Writing partners Nicholas Stoller (Get Him To The Greek) and Jason Segel (I Love You Man) cooked up their first feature in 2008, Forgetting Sarah Marshall -- where a hapless, naked schmuck won points for slackers everywhere by stalking his ex-girlfriend, befriending an island of misfits, and stalking his celebrity ex-girlfriend. They brought our old friends back to the biz with The Muppets in 2011, and now the duo returns with another battle-of-the-sexes comedy that appeals to both the Judd Apatow crowd and rom-com aficionados. The Five-Year Engagement stars Jason Segel and Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, Sunshine Cleaning) as two perfectionists on a prolonged race – or, in their case, saunter – to the alter, while Alison Brie (Community, Mad Men) and Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) party it up as the couple’s sloppy maid of honor and best man. Segel and Stoller have both proven that they can infuse the rom-com genre with realism (and sex), and we can’t wait to see them do it again. The two funny-men and their equally raucous female counterparts, Blunt and Brie, chat with Buzzine about relationships, women in film, and how comedy continues to evolve.
Tiffany Rose: Tell us about your character, Suzy, and how she fits into the story of The Five-Year Engagement.
Alison Brie: I play Emily Blunt’s sister in the film, Violet’s sister, her younger, crazy sister who lives life very messily and sort of just falls into everything and goes with the flow, and it all happens to work out. Chris Pratt and myself end up as a couple, and it’s the two screw ups in the movie whose lives just end up working out. While on the other end, you see Jason and Emily as total perfectionists trying to make everything perfect and yet, it doesn’t seem to be working for them.
TR: Is it difficult to keep a straight face when you’re working with the likes of Jason Segel and the rest of the cast?
AB: Absolutely. Absolutely, all of them are so funny. Jason, Emily, Chris... on set, just laughing constantly. It was quite a challenge.
TR: What initially drew you to this project?
AB: Everything. I think first of all, just to work with these people. I am a Nick Stoller fan, I’m a Jason Segel, Emily Blunt fan, so the cast alone, and crew and the script was so sweet and funny. It sort of had both things that really appeal to me when I am watching a movie. And also, just that the character was so different for me. I’m used to playing a very buttoned up, stuffy character, so it was nice to kind of be able to cut loose and play something very different than people have seen me play before.
TR: What do you think the theme of this movie is? Why do you think so many engagements like this fall apart?
AB: It might be timing. You know I honestly don’t know because to me it seems like if you’re gonna take the leap to get engaged, then it wouldn’t be so far of a jump to get married. But I guess, like we see in this movie, things come up and life sort of happens in between and some people just take a little longer to get there, I guess.
TR: Is there a particular scene you enjoyed shooting above the others?
AB: I loved shooting the Elmo and Cookie Monster scene. It was so fun and that was probably the hardest time I had keeping a straight face was during that scene, the ridiculousness of us doing these voices while trying to have this very serious conversation was so funny. And then the little girl playing my daughter was also just totally weirded out by us, which made it even better.
TR: She’ll never be able to look at Sesame Street ever again.
AB: No. Terrified.
TR: Speaking of taking a role different from the norm, you play Peter Campbell’s suburban house wife, Trudy, on the hit AMC drama, Mad Men. Can you tell us anything about the current season?
AB: No, I can’t tell you anything. You should know better.
TR: How much fun do you have working on the show?
AB: It’s amazing. It’s incredible. The level of work that’s being produced over there is just fabulous, so whenever I am over there, I am just, from an acting standpoint, just in awe of the material we get to work on. It is incredible.
TR: Though Mad Men is a drama, you also star on the NBC comedy series Community. Recently, the trend seems to be that anything goes – especially with the monumental success of Bridesmaids. Do you think comedy has changed a lot over the past decade?
AB: Absolutely, absolutely. I think comedy is always changing. If you look back fifty years and then if you look back ten years, comedy was different then anyway, and it’s different now. I think comedy is always evolving to just keep a pace with what’s going on in life and where we are as a culture. So, this also happens to be an amazing time for women in comedy and that’s what we see with Bridesmaids, and in a film like this where you see Jason and Emily going head to head, as opposed to it being Jason’s movie and Emily playing the sweet girlfriend. You know, it is a great time for women in comedy, just playing strong comedic roles and lead roles. It is exciting.
TR: And lastly, what can audiences expect from this movie?
AB: I think audiences can expect the best of both worlds from this movie. For the ladies there are a lot of sweet moments -- the romance is there. For the guys, there are plenty of dick and fart jokes to go around. It’s got that dude humor all the way, so guys can definitely go with their girlfriends, they won’t be bored.
Jason Segel & Emily Blunt
Tiffany Rose: Jason, we first saw you bare it all in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and you go for the nudity again in The Five-Year Engagement. Is there a trend starting here?
Jason Segel: I find male nudity funny; at least when I do it. I don’t know how that happened, but I guess my nudity is funny.
TR: Tell us about your characters, Tom and Violet. Why can’t they tie the knot? What are some of the obstacles keeping them apart?
Emily Blunt: Well, I think they are waiting for everything to feel perfect. And I think that’s not what life’s like and so life sort of keeps getting in the way. And it keeps deterring them from what they really want, which is just to be together and be married and be in love and be crazy about each other -- but they are put under a lot of pressure, and putting crazy heightened situations. So the movie is really about their plight of trying to see them get out of them.
TR: Have either of you been engaged? For how long?
EB: I was engaged for a year, and then we tied the knot.
JS: Oh... off the market. I have never been engaged, but I look forward to it.
TR: Nick Stoller, the director of this film, is your writing partner, Jason. Can you tell us about your writing process? How did you two develop the ideas and themes of The Five-Year Engagement?
JS: We sit around and bandy about ideas for a while, and we had quite a few ideas of what we wanted to write next, but this is the one that kept coming back to us. We knew that there was something there. So then we spend a lot of time outlining together. We outline the entire movie in the same room together. And then we split it up and we go write separately. We find it is just much more productive to go and write. Then we hand our pages back and forth and we write each other’s work until we are both satisfied.
TR: What are your favorite moments from the set?
EB: It’s a tough thing. I would say one of the most fun days was in Sonoma doing the engagement party. [That] was great fun because all the cast were there. It was the most magical, beautiful day in wine country. It was heaven.
JS: That was great.
EB: I liked the all night fight... I liked Cookie Monster...
JS: There’s a scene where Emily and I have been fighting and we make up and she takes me out on a date and we go dancing. That was -- we had a beautiful day.
Tiffany Rose: What themes did you want to explore in The Five-Year Engagement?
Nicholas Stoller: What a beard can do to a relationship – a bad beard. No, we really wanted to explore, how do you know if it’s perfect enough to get married. That was kind of the big theme. Because I’ve certainly seen a lot of, you know, friends of mine and people in my life be in very long relationships, same with Jason, be in long relationships and they don’t go anywhere and they’re almost the right thing. If you’re in almostthe right thing, is it worth getting married?
TR: So you draw from your own experiences? How long were you engaged for before you got married?
NS: I was just engaged for a year, but I’ve been in relationships where it was almost right, and it didn’t totally click, and I’ve seen friends of mine be in that sort of thing and I’ve noticed it more and more. I think there’s something kind of zeitgeisty about that, that these days a lot of people are in long relationships that aren’t headed towards marriage, but they’re not headed towards breaking up and it’s kind of interesting to me.
TR: Because it’s acceptable to not have to take that step?
NS: Yeah, it’s acceptable to not have to make a move. And that’s both liberating and terrifying. I think that that sort of inertia can destroy a relationship, you know.
TR: So the crucial element is timing?
NS: Yeah. Yeah, I think timing and realizing there’s so many options available to us, to people these days, in terms of career and life choices and all that, that I think you can let your relationship take a back seat to that.
TR: Let’s talk about your relationship with Jason. You have this great writing partnership and friendship – how do you two work together?
NS: We sit down and we kind of share a comedy brain. We both find the same stuff funny, and we’re really quick. Whenever we start writing a script, we get together and we write the story together and then we always order burritos. So it’s a burrito-fueled activity.
TR: Is there a particular scene from the film that was important or special to you?
NS: You know, we shot the engagement last. And so we had kind of gone through this whole experience of shooting this movie, and the engagement was the very last scene we shot and it was nothing in the car, but when they are on the roof deck... I only shot two takes. I tend to over shoot or shoot more takes. They had been through this relationship already, so it is kind of interesting – and it was a beautiful location too, a view of the Bay Bridge, so I would say that was an incredible moment.
TR: The success of Bridesmaids last year has definitely changed the lens with which we view comedy, and the overall tone. Do you think comedies have changed over the years, and can you get away with more nowadays?
NS: Oh yeah. I think certainly Judd Apetow, who has produced these [films], kind of pushes the envelope in terms of R-rated stuff. I think Todd Phillips has pushed the envelope in terms of what you can do. But there's been a fine tradition of R rated comedies. You know in the seventies and eighties, there was Animal House, National Lampoon’s Vacationand all those. And then it kind of, for some reason, disappeared for a while. A little bit in the nineties, and now it’s come back. When you’re R-rated, people talk the way they talk in real life. So it’s just being able to re-create life.
TR: Comedies became a bit more serious in the middle of that.
NS: It is just more juvenile. I mean, juvenile isn’t the right word... more like they’ve been PG13, so you couldn’t say that stuff. You couldn’t be honest. You can tell a great story in a PG13 format, but I don’t know. I think with relationship stuff, people curse when you’re having a fight with your boyfriend or girlfriend. So, you need the R rating to do that. And sex gets weird, you know... all that stuff.
'The Five-Year Engagement' Opens Friday, April 27th, 2012. Be sure to check out our Buzzine Review of the film!