I Love You, Man is a tsunami whirlwind of chaotic improv on set. Director John Hamburg, responsible for the cult hit Safe Men and the hugely successful Ben Stiller film Along Came Polly (don't argue the fact, it debuted at number one and stayed in the charts for weeks with a worldwide box office take of $171 million) has assembled a comedy all-star team that is more powerful than the 1992 United States Olympic Basketball Dream Team with this, his latest laugh-a-minute project. Members of SNL, Human Giant, The State, and Upright Citizens Brigade have assembled like the Justice League to give support to this "bro-mantic" behemoth being headline by improv's most handsomest and hilarious gentleman Paul Rudd and his buddy, cock show-off and Freaks and Geeks alum Jason Segel.
The premise behind I Love You, Man sounds like an untapped comedy goldmine. Its high concept idea of "dude love" is on par with this summer's Step Brothers, a film that most test screening audiences have called a "classic in the waiting". Here, the sensitive, Emo-centric Peter finds himself distraught on the eve of his proposal to longtime ladylove Shandi Dawson (played by Q's smoking hot daughter and The Office cast-off Rashida Jones). Pete has spent his entire life devoting himself to his romantic relationships, and now finds that he has no male friends. Thus, he sets out on a series of "Man Dates" to find his Best Man, which eventually leads him to Dave Negal, played by the always-affable Jason Segel. Segel described Negal as "Fifty percent Russell Brand and fifty percent my own loquacious brother." Rashida Jones went on to describe the guy as "not necessarily the friend you would wish up for your husband."
On Tuesday morning, we headed over to Paramount Studios to check in on this hardworking group of comedic actors and see just exactly what they were up to. Upon arriving at Stage Six, we found ourselves being stalked by none other than Andy Samberg. The SNL digital short super star and Hot Rod alum is appearing as Rudd's gay brother Ryan, a guy that only dates straight men and helps Peter to find his new male buddy. Throughout the day, Samberg would turn into a real pest, showing his age at about six years old. Obviously attention starved, the young comedic actor would go on to interrupt and join nearly every single interview that was conducted on the lot. Funny? Yes. Annoying? That, too. He quietly snuck away from our group to be fitted for his tuxedo.
A bazillion extras were waiting outside the giant barn door of Stage Six when we arrived. Director John Hamburg would be shooting the climactic Wedding Finale on this day, and it certainly felt as though we were truly attending the nuptials. Everyone was decked out in wedding attire. Rashida Jones, the ravishing bride, wore an elegant, yet simple dress. Three yellow flowers in her hair, she waited along with the extras, and it reminded me of an early morning sale at a convenient store. Everybody waiting for the doors to open.
J.K. Simmons, best known for his role on HBO's Oz as well as his role as J. Jonah Jamison in all three Spider-Man movies, crept into the crowd wearing a white T-shirt and sweat pants. He quickly hit the craft service table, nabbing a couple of vegetables to get his day started. In the film, he plays Paul Rudd and Andy Samberg's dad. Jane Curtain is playing the wife and mother, but she had yet to arrive at this time.
We were soon ushered into the back of the stage and through the set. Inside, the place looked like your average everyday white wedding. Numerous tables were set up complete with prop cake, prop champagne, and prop flowers. Extras and on-screen family members milled about in front of a stage where the camera crew was set up. The band OK, Go! stood, ready to perform under the moniker Taste Like Chicken. This is the wedding reception band that both Jason Segel and Paul Rudd would soon be joining on stage.
Our unit publicist described how the day would go down. One take would be off the script, and then director John Hamberg would run through a few more multiple takes to allow the actors hefty room for improving. And, in a style similar to both Adam McKay and Judd Apatow, Hamburg is prone to throwing out lines to the comedic performers while they are in the middle of acting out a scene. This meant that a simple one-line take could last for up to four hours. On a good day. As Hamburg tells it, "Ninety-eight percent of it is unusable. I think only two percent of it is workable. No. Definitely people laugh a lot on the set. The actors always feel bad about laughing during a take. But I love it. It means that you are having a good time and you are enjoying yourself. There is nothing wrong with laughter."
Right off the bat, we didn't see too many jokes being thrown around. Hamburg was gearing up to shoot the band's one big musical number, a hipster rendition of the Chicken Song. At the center table, Jason Segel sat fiddling with his Blackberry. Rudd, seated at Segel's side, was led to the center of the dance floor by his director. Hamburg explained, "Paul, this is where you will be finishing up your speech." Segel put away his phone and joined Rudd's side. There, Jason hugged his on-screen buddy. Tight. This prompted Paul to loudly state, "Hold me! Hang on and feel the friendship!" The emotion is too much for the two men. Rudd pulled away, throwing his fist in the air, "Let's Dance!"
With that, OK, Go! lead singer Damian Kulash broke into song with, "Taste like chicken, taste like love! Do the chicken!" As the band played out this rousing hard rock polka, Segel went back to his seat at the center table and once again began playing with his Blackberry. He seemed to be a man obsessed. The cameras were now solely focused on the band, as they changed up the tempo and started singing, "Go Lou Ferrigno! Lou Ferrigno! Lou Ferrigno!" That's right, Lou Ferrigno is also in this movie, playing himself. Apparently, he busts out some mind-blowing dance moves on the floor in what he would later call his Dancing with the Stars audition. His superior high kicks and finger wags were missed by us, as they were all shot the day before. Which kind of bummed me out. I would have loved to see Ferrigno dancing with J.K. Simmons to the Chicken Song. Talk about a dip on the shallow side of the LSD hallucinogenic pool.
The song was played just one time. Seeing no room for any improvisation, Hamburg called it good. Next up, Jason and Paul came on the stage to perform their Wedding Day RUSH number, Limelight. Both actors started lip-syncing to an audio track that they had laid down the day before. So we were hearing their actual singing voices. Backed by OK, Go! (aka Taste Like Chicken), the two men rocked out hard to their "Dude Lover" bonding tune. It is very funny, yet it almost looks like something that will be running over end credits. We are assured that it is not. After rocking out for four minutes straight, a break is called. Rudd went back to look at the monitor while Segel stayed on the stage to get his hair and make-up done. A pair of hairdryers remained aimed at his head up until they were ready to go again.
This time out, Jason waves the neck of his guitar over the wedding crowd, which consists of numerous bride's maids dressed in canary yellow. He starts to work it like a cock just as Rashida Jones joins them both on stage for a duet. After the song is sung through a second time, Jason points to the girls in the front row, "I'm sorry if I dripped mojo on you women in the front! Whoa, I don't think that was all mojo! You are all pregnant now." He points to one cutie in particular, "Especially you!" Rudd pats Jason on the back. The trio on stage is all smiles. Segel closes in on the microphone, "Being the best man, this is where I would like to give a toast!" With that, Rudd backs the man away from the microphone with a resounding, "No!"
"Cut!" is called on the scene. While the cameras set up for the reverse shot, we headed outside to do some interviews and mill about with the extras. In the crowd, I noticed a tuxedoed Thomas Lennon listening to his Ipod. Best known as Lt. Jim Dangle on Comedy Central's Reno 911!, Lennon is playing Doug, one of Paul Rudd's many Man Dates gone wrong. Next to him was Joe Lo Truglio, a member of the The State and the man responsible for hitting Jonah Hill with his car in Superbad. He, too, is playing one of Rudd's Man Dates. What these guys are doing at the wedding party is anybody's guest.
Huddled in our own little circle, we were soon met by Jon Favreau, hot off his Iron Man success. He is taking a break from his behind the scenes duties to play a small supporting role in "I Love You, Man". He is the Maid of Honor's husband, and she is being played by Jamie Priestley. Here is what he had to say about being in the film:
Jon Favreau: Yeah, it was pretty interesting. I am definitely a supporting character and this is a big ensemble comedy. There is a lot of sitting around in your little trailer. It was like right after Iron Man and I'm on it, and everybody was like 'Why are you here?' I said to Robert [Downy Jr.] 'It's really weird to go from directing a big, big movie, and going around the world with you for three weeks, and having the red carpet rolled out for us all across Europe, Asia, Australia, and then you come back. You are sitting in your little trailer doing a little comedy.' He says 'It's the best thing you could do. Chop wood and carry water.' It's very easy to lose your bearings when something very wonderful happens, or when something really devastating happens. It tends to throw your whole life off. I know when I've experienced that in the past it throws you off. You lose your bearings. It was very nice to come here and work for a director like John Hamburg, who is a really good guy, and it's a really great ensemble of performers. It was great just to be able to dive into something where all I had to worry about was being funny, knowing my lines, and being a good scene partner.
What makes you a good Alpha Male?
Jon Favreau: In this movie? I don't know. I think there is a little bit of that in all of us and you just play that out. Paul Rudd plays a guy who is very sensitive, so it's very fun to play the opposite of him, and just make his life a living hell.
Are you getting in any bar brawls in this?
Jon Favreau: No, I'm not that kind of Alpha Male. I'm just more like a shitty, insensitive, angry person. The real key is to just be a guy who lets anger dictate their inner thoughts. If you just find things to be angry about it's very easy to be an asshole. That's my key to the character.
Next up for a chat was bodybuilding legend Lou Ferrigno, who was also hyped about his upcoming participation in another comic book feature The Incredible Hulk. Here is what he had to say about his participation in I Love You, Man:
Are you playing yourself in this one?
Lou Ferrigno: Yes. That is correct. It is another version of me. This is a great romantic comedy. It is completely different. It is a movie you have never seen before, because it deals with a lot of sexuality. The director is banging the max out of everyone. We get a chance to see so many funny scenes, because we have so many funny characters. My storyline has to do with the selling of my house. It had to do with the whole concept of the other characters respect for me, and how I interact with the other characters. It is extremely funny.
And you get in a fight with Jason Segel?
Lou Ferrigno: Yeah.
Do you kick his ass.
Lou Ferrigno: Looks pretty obvious, I do think.
Are you going to be doing some dance moves in this? We heard the wedding band singing a song about you.
Lou Ferrigno: Yeah. We filmed the dancing yesterday. It will be whatever they put in the film. Everybody is going to be dancing.
Are you a pretty good dancer?
Lou Ferrigno: Yes.
What about doing the comedy?
Lou Ferrigno: I love doing comedy. I did comedy for seven years on The King of Queens. I'm excited about doing this, because you are going to see a different version and side of me that you've never seen before. Also, I have always had an ambition to do Dancing with the Stars. I think this movie is going to put me on the map. We have a lot of beautiful brides maids dancing. We have this whole group dancing. When you have that much excitement, you never know what is going to come out of it. Plus, everyone is cheering, "Come on! Come on! Come on!" They want you to go, go, go! It can get out of hand. It was a good thing that there were a few gurneys here last night. They had to take someone to the hospital. There was a guy in there that is eight-four years old, and he was in there dancing too.
Next up, Joe Lo Truglio joined us for a few words about his supporting character High-Pitched Guy:
How goes it?
Joe Lo Truglio: It goes very well. I'm a little sore; there's been a lot of dancing going on with the big wedding scene. But it's going very well.
Your character has a high-pitched voice?
Joe Lo Truglio: Yeah, my character is "High Voice Guy". I think I do have a name; I discovered a little nametag at the wedding on the table. (Laughter) But "High Voice Guy" has a really high voice, and it's not really explained why - which I like. He's just one of those guys who, when he starts talking, you just have to kind of cringe. You do have to cringe. There's no "kind of".
Can you do it for us.
Joe Lo Truglio: (In falsetto) Oh, it's way up here. It's way up here. It's way up here, and he goes to Galaxy games and tells them to pass the goddamned ball, and stuff like that. And a lot of the people [at the game] were not happy with me screaming. (Regular voice) For literally an hour-and-a-half. We went to an actual [Los Angeles] Galaxy game, and it was a lot of fun, but a majority of the people there didn't know I was doing a character. They weren't that thrilled with this guy who couldn't stop screaming like that.
So you were hoping you weren't going to get your ass kicked in the parking lot.
Joe Lo Truglio: Exactly. I had to kinda rush to my car and drive away quickly.
Who's the better dancer: you or Ferrigno?
Joe Lo Truglio: Ferrigno. Now, what answer did you think I would give to that question if he was reading this? (Laughter) In all seriousness, that's been one of the biggest thrills of working on this, because I loved The Incredible Hulk. It was on right around the time when I was not able to go out on Friday nights back in '78. I grew up on him, and it was a thrill meeting him and working with him.
Has anyone shown up in Hulk-green makeup.
Joe Lo Truglio: Not yet. I was thinking about it, but I didn't want to make him angry. You know the deal.
The high voice character was written into the script? It wasn't a character you'd come up with before?
Joe Lo Truglio: No, John had written that in there. I just took a shot at it, and managed to keep it up there without blowing anyone's ear drums out or my voice box out. I managed to keep it going.
How does he get invited to the wedding?
Joe Lo Truglio: In the movie, Paul plays a character who doesn't have any male friends, and so his brother Andy Samberg starts setting him up on "man-dates" with guys from his gym. And I'm one of those guys. I'm that guy who goes to the gym, like, seven days a week, but only works out maybe two minutes a day. He mostly walks around with his weight belt and goes, (in high voice) "What's up? You need a spot? I can totally spot you. Give it everything you've got!"
Is he gay?
Joe Lo Truglio: (Laughs) He's not. He's straight, but it's questionable. I will say that. It's ambiguous as the film goes on.
So all the guys he goes on man-dates with get invited to the wedding?
Joe Lo Truglio: Yeah, he ends up getting invited to the wedding. He ends up, in some strange way, "friends" with them. Paul doesn't have anyone, so these guys, even though they're not the most interesting people or dates to have, they come to the wedding anyway.