Jason Segel breaks down his comic method while praising the proximity of Judd Apatow's Laker seats.
With a hit show on TV (How I Met Your Mother) and a longstanding player in the Judd Apatow, comic fraternity (Freaks and Geeks, Knocked Up, etc.), Jason Segel seems like he could sit back comfortably and work for the rest his life based on the comic chops he's already displayed as an actor.
However, Segel is also a writer and he's written the screenplay (in which he also stars) for Forgetting Sarah Marshall, that the aforementioned Apatow is also producing. The film centers around Peter Bretter (Segel) and his attempts to get over being dumped by the title character played by Kristen Bell.
Jason Segel: How's it going, dudes?
Good. How are you?
Jason Segel: I'm good. I'm a little tired. I work everyday and its been almost three months now. The end is in sight, there's only two weeks left, so...
What time were you here today?
Jason Segel: Today wasn't so bad, I got picked up at 7am . That wasn't too bad. Usually it's like a 5:45am pickup.
No one should be up...
Jason Segel: No! I'm not a good sleeper either because I'm thinking about the stuff we have to shoot the next day, or doing a little rewrite so I'm up until 2 every night. I don't know how I've been doing it? Luckily, I'm a mess in the movie so it translates okay.
Is it harder to be funny in the morning?
Jason Segel: You know, it's weird because you kind of get into this loopy state where you say a lot of funny things. It might not make sense or be applicable to what you're shooting (laughs), but funny stuff comes out of your mouth our of sheer exhaustion.
Is this screenplay drawn from anything in your personal life?
Jason Segel: A little bit. It's sort of an amalgam of a lot of interesting and failed relationships that I've had. I've found pain to be a very interesting topic. It was really fun to write this and I got very lucky. I was at a Laker game with Judd and Judd said, "Yeah, I can get a movie made now, if you have any ideas you should let me know." I pitched him this idea, that was around the Second Quarter and by the Forth Quarter we were riffing back and forth. He said, "Do me a favor, write up an outline and send it to me tomorrow." So I went home and I did and I worked all night, I sent him an outline. That was on a Friday and I think Monday contracts arrived from Universal. That's the power of Judd Apatow.
Things have changed since Freaks and Geeks?
Jason Segel: Man! It's getting harder to play up this underdog role at this point when Judd is producing 25 movies at a time.
He said he's expecting a backlash at like any moment...
Jason Segel: I'm just hoping it's not this movie. One of us going to end up being the iceberg that sinks the Titanic and I'm just praying it's not this one.
We love what we were seeing today...
Jason Segel: Well, you throw a lot against the wall and see what sticks. It's fun. It's fun to be able to be loose. Judd's system has kind of been honed over the past 10 years. It really works. You shoot the script and then you hire talented, funny people and you sort of trust that that's why you've hired them and let go. Between Mila (Kunis) and Kristen Bell and Russell Brand it's... people ask, "Is it a dream come true to hear your words read by an actor?" And the dream come true has been to hear my lines improved by the other actor. That's what is the coolest thing. This guy Russell is going to be a huge star, too. He's just unreal.
How did you get him?
Jason Segel: We had sort of a last minute casting issue and we needed to find this lead role. So we opened it up to anyone to come in. It was originally written to be a British author, so we said, "They don't need to be British. They just need to be charming and good looking." People started coming in, Russell walks in... and he looks like Mick Jagger and he's got this big, flowing hair. The first weirds out his mouth when he walked into the room were, "You'll have to forgive me. I've only had a chance to take a cursory glance at your script. Perhaps you should tell me what it is you'll require?"
Nick (Stoller; the Director) and l locked eyes and were like, "That's the dude. We'll rewrite it, that is the dude." So we rewrote it to be a rock star and he's just perfect. He's got this swagger, it's a swagger combined with a, sort of, disconnect from reality. I think his opening line in the movie as he walks in holding one sandal is, "I've lost me sandal. If anybody sees me sandal, just send it to the room." That's just him, improving. He's really funny.
You and the director seem to have a good shorthand?
Jason Segel: Yeah, we've been friends for 10 years. He wrote all my Undeclared episodes. That's where our joined love for tragedy and dating kind of formed.
Is this character kind of an extension...
Jason Segel: It is a tiny bit. He's a different kind of guy. He's got like a different center but it's the same subject matter of desperation and just feeling like you're drowning.
Have you found yourself getting precious about any dialogue at all?
Jason Segel: No, this whole little fraternity is about collaboration, that's why it works, you know? I did a little part in Knocked Up. Jonah Hill came and did a little part in this. He has Superbad coming out where he's the lead. Paul Rudd did a little part in this. We all just trust that each other are funny and feel grateful that other people are working on your movie that you wrote alone in your apartment.
One of my friends was on the set when Kristen Wiig was doing a scene. He said it was like an event...
Jason Segel: Oh, totally. She was so funny and it was a pretty funny scene in general. It was a yoga scene where she plays a yoga instructor. Kristen Bell and Russell Brand who both, in real life, are excellent at yoga. They're characters are both excellent at yoga. I've never done yoga. I hadn't done yoga in life or my character in the movie. I also played the scene drunk, so it's a drunk guy who doesn't know how to do yoga in an expert yoga class. That was pretty funny. Kristen Wiig is just a comic genius.
Are you going to keep writing screenplays?
Jason Segel: Yeah. This is the third that I've written. The first to be produced but I have a couple others. I sold one when I was 20 and I have another set up now. I'm gonna write another one for Judd soon, I hope. If he'll have me.
Do you want to step away from the acting part of it?
Jason Segel: Nah, I like to write stuff for myself. It's fun. For my friends, too. I don't think I always need to be the lead in the stuff I'm writing, it's hard enough to get acting jobs. I might as well try and combine them.
How good are Judd's Laker seats?
Jason Segel: They are as good a seats as you could possibly imagine. (Laughs) Better than courtside.
They're actually under the court.
Jason Segel: You know what? I can't talk about Judd's Laker seats.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall comes to theaters May 30, 2008 from Universal Pictures.