On Set Report Forgetting Sarah Marshall

A portrait of the legendary Canadian rock band Rush from their early days in Toronto, through each of their landmark albums, to the present day.

Stoller cut his teeth working as a writer on Judd Apatow’s TV series Undeclared, before going on to co-write
the script for Jim Carrey vehicle Fun
With Dick and Jane
. Forgetting Sarah
is his first feature as a director, and he will follow this with
another Judd Apatow-produced movie, Five-Year
, where he’ll again work with Forgetting
Sarah Marshall
writer/leading man, Jason Segel. Stoller’s most recent
writing project, Yes Man, is in
production with Jim Carrey starring…


Q. Your association with Judd Apatow began on Undeclared. That show didn’t take off at
the time, but it is similar to the humor you’re doing now. Ever wondered why
it’s taken until now?

A: You know, I have no idea. We are doing the same comedy style that we
did then, except we can show penises now! I guess with the show, we had the
good fortune to have our premiere date on 9/11 so that certainly threw a wrench
in the whole process, and then we finally did premiere weeks after that. Fox
just took us off the air every three weeks, because of baseball or whatever,
and so we never really had a chance. Every time we showed, though, we’d get a
few more viewers. And after seeing movies like Superbad and Knocked Up,
people have rediscovered it on DVD.


Q. Was the humor a little ahead of its time?

A: It was a little bit, in that it was a single camera comedy, which for
some reason really confused the American public at that time. Now, it’s popular
with The Office and with 30 Rock and those kinds of comedies.
It’s a successful format now but at the time it wasn’t.


Q. Was Judd always very nurturing?

A: Yes. He’s like a rich fertilizing soil! We all grow under and in his
comedy greenhouse! He’s an incredible man to work for and he’s very loyal, and
also very lazy! He doesn’t want to meet new people so the combination of those
elements means he wants to work with us.


Q. And you were writing partners on Fun With Dick & Jane

A: That was a true co-writing experience. We were partners on that. He was
to all intents and purposes my boss but we were partners and it was a great
experience. We wrote the script with Jim Carrey after we’d written the drafts
on it and Jim’s the funniest man ever, just going into the script with him was
super fun.


Q. Did you already harbor ambitions as a

A: No, and I didn’t want to do this film! I didn’t want to do it. I
fought it the whole time! No, seriously, I’ve dreamed of directing since I was
a kid. I didn’t think it would happen quite so fast. It was such a great movie
to do, this kind of romantic, bittersweet comedy. I said to Judd that if Jason
got through the writing process would he let me be the director and he said
yes. I thought I’d have to direct Fart
College 3
and things like that. But no, I got a real film.


Q. Being a first-time director, were you intimidated
by Judd watching over your shoulder?

A: No. As you put it, he’s a very nurturing person. Also, his whole
concept behind producing is you show up the first day, he gets a massage and
then he gives me his cell phone number and throws away the battery of the
phone. So it becomes chaotic, but it’s the best way to learn. He cannot be a
better presence. He runs his movies like a TV show. Each of his movies is a
different TV episode, albeit on a much bigger budget, so he’s involved in the
writing and casting and all of that. But he also gives you some room to run
with the show yourself.


Q. How does the improvisation process work with
the script?

A: It’s a collaboration, definitely. As a comedy director I’m not being
hired for my visual flair and I’m not bringing The Bourne Supremacy style to it; I’m not about to create a world
like Children Of Men. What I’m
bringing to it is comedy, comedy writing. We hammer and hammer the script, so
that if we just shot the script it would be funny. But we then do improv with
Rodney Rothman, who is the Executive Producer, and who is super funny. He was
the youngest head writer of Letterman. He was on set throwing out jokes to us.
Some of the funniest jokes in the movie are his. He’d throw out jokes and I’d
throw out jokes and we’d go back to improvs. At one point we shot 2 million
feet of film; we got sent bottles of Dom Perignon from Kodak!


Q. And you managed to keep the penis theme
running through Judd’s movies…

A: Yes, that seems to be true. There has been a penis in his last few
films. Not in Drillbit Taylor, but in Superbad there are drawings of a
penis and in Walk Hard there is an
actual penis. I think there was a lot of talk of penises in Knocked Up. In Drillbit, people get kicked in the balls so I guess there’s a penis
in that. There’s a penis in everything!


Q. Was there ever going to be female nudity in
this film, or is that just not funny in the same way?

A: No. Why? It’s not necessary when you’ve got penises. Why do you need
female nudity? I have a theory about any kind of sex and nudity. Obviously
Jason’s nudity is kind of relaxed and absurd, but sex and nudity together, well
laughing is such a primal act, and sex is a primal act, that if you have boobs
in a comedy you don’t know whether to laugh or masturbate! It gets complicated.
As a little kid I’d watch Kentucky Fried
and I’d be laughing. Then, when I was 12, I’d go masturbate!


Q. What’s the secret to Judd Apatow’s comedy?

A: You have to be sure that it’s not just a string of gags. That there’s
still a story to it, that there’s a heart to it, that there’s an essential
truth to it. All of these movies whether they be Talladega Nights or Knocked
, there’s an essential truth to an essential story that people care
about. At the center of this movie there’s a guy with a broken heart and a girl
with a broken heart and I think audiences respond to that. If it were just a
string of jokes within an hour or two people would be bored.


Q. Exactly, Sarah Marshall breaks the hero’s
heart, but we don’t hate her, right?

A: I’m glad you said that. It would be tedious to say if it was just ‘the
ex-girlfriend is a bitch’ because that’s never the case. Very rare
circumstances, is that case. It always takes two to tango if a relationship of
five years falls apart. Everyone’s at fault and everyone’s not at fault.
Obviously in all my failed relationships all the girls are real bitches, but we
have to get girls in the audience so we have to have Kristen Bell seem nice!


Q. The film’s targeted towards males, but is
there enough for women to enjoy?

A: I think so. We just try to make a movie where everyone is imperfect
like in life. Jason’s character is not perfect, Sarah Marshall isn’t perfect, and
Rachel isn’t. The closest to perfection is probably Russell Brand’s character.
He just doesn’t care what anyone says. I think people don’t do that, especially
with female characters. Nothing annoys me more than a movie where the girls
just don’t get the laughs. They are just there as support for the guy. It’s
lazy and I actually find that offensive.


Q. So your genesis as a writer started there?

A: I’ve worked on comedy since I was a kid, but later I did the Harvard Lampoon, which was a kind of
comedy magazine. A lot of The Simpsons
characters came from this and after Harvard I did advertising for a year and
then I started to write for TV, doing Undeclared.
The first thing I ever wrote was Austin
animated series, which was to be on HBO. But then they decided not
to do it. It was right before Austin
2 and they thought it would
over expose the brand.


Q. Do you think comedian Russell Brand has a
future as a Hollywood actor?

A: He’s a real star. He’s like Johnny Depp, but as Johnny Depp dressed as
Edward Scissorhands. He’s a real actor. He takes direction incredibly well. He
would do that kind of verbal spewing thing he does on stage and then he’d also
do more withdrawn, like ‘everyone here is crazy’ thing and that is what gets
the big laughs. He is, weirdly the only voice of reason in the movie.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall opens at Irish cinemas on April 25th