An actor’s career is more than just the sum of their most memorable catch-phrases, but that’s sometimes the best they can hope for. Ask the typical movie nerd what comes to mind when they think of Al Pacino, and nine out of ten of them will yell back in a regrettable Colombian accent, “Say hello to my little friend!” Nowhere is this more true than in comedy. Steve Martin could win a dozen Oscars and he’ll still be remembered as the guy who says “Excuuuuuuuse me.” Mike Myers will be asking the rhetorical question “Do I make you horny?” six nights a week on the inevitable Indian casino tour of his future. And Steve Carell, long after The Office is just a distant memory, will never stop being asked to repeat “That’s what she said” like a comedy parrot.
But consider poor Malin Akerman. Her career is still in its infancy, and yet it could be argued that she’s already stuck with the catch-phrase that will follow her forever: “Cock me.” That’s right, “cock me.” When she first uttered this chestnut of inappropriateness, during a sex scene with Ben Stiller in the Farrelly brothers’ 2007 comedy The Heartbreak Kid, it didn’t seem like the sort of thing that had legs. But two years later, it’s still the two words most movie audiences associate with her. Despite appearing in mainstream flicks as diverse as 27 Dresses and The Watchmen, if you ask the average person if they recognize the name Malin Akerman, most will respond with, “Oh, you mean the blonde girl who screamed ‘cock me’ to Ben Stiller?”
I called Akerman to ask about her new comedy, the Vince Vaughn/Jon Favreau vehicle Couples Retreat (which opens nationwide today), and I’ll admit I was anticipating the worst. The ability to repeat funny lines written for you by other people does not automatically mean you have a personality. But she was unflappable and quick-witted and hilariously dirty. When describing how fans would stare at her at ComiCon, she went off on an inspired rant about her need for clarity in their creepiness. “Is that a ‘I loved you in Watchman‘ kinda stare,” she wondered aloud. “Or a ‘I want to murder you, cut off your hair as a souvenir and bury you in my crawlspace’ stare? Just let me know up front, that’s all I’m asking.” How do you not fall in love with a woman who can make off-the-cuff jokes about being murdered by comic book fanboys?
Eric Spitznagel: In Couples Retreat, your husband is played by Vince Vaughn, who is freakin’ huge. Did it ever feel like you were acting with a golem?
Malin Akerman: He is absolutely gigantic. He’s like six-five, and I’m only five-eight. The height difference was pretty ridiculous. I’m usually asked not to wear heels in my movies. But this time, to make our relationship look even remotely believable, they had to boost me up by a foot or two. But we were on an island, so obviously heels weren’t an option. For most of our scenes, I was wearing platform flip-flops.
Because otherwise you’d be emoting towards his stomach?
(Laughs.) Yeah, exactly. It’s just easier to act with somebody if it’s eye-to-eye. Or chin-to-eye, which was as far as we got, honestly. It’s better than having to focus on the tummy area.
Does Vince still smell like Jennifer Aniston’s sadness?
(Laughs.) Aw, come on! That’s not nice. No, I can assure you that he doesn’t smell like sadness at all. He smells like… new-found fiancée love.
Is it true that Couple’s Retreat is getting a PG-13 rating?
I know as much as you do. But the last I heard, that’s gonna be our rating. And I think it’s great. I want everybody to be able to see it.
A lot of your fans are going to be disappointed with this movie’s flagrant lack of boobies.
Well, you gotta switch it up every now and then. You know what I mean? Sometimes you gotta make the husband happy. He’s been like (deep sigh), “So is there another crazy sex scene in this one, too?” And finally I can say, “Hey, babe! Guess what? No sex at all!” I like making the fans happy, but you also gotta remember to make your husband happy.
Why are you usually so comfortable doing nude scenes?
If it has a purpose in the film, I’m happy to do it. I won’t do it if it’s gratuitous. That’s not my thing. Especially when it’s comedy, it’s so much easier because you’re doing it for the laugh. It’s not you’re gonna get all hot and heavy watching The Heartbreak Kid when Ben Stiller and me are going at it and I’m calling him a faggot and telling him to smack me and I’m peeing on his back.
Really? Speak for yourself.
(Laughs.) Okay, I wouldn’t get hot and heavy watching something like that.
Don’t judge me and my fantasies of peeing on Ben Stiller.
In a general sense, it’s more about the comedy than the sexuality of that moment. Also, I think it helps that I grew up in a Swedish culture with a Swedish family. It really isn’t that big of a deal over there. It’s not like people walk around naked or anything like that. But there are breasts on television. It’s just a normal part of what you see every day. So I grew up with a healthy view of sexuality and my body.
Everything I know about Sweden comes from those Swedish Erotica porn films from the 80s. Is that a pretty accurate reflection of your home country?
(Laughs.) Totally. Yeah. We’re like that all the time. Those movies are almost like a documentary.
So sex is the official Swedish currency and everybody looks like Seka?
Yeah, pretty much. You know what? You should head over there and find out. I’m just trying to encourage tourism in Sweden. But don’t give out my number if people get disappointed. I don’t want to get any calls like, “Where are all the horny platinum blondes?”
Am I correct in thinking that you speak fluent Swedish?
I do, yeah. Both of my parents are Swedish, and even though I grew up in Canada, from the very young age of two, we’ve been speaking Swedish at home pretty much my whole life. I’d feel like an outsider if my entire family spoke Swedish and I was the only one who didn’t.
Would you teach us how to say something in Swedish?
Sure. What do you want to know?
Maybe one of your lines from Heartbreak Kid. How about “fuck me like a black man”?
(Laughs.) That’s a very important sentence to know. If you go over to Sweden, make sure that you get this one right. You’ll get plenty of dates. Are you ready?
Could you say that one more time?
Yep. Knulla mig… som en svart man.
Yeah! That sounds so much dirtier than I imagined.
(Laughs.) It’s a good one. I’m not sure when or why you’d ever use it.
Unless you happen to be sleeping with a black man. But then it’d just be kinda redundant. There’s really not any situation in which you’d need to ask somebody to fuck you like a black man.
You had some great comic quotables in Heartbreak Kid, all of which are a little X-rated. Do you have a lot of fans running up to you on the street and saying, “Cock me?”
(Laughs.) More than I’d care to admit. I can tell right away when somebody recognizes me from that film, because their faces turn a nice shade of red. “Oh my god, you’re that girl! You’re the one who said ‘cock me’ to Ben Stiller!” There’s really no point in denying it. “Yep, that would be me. And wow, thanks so much for bringing that up when I’m standing here next to my brother and sister.”
It’s been said that life imitates art, and vice-versa. Have you, or anyone you’ve known, ever requested that a partner cock you?
It’s never happened to me, but I was curious if that line was derived from a true story. I will tell you that it was somebody on the Heartbreak Kid crew and he claims that a girl actually yelled “cock me” at his face while they were doing the deed.
Do you think you’ll ever escape the shadow of “cock me”?
It’s definitely going to stick with me for awhile. Sometimes I think it’s going to be etched onto my gravestone when I die. “Malin Akerman: Loving Daughter, Wife and the ‘Cock Me’ Girl.” It’s brilliant, but maybe not something you want as a legacy.
Did playing a character with such bizarre sexual appetites turn you off to sex entirely?
No, not really. But I definitely wasn’t into acrobatic sex after that film. Regular sex is great and fine. But I won’t be bending over backwards with my head on the floor anytime soon. It takes a lot of stupidity to pull that off.
Surely your husband must’ve gotten a few ideas.
No, there wasn’t much in that film that appealed to him. I’d say he was more interested in Silk Spectre’s latex costume from Watchman.
And because you’re such a loving, nurturing wife, you of course told him…
That it was never gonna happen.
You must’ve learned a lot about your own sexuality after wearing that costume. If you had any sort of S&M fetish at all, you’d probably know it by the end of the shoot.
Absolutely you would. And I can tell you that I definitely do not have an S&M fetish. I understand the appeal. When you’re wearing it, it looks super-sexy. But it’s uncomfortable and it doesn’t smell nice. I don’t know why anyone would want to smell like latex. That just doesn’t turn me on at all. I get people who are like, “I like the smell of coffee breath. I like the smell of cigarette breath.” Okay, I can get behind that. It’s not my favorite, but I can understand where they’re coming from. But the smell of sweaty latex? It’s not my thing.
I’ve always been confounded by superhero costumes. Why do they need to be so tight and revealing? Is it just impossible to fight crime without showing off your nipples?
I think it’s a diversion. Your nipples are sticking out and the villains—if they’re male, which most of them are. There aren’t many female super-villains—they get caught a little off guard. When they’re taking a peek at the nipples, that’s when you sock it to them.
As long as we’re keeping this interview classy, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the merkin.
Oh yes. From Heartbreak Kid. It’s hanging up on my wall right now. I’m looking at it as we speak.
If there was ever a prop to steal from the set, that’d be the one.
You’re right. It would’ve made a great Halloween costume. But no, I did not walk off with it. I don’t even know where it went. It’s probably on eBay right now. For those people who don’t know what a merkin is, it’s basically… how do I describe it tastefully?
I think “fake pubes” pretty much sums it up.
The costume lady on Heartbreak Kid was so inventive. She took a g-string pair of underwear and glued on fake pubic hair. And then that little thingee got glued onto my skin in that area. It wasn’t comfortable or fun in any way.
How much thought goes into the aesthetics of a merkin? Did they worry about matching it up to your real hair color?
(Laughs.) Actually, yes. It was hilarious. (Directors) Peter and Bobby Farrelly and the prop guys spent a lot of time talking about it, saying things like, “You know, the coloring is a little light. Shouldn’t it be darker?” They were basically debating whether my character should be a real blonde or a fake blonde. And then there were questions like, is it bushy enough? We need it to be bushier! Should it be curlier? It seems too straight for pubic hair, right? A lot of thought and discussion went into the look of my merkin.
Can you promise us that you wear a merkin in Couples Therapy?
Well, promises are made to be broken. So yeah sure, I’ll promise that.
It could become your thing. Woody Allen has his glasses, and you have your inordinately hirsute pubic area.
(Laughs.) Yeah, that’s good. I like that. You never know when my merkin will appear. It could be all sorts of different shapes and sizes.
You went the other way with the upcoming Josh Radnor flick, HappyThankYouMorePlease, where you play a woman with alopecia. Did you really shave your eyebrows for the role?
I did. I was a little nervous about it because a few people had told me, “Wow, you’re really brave. I’ve heard stories that eyebrows never grow back.” But it was cool. Literally the week after I shaved off my eyebrows, there was an article in the New York Times about how no eyebrows is the new fashion trend. The story had all these pictures of models with bleached-out eyebrows. I felt so cutting edge.
Did you shave your head too?
No, I used a bald cap. I wasn’t that brave. I went halfway. I did the eyebrows and I shaved my legs. I think that’s a good compromise.
(Laughs.) It’s not exactly the definition of method acting.
Hey, I usually have really hairy legs. I don’t shave them for anybody. It’s just that I’m blonde so nobody ever notices.
Did you miss having eyebrows? They’re kinda useless, aren’t they?
For the most part, yeah. But the one thing I noticed is that your eyebrows are very useful when you’re in the shower and you’re shampooing your hair. Eyebrows keep the shampoo out of your eyes. I had to learn how to shower with my head turned back, in a Flashdance position.
Could you be more specific?
Remember when Jennifer Beals sits in that chair and pulls a string and water comes splashing down on her? Her head turned back and it’s a beautiful silhouette? You need to go back and watch Flashdance again, dude! Jesus!
So you like to shower like a stripper?
Yeah, absolutely. Well, only when I don’t have eyebrows. When the eyes are protected, I shower like anybody else. But eyebrowless, yeah, it brings out the stripper in me.
Is it true that before getting into acting, you were a competitive figure skater?
That’s right. I started when I was six and did it for almost twelve years. I competed nationally throughout Canada. When I was 12 or 13, that’s what I thought I was going to do with my life. I thought I’d be up there with Oksana Baiul at the Olympics doing triple axles. But I never got further than a single axle. I suffered from bronchitis so I had to give it up.
Would you mind if we tested your figure skating knowledge?
Actually, this is a quiz to determine if you can tell the difference between figure skating moves and bizarre sex positions that might be attempted by one of your movies characters.
(Laughs.) I think I can handle that.
Let’s do this. What is…. the Forward Swizzle?
That’s definitely a figure-skating move, but I think it’d also make a great sex position. It just sounds dirty.
The Bent Spoon.
That’s gotta be a sex position.
Excellent. You’re two-for-two. The Wheelbarrow.
(Long pause.) Isn’t that when somebody holds your feet and you’re on your hands?
So you’re going with… sex position?
It sounds like a game you’d play off the ice. I’m going with sexual position.
I’m sorry, that’s actually a figure skating move.
The Wheelbarrow? Are you kidding me? I have never heard of that before. That must be after my generation. I have never done the Wheelbarrow in my whole life.
Moving on… The Backward Crossover.
That’s got to be from figure skating.
Correct! But I believe there’s something similar in porn called the Reverse Piledriver.
(Laughs.) Wow. You’re very knowledgeable.
There’s an entire floor at the Vanity Fair offices devoted to this stuff. How about the Viennese Oyster?
There’s no way that isn’t a sexual position.
It is! Though I could’ve sworn I saw Michelle Kwan do the Viennese Oyster once.
(Laughs.) Oh-ho-ho! Damn! Nice. Well, maybe she did. Maybe she incorporated that onto the ice.
So it looks like you got every question right, except for the Wheelbarrow.
I’m sorry, I need to contest that.
You think I just made up the Wheelbarrow?
I think you might’ve. I just want to see what that’s supposed to look like. I’m not claiming to be an expert, but I’ve never heard any Olympic commentator say, “Oh wow, did you see that Wheelbarrow?”
I stand corrected. I just Googled it and the first image that comes up are some stick figures doing things to each other that do not in any way resemble figure-skating.
I knew it!
And if I’m not mistaken, one of those stick figures is probably shouting, “Cock me!”
(Laughs.) I should hope so. If you can’t ask somebody to cock you while getting Wheelbarrowed, when can you?
(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, in VanityFair.com)