Interview: 'Cars 2' Role Made Emily Mortimer Drop the 'Dippy' Act

Jeanne Sager

Larry the Cable Guy Emily Mortimer
Emily Mortimer & Larry the Cable Guy
Actress Emily Mortimer was only supposed to have a quickie part in Cars 2, the highly anticipated sequel being released by Disney's Pixar Animation Studios this Friday, June 24. However, Mortimer -- known for decidedly unglamorous roles like Rachel, the deranged mother who'd been locked away in an asylum for killing her children in Shutter Island -- enjoyed playing the empowered lady race car so much that she charmed the folks at Pixar into letting her stick around to make Holley Shiftwell into a top-billed leading lady.

So while Mortimer did right by Holley Shiftwell, getting her lots more screentime, playing Holley had some equally empowering effects on Mortimer's personal life too.

At the recent Cars 2 red carpet premiere event, Mortimer shared the Cars 2 scoop with The Stir in her posh British accent and explained that she enjoyed playing Holley Shiftwell -- a low-slung purple sports car and British intelligence desk agent out on her first field assignment -- because it allowed her to pretend she really was a glamorous secret agent. That's right -- behind Mortimer's red carpet glamour and gorgeous green maxi dress and the facade of her bold character Holley Shiftwell, Mortimer feels like a regular everyday gal and mum (we did say she's a Brit!) to two, Samuel, 7, and May, 1.

"I'm not normally this together, empowered spy-car type," Mortimer joked. "In fact, my friends will make me run for a bus just to give themselves a good laugh. I'm totally malcoordinated in real life. If this was me and this was my first mission in the field, I would be just so shitting myself!"

Holley Shiftwell

In the film, Holley becomes a love interest for tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), who is involved in a bit of an international spy mix-up, and runs into the favorites from the original Cars, including Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), and a whole new slate of characters -- all of them male. And like her character, Mortimer was the only female in the bunch behind the scenes. As she worked to broaden Holley into one of Pixar's biggest female characters to date, Mortimer says she had her own kids in mind.

"I don't think of myself as a sort of inadvertent feminist," Mortimer said. "[My son] always thinks of me as this sort of hopeless sort of dappy thing, and I play that part a little bit -- and I don't think I want to," she said. "Now I've got a daughter. I think it is more important for me to think about that and what it is I'm doing every time I'm sort of pretending to be a hopeless dippy female ... and, of course, I'm not."

Her Cars 2 role made her see the possible effects of her behavior, pretend or not, a little differently. "My best moment of all was the day that we watched the movie and I had my little boy with me ... the moment where I get wings and I fly ... [my son] turned to me and he went, 'Mom, you're amazing!' He's not usually that impressed by me. So it was really cool."

"It's a new phase of my life, power women," Mortimer says.

Are you happy to hear Pixar has included a bigger female character?

Image via Disney


Disclosure: Disney covered my expenses to see the premiere of Cars 2 to facilitate this interview.

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