My interview with the cast of Forgetting Sarah Marshall for PEOPLE magazine was interesting for more than one reason.
First, I got to interview the endearingly awkward Jason Segel, my favorite character on How I Met Your Mother.
Jason: Mind if I drink coffee while we chat?
Me: Not at all. I prefer you heavily caffeinated.
Jason: Yeah, like Russell Brand. We rewrote the movie for him, by the way. His character was meant to be a proper British author, almost like Great Gatsby-style, because we thought it would be funny to be intimidated by a real man. And he walked in the room, and honestly we thought it was a joke at first – that the casting director was playing a funny joke – but he came in and said (speaks in a British accent), “You’ll have to excuse me, man, I’ve only had a chance to take a cursory glance at your script. Perhaps you can tell me what it is that you require.”
And I thought, “this is it! This is the dude. He can’t be an author, but he can probably be the biggest rock star on the planet.”
And so we rewrote the script for him, and I think it made it a thousand times better.
Me: Do you have any good on-set stories with him?
Jason: He has been practicing yoga for sometime, and Kristen is pretty athletic as well. And Mila had no problem jumping into it, too. Every morning at 7 a.m. we would go to this yoga class, and I would fall over and I would sweat. And Kristen thought it was funny at first, then I really did distract everybody so I took a seat at the back of the class. But I feel like I tricked everybody. We were in Hawaii for four months filming a movie that I wrote.
Me: It’s the first you wrote, right?
Jason: It’s the first one that’s ever been made. I’ve been writing for a long time; Judd has been teaching me to write. And this is the first one that’s actually been made, so it’s a real honor to be honest with you.
Me: Is it based on a real-life experience? Did you have a Sarah Marshall in your past?
Jason: I’ve had a few. It’s an amalgamation of all these strange break-ups and relationships that I’ve had. I think one of my problems is that, you know, I had one woman who broke up with me while I was naked.
Me: Dare I assume what was going on at the time?
Jason: And that’s what the movie opens with – it opens with this naked break-up. While that actual break-up was happening, all I was thinking was “this is going to be great in a movie someday!”
Me: Does the girl know you wrote about her?
Jason: She’ll find out! (Ed. Note: Guess who’s regretting her decision now? Serves her right for breaking up with such a gem!)
Me: How does it feel to be part of Apatow’s gang?
Jason: It’s awesome, I mean we’ve been working together for 10 years now since Freaks & Geeks and so seeing us all come up together, I feel honored being part of it, I really I am. We used to fancy ourselves the underdogs and that really drove us, but now it’s a little weird because I don’t feel I’m such an underdog anymore. All those movies are doing so well, so hopefully we’ll stay funny. That’s the goal! I’m just going to try to keep doing my best.
And then it was all downhill from there…
Russell (in thick British brogue): That’s a lovely frock you’ve got on there.
Me: This old thing?
Russell: And the jewelry and boots and hair…you’re just the whole package. You must be single. Are you going out on the town afterward?
Me: Actually, that’s my boyfriend right over there (points to SVV, happily snapping away, embracing his first stab at being a pap).
Russell: Him? With the floppy do? He’s got lovely hair. And he looks quite sporty. You’d be much better to stay with him than run away with me.
Me: True… Anyway, moving on… Any insider stories from the set in Hawaii for me?
Russell: The whole ordeal was very much like, I imagine, being imprisoned by an evil regime. Say you got kidnapped by fairies or something and they thought, “well, right, we’ll break their spiri
ts” – it was a bit like that. You know there’s like turtles and stuff in Hawaii. The first day there, Jason Segel took a turtle out of the sea, killed it and wore its shell as a hat.
Me: I find that a little hard to believe. Segel wouldn’t hurt a fly!
Russell: That’s because you’re a cynical woman. Your cynicism will not serve you well. It was actually a lovely time, fun to be had by all. They were all very friendly. It was a little difficult to be in Hawaii after awhile, because no matter how beautiful a place is, if you’re there perpetually, it begins to feel like a prison. This room (gestures to concrete floors and cinder block walls) is perfectly manageable. Imagine you’re expected to stay for a month, how would you manage it?
Me: Who do you play in the film?
Russell: I play an English rockstar, who is detached from reality after years of drug abuse and cod spirituality.
Me: You get with Kristen Bell, right? That’s not too bad of a gig.
Russell: You say that but she’s actually a foul-smelling ogre woman, who I think might have the soul of a lizard.
Me: She seems like that. I was actually quite repulsed by her when she came my way.
Russell: She’s got the soul of a lizard. You might be aware that there are some theories, theories that I’m keen to espouse that people are in power – keep this to yourself – there’s a global conspiracy that these creatures are governing us all. Keep your eyes peeled, because I think she might actually be one of them. See how her eyes change color?
Me: Well, she is on Heroes, after all.
Russell: Well, what further prove do you need? Why are we still here? Why isn’t somebody making a citizen’s arrest? It’s a mystery.
Me: So you had to snuggle up to her while filming? That must have been hard.
Russell: Snuggle up to her, pretend to have it off with her, have my prize-winning genitals next to her genitals, which are frankly ruinous – and in that proximity.
Me: What’s up next for you?
Russell: OK, listen to this: I’m making a film with Adam Sandler, a Disney film, a pretty big one, coming out Christmas called Bedtime Stories. After that, I’m doing another one with Judd Apatow. Right, that’s good, isn’t it, because he’s brilliant. Also, I’m making a movie with an English director Michael Winterbottom, who made A Mighty Heart with Angelina Jolie, he’s a genius. It’s actually my autobiography that we’re filming, in which I play…myself. So, perfect!
Me: When are you filming that?
Russell: Oh, I don’t know, when I finish all these other things. I’ve got to write the bloody thing first. You’ve got to concentrate writing films, and that gives me a headache! Plus, doing my stand-up, plus doing my radio show, plus doing my column for The Guardian, I’m under enormous pressure!
Me: It’s tough being you.
Russell: Well, it ain’t easy. But then there are a few precious moments in your company and it’s all worthwhile.
Me: How have you liked working with Apatow?
Russell: It’s lovely. All charming people. Nice guy, just wanting to have a laugh. It’s good. I feel very fortunate that my first foray into American film is with such a talented group of people.
Me: Are you going to try to weasel yourself into his little gang?
Russell: I’m doing another film with him, so…but I’ll actually always be an English outcast in the gang, often the subject of teasing and sometimes chapped with things.
Me: Well, every gang needs an outcast, so you’re just playing another role.
Russell: Yeah, I suppose I am!
Russell: By the way, if you’re not doing anything after this, I’d be happy to take you behind the curtain and snog you…