Are you looking for a fun, silly movie to escape from all things serious in this world? Barbarella here to say GOLDEN ARM may be just the thing. This underground arm-wrestling movie may be goofy, but it's not without heart. Starring Mary Holland (HAPPIEST SEASON), Betsy Sodaro (TROLLS WORLD TOUR) and Dot-Marie Jones ("Glee"), GOLDEN ARM relays the story of a baker joining the motley characters who make up the competitve arm-wrestling world. I had the pleasure of speaking with Mary Holland, the film's lead, about the movie which is currently available on Digitial.
Before this movie, when was the last time you actually arm-wrestled anybody?
“Oh, are you kidding? I do it every Friday night. (Laughing) Gosh, I feel like I've arm-wrestled my husband. I've insisted that he arm wrestle me a few times. I can't remember the last time I did it in a high-pressure environment where people are watching and cheering for me, though. I feel like I've only arm-wrestled spontaneously when I've had a glass of wine or two and want to prove myself.”
Drinks are usually involved, yeah. So your character does some training for this. What kinds of preparations did you do for the role?
“I really wanted to ... Well, first of all, Melanie is a baker, and anybody who has done any amount of baking knows that you have to have a lot of arm strength to make any kind of dough. So I wanted to get in shape for that reason, but then also for when she does go through this training montage and does end up going to the tournament that it is believable that she would do well. I wanted to be in enough shape for that to be believable. So yeah, I did. I worked out. I did a lot of push-ups, a lot of arm workouts. I tried to get in as much shape as I could for the shooting, yeah.”
What was your favorite costume and why?
“Oh my God! Impossible to pick. I love them all. There's something about the Freaked Out costume that it makes no sense and that I just think it's very ... It just perfectly captures how discombobulated and confused Melanie is. It's like this hodgepodge of different characters that are all smushed together. And I love that she comes through and has clarity when she becomes the breadwinner and embraces that the badass persona is her. Her as a baker is badass enough. She doesn't need to put on a pink tutu and a cowboy shirt and a luchador mask.”
If you were to join an arm-wrestling league, what persona and costume would you create for yourself?
“Oh my gosh. What a question. What a question. Listen, I would have a really hard time deciding. I think I would probably end up with something like Freaked Out, I'm sorry to say, because I wouldn't be able to decide. I mean, I'd want to be a mermaid. I'd want to be a falcon or something. I’d want to be so many different things that I would have a very hard time choosing.”
There's a great car singing moment in this film. What songs do you like to sing in the car? And how sure are you that you have the right lyrics?
“Oh, I always have the right lyrics. I never doubt myself. I never have to look up the lyrics. I just know them. Songs I like to sing in the car? Oh my gosh. Well, I will say, once we found out that "These Dreams" was going to be in the movie, I listened to that so many times and sang that. It's just such a great song, you can't help but sing along to it. I feel like of all the songs I've ever sung in the car, that might be the one I've sung to the most.”
What do you have in common with your character Melanie?
“A lot. I really identify with Melanie and this journey she goes on. I identify with where she starts, and then I aspire to be where she ends up. She is somebody who has really allowed self-doubt to be the driving force of her life. She's content to be on the sidelines a bit and is scared to put herself out there because she doesn't know if she is valuable or worthy enough to be in the game. So I really relate to that. It's hard to discover that courage within yourself, to own your worth and your strength, and put it out there. So I very much relate to that and getting to go on that arc and that journey as Mel, where she does discover that within herself at the encouragement of her best friend, who knows her better than anybody else in the world and sees her potential more than she does. Getting to go on that journey was really satisfying and healing for me, honestly.”
Often times when people are working on very serious movies, they joke around to lighten the mood on set in between takes. So when working on a comedy like this, do you try to depress each other in between takes to kind of balance out the mood?
“No, no. We went the full throttle jokes, laughter bits. It was like a non-stop party, honestly, and we were shooting in Oklahoma in the middle of July. It was so unbelievably hot, but I look back on that time, and it was one of the best experiences I've ever had. It was just such a party. And everybody on the crew, everybody in the cast, we just had this amazing group of people come together to make this movie. And everybody was so positive and into it and excited to be there. So it was just a blast.”
Cool. What about this film makes you the proudest?
“Oh, so much, so much. I mean, I'm just so honored that I got to play this role and that I got to play opposite Betsy Sodaro, who I love and have admired for many, many years, to get to play her best friend and get to be directed by Maureen Bharoocha, who is a director that I adore and believe in so much. I think she's so talented. It's just every aspect of this project I'm beyond proud of, and I can't wait for people to see it.”
How much of the dialogue is improvised?
“Well, I mean, Maureen filled the cast with all these great comedians and people who have improv experience. We were very much encouraged to come to each scene with the script and work off the script and work off each other and bring our own ideas to the table and play. So it's a lovely combination, I would say, of scripted moments and improvised moments. But I do think that there's something so valuable to bringing improv to a movie like this, because you want those moments with these two best friends to feel spontaneous and playful. You want that friendship to feel so alive and established, that there's this comfort with each other. So I think having Betsy and I improvise was a great way to do that, to like really show the dynamic between these two friends.”
Cool. So I'm going to kind of go back a little bit. Would you talk about how you got involved in this and what appealed to you about the role?
“Oh, yeah. Maureen, I've known for years and years. She sent me the script and said she was attached to direct it and that Betsy with attached to play Danny, and I've known Betsy for over a decade. We're both in the improv comedy scene in Los Angeles. I saw the script and knew Maureen was directing it, knew Betsy was going to be in it, and I was like, "I know that I'm going to love this." So I read it. Loved it so much. I thought the world was so fun and vibrant. The movie, itself, has this beautiful story at the heart, this love story between these two friends, and this journey of a woman who rediscovers her courage and her worth. I just, right away, was like, "This movie is going to be so much fun. I have to do it." So I really did everything I could to get the play Melanie, and I'm so honored that I got to.”
What are the most important tips to be a successful arm wrestler?
“Okay. The most important tips? I would say one of the biggest lessons I learned from Dot-Marie Jones was you have to get the jump, which means as soon as the ref lifts their hands, you position yourself so that you have your shoulder and the weight of your back behind your arm. It's called getting the jump, and you kind of lurch forward and move so that you you've got the power of your shoulder driving your arm. So it's not just your bicep strength. It's your whole back and shoulder that's helping you win the match.”
What's the best story you could share from set?
“Oh God! There's too many. All the scenes where Betsy and I were in the cab of a big rig, those were some of the most amazing moments because we were shooting in this actual big rig, which was amazing, but for sound, we had to have the AC off, so we were just sweltering in there, and at a certain point, we just fully leaned into the delirium of it. It just felt like this hilarious fever dream where we were joking with each other and improvising, discovering these moments. I would say that the days in the big rig were some of the hardest I've laughed on set.”
Do you think there'll be a blooper reel if or when they release a DVD/Blu-ray?
“I hope so. Maureen did say that they have something like 30 minutes of footage of us in that big rig just talking to each other. And she said, "Someday, I want it to be its own movie." So maybe there'll be something like that.”
So how many takes were required to get the balls/labia speech?
“One. No. We did a few takes of it, but I mean, Aparna was just such a pro. She just swooped in there, appeared from nowhere and then disappeared, and we never interacted with that character again. She was dressed as this sea witch, and so we had this joke when we were shooting that scene like it would be so funny if we're like, "Lab's out!" and then we turned and she's disappeared back to the sea like she was an actual sea witch. Yeah, we had a lot of fun with that.”
That scene was hilarious. And it's true. (Laughing)
“It's true; they're so strong! Come on!”
I had a great time laughing throughout my conversation with Mary Holland. If you want to laugh with her, too, check out GOLDEN ARM now available on Digital.