It’s not everyday one can say that they have gone from working with J. Jonah Jameson, to trying to kill the Power Rangers, but Elizabeth Banks can.
One of America’s most versatile comedic performers, the Massachusetts-born Banks has done it all, from being a part of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies to helping bring The Barden Bellas to the screen, to producing and subsequently directing the Pitch Perfect sequel; not to mention showing a touch of horror with the very much against type The Uninvited, as well as a number of serious, dramatic performances.
Banks was born Elizabeth Mitchell, but opted to change her name so as not to confuse audiences with the future Lost star who had the same name. Looking at Banks’ filmography shows a clear knack for comedy, but one who also has a list of credits containing other projects indicating a versatility for drama.
Beginning her career on the daytime television circuit, Banks appeared in an episode of famed American day time soap All My Children before quickly graduating to prime time television with roles in John Wells’ acclaimed drama Third Watch and famed HBO comedy Sex and the City, not to mention Without a Trace and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.
Movies were next, and while not becoming a success right out of the gate, Wet Hot American Summer became a cult smash on DVD despite barely making a dent in movie theatres in 2001. Thanks to a large cast who went on to higher profiles, it became such a firm cult favourite that Netflix brought it back twice in the form of a television series, with Wet Hot American Summer:First Day of Camp in 2015 (a prequel filmed long after the original, meaning everyone looked older, but played younger) and Wet Hot American Summer:Ten Years Later in 2017.
Like a lot of comedic actors and actresses in the US, Banks has had no problem crossing over between the big and small screens, appearing in Modern Family, 30 Rock and doing voice work for American Dad, while also appearing in movies like the Spider-Man series, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Role Models and Definitely, Maybe.
Although it would be easy to categorise her as a comedy actress, amazingly there are more serious works in her list of credits than one might think; she did after all play Laura Bush in W. as well as gaining acclaim for her four appearances as Effie Trinket in The Hunger Games series, a character and performance that became more nuanced and complex as the series goes on.
In 2012 she appeared in Pitch Perfect, but on top of her scene stealing work with John Michael Higgins, she also produced, before taking the reins as director for its incredibly successful sequel.
Most recently she appeared as Rita Repulsa in the reboot of the Power Rangers, a film which gained good notices from some critics, but was not the massive commercial success that was expected of it.
As for the future, one of her scheduled pieces of work will see her go back behind the camera to bring a new version of Charlie’s Angels to the screen. Given the success of Pitch Perfect, in line with her other success in comedy and drama, and her ability to direct a successful female-centred comedy, it could be a project perfect for her sensibilities, while once again showing how versatile a talent she really is.