film, Miller plays Bridges’ earthly avatar, the human form that his character Roy Pulsipher assumes as he fights the undead. Though she has acted in small television roles before, this marks Miller’s debut on the big screen. She’s best known for her modeling work, as a Victoria’s Secret Angel and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover model.
In the weeks before the film opened, Miller took to Twitter to promote her new film, tweeting, “I have a badass alter ego.” However, the 34 year-old model is pretty badass herself. A tomboy by nature, Miller boxes, is a lifelong surfer and former surf instructor, rides a Harley Nightster—which she learned how to do after starring in the company’s 2008 ad campaign—and excels at volleyball, a sport she played competitively in high school. Miller has also made a name for herself in the business world, marketing and designing a line of women’s paddle boards for Surftech and launching her own Vans skateboarder/surfer-targeted shoe line.
A jack of all trades, Miller spoke to Interview about her film debut, standing in for Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges, the best way to get hit by a bus, and her experience kicking undead ass—in heels.
LAURIE KAMENS: What was it like to act in your first film?
MARISA MILLER: It was pretty intimidating when I heard I was going to be working with Kevin Bacon, Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, and Mary-Louise Parker. It was huge learning experience for me too, because my role was to be Jeff Bridges’ disguise, his avatar. A lot of my scenes involved watching him and then stepping in and doing the exact same thing he did, so it was pretty surreal. I had to give myself a little pep talk before each scene.
KAMENS: How did you originally get involved with the film?
MILLER: I had been asked to start going out for roles here and there throughout my career, but I know that acting is a hard thing, it takes a lot of work and I was traveling. I didn’t have the time to really focus on it, so I really waited for the right project to come along. Then when I read the script, it was just super funny and I really got the humor, and for some reason it was just really easy for me to step into this role. I read for it a few times and there’s definitely a difference when it just clicks and it feels really natural. [It] was one of these things where I could just jump into it and I felt really confident doing it.
KAMENS: In the past you’ve had some small television roles on shows like Gary Unmarried, Entourage, and How I Met Your Mother. Did this previous acting experience help prepare you for this role?
MILLER: When I went in to audition for this, [I] had to have Jeff Bridge’s cadences in his voice and a lot of mannerisms. [It’s] just completely different from doing a TV spot as yourself. I watched True Grit and The Big Lebowski for three days straight, and just really kind of studied Jeff and his mannerisms; and so it was completely different process.
KAMENS: In an interview, Jeff Bridges made the comment that it was like playing drag without having to dress up. Did you feel the same way?
MILLER: I was told that it takes a tough woman to play a man, so I definitely had to just go for it, because it can be super intimidating when you think about the shoes you’re trying to fill. It was all about having the attitude and the confidence behind it and you had to go into it 110%, otherwise it was going to be silly. I really related to that in the sense that I’m a really shy person in real life and don’t like to be the center of attention—even when I was modeling, it was a huge stretch for me to be doing lingerie or anything like that—so I am familiar with putting your work hat on and just going for it.
KAMENS: Did you have any prior early acting experience to this, back in your school days?
MILLER: Not at all. I was a tomboy, I played volleyball and basketball, and I surfed. I wasn’t doing drama, I wasn’t doing music, so the whole experience is completely new to me; which is great because you explore these different sides of yourself that maybe you never would [otherwise].
KAMENS: Since R.I.P.D. is an action movie, did you get to learn any stunts for the role?
MILLER: Originally, a stunt woman was going to do most of the stunts, because they were so dangerous, but because the scenes ended up being so close up, you could tell it wasn’t me, so they asked me if I’d be game to do it. There’s one scene where I was hit by a bus, and it was pretty intense because you can get hurt, and especially doing it in the wardrobe I was in—my character’s wearing a little dress and a really tight overcoat, and big hoop earrings and heels—the most challenging part was just being able to do what I had to do to in the outfit I was doing it in.
KAMENS: How physically demanding was the role?
MILLER: As far as the stunts go, it couldn’t be more physically demanding than it was. At one point, I was on wires and flying through the air and doing all these things that you have to know your body, you have to be coordinated, and you have to take direction, because you can really hurt yourself. My stunt double was awesome, and she really worked with me and gave me tips. I mean, I remember when I got hit by the bus—she was like, “Just make sure you put your hands in front of your face when you hit the windshield,” and I was like, “Well, I hope that’s a natural reaction.” The next day, my body was so sore from having the rig and the wires on, and you’re just being pulled and yanked in different directions. It was intense, but I loved it. It was such an experience, and when else would you ever be able to do something like that?
KAMENS: Acting just the latest addition to your long list of jobs, which includes model, spokesperson, and entrepreneur, to name a few. Is there one aspect of your career that you enjoy the most?
MILLER: I think any time I can be physical and athletic, because I relate to that so much and it’s part of my life, it’s really easy when you have a passion for something to have the translate into something that you do for, or that’s what you hope. So for acting, if there’s a strong female role and there is that action element, for me that just feels really natural.
KAMENS: For someone has taken on multiple roles professionally, how do you manage to maintain the balance between your diverse professional life and your home life?
MILLER: I think you’re kind of seeing the real me as far as seeing what I post on social media, because I am very much into cooking, and my dogs, and obviously my son, and my lifestyle in Santa Cruz is very laid-back. It’s a good balance for me because I’m excited to be at work because it’s such a different pace. In my off time, I’m really focusing on family and my son and things like that, but like I say I am naturally a really down-to-earth person, so when I do my job, I definitely just have to embrace a different persona almost, or a different side of myself.
KAMENS: You’ve also been outspoken about keeping your modeling career in perspective. How do you manage to stay so grounded with all the acclaim you’ve received as a result of your modeling?
MILLER: I think by being a mom now and going through pregnancy, it really gave me some perspective on my body. I was just so focused on being healthy for my baby during pregnancy, and afterward I was not in a rush to lose the weight. I really wanted to be as healthy as I could. It wasn’t about getting my six-pack back. There are more important things in life than a six-pack, I realized. It was just so much more important to take care of my baby and take care of myself in a healthy way; so now, it’s been a slow process, but I’m back in shape. I feel great, but I did it in a way that I didn’t have a lot of pressure and I wanted to be in a place in my life where I could really enjoy it and not have to be back in a bikini in two months or something like that. I think it’s been really good, your evolution as a woman, just that you have a different perspective on your body and health, because it can be extremely consuming when you’re in a business that is pretty focused on the superficial.
R.I.P.D. IS OUT IN THEATERS THIS FRIDAY, JULY 19.
For 10 things Marisa Miller just can’t live without, click here.