Leslie Mann was looking forward to making out with her handsome co-star, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau – best known to Game of Thrones’ fans as Jaime Lannister – until she discovered she was allergic to him. Literally.
“At first I’d thought, ‘this should be fun getting to kiss him because he’s cute, and I’ve been married 17 years’,” laughs Mann, whose husband is Hollywood’s king of adult comedy, Judd Apatow. “But then I kissed him and he’s got that razor stubble and my face turned really red and hurt. So they washed his face because they thought maybe he was using after-shave. And we did it again and everywhere he touched me, I came out in hives.”
No matter, there is only one man for her. Apatow famously declared from the moment he first set eyes on Mann on the set of The Cable Guy in 1996: “There goes the future Mrs. Apatow”. He made good on the promise, and a year later the couple married.
“I don’t think Judd was shy about it. It was cute though. He’s a good man,” she says. Today they are parents to daughters Maude, 16 and Iris, 12, both of whom feature in their parents’ movies, Knocked Up, Funny People and This Is 40.
In The Other Woman, Mann plays a vengeful wife who is cheated on by Coster-Waldau. Most actresses would never dream of confessing to any first-hand experience of cheating but Mann, 42, is raised in the Apatow school of turning personal failure into relatable comedy.
“There was this boy who cheated on me in my early twenties, and do you know what I did?” she asks, lowering her voice conspiratorially. “I had a feeling he was cheating on me and his friend came over to my place – we were shooting something in Vancouver – and I was moping around. He said, ‘Leslie, don’t feel bad, enjoy yourself’, because he knew what my boyfriend was up to but he really didn’t tell me a thing.
“Later I said to my boyfriend, with a completely straight face, ‘I talked to your friend and he told me everything’. Inside I was dying because it could have gone the wrong way but luckily he was like, ‘I can’t believe he told you...’, and I was like, ‘oh my god he didn’t tell me a thing’.
“Then I broke up with him but we got back together because I had low self-esteem,” she tosses out casually like she’s discussing suffering from a cold or minor ailment.
Few actresses, let alone those with low self-esteem, would welcome the prospect of appearing alongside either Cameron Diaz or Kate Upton, both of them perfectly bikini-ready, in The Other Woman. “Thankfully I’m covered head-to-toe the entire movie. I wish I could wear bikinis,” she sighs. “Cameron is a bit younger than me and she looks incredible in the teeniest bikini. Her butt was right in front of my face and it’s just so perfect. I don’t look like that at all, but I have kids and things don’t look as good as they used to. Do you have kids?” she asks, checking her leopard-print-encased iPhone.
Being a mother dictates her career choices. “There’s a sacrifice being made. I’m not willing to spend too much time away from my kids so I usually don’t work that much. Judd makes way more money than me. Besides, I’d rather be home.”
Up to a point. “I just get to that moment where everything drives me crazy; I don’t want to live in this house anymore; I don’t want to live in this city; I want to tear everything up and move all the furniture. That’s when I know I need to find myself a creative outlet outside of the house.”
Forming a close bond with Diaz on the set of her latest film reminded her of the importance of having friends in her life. “Once a month I get together with my girlfriends and we usually check into a hotel or go to someone else’s house. We can talk for 15 hours and it just flies by. There’s usually a lot of wine and stuff. We talk a lot about our husbands. Private stuff. When you have little kids, you lose friends because you’re so busy but, as they get older you realise how important it is to have your girlfriends around.”
In one breath she describes motherhood as the “greatest thing that ever happened to me”, and a “love like you’ve never felt before”. The next minute she’s wringing her perfectly manicured hands, saying: “My eldest daughter is 16 and she’s so crazy and hormonal right now, I feel bad for her, but she’s also awesome and super smart. She’s a writer too, like her dad. She tells me when I look really bad and to change my clothes. She thinks she’s probably way smarter than me and she probably is smarter than me. Which is kind of annoying.”
With her wide innocent-looking green eyes and demure manner, pretty much everything Mann says can have a shock effect should she wish. Her adorable girlish voice has made her a popular choice for animated movies, too; she is currently voicing characters in Mr Peabody & Sherman and Rio 2. It’s the kind of voice which means that you can’t imagine anyone getting mad at her.
“You’d be surprised, they can,” she says, arching an eyebrow. Her marriage works because of all the things she and Apatow have in common: “I like being married to someone who does what I do and we can talk for hours about all of this stuff that I struggle with and all this stuff that he struggles with because we’re struggling with the same things. If I was married to a banker, I don’t know what we’d talk about,” says the actress whose work outside of the Apatow hit factory includes 17 Again and The Bling Ring.
Being Mrs Apatow is not without its disadvantages, though. “He has the same kind of brain as me which means he’s in space a lot of times. And so when I want him to be there, he’s off. He has a creative brain so that’s challenging. Whereas, if I was married to a banker, he could be right here for me because he’s not spacing out.
“So it’s mainly good but sometimes it’s not.”
Returning to The Other Woman and the question of cheating, she says, “of course you don’t want people to get their feelings hurt but you have to get by in life...” At which point she abruptly gets up and disappears to the bathroom.
Returning with a hankie in her hand, her eyes brim with tears. She bursts out laughing when she realises I think she’s upset. “Did you think I was crying? Oh my gosh, that’s so funny. No, as I was talking, I felt a drop of snot going down my nostril. I was going to wipe it on this,” she says indicating the napkin on the tabletop, “but thought better of it.
“So the answer is, I don’t judge. I find also when I judge it always happens to me, so it’s best if I don’t judge other people’s relationships.”
‘The Other Woman’ is released on 23 April