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Porn Star Or First Lady?

TORONTO, Ontario (AP) -- Elizabeth Banks has what it takes to be a porn star or first lady. And she'll be strutting her stuff as both on the big-screen within a two-week span.

The versatile Elizabeth Banks plays a porn star and the first lady in two October movies.

On October 17, Banks' take on Laura Bush arrives with "W.," Oliver Stone's film biography of President Bush, played by Josh Brolin. On October 31, Banks co-stars with Seth Rogen in "Zack and Miri Make a Porno," Kevin Smith's comedy about two best pals and platonic roommates who shoot their own skin flick to cover their mounting debts.

"I'm pleased that Hollywood hasn't figured out how to pigeonhole me yet, and I think having these two movies come out at basically the same time is indicative of that," Banks, 34, said in an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival, where "Zack and Miri" premiered.

"I've always felt like a character actor in a leading lady's body, and Laura Bush is a very natural fit for me. I found a lot to admire about her as a woman and as a character to play. And I got really lucky in that I adore Josh Brolin, and we both approached the Bushes with the same point of view, which is that they're extremely in love and a very supportive couple, and that essentially, Laura wears the pants in the relationship, because all women wear the pants in the relationship, and he is smart enough to know that, too." Watch Laura meet George in "W." »

Banks also wears the pants in "Zack and Miri," or rather, the "granny pants," a pair of humongous underpants her character is caught wearing in a cell-phone video that becomes a Web hit. From there, Banks' Miri and Rogen's Zack move on to hardcore porn, certain they can sell enough copies of their amateur adult movie to pay their bills.

Tame by true porn standards, "Zack and Miri" does have some explicit nudity involving co-stars Jason Mewes and Katie Morgan. Banks was ready to show some skin herself.

"One of our first discussions was about nudity. I was like, 'OK, well, what's the porn going to be?' Because even in the script, it's just like, 'and they have sex,' or something. It was the bad porno dialogue, and then they do it," Banks said.

"Kevin sort of assured me that he didn't think that we would have to show a lot of my bits and parts. We'd probably cover things up and use some camera angles. But you know, I was fully prepared to go there for the movie, and Seth was, too. We were going to get naked, and it was going to be crazy and uncomfortable. Then Kevin sort of had this epiphany part way through that it would serve the movie a lot better if we just really had a romantic, beautiful sort of lovemaking session. It totally works in the movie. It's the sweetest, the most heartbreaking thing."

Banks' credits include newspaper secretary Miss Brant in the "Spider-Man" flicks, the horror comedy "Slither," the horse-race drama "Seabiscuit" and this year's romance "Definitely, Maybe." She also had a recurring TV role in "Scrubs" and co-starred with Eddie Murphy in the summer flop "Meet Dave."

Two weeks after "Zack and Miri" comes the comedy "Role Models," in which Banks co-stars with Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott. Banks previously appeared in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," which also featured Rogen and Rudd.

After Smith's first choice for Miri, Rosario Dawson, turned down the part, Rogen encouraged Smith to sign up Banks.

"It was weird that she wasn't the star of more big, huge comedy movies, because to me, she was one of the funniest people out there," Rogen said.

Shortly after production wrapped on "Zack and Miri," writer-director Smith learned that Stone had cast Banks in "W.," which went into production last May on a breakneck schedule so the film could debut before the November election.

"I thought, how ironic. A porn princess and the first lady in one year," Smith said. "It's also just fun to mark the irony in the fact that two weeks prior to getting down and dirty in our movie, she's probably not being down and dirty in the other movie."

"W." follows Bush from his Yale days through his father's term as president and on to the September 11 attacks and the Iraq War.

Stone pulls no punches in depicting Bush's boozy younger years, but the film also captures the charisma that allowed the younger Bush to outdo his father and win re-election, Banks said.

"I personally think the audience will remember or understand again why Bush was elected twice. He is a great guy. I've met George W. Bush, and I thought he was a great guy," said Banks, who visited the White House when "Seabiscuit" screened for the president.

"He's like your friend's cool dad who's actually really interested in you and your life. He was very self-deprecating and cool and the whole nine yards when I talked with him. I totally got why if you met him, you'd be like, yeah ... I'd let that guy run the country. Cool. I think he has a good heart, and that is also in the movie."

A lifelong Democrat, Banks does not care for the job Bush has done as president. But she said most of "W." deals with the filmmakers' "best guess at what these people are like behind the scenes," not with the Bushes' public life.

"At the heart of 'W.' is a great love story. It's a father-son story, and then there's this great love story, too. George and Laura, they come off like a great couple in this movie," Banks said. "They really do, and we believe that they are. I mean, you never hear a whiff of George Bush cheated on Laura Bush. Never. You hear that about every other president, but it's never even whispered.

"They are together, and I think it helps that they met late in life and married later and had trouble having kids. They were sort of like, in it together for a long time, and they've really been through some stuff. So the fact that they're still together amazes me. A lot of people say to me, 'Oh, I think she's just biding her time. She's going to divorce him,' and I don't see it. I think it's going to be really interesting to see them go back to the ranch and live the life I think Laura wants to live."


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