Amy Poehler Leads A Girls' Trip With 'Some Of The Funniest People In The World'

May 24, 2019
Originally published on May 24, 2019 5:05 pm

Amy Poehler's newest film is based on an actual girls' trip with her friends to California wine country. Except her friends — both in the movie and in real life — are fellow Saturday Night Live alumni such as Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer, Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch, Paula Pell and Emily Spivey.

"I'm lucky to have some of the funniest people in the world be my actual friends," Poehler says in an interview. "And so I tried to quickly exploit that as fast as I could."

The real trip, a celebration of Dratch's 50th birthday, went mostly according to plan. The comedy film Wine Country does not.

Wine Country is the first feature film directed by Poehler, who also produced and stars in the movie. It's out now on Netflix.


Interview Highlights

On if she's actually the party planner in real life

Among the stars of Wine Country are, clockwise from upper left, Ana Gasteyer, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Emily Spivey, Amy Poehler and Paula Pell. Tina Fey also appears in the film.
Colleen Hayes / Netflix

I think that who you are on a trip isn't always who you are in life. And so sometimes, a trip can bring out the wild side, or the neurotic side, or the planning side. And as my friends have told me, planning is my love language. So some people listen to your conversation, other people cook for you and some people tell you what you're going to do all day. But I do have a little bit of a sense that if no one's in charge, I'll take over, because I need a captain; I do well with a captain. So I certainly am not as Type A as that character, but I do like a loose plan — that I can gently force everyone to do.

On if she actually goes to wine tastings to learn about wine

Well, I do. That is a difference between me and my character. ... I worked in the restaurant industry for a long time; I was a waitress for many, many years. And a lot of people learn about wine when they're waiting tables. You know, you kind of swig whatever's left in the back with the cooks, and you say, "Mmm, this tastes good. This tastes free!" ... I do kind of dig all of the descriptions about wine and how it's made, because there's a certain writerly quality to how people explain wine, and there's a story behind it, and there's always a little bit of magic that you have to buy into.

But our characters in Wine Country couldn't give a hoot about what they're drinking — and in fact feel a little bit irritated every time someone's trying to explain wine to them. And we would laugh a lot as we were shooting the film because we were in front of these beautiful landscapes. We were in the Napa Valley, and just looking at these beautiful views and having these wonderful people talk to us about wine — and we were just cutting them off to talk about the mundanity of our own lives.

On middle-aged women on film

There's this interesting, great, unmined territory where you have young kids, aging parents; where you know who you are; you have a really good sense of yourself. You're not living in denial anymore; you have deep, deep friendships that have seen you through a lot of stages of your life. And so you have these interesting characters that sometimes just get flattened in art, or ignored. And we're really obsessed as Americans with the beginnings of things and the endings of things, and there's so much in the middle that I thought would be interesting to explore.

On bringing her CPAP machine to the film

Yeah, I don't know about your listeners, but anybody who's out there who has a snoring problem or sleep apnea, I'm telling you ... I would love to get you into a CPAP today, is what I'm trying to say. It has completely changed my life. Truly. ...

I've always been a terrible sleeper. I performed most of my career incredibly sleep-deprived. And when I — really, it's the best thing I've ever done for my health. So yeah, much like my friend Bradley Cooper, who used his real dog in A Star Is Born, I used my real CPAP machine in this movie.

I hope I win a CPAP award. If I don't, I will be so mad.

On if she'd ever work on a dramatic movie

Oh, for sure, yeah. We wanted Wine Country to feel like it skated the edge a bit. And I don't think [comedy and drama] are very different. So while I will say that I think sometimes it's hard for a good dramatic actor to find a way to be funny, most of my really good comedic actor friends are very good at drama. ... I think the stuff that's coming (that I've been working on) doesn't neatly fall into any category, and that's exciting.

On if she's over the "girls' weekend" at this point

I think that female friendships are an untapped fossil fuel. I think they help run the world. They certainly help me orient to the world. And they're very precious to me. So in any way I can honor them, I'm up for it.

Danny Hajek and Arezou Rezvani produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Patrick Jarenwattananon adapted it for the Web.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

A 50th birthday trip planned by Amy Poehler in an Airbnb owned by Tina Fey in Napa Valley, Calif. - throw in Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, lots and lots of wine, and it's a party.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WINE COUNTRY")

AMY POEHLER: (As Abby) Thank you so much for turning 50 and bringing us all together. And I hope you guys like the house. Let's get drunk. Happy birthday.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: The film is called "Wine Country." Amy Poehler not only produced it and stars in it. "Wine Country" is her feature directorial debut. And with a big cast that also includes Ana Gasteyer, Paula Pell and Emily Spivey of SNL fame, Poehler is surrounded by her real-life comedy tribe.

POEHLER: Yeah, I'm lucky to have some of the funniest people in the world be my actual friends.

MARTIN: (Laughter) You are.

POEHLER: And so I tried to quickly exploit that as fast as I could.

MARTIN: It must have been really fun.

POEHLER: Oh, man, it was fun.

MARTIN: But you had to be the boss. You were the director.

POEHLER: Yeah. I mean, it's not like I got my old friends from college and told them what to do. These ladies are professionals, right? They're assassins.

MARTIN: Yeah.

POEHLER: They happen to be my friends, but they are just so, so good at their jobs, such, you know, premiere professionals that it was a privilege, actually, to work with them.

MARTIN: The movie is based on a trip that they really did take to California wine country, so each character on screen is inspired by their own eccentricities.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WINE COUNTRY")

POEHLER: (As Abby) I made itineraries.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters) Woo.

POEHLER: (As Abby) I know. And you don't have to read them now; sort of like a loosey-goosey...

EMILY SPIVEY: (As Jenny) Oh, my God. Wow.

POEHLER: (As Abby) ...You know, sort of, like, schedule-y (ph) thing; just sort of an overview of everything we're going to do minute by minute on the trip. No presh (ph).

PAULA PELL: (As Val) When did you have time to make those?

MARTIN: Are you really that person? Are you really the party planner - the Julie of "The Love Boat" cruise director.

POEHLER: (Laughter) Oh, very good reference for the Gen Xers listening.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

POEHLER: You know, I think that who you are on a trip isn't always who you are in life. And so sometimes, a trip can bring out the wild side or the, you know, neurotic side or the planning side. And as my friends have told me, planning is my love language. So...

(LAUGHTER)

POEHLER: I am...

MARTIN: Some people cook.

POEHLER: ...The person - (laughter) that's right. Some people...

MARTIN: Others overplan.

POEHLER: ...Listen to your conversation. Other people cook for you, and some people tell you what you're going to do all day. But I do have a little bit of a sense that if no one's in charge, you know, I'll take over because I need a captain. I do well with a captain, so I did. I certainly am not as Type A as that character, but I do like a loose plan that I can gently force everyone to do (laughter).

MARTIN: Do you actually go to wine tastings to learn about wine?

POEHLER: Well, I do. That is the...

MARTIN: Do you?

POEHLER: ...Difference between me and my character. Well, I worked in the restaurant industry for a long time. I was a waitress for many, many years. And a lot of people learn about wine when they're waiting tables.

MARTIN: Right.

POEHLER: You know, you kind of swig whatever's left in the back with the cooks and say, mmm, this tastes good. This tastes free.

MARTIN: Right...

POEHLER: (Laughter).

MARTIN: ...A little oaky, a little chalky and totally free.

POEHLER: Totally free - going in my purse. I do kind of dig all of the descriptions about wine and how it's made and - because there's a certain writerly quality to how people explain wine. And there's a story behind it, and there's always kind of a little bit of magic that you have to buy into. But our characters in "Wine Country" couldn't give a hoot about what they're drinking and, in fact, feel a little irritated every time someone's trying to explain wine to them. And we would laugh a lot as we were shooting the film because we were in front of these incredible landscapes. We were in the Napa Valley and just looking at these beautiful views and having these wonderful people talk to us about wine. And we were just cutting them off to talk about our - the mundanity of our own lives.

MARTIN: (Laughter) It is about women of a certain age. We say that. It's kind of an annoying phrase, isn't it? But it is about middle-aged women.

POEHLER: Yeah. Well, there's this interesting, great, unmined territory, where you have young kids, aging parents, where you know who you are. You have a really good sense of yourself. You're not living in denial anymore. You have deep, deep friendships that have seen you through a lot of stages of your life. And so you have these interesting characters that sometimes just get flattened in art or ignored. And we're really obsessed, you know, as Americans, with the beginnings of things and the endings of things. And there's so much in the middle that I thought would be interesting to explore.

MARTIN: Speaking of which, is it true you brought your own actual, personal CPAP machine?

POEHLER: Yeah. I mean, I don't know about your listeners, but anybody who's out there who has a snoring problem or sleep apnea, I'm telling you if you go - I can't - I would love to get you into a CPAP today is what I'm trying to say.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

POEHLER: That - it has completely changed my life, truly...

MARTIN: Really?

POEHLER: ...Because I - oh, absolutely. I've always been a terrible sleeper. And, you know, I performed most of my career incredibly sleep deprived. And when I - really, it's the best thing I've ever done for my health. So, yeah, you know, much like my friend Bradley Cooper, who used his real dog in "A Star Is Born," I used my real CPAP machine in this movie.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

POEHLER: So I hope I win a CPAP award. If I don't, I'm going to be so mad.

MARTIN: The illustrious CPAP acting award, right.

POEHLER: Yup.

MARTIN: Would you ever do a drama, either in front of the camera or behind it?

POEHLER: Oh, for sure. Yeah. I think we wanted "Wine Country" to feel like it skated the edge a bit, and I don't think they're very different. So - well, I will say that, I think, sometimes, it's hard for a good dramatic actor to find a way to be funny. But I - most of my really good comedic actor friends are very good at drama (laughter). So - and I don't know what that - I mean, it's just, you know, being vulnerable, playing things real.

MARTIN: Yeah.

POEHLER: So, yeah, I think the stuff that's coming that I've been working on doesn't neatly fall into any category. And that's exciting.

MARTIN: So are you over the girls' weekend at this point? I mean, you've now lived this in different iterations, like in real life. And then you made a movie about it.

POEHLER: Yeah.

MARTIN: Do you guys need just to take a break from each other?

POEHLER: No. I mean, I think that female friendships are an untapped fossil fuel. I think they help run the world. They certainly help me orient to the world, and they're very precious to me. So any - in any way I can honor them, I'm up for it.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRINCE AND THE REVOLUTION'S "I WOULD DIE 4 U")

MARTIN: Amy Poehler is the director, producer and one of the stars of the new film "Wine Country." It's on Netflix.

Amy, it was so fun. Thank you so much.

POEHLER: Thank you so much. What a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.