Jillian Bell on ‘Brittany Runs a Marathon’: ‘This Was the Movie I Wanted to See When I Was 13’

Variety | 8/16/2019 | Angelique Jackson
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Jillian Bell takes the lead in “Brittany Runs a Marathon,” landing her first starring role in the Sundance hit.

“I feel very lucky and the project feels very special, very near and dear to my heart. We’re so proud of what we made,” Bell told Variety at the film’s premiere on Thursday night in Los Angeles. “I feel lucky even when I get to do a small part in anything and to have this be my first title lead role, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

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After stealing scenes in “22 Jump Street,” “Workaholics,” “The Night Before” and “Office Christmas Party,” Bell plays the titular character in the film, a young woman who finds herself prepping to run the New York City Marathon. Writer-director Paul Downs Colaizzo adapted the story from the true-life tale of his best friend, Brittany O’Neill.

“I just felt like I knew who she was. I hadn’t seen her in a movie before and I really desperately wanted to play her. This was the movie that I wanted to see when I was 13 years old,” Bell said.

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Would the 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Cast Run 26.2 Miles?

Her co-stars (including Michaela Watkins and Micah Stock) were similarly moved by the material. Lil Rel Howery (who plays Brittany’s brother-in-law and surrogate father, Demetrius) says the movie inspired him make some big changes in his life.

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“This movie made me not be ashamed if I can’t take the first step right away,” Howery said, revealing that he changed his diet and stopped drinking after getting involved in the film. “Anybody that’s looking to take a first step into whatever they want to change in their life, this movie is going to inspire you.”

Utkarsh Ambudkar added that he was encouraged after being cast as Bell’s on-screen love interest, Jern, describing the moment as “triumphant.”

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