In the costume comedy Austenland, a super-obsessive Jane Austen fan (played by Keri Russell) more inclined to spend time with her Colin Firth–as–Mr. Darcy cardboard cutout than a real life man blows her savings to go on an immersive Jane Austen–themed vacation, in the hopes of meeting her own Mr. Darcy (or at least putting that fanciful notion out of her head once and for all). While on this vacation, the female guests wear corsets and empire-waist gowns, play croquette, and are wooed by the words of actors taking their cues from the etiquette of the period. Russell chatted with Vulture about letting out her inner Austen fangirl, showing off her breasts, and stealing Margo Martindale back for The Americans. And we taught her a thing or two about memes.
How much did you immerse yourself in the world of Jane Austen and the obsessive fans who are known as the Janeites?
You know, we talked about it. We took this incredibly long-winded, forever, non-ending Regency-era etiquette class, which was pretty hilarious. It included very extensive silverware placement and an in-depth discussion on where the term dandy came from, and the guys, and what they would dress like, and then I probably started thinking about what I was going to eat for lunch. [Laughs.] I was pregnant at the time, and I just remember going, I got to get out of this room. I’m so hot, I’m so bored, I’m going to faint. But it was good.
Those empire-waist dresses would be perfect if you were pregnant.
It was ideal. When Jerusha [Hess, the director] asked me to do the film, I e-mailed her back and said, “Yes! Let’s do this. Except … I’m pregnant.” [Laughs.] And she said, “It’ll be fine. Empire waists.”
And you’re supposed to be pushing up your chest, so even if you did have more here [gesturing to breasts] because you were pregnant …
It’s the only time I do have more! Believe me. And it’s a very exciting time for me. Willingly, I will show them off. It’s perfect. It’s amazing. That’s all you see is boobs. And it’s beautiful on a woman. And then everything else is just this beautiful dress. It’s incredibly flattering.
Jane Austen is having a cultural revival, probably thanks to the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice. So there’s Jane Austen Fight Club and …
Stop right now and tell me everything you know!
These girls are dressed up like they’re in Austenland but they’re doing Fight Club …
What are you talking about? What do you mean?
Like Brad Pitt Fight Club.
I don’t believe it! I don’t understand how they fight within that context? So instead of verbally sparring, they’re physically sparring? In the Regency-era garb? And bonnets? I need a visual on this. I need to see it right now!
Let me show you …
I need to see this. [Watches video clip.] Uh-uh. Oh! Oh my God. Amazing. This is so cool. They’re like in a circle, fighting. Holy shit! This is the craziest thing. This is insane. Violent Jane Austen. I mean, like, [squeaks] “What!” And they’re showing up with bruises and blood. I can’t wait to tell the guys about it. You have to tell Jerusha about this. She’ll freak out. This is hilarious!
There’s also Ryan Gosling “Hey Girl,” the Jane Austen version. You’ve seen the “Hey Girl” stuff, right?
No! I’m a mom! I’m a mom with little kids! I know nothing! I know nothing of the world! [Laughs.]
Well, Ryan Gosling is someone who inspires a lot of memes …
A lot of what?
Memes. M-E-M-E-S. The stuff we share on the Internet, viral videos, images …
Oh! The video things?
Not just video, but yeah. They can be pictures, they can be ideas, they can be catchphrases …
Okay. I think I got it. Okay. I like that.
So with Ryan Gosling, there’s one called “Hey Girl,” where they put his picture and a phrase like, “Hey girl, I would do blank with you.” Something super-sensitive or feminist. [Shows her picture.]
[Slams table, laughs.]
So there’s this Jane Austen one where Ryan Gosling is like Mr. Darcy.
Okay. [Laughs.] Okay. “Hey Girl”? Unbelievable.
And Colin Firth now has a statue where he’s coming out of a lake in London …
Stop it. Stop it right now. Where?! Where is it?
Wow. The Jane Austen fandom is this massive thing right now. I guess she just got something about human nature right. She was interested in what makes you tick, and the inner workings of your mind. And it’s something that’s constantly regurgitated through all of these films and TV shows. So perfect timing, Jerusha! [Laughs.]
Have you ever done Ren Faire, cosplay, LARPing, or anything like that before?
What does LARPing actually stand for?
Live action role playing.
Ah! The idea of a place like Austenland, I think it’s so delicious and so embarrassing and so good. I’m positive people would pay to go to a place like this. Positive! Come on. You’d go with your girlfriends and you’d all drink lots of wine at lunch and get all dolled up, and maybe get massages, too, if they could add that into the mix. Right? Just a spa element, tucked away over there. And all the girls, you get dressed up and literary-figure-type people are there. It would be amazing. This would be for the lazy people who aren’t going to make their own costumes! [Giggles.] Lazy LARP-ing! Bored moms who are going to go for a little excitement, and swim in the pool or whatever. We should just start one and make a gazillion dollars and never have to work again. If I was going to do one of these places, I’d do a cowboy version. Like, hot cowboys everywhere, and you’d take moonlight rides. That would be my idea of romance, right? But I think those do exist. [Laughs.] I don’t think you get to promise sex at the end of it, but I bet it happens!
I hope you can get Margo Martindale back for the next season of The Americans even though she’s on Will Arnett’s new sitcom.
Will Arnett, that jerk. I saw him recently, and I was like, “You stole Margo!” He was like, “Yeah, I did.” I was like, “I’m going to get her back! I’m going to fuck you up and get her back!”
You’ve got the Jane Austen Fight Club spirit!
Yeah! There you go. Exactly. I’m going to fuck him up and get her back. But she’s having so much fun, too. She was like, “I’m going to get a house with a pool,” and I’m like, “Get a house with a pool!” She deserves it. But I’m going to get her back. She doesn’t need to be doing that; she needs to be doing ours. Ours is cooler.