Jason Segel Interview, Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Segel leads the cast as Peter Bretter, a struggling musician who has spent nearly six years idolizing his girlfriend, television star Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell/TV’s Veronica Mars, Heroes). He's the guy left holding her purse in paparazzi photos and accidentally omitted from acceptance award speeches. But Peter’s world is rocked when she dumps him and he finds himself alone. After an unsuccessful bout of womanizing and an on-the-job nervous breakdown, he believes that not having Sarah in his life may ruin it forever.

To clear his head, Peter takes an impulsive trip to Oahu, where he is confronted by his worst nightmare: his ex and her tragically hip new British-rocker boyfriend, Aldous Snow (Russell Brand, St. Trinian’s, Penelope), are sharing his luxury hotel. But as he torments himself with the reality of Sarah's new life, he finds relief in a flirtation with Rachel (Mila Kunis, TV’s That ‘70s Show, Family Guy), a beautiful resort employee whose laid-back approach tempts him to rejoin the world of the living. He also finds relief in several hundred fruity cocktails.

Jason Segel is a fabulous guy and we really appreciated his time. Here’s what he had to tell us about his new movie:

MoviesOnline: What was it like with Russell Brand? I heard that you had a different kind of character in mind more like a Hugh Grant type.

JASON SEGEL: I did. Yeah, the original script was like a proper British author. Almost like-- I pictured him like The Great Gatsby. And in walked Russell for the first audition, dressed almost exactly as he is today, with more eyeliner and this swagger. And the guy has the audacity to look at me and say, "You'll have to forgive me, mate. I've only had a chance to take a cursory glance at your little script. Perhaps you should tell me what it is you require." And instantly I knew I was rewriting this movie for Russell Brand. There's no way that you don't use that guy when he walks into your room, you know? But it was actually truly, truly fortuitous. Because it opened up the movie in that now he was a rock star. So not only did he have the woman of my dreams, he also had the career of my dreams, as a character. So he was literally the man that I wish I had become now dating my girlfriend. Of course she would want him over me. It almost seems impossible to get her back.

MoviesOnline: What and where would be your escape of choice after a break-up?

JASON SEGEL: Well, mine was Hawaii.

MoviesOnline: It really was?

JASON SEGEL: Yeah, I always go to Hawaii. I've gone there since I was a little kid. I just love it.

MoviesOnline: Different places?

JASON SEGEL: I used to go to the Grand Wailea in Maui but now I think I'll be returning back to Turtle Bay every year. I have very fond memories of that establishment.

MoviesOnline: I hope you don't have that many breakups that you'd go back every year.

JASON SEGEL: I'm hoping every three months I'll initiate a breakup so I can take a vacation.

MoviesOnline: Isn't it kind of torturous to go to Hawaii after a breakup because you are so surrounded by so many couples?


MoviesOnline: Why would you go there and torture yourself?

JASON SEGEL: I'm gonna be honest with you, I'm pretty big on the self abuse. I think it leads to the best comedy. Which is why I set the movie there. I think misery in paradise is just a funny pairing, you know? I remember early on in the writing process, picturing me crying hysterically in the front of the most beautiful sunset you've ever seen. And all those ideas started to lend itself to Hawaii being the place.

MoviesOnline: Well, can you really pick up several rebound flames immediately after a breakup?

JASON SEGEL: I can. [LAUGHTER] No, you know, I don't know. Sometimes I think you go a little bit nuts after you've been in a long term relationship. Peter has been with Sarah Marshall for five and a half years. So I think kind of the first thing you do to cleanse yourself of all the love feelings is to replace them with just regret and dirty feelings.

MoviesOnline: So how autobiographical were those scenes at those counters?

JASON SEGEL: Well, the whole movie is kind of an amalgam of strange relationships and breakups and weird encounters with women. So you know, some of them were more realistic than others and some of them came from things in Nick's life or things in Judd's life. We're a pretty collaborative group, so it's sort of like once you get riffing on the idea that you're gonna do a sex tear montage, you'd be surprised how many stories come out in a room of comedians. [LAUGHTER] You know?

MoviesOnline: Will we be seeing any angry video blogs on the Peter Reder website?

JASON SEGEL: Maybe. Maybe. You just might. On Monday. Yeah.

MoviesOnline: What were you thinking when you decided to write yourself a full frontal nude scene?

JASON SEGEL: Well, I had a naked breakup. And it was basically exactly as it was in the movie. I thought this woman was coming over to have sex with me, because she was my girlfriend and girlfriends and boyfriends have sex. And so I was naked when she arrived. And she walked through the door and I literally did, "Hey, baby." And she looked me in my face and said, "We need to talk." And instantly I knew it was happening, you know. And the problem, the sickness, is that I knew that I should be experiencing this viscerally, like this is two human beings having an actual moment. And all I kept thinking was this is the funniest thing that has ever happened to anybody. Honest to God, yeah. Like, "I can't wait till she walks out of this room so that I can start laughing and call all my friends." And so, I wrote the scene and at first I pictured that it would be kind of Austin Powers-y, obscuring cleverly. And then I was driving with Nick in Hawaii, in a van, location scouting. And I turned to him and I said, "Question, man, what if I show it?" And he thought it was the worst idea he's ever heard, immediately put the kibosh on it. But it turns out male nudity enthusiast Judd Apatow had had the same idea on his end back in LA, separately. And so literally, the next time we talked, we both brought it up. Like what if I do nudity? He's like, "That's so funny, that's what I was thinking." Which I thought was weird.

But so then we went to Universal and pitched it to them in the most bizarre meeting you'll ever have in your life. Where you find out the specifics of what is R and what is NC-17. Flaccidity is the dividing line. So, then once I knew that I could do it, I thought I should just-- might as well go for it, you know? Because I knew that we weren't gonna do it in a gratuitous way. It wasn't gonna be a dumb joke where all of a sudden, for no reason, you see my penis. That scene is so vulnerable as written, you know? And it's just such a raw moment that I think to add the nudity, which is why the reaction, when you see it in a theatre, is the way it is. It's this mixture of like shock and gasping and confusion. Like is this even allowed? And laughter. And I think it's because we managed to do it in a way that wasn't a one note joke. It wasn't hacky. It was this very complicated moment where a guy is literally just being told that his life is ending as far as he's concerned. And that is a naked moment. So, you know, it's metaphoric, whatever. I'm no film student.

MoviesOnline: I think a lot of women feel sorry for your character like, "Oh, the poor guy."

JASON SEGEL: Yeah, he's saddled with that penis. [LAUGHTER]

MoviesOnline: Oh, come on! But I mean, it's funny, but it's sad, you know.

JASON SEGEL: Yeah, thank you.

MoviesOnline: Was Judd able to use the Dewey Cox flaccid penis as a testing point to sell you?

JASON SEGEL: I'm not gonna lie to you. I was a little bit annoyed when I found out about the Dewey Cox penis. Because I was like, "I'm gonna be the dude. I'm gonna be the first guy to do it in a long time." But I'm glad it all worked out. I think there is some differentiation when it's the main dude showing it, as opposed to a weird stunt penis.

MoviesOnline: On a different note of objects that stand upright on their own.

JASON SEGEL: [LAUGHTER] Well done, sir.

MoviesOnline: With this week's big announcement on The Muppet Movie, did you know in advance of Saturday Night Live that Seth Rogen and Bill Hader and Andy Samberg were going to do that Muppets skit?

JASON SEGEL: No, it's so funny. Because all these guys know I've had a fascination with puppets for a long time. Seth, especially. Seth and I were writing partners for a long time and just very, very close. He actually texted me immediately after the Saturday Night Live and said, "I thought of you the whole time I was doing the Muppet sketch." But I don't know. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world to be writing that Muppet Movie. And maybe it's like a particularity for me, but Kermit is the man. Kermit's the original Jimmy Stewart and the original Tom Hanks. You know, he's like the everyman when you're ten years old. And so, you know, they designed the puppets for the movie, The Henson Company did, and then from there, I found out they don't control the Muppets anymore. Disney has them. And they haven't really been doing much with the Muppets. And so I went to Disney and I took this meeting, like, "So, what's this all about, kid?" That's how executives talk. I don’t know if you’ve met any. And I'm like, "I would like to write the new Muppet Movie." And there was a weird spattering of laughter and then uncomfortable silence. Like, "Really, that's why you're here?" And I gave them the pitch, and they really loved it and they bought it in the room and brought Stoller on to write it with me because he's the best creative partner you could hope for.

MoviesOnline: Is that all Muppets or are you going to have people?

JASON SEGEL: Oh yeah, no, no, Muppets and humans. It's like the early '80s Muppet movies. Yeah.

MoviesOnline: The more recent ones, they've done, like, Muppets in Space.

JASON SEGEL: Yeah, Muppets in the Old West.

MoviesOnline: Treasure Island, Christmas Carol. So where do you think they've gone wrong? Like what are the "must" elements that they need to bring back?

JASON SEGEL: Yeah, well, I don't want to point any fingers. But a new approach has been taken that the Muppets were some sort of novelty act. But in the original movies, the Muppets were all treated like they were actors in the movie, and the movie was written as though they were proper characters. And they were also filled with these brilliant performances. Like Charles Grodin in The Great Muppet Caper is unbelievable. And nowadays it's just someone walking through, like, "Hey, was that Tom Selleck?" Just, that doesn't interest me. But bringing it back to the Muppets putting on a show, and working together and like, I don't know, there's such a sense of hope that comes from the old Muppet movies. I just remember watching them thinking I could do anything.

MoviesOnline: Can you talk about the songs for this movie, because you did a lot of the work on them? Were you writing a Dracula musical for real?

JASON SEGEL: Well, that's an embarrassing side note. But yeah, the Dracula concept, the puppet Dracula musical was not initially for this movie. It was for when I was out of work. It was gonna be my career comeback. I had this notion of putting on this Dracula puppet musical that would somehow just launch me into stardom. And at one point, I played it for Judd and Nick and they laughed so hard. And I was offended. You know, "This is not a joke, guys." Mary [?] said, "Jase, I think maybe you should start viewing it as a joke and you could do something with it." And so, they were right. There it is. The strangest end to a romantic comedy of all time.

MoviesOnline: Was that line improvised? The part about, "I didn't know it was a comedy?"

JASON SEGEL: No, that was absolutely legitimate. Yeah, that came from a conversation with Nick.

MoviesOnline: That song that Russell sings, though. That rather embarrassing, "I'm inside you," or whatever it is.

JASON SEGEL: Inside of You. That was a fun one to write as well.

MoviesOnline: That was the new song you wrote?

JASON SEGEL: That was a new one. Everything else is new for that. That and We Gotta Do Something was also one I wrote out there.

MoviesOnline: Yeah, that was great.

JASON SEGEL: Thanks. Yeah, Inside of You, I was walking with Nick at nighttime, a little bit sauced from the pool bar. And I was trying to write a song for that luau scene. And I was just trying to think, "What is the worst song that your girlfriend's new boyfriend can sing in front of you."

MoviesOnline: That's a good point. [LAUGHTER]

JASON SEGEL: Yeah. And for some reason you know what popped into my mind was Crash Into Me, the Dave Matthews song. Cause I've always thought that song was a bit ridiculous in how thinly veiled the innuendo is. I mean it's basically pornography. And it's a bit of a parody from that notion. Of Inside of You. There's the one or two people who would view it as a romantic song. And then everyone else is just so blatant. Inside of you I could cross this desert plain? There's just like the weirdest lyrics of all time.

MoviesOnline: Third Eye Blind have a Deep Inside You song.


MoviesOnline: I heard it when I was in high school, I'm like, "This has to be a joke."

JASON SEGEL: Yeah, totally.

MoviesOnline: I definitely took it that way.

JASON SEGEL: Thanks. And Russell's performance is just unbelievable. He knocks it out of the park, man. That weird crab dance he does? What the hell, man.

MoviesOnline: Are you back at work on How I Met Your Mother?

JASON SEGEL: I am, yeah, for about two weeks now we're back. And we got-- six or seven more to do this season. So, we shall see.

MoviesOnline: So, what's going on in terms of leading up to a season finale?

JASON SEGEL: You know, they're so crunched for scripts right now, because they legitimately didn't write during the writer's strike. I think that the studio network was surprised that they weren't, like, secretly writing, and then as soon as the strike would end there would be scripts available. But no, they weren't writing, they weren't allowed to. And so, they're hustling to get scripts done. We get the scripts a day before we shoot.

MoviesOnline: One of the great things about this show is there's sort of a gimmick to each episode.


MoviesOnline: A time bending or so. I mean even just of the two weeks you've done, what can we look forward to as far as innovations?

JASON SEGEL: Well, we have a celebrity guest star. Britney Spears has been on. Which is interesting. I didn't get to work with her but I hear she was delightful. [LAUGHTER] I don't know why you guys are laughing. No, I'm serious. She was lovely. [LAUGHTER] So, we've had that. And we've done a little bit more with the time bending. And perhaps a little hint that we might have encountered the wife sometime recently.

MoviesOnline: I guess there's never really been a huge stunt guest star before. I mean Bob Barker was related to the show. So, how does that work in a How I Met Your Mother episode?

JASON SEGEL: She was a big fan of the show, apparently. And she called and asked if she could be on it. And I betcha she didn't call personally, it was probably one of her representatives. But yeah, the next thing we knew she was on. And there were helicopters and you had to wear a wristband. And I said, I'm not wearing a wristband. I've worked here for three years, you know who I am, I'm the tall one. I'm not wearing a wristband. She's not.

MoviesOnline: Now, will you be shooting I Love You, Man at the same time as these episodes?

JASON SEGEL: My life is gonna be crazy at that moment. I'm doing the TV show, I'm shooting I Love You, Man, this Paul Rudd movie for DreamWorks. I'm doing the press for this, and I'm writing Five Year Engagement and The Muppet Movie. So I don't have much time. But it's nice. I'm not good with too much time on my hands.

MoviesOnline: Is five years a thing for you? Five Year Engagement, and he was with her for five years in this movie?


MoviesOnline: Is that your like personal cutoff point or something?

JASON SEGEL: I think so. After five years I completely lose interest. No, it's just I guess it seems like the amount of time where you kind of reach the make it or break it moment. Around five years is where you start deciding like, "Are we gonna do this for real or are we gonna break up?" And so I think that's why that amount of time plays such a pivotal role.

MoviesOnline: When you shot the scene with Kristen, do you think--

JASON SEGEL: Which scene?

MoviesOnline: You know, THE scene. Did you try to make her feel comfortable or was it more about her making you feel comfortable?

JASON SEGEL: Oh, I was not worried at all about her comfort level. I couldn't have cared less. [LAUGHTER]

MoviesOnline: She said she got to look up at you, because you're tall, so...

JASON SEGEL: Yeah, but she's pretty short. I was very terrified when I arrived to do that. I thought that it was gonna be fun leading up to it. I pictured showing up naked. It was like, "Hey, action. Right, guys? Action. Rolling?" And I realized that I was about to be naked in front of everybody. And it was really terrifying. And then Kristen accidentally said something to me that really terrified me right before I went out. She said a totally harmless comment. She said, "I think it's so great that for once a man is doing the nudity." Okay, I went back. And then I had this thought about the difference in nature between male nudity and female nudity. That, for men, they like all sorts of different types of women. They like fat women, skinny women, women with big breasts and small breasts, and blonde hair and brown hair. There aren't that many women out there who, like, love a small penis. [LAUGHTER] And so the judgment is very particular when you're doing male nudity. You're just gonna be having your junk examined. So, I was then terrified. And I was acutely aware of the ratings issue. So that I knew that I had to be flaccid, obviously. But you don't wanna be totally flaccid. [LAUGHTER] So, it was a weird ten minute balancing act of just like, "Let's work together here, buddy." That's all I got to say on that.

MoviesOnline: Now, after the success of Knocked Up last year, there are a lot of familiar faces in this one and you’re working with Paul Rudd. Is there a desire to keep working with the same group of actors?

JASON SEGEL: Well, I think we're always excited to welcome new into the fold. But the thing about this group, why I feel so lucky, is that we really are a group of like-minded collaborators. We read each other's scripts and do each other's table reads and give each other notes and do little cameos in each other's movies. Jonah doesn't need to be coming and doing a tiny part in my movie. It was in Hawaii, which I think probably had a lot to do with it. But we're all really supportive of each other. And we all have really figured out each other's comic rhythms and we know how to best serve each other. I remembered a particular moment during Knocked Up when Jay-- I mean this was all improv'd. Jay, out of nowhere, and not as an intentional setup, said, "Don't worry Ben, I will help you rear your child." And Jonah and I made eye contact, because we both knew what the next joke has to be. And Jonah looked at me and just very subtly went like this. [LAUGHTER] "All right, you got this one." Having that relationship with the people you're working with is really good, you know?

MoviesOnline: On the Superbad DVD there's the table read.

JASON SEGEL: Years ago. We were babies then. Superbad must have been-- I was like 20 when we read that. So eight years ago. Crazy.

MoviesOnline: Was there ever a plan to actually go into production and you play that part?

JASON SEGEL: We were hoping. For a while we were thinking it would be Seth and I but then we're way too old to be playing high school students now.

MoviesOnline: What about the cliff thing? Are you afraid of heights?

JASON SEGEL: Terrified of heights.

MoviesOnline: Even though you're on a harness, was it terrifying?

JASON SEGEL: It was the worst thing of all time. I don't care if there's a harness. A harness! Are you kidding me? Your body is still afraid you're gonna die. That's like someone putting a gigantic spider on you if you're afraid of spiders and being like, "Don't worry, he doesn't usually bite." [LAUGHTER] You know. It was terrifying. Every scream in that is legitimate. Honest to God. I was panicked. And I also, it was the one time I've ever-- I'm a pretty nice dude and I don't lose my temper. And they had some like camera glitch up top while I'm hanging from the wire. And I hear, "Just be a few minutes, Jase." And you just hear me go, "Fuck you! Fix the camera!" [LAUGHTER]

MoviesOnline: Get me outta here. [LAUGHTER]

JASON SEGEL: All right, cool, well, that was fun, guy.

MoviesOnline: Thank you.

JASON SEGEL: Yeah, thanks, guys. Thank you very much. Yeah, cheers.