Cobie Smulders can do funny: nine seasons on the sitcom How I Met Your Mother has proven that. And she can do cool as a cucumber: her S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Maria Hill is a formidable no-nonsense, gun-toting ally in The Avengers. Now the 31-year-old actor has set her sights on a three-pronged challenge: pulling off a marquee role, bettering a hugely successful film and playing straight man to perpetual man-child Vince Vaughn.
“I saw Starbuck and wondered how anybody could improve on it,” says Smulders. Under normal circumstances, this is the kind of comment that’s easily dismissed as lip service from an actor appearing in a big-budget remake of a foreign-language film. Delivery Man, however, isn’t your average remake-and Smulders isn’t your average Hollywood star. For one, she’s from Vancouver and fluent in French, making her flattery of Québécois writer-director Ken Scott and his 2011 hit comedy seem entirely genuine. Steven Spielberg clearly liked Starbuck, too, so much so that he bought the rights to remake the film under the Dreamworks umbrella and asked Scott to helm the reboot set in New York City.
Delivery Man follows the Starbuck trajectory: a textbook Peter Pan balks when he finds out that not only is his police officer girlfriend Emma (Smulders) pregnant, but he also fathered 533 biological children in his sperm donor days. When 142 of his now-grown progeny take legal action to meet Dad, the chronic underachiever must grow up. It’s The Brady Bunch for the artificial-insemination generation.
Smulders has a lot riding on the success of Delivery Man. With How I Met Your Mother set to wrap this spring, she’s in a position reminiscent of Jennifer Aniston’s during the final season of Friends. A beloved member of one of TV’s most beloved casts, Smulders has yet to find out if her sweet-meets-sultry good looks, sharp comic timing and goofy charm can secure her leading-lady status.
A former model, she was an unknown quantity when cast as Robin Scherbatsky, the potential great love of How I Met Your Mother‘s protagonist, but a willingness to do anything for a laugh secured her the audience’s affections. One of the show’s longest running jokes, that Robin is a former Canadian teen pop sensation in the vein of Alanis Morissette, has seen a bedazzled Smulders performing in a string of so-bad-they’re-awesome music videos and stalking Paul Shaffer. “I think Canadians have the ability to laugh at themselves,” says Smulders, who has also won over Saturday Night Live funnyman Taran Killam, her husband.
Smulders has one very influential fan in her corner for Round 2 of her career: The Avengers director and nerd hero Joss Whedon. In 2012, Smulders signed on to appear in multiple film adaptations of The Avengers series. “I thought, I’ll sign on forever if I can just be in this movie with Joss Whedon directing.” The two may well collaborate again on 2015’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron, having already reunited on the pilot of Whedon’s television spinoff, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
If Smulders turns out to be Whedon’s latest muse, then the sky’s the limit for her career. She was rumoured to be his pick to play Wonder Woman, one of the most sought-after superhero roles in Hollywood. “Joss was at one point writing and developing a Wonder Woman script that fell through,” she says. “He joked, ‘I would have Cobie Smulders be Wonder Woman,’ which, by the way, would be amazing.” Smulders might not be donning the Wonder Woman cape any time soon, but she’s definitely taking flight.