Jason Guerrasio/Jason Segel Q&AIt’s hard not to root for the Judd
Apatow Clan. Whether it’s Seth Rogen, who became the new face of
comedy overnight with the success of Knocked Up, or journeyman
Paul Rudd, who after years of trudging through romantic comedies is
at the height of his popularity thanks to supporting roles in The
40-Year-Old Virgin and Anchormanoutcasts and now they’re the most sought after talents in
Hollywood’s comedic fraternity.Jason Guerrasio/Jason Segel Q&Aunder the radar is Jason Segel. Although he was the lead in the
moderately successful Forgetting Sarah Marshall and is on
television every week in CBS’ How I Met Your Motherhas not received the career-changing attention that Rogen, Rudd or
Jonah Hill have all enjoyed. But that could all change with I Love
You, Man, which opened Friday.
Co-written and directed by Along
Came Polly's John
Hamburg, I Love You, Man stars Rudd as Peter Klaven, a man who
has recently proposed to his girlfriend (The Office’s
Rashida Jones), but is also lacking guy friends, forcing him into a
search for a best man. After enduring some hilarious and horrible
“man dates” he comes across Segel’s Sydney Fife, a disheveled
bachelor who gradually becomes such close friends with Peter (they
spend a lot of time in Sydney’s “man cave” rocking out to Rush
songs) that it could ruin his potential marriage. With his lovable,
puppy-dog demeanor and sharp wit, Segel elevates the movie, instantly
grabbing the audience's collective heart and becoming its emotional
Paste caught up with Segel hours
before premiering I Love You, Manjuggling TV and movies, and his love of the Muppets.
Paste: How’s Austin?Jason Segel: It’s great. I
came last year for Sarah Marshall but we only got to come for
two hours, so this is the first time I’ll get to spend some time
here. We literally flew in, drove to the theater and I introduced the
movie. We didn’t stay to watch; we just drove back to the airport.
Jason Guerrasio/Jason Segel Q&APaste: So at least this
time you get some barbecue.Segel: That’s the plan.
Paste: How did you get
approached for I Love You, Man?Segel: director, John Hamburg. He sent Paul Rudd and I the script and we
read it and we both loved it. We took a lunch meeting, a three-way
man date, and Hamburg told us his thoughts for the movie and it just
sounded great and we sealed the deal over lunch.
Paste: Did the Sydney
character change much from page to screen?Segel: You know what, it didn’t.
John’s script was just so tightly honed, I mean, we’re used to
doing a lot of improv and really creating a lot of our characters
from scratch and this was different. There were moments where we
improved and added things, and John was certainly open to it, but it
wasn’t needed as much.
Paste: What are the keys
to good improvisation?Segel: I think the big key is
not trying to be funny. I think that is the big pitfall when people
are improving is that they are thinking every line they say needs to
be a zinger, but that’s not how people talk. One of the things
we’ve learned is pacing and it’s just as valuable and I think
that’s why Rudd and I get along well because there’s a real trust
between us and we know that we’re both comfortable being the
straight man and letting the other guy get the laugh. I think part of
being a good improv-er is being willing to do the set up lines as
much as the punch lines.
Paste: A lot of people
describe this as “the bromance movie,” but at its core it’s
really about the loss of youth. Both characters are in their 30s,
and, in Peter’s case, he hasn’t had any guy friends, and for the
Sydney character, all the guy friends he had have moved on to
marriages. Did you talk about these things when developing the
characters?Segel: I did. The movie is about
two guys who are on the opposite sides of the spectrum and we learn
to meet in the middle. Paul’s character has never been comfortable
and never really seen the value in guy friends and my character is
the polar opposite of having only had guy friends and not been
interested in monogamy at all. I feel part of the buddy comedy is
what are these guys learning from each other and that’s the big
question: What’s the story for each of them? And I think I teach
Paul the value of having male friendship in your life and Paul
teaches me the value of growing up a little bit.
Paste: You and Paul have
big cult followings, but do you like that you don’t have to carry a
movie?Segel: I’ve always been
comfortable being the underdog. I think I got that feeling during
Freaks and Geeks, where our ratings were terrible and the show
was canceled after our first season, but we all felt we had done
something really special. That’s a really nice way to feel because
you can always go up from there. When you start to feel like you’re
the shit, things can go wrong.
Paste: When choosing
roles do you purposely try to stray from movies where you’d be the
face of a film?Segel: I fancy myself a
character actor, so for me the main thing in choosing a part, and I
only get to do one movie a year because of my TV show, so for me
choosing my parts is really based on trying to do something I haven’t
done before. I hadn’t done a character like this. I sort of played
a puppy dog in Sarah Marshall and I play kind of a whipped
husband on How I Met Your Mother and I played a real sleaze
ball in Knocked Up, so for me, diversity is what interested
Paste: When you were
shooting this, were you on a break from How I Met Your Mother?Segel: Oh, I was doing days on
the TV show and nights on the movie. It was insane, dude.
Jason Guerrasio/Jason Segel Q&APaste: I’m sure the TV
show is a nice safety blanket, but in a situation like this, it can
get hard to juggle both, building your career in film while staying
committed to a show.Segel: Yeah, it does. It’s
very tricky because all of a sudden you have an opportunity and the
impatient little boy in you wants to just do every movie that’s
offered to you. It’s actually maybe a blessing in disguise that I
only get to do one a year because it forces me to choose really
carefully. As opposed to coming out in six movies and three of them
are good, I try to do one that really lands every time.
Paste: That’s probably
a problem you welcome, seeing there was a time in you career when you
couldn’t get any work.Segel: Absolutely.
Paste: did Judd Apatow keep your spirits up?Segel: Yeah. One of the things
that he did, which I’m so thankful for, is he taught me how to
write. He said, “Listen, the only way you’re going to make it is
if you start writing your own material because you’re not going to
get cast as the lead in movies; that’s just not going to happen.”
So he literally took me over to his house for a weekend and showed me
how to write a script and it was the kindest act of mentoring I’ve
Paste: And with that you
not only penned Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but one of your pet
projects has been getting a Muppets movie off the ground?Segel: Yes. The script is done.
Disney has it and we’re just waiting to hear how they want to
proceed. It’s a big decision for them to relaunch a franchise, so I
think they’re just trying to plot their next move carefully.
Paste: But this isn’t
like what the recent Muppet movies have been; you want to take it
back to its roots, like The Muppet Movie and The Great
Muppet Caper.Segel: them. The Muppets have taken a strange turn with these parody movies
like The Muppets Do Dickensthings that takes for granted is that kids know who the Muppets are.
It’s not fun for the Muppets to do Treasure Island if you don’t
know who the Muppet are, so my pitch to Disney was to reintroduce the
Muppets, [make] a movie that is a real throwback to those early
Paste: Before you go, I
just need to ask what all of you think of the “bromance” phrase
being pegged to this film. Have you had enough?Segel: Oh, we all hate the
phrase so much. When we were doing this movie that phrase wasn’t
around, and then suddenly it just showed up. Everyone asks if this is
a bromance, and what I say is there’s no word that can capture
what’s going on between me and Paul Rudd; it’s beyond language.