Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick talk A Simple Favour PLUS TRAILER

Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick in A Simple Favour.
Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick in A Simple Favour.

Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick turn to the dark side for the mystery thriller A Simple Favour, about two mums in a small town. They talk to Laura Harding about taking inspiration from 1940s films and why there still aren't enough juicy roles for women.

Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick are tucking into scones with cream and jam and giggling conspiratorially.

It doesn't matter to them at all that it's barely even time for lunch, let alone a decadent tea.

What flavour is the jam? "Raspberry, obviously," Kendrick replies. Is the cream clotted? "Yes of course, how dare you?" Lively scolds.

Make no mistake, these women know exactly what they are doing. And not just when it comes to morning snacks.

Their new film together, A Simple Favour, is a stylish suburban noir that centres around mummy vlogger Stephanie Smothers, played by Kendrick, who falls under the spell of another glamorous mother and then seeks to learn the truth when she mysteriously disappears.

If a darkly comic thriller about two mums sounds unusual, then that's because it is. Especially one directed by Paul Feig, the man responsible for Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy and Ghostbusters.

"I don't even know what films I would compare this to," Lively says between bites of scone, "because to me it's not really a thriller and it's not really a comedy.

"But what I loved about it is that it was like movies like What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? where the plot is very sinister and disturbing and full of twists but the characters are so over the top and fabulous.

"That happened in Hollywood back in the 1940s but not so much now and I think it's just time to do it again.

"Women have such layered, complicated, confusing relationships, so it's great to have a chance to really explore that in such an exciting thriller.

"We have different iterations of ourselves that we put out into the world - our social media 'personality' versus who we are at home, who we are at home versus who we are at work, etc.

"In this film, I think there's an interesting examination of that - who we are versus who we present ourselves to be.

"Women are nurtured to strive to maintain a certain level of perfection, whether outward or inward, but we are all imperfect and that's a conversation that's much more awesome to me than perfection."

Someone who has long been interested in the complexity and imperfection of women is Feig, who has always put actresses at the centre of his films, working repeatedly with stars including Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Rose Byrne.

"What is great about Paul is he is not 'stepping up' to make films about women, it's what he wants to do.

"I asked him about it when we were making this film, about what is it that draws him to stories about women and he said it's because he's seen all the stories about men.

"I mean there are always new stories to tell but, in his lifetime, he's mainly seen stories about men and so he's more interested in telling stories about women.

"He isn't doing it to be politically correct or different or because he feels he should. It's because he wants to, which is great."

And while Feig has become famous for his female-led comedies, he's venturing into a different genre for the first time while still keeping women front and centre.

"Women are often put in such specific boxes," he says. "This is the 'beatific wife' or this is the 'bossy bitch,' but in this film you might think Stephanie is the 'chirpy mum' you want to make fun of, but then you start realising maybe your perception isn't quite right.

"Stephanie has other sides to her and she's got all these secrets. I loved the idea that you're always having the rug pulled from under you."

Both Kendrick and Lively have been vocal about the need for change in Hollywood, particularly with the way those specific boxes can limit female characters.

Kendrick, who has enjoyed box office success with the Pitch Perfect films, said it is still unusual for her to work with women co-stars in her other projects.

"I have actually read a bunch of scripts in a row now where I was like, 'Was this written in 2016? Right on the cusp? Because some of this needs to change. I don't know if you guys noticed but there has been a cultural shift'."

Lively laughs in recognition: "I keep getting people telling me, 'Here's this great script, it's a male but we will gender flip it'.

"But I just ask why don't we just flip it now, why do we have to imagine you're going to flip it?

"The script is already written, but instead of rewriting it, they just say this person is now a woman.

"That is great because you want women to be as unlikeable as men, but there are differences in men and women. Let's do a little bit of rewriting."

Lively is frustrated the word "unlikeable" still haunts actresses.

"If you gave a woman Harrison Ford's line, it would be like, 'You can never say that, she's such a jerk' but if it's a man it's sort of charming and sexy.

"I just think we need to embrace being unlikeable, that is sort of what I've done.

"So I'm just going to carry on eating scones."

A Simple Favour is out in UK cinemas now.