Last summer, Alison Brie took part in the most idyllic Italian getaway. Settled in the Tuscany region between the beautiful cities of Lucca and Pisa, she found herself surrounded by good people eating incredible food and drinking amazing wine at a time when the country was just starting to reopen. “It felt like our secret trip,” she shares on a Zoom call. “[We were] going to these places where we felt like we had it to ourselves.” It was the Italy trip the characters in her new romantic comedy/thriller, Spin Me Round, wished they were having.
The film, which had its world premiere at this year’s South by Southwest festival and hits theaters and AMC+ August 19, follows lowly Tuscan Grove restaurant manager Amber (Brie), who wins an all-expenses-paid trip to her company’s infamous “institute” outside of Florence. However, when she catches the eye of the chain’s handsome and charismatic owner, the vacation of her dreams takes a turn for the chaotic. Instead of exploring gorgeous Italian villas, indulging in local cuisine, and partaking in romantic sightseeing adventures, Amber, along with an unhinged group of franchise managers, finds herself put up in dingy, motel-like accommodations and spending most of her time indoors learning how to make the restaurant’s far-from-palatable dishes.
Like the title infers, Spin Me Round is a wild ride that manages to get more fun and dizzying with each turn. “We really love to take characters and put them in awkward or uncomfortable, very human situations and play out in real time the reality of how one might react in those situations,” Brie tells us of her creative process with co-writer Jeff Baena. Brie has worked with Baena on four projects now, including The Little Hours and Horse Girl, and the two have a proven track record of writing films that feel fresh and exciting in a sea full of adaptations and reboots. There’s an artistic freedom that comes with working together. They get to make the movies they want and go down some “strange roads” together.
With their usual suspects—Aubrey Plaza, Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen, etc.—in tow, they set out to create a movie that was fun and unexpected. The idea for a project centered on corporate restaurant culture initially came from Baena, who was kicking it around after filming The Little Hours in Italy and brought it to Brie. “I think he had read some articles online about a similar program and just thought it was rife for some comedic fodder,” Brie says. While they typically like to work off a short outline and improvised dialogue for their projects, the pandemic gave them plenty of time to really flesh out the script and the bizarre cast of characters that make Spin Me Round such a delight—like Deb, a try-hard type who is played brilliantly by Shannon.
“We didn’t know if she was available … but we definitely wrote that role for Molly, and it made it really fun and easy to write because Molly is so funny and commits so fully to every character that she plays,” Brie shares. “I have worked with her three times before in Jeff’s movies, and I think Jeff and I were really excited to let her go all out. She gets to take a bigger swing here, whereas the other movies I worked on with her and Jeff, The Little Hours and Horse Girl, we had her playing more subdued characters. As we were writing it, we got really excited to be like, ‘Oh, let’s let Molly really go for it!’”
In creating the lead, Amber, Brie was intrigued by the idea of an inactive protagonist. “I like that she is very unextraodinary as a person and has maybe even been a little paralyzed in her life, waiting for outside factors to change her in extraordinary ways,” she says. She also wanted to explore how we can easily be influenced by super-stylized versions of romance, like The Bachelor. “Talk about a corporate system that’s like, ‘This is what romance is. This is what women should expect in a relationship.’ I just think it’s funny that, as the movie goes on, she starts to put herself into different movie genres as she’s trying to keep the trip exciting.”
Fueling Amber’s vacation fantasy is Tuscan Grove chain owner Nick Martucci, the kind of devastatingly attractive-yet-sinister type who immediately gives you the ick. Brie admits the character was inspired by a few men she encountered in her past. (Brie and Baena’s projects often come from conversations about their own lives and experiences.) “I found it really easy to write that character, and I think that a lot of women will recognize that guy,” she laughs. “For me, it was about examining these situations that I have been in that weren’t necessarily physically traumatic but were maybe emotionally uncool.” Brie and Baena found their perfect Nick in actor Alessandro Nivola, who delivers a one-two punch of being seriously handsome and just the right amount of charming that you, too, get swept up in his romantic pursuits.
If Brie’s IMDb page reads like one of her comedies, full of unpredictable adventures, that’s on purpose. The actress gets excited by anything new—a completely original concept, a unique character, or the chance to work with an exciting actor she’s never worked with before. And as fans, we can say that’s a big part of Brie’s appeal. She keeps us on our toes while showcasing her vast range. The actress knows it can be tough to make something different in Hollywood these days and how rare the element of surprise in film and TV can be. “It’s always fun to read something where you don’t know where it’s going to go or to watch something where you don’t know where it’s going to go,” she says. Going the indie route has afforded Brie more creative control in her career while also taking away some of the pressures put on by bigger studios. “I want as many people to love this movie, but also, it’s okay if it’s not for everyone,” she says honestly. “You don’t feel like you have to check off a bunch of boxes. You can really let the work dictate where it’s going to go.”
Brie is surely a risk-taker in her professional life, and the same could be said for her approach to fashion. She is not one to take herself too seriously when it comes to her sartorial choices, and in stylist Erin Walsh, she has found the perfect partner to help execute her vision. A bold color moment, a new silhouette, extremely high platforms—bring it on! “I think she understands my desire to show a tasteful amount of skin constantly,” Brie says of Walsh. “I am increasingly more comfortable in my body, and I have a strong desire to celebrate that, and she’s on board.” Recent hits have included a floral Roberto Cavalli number with bondage-like straps at the hips and a crystal corset top paired with butterfly-cutout jeans by Area.
Not long into our fashion conversation, we end up on a wonderful tangent about how amazing Anne Hathaway and Natalie Portman have been looking on the red carpet lately. Walsh happens to style Hathaway too. “I’ve been personally inspired by their post-pandemic fashion style, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I want to go there.’ Natalie Portman’s whole Thor press tour, I was there for it!”
While we anxiously await Brie’s own fantastic press looks for Spin Me Round, we can confidently say we’ll be tuning in to whatever the actress is doing.
Spin Me Round is now in theaters and streaming on AMC+.