A-list actress Jennifer Aniston has been taking more risks in her roles lately, most notably as a sexually predatory dentist in Horrible Bosses. With her latest film, Aniston teams up with an old friend, funny-man Paul Rudd, to play a Manhattan couple who decides to join a commune. The two stars, along with multi-talented Justin Theroux -- scribe of Iron Man 2 and Tropic Thunder -- goofy Malin Akerman, co-writer Ken Marino, and writer/director David Wain, discuss dysfunction, life without technology, and their new off-the wall-comedy, Wanderlust.
Jennifer Aniston & Paul Rudd
Tim Wassberg: There’s the definition of “relationship” now in modern society. Do you think it’s dysfunctional, despite all the means of communication? Because this is what this sort of movie addresses…
Jennifer Aniston: You mean how can kind of avoid each other because there’s all sorts of ways of communicating via Blackberries, iPods, iPads, computers… I think…totally. I do believe that. I think people have stopped communicating directly, obviously. I mean, let’s face it. Who doesn’t like getting a letter?
Paul Rudd: I loved the last one I got.
JA: I do. Do you remember the last one you wrote?
PR: Yeah, well I wrote cards. A Thank You card doesn’t count…
JA: Don’t take offense by this, but the first movie we did together – Paul and I – in 1997, we would talk and we would have fun and we would communicate. This movie, all the technology has obviously evolved, so what happens now, we cut, and everyone’s on playing Words with Friends, Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, P-Tracker, whatever, and there’s no like, “Hey, let’s talk to each other.” Am I right, Paul?
PR: I didn’t even pay attention to what you said. What?
JA: You’re just trying to think about your next Words with Friends win. No, but I think that is true. I think people lose talking to each other, but I remember going to a restaurant when I was a teenager, and I would go with friends, and I would see couples sitting there reading the newspaper, and I remember thinking, “Isn’t that strange? They’re not talking to each other. They’re just reading a newspaper.” But this is the version today – it’s just sitting, staring at a laptop.
TW: But that’s what the film is about…
JA: Yes, where they’ve lost their communicating…
PR: Really communicating with somebody you’re in a relationship with, I mean, even when you’re talking, it’s tough to get into real communication, and it’s impossible with a text. I mean, who’s gonna really spill their guts in a text?
JA: Well not you, Paul.
PR: Well, I’m too busy playing Words with Friends to do that.
TW: Would you ever be tempted to go into a commune like this, where it is none of that? Or have you been tempted?
JA: No. Well, going and doing this movie was that for me. It was getting rid of the noise and the chitter-chatter and all of that, being quiet and simple, living a simple life. So I would join a commune, if it were these people. And you were my husband.
TW: How does David Wain put that together and make that possible for you guys to do that on screen?
JA: He’s a good mixologist. I don’t know. He writes great scripts. He and Ken (Marino) wrote a really great script. A lot of it comes from…they’re all married. I remember our first days of rehearsal, there was a lot of talking about everybody’s personal experience and where they were in a relationship, and what this movie is about. And is this about lack of communication? Is this about built-up resentments? Is this about how this detour to this commune ends up being the greatest thing that happens to them in their relationship, and as individuals.
Justin Theroux & Malin Ackerman
Tim Wassberg: Looking at this film within the commune, it’s really interesting because there’s no Blackberries, there’s no iPhones – there’s nothing. Could you talk about how the level of the relationship has de-evolved now, where people are doing this more than talking?
Malin Ackerman: It’s kind of at a sad place. I think you have to take that into consideration. You actually have to go, “All right. Tonight, let’s go to dinner, and let’s not bring our Blackberries, or let’s keep them in our bag.” You actually, at some points, have to have those conversations because it gets out of hand. And looking at the younger generation – my sister is 22 – the way she speaks is almost like in text. Like, “Lol. OMG.” Things like that. I’m like, “What are you…text talking?” It’s crazy.
Justin Theroux: I know. There’s a decline there, but I think it’s generational. Every generation seems to sort of lose a little bit of the ability to communicate as technology progresses, but I don’t know. Who knows?
TW: Is that idea sort of what attracted you to this? You have this great comedy element going, but the idea – could talk about what attracted you to this?
JT: The humor is what really attracted me to it, and the cast that I knew we were assembling, which…it just felt like a really special thing that was about to get made. And I also loved the part, so it was really the trifecta of that, which was I would not want to miss this opportunity to go make this movie. And with Judd (Apatow) shepherding it and David and Ken Marino’s brand of comedy – I’m such a huge fan of theirs and everything they make because they really do try to push the boundaries of more typical comedies.
TW: What do they do different?
JT: It’s difficult to describe. There’s just a joke sometimes that you read on the page and you go, “That’s such a frickin’ Marino joke,” or, “That’s such a David…”
MA: Yeah. It’s unique in its own way.
JT: You have to kind of be a student of their stuff to really know, “Oh, that is such a dumb joke,” but it’s funny because they know they’re making a dumb joke. It’s like a meta thing. Or there’s some stuff that’s just genuinely structured hysterically, and you think, “That’s just funny.”
MA: I think any time I pick up a script where I’m laughing out loud on my own, I’m in. And I also just have so much faith in David Wain and Ken Marino. I love them, I love working with them on Children’s Hospital, I would go anywhere with them, and I just felt like this was gonna be a really different kind of movie. It’s not your regular romantic comedy. It has these crazy characters, and you just know that, with those guys at the helm, it’s gonna be a really great journey that you’re gonna take with them.
TW: Does David tweak, in terms of direction, anything differently to get those moments?
MA: Yeah, every now and then. For sure he very famously just yells out a line after you’ve gone through it a couple times, and he’ll just yell out something that he thinks of off the top of his head.
JT: “Now say this!”
MA: Yeah, which is hard because you crack up at the joke first, and then you have to say it, and trying to keep straight faces and all of that stuff is a whole other animal. But we had so many different ways of shooting it where there was some improv and some alternate dialogue and some that was already written, and just on-the-spot David Wain or Ken Marino or Apatow yelling things out.
TW: Have you guys ever been tempted to join a commune?
MA: Nope. [Laughs]
JT: No. I love not communicating with people. I love my Blackberry. I love my laptop. No…
MA: I just like being able to close the door when I go to the bathroom, and not sharing my husband with other people.
JT: You’re such a prude.
MA: What? You want to keep the door open? I don’t want to smell your sh*t.
JT: I really want to know. I just want you to know sometimes that that’s what’s happening. This is what’s happening right now.
MA: I can still know, I just don’t need to smell it.
JT: Come on in.
TW: This is great because the whole sense of humor that was going on on set, you can just go with it…
MA: Yeah. You could definitely go with it. [Laughs]
JT: We just laughed a lot. It was one of those great work experiences where you knew you weren’t going to leave the day without having had a couple really funny belly laughs…
MA: Like, guttural.
JT: You were exhausted. You knew you were gonna be laughing a lot.
Ken Marino & David Wain
Tim Wassberg: What were the inherent challenges, beyond the other things that you made, in making this specific movie?
David Wain: For me, it was Ken.
Ken Marino: Yeah. I become very difficult.
DW: So that was hard.
KM: Yeah, but we worked around it.
DW: We worked around it. I wouldn’t say we worked through it. We worked around it. We did work-arounds. One of the things that was actually challenging was, despite having a large budget for a comedy from a studio, based on how things were worked out, we ended up having not a lot of time to shoot, relatively speaking. So we had to move quite fast, and it was important to us to incorporate a lot of improv and alternate material as we were shooting, so it was sometimes just a logistical challenge. But other than that, the shooting of the film was a pleasure. We were out in this beautiful place in Georgia in the mountains, and with this amazing group of people – this cast – and compared to other things we’ve done, it was beautiful.
KM: For me, the biggest obstacle was David.
TW: In what way?
KM: I mean, so many. We only have a couple minutes, so I’ll write something out for you…
DW: We’ll fax it to you.
KM: What’s your fax number?
TW: [Laughs] You were talking about the cast and how important that is, and you guys have worked for years and years, and with Paul you’ve done many. Could you talk about what’s the lure for him as a leading actor for you, and how come you guys work so well together, as well as the entire cast?
DW: What I like about Paul is he wears a jean size that’s one or two thinner than mine, so that whenever we have a stuntman playing Paul, we have to get the bigger size for the stuntman, and then I can steal those jeans, and then they’re mine.
KM: What’s another reason?
DW: I’m not finished. So that’s why I like to cast Paul. He’s also really good at acting.
TW: [Laughs] Is your sense of humor the same?
DW: I would say we definitely have a complimentary sense of humor.
KM: Overlapping sense of humor.
TW: Have you guys ever had the want or need to join a commune, or have you ever been in that situation?
KM: There’s always that fantasy of, oh, it would be great to kind of just leave all that stress and worry behind, and go somewhere where it’s a little bit more laid-back and you don’t have to worry about work and making money, and you just farm and you live off the land, and you relax a little bit, and you’re just dealing with a small community of people…
DW: Yeah, it’s a fantasy of saying the things I think about and deal with on a daily basis don’t have to be the things – you can deal with other things. The people who live on this commune, the thing they think about every day is: what are we gonna pick from the fields to eat and cook for dinner tonight, so we can eat and go to sleep? It’s just a different set of priorities, and I think that’s fascinating to me.
KM: But ultimately, when we had done some research and went to a commune, we found that it was alluring and exciting when we were there, but as soon as we got in the car and started to drive away, we were like, “No. There’s no way.” I need the other things in life – the creature comforts in me.
TW: Obviously you’re influenced by movies as well, besides your own writing and all that kind of stuff. Could you talk about some of your favorite scenes and how they influenced you? Or films themselves.
DW: A big inspiration for this film in particular is a film called Together that was done in 1999 or 2000 from Sweden, which is also about a commune. It’s about a house in Stockholm in 1975, and the thing that we thought was so inspirational, or that we took from that, was just the notion that these guys are all working together and living in this house, hoping to go against the grain of society and rise above human nature, and realizing that jealousy and selfishness, things like that, are very powerful forces, and there’s only so much you can actually escape the nature of what it is to be a person. And the struggle of that is both funny and interesting, so we did our own version of taking that theme.
Universal Pictures' 'Wanderlust' is released in theaters on February 24, 2012.