One little-known frustration about doing interviews for movies is that talking to the filmmakers and actors involved with a movie weeks before its release, you’re often forced to talk about absolutes, not knowing how well or poorly the movie might go over with audiences or whether or not anyone will even see the movie at all. It’s rare to have a chance to talk to them after the fact and get their reaction about how things went, so you often end up with a bunch of extremely positive interviews optimistically trying to sell the movie.
Fortunately, one of the movies we did interviews for earlier this year that we loved actually did find its audience, and that was John Hamburg’s comedy I Love You, Man. In the movie, Paul Rudd plays Peter Klaven, an L.A. real estate agent who has just gotten engaged to his girlfriend (Rashida Jones from “Parks and Recreation”) and realizes he doesn’t have a close male friend to be his best man. So begins his unwitting journey to find new male friends, eventually meeting Jason Segel’s Sydney Fife, a boisterous womanizing slacker who suddenly becomes a much bigger part of Peter’s life, much to the concern of his new fiancée. With appearances by some of the funniest comic actors working today, veteran rock band Rush and even Lou Ferrigno, it was one of the more enjoyable comedies this year.
Back in March, ComingSoon.net had a chance to talk to Hamburg (read it here) and we enjoyed that interview so much, we decided to do a quick follow-up with the release of the DVD and Blu-ray tomorrow, August 11. The DVD features a feature-length commentary from Hamburg, Rudd and Segel, as well as a boatload of extended and deleted scenes, many of which are as funny as the movie itself.
ComingSoon: How has the summer been for you? It must be nice to have gotten your movie out of the way.
John Hamburg: Yeah, it’s been awesome to have the movie out and stuff like that. I’ve been writing “Little Fockers,” so it hasn’t been a vacation so much, it’s been a work summer, but that’s a good thing.
CS: I just checked out all the DVD extras. Hopefully, most of the people reading this already saw the movie after our interview in March and are interested in knowing what they get with the DVD. Did you spend a lot of time since the movie came out figuring what to include?
Hamburg: Actually, we did while our editing rooms were still open. My editing crew and I spent a lot of time cutting all the DVD extras, ’cause there was no one more familiar with all the footage than us. We just combed through all of it and we remembered, “Okay, well there was a really funny run of Paul Rudd’s dialogue here, let’s do this, or Jason Segel.” The scene of them on the Vespa, we knew we had a ton of other stuff with them.
CS: So while you were editing the movie, you’d just say, “Okay, this scene would be good for the gag reel,” and then set it aside for that?
Hamburg: It’s not like while we were editing it’s not like we said, “Oh, this would be perfect for the gag reel,” but definitely we cut something out like a great Favreau/Jaime Pressley moment and go, “It’ll be on the DVD.” Then yeah, this was the first time that I worked this way where my actual editing crew and I actually edited a lot of the stuff for the DVD as opposed to a whole separate department. So we did have other people do stuff like the making of and everything, but a lot of the sequences were done by me and my editors. We knew we had like, “Barry and Denise, America’s Sweethearts,” we just had that idea because they were really funny. There’s no way we could put all of the extra stuff we shot into the actual movie, but I think it makes for a good DVD extra.
CS: Is there a lot of stuff that didn’t even make it on the DVD?
Hamburg: Shockingly, there is. Everything that we thought would be fun for fans of the movie we put onto this DVD, so we weren’t holding too much back and we also didn’t want to pad it with meaningless stuff that people would resent us for. But yeah, we shot a lot of film and there’s so many funny actors so there’s tons of things. But we definitely put what we thought was moderately enjoyable, or more than what we put onto the DVD.
CS: One thing I really loved was the poker scene where you had all these guys from different comedy troupes like Jay Chandrasekhar and I thought there must have been a lot of really funny material from the day of shooting. Even on the commentary, you mention how they were underused.
Hamburg: Well, again, even with the DVD, you don’t want to do five hours of extras. We definitely edited the best stuff that we thought we had. You definitely see all the supporting characters do a bunch of stuff that’s good but that just didn’t make it into the movie.
CS: Having watched the whole thing including the commentary and our earlier interview, I feel like I know way too much about how you made the movie already…
Hamburg: You probably do, absolutely.
CS: The funny thing is that as I was watching the DVD, I was wondering when you did the commentary, not realizing that you did it before the movie came out.
Hamburg: It was. We did it the week of the premiere. It’s not always easy to get three people in the same room, especially Paul and Jason, who are moving onto different projects and stuff. Fortunately Paul and I, we both live in New York part of the time. We were out in L.A. for the premiere week and Segel was here so yeah, it was great. I really wanted to do it with those two guys for obvious reasons. We did it and you never know. Reviews started coming in and seemed to be trending in a positive direction, but you never know because the movie hadn’t come out. So we did it and there is that kind of nervous excitement of how the movie’s going to do and be perceived. Things like that.
CS: Especially with the “slap da bass” line, which you were worried whether it would work, and people were repeating it for weeks after seeing the movie.
Hamburg: It just shows you don’t really know. There was one line like that in the script and it wasn’t a big thing. When you get Paul Rudd who is one of the best improvisers ever doing something like that, it made me laugh on the set and then selfishly I started putting it in other scenes. Then obviously there’s an extra, your readers who buy the DVD and watch it will see there’s an extra of him doing a run of him doing “slap da bass” like 30 different times in the tuxedo shop scene with Jason.
CS: I’m amazed that Paul actually started out doing drama and serious acting. For all the comedies he’s been doing, why wasn’t he doing comedy when he first started?
Hamburg: I don’t know. He did “Clueless,” I don’t know, probably ’cause he’s a good-looking guy so there were a lot of more serious roles open to him. Some of the comedy guys that don’t play romantic leading men, they don’t get those opportunities. They’re like, “You look like that? We’re putting you in a comedy.” Rudd can do both.
CS: Have you talked to Paul since the movie came out? Have people been yelling, “Slappin’ da bass!!!” at him when they see him walking down the street now?
Hamburg: Yeah, I’ve talked to him a bunch of times and we went to Europe, Jason, Paul and I for the press tour over there and stuff. We were in communication frequently and yeah, he definitely gets some feedback. I think he actually had said that he got a tour of the White House and there was something about President Obama having seen the movie.
CS: I heard that too, oddly enough.
Hamburg: So that was pretty much the highlight of any of our lives.
CS: One thing I hoped to ask last time but didn’t get to is whether you think this movie could have worked anywhere besides L.A.? The humor seems so specific to the city.
Hamburg: I really wanted to set it in L.A. At one point the studio talked to me about setting it elsewhere for budgeting reasons ’cause there’s all these states now that give you tax breaks. To their credit, they understood that I felt like this was a very Los Angeles-set story. I think it could’ve worked somewhere else, but I would’ve had to rewrite a lot of it. You couldn’t have had Lou Ferrigno, it just wouldn’t have made sense. All this stuff with Sydney, Jason’s character living in Venice by the beach, it just felt very organic to L.A. Sure, you could tell the story in a bunch of towns, but I just think it would’ve been different. I also think setting it in New York or Chicago wouldn’t have been as good because those are cities where everybody’s on top of each other whereas L.A., it’s really spread out. So it’s easy not to have friends in L.A.
CS: Speaking of Ferrigno, you mentioned last time that he was the one person you knew you had to cast from the beginning. On the DVD you talk about Rush having a really good sense of humor, is Lou good with that stuff too because there definitely seemed to be some stuff poking fun at his image.
Hamburg: He was awesome. I mean look, Lou likes these kind comedies. He came in, he was like, “I love R-rated comedies.” He’s got kids who I think are in their late teens to early-to-mid 20’s and they go to these kind of movies and he does too with his wife and he got it. The things with him and with Rush, we weren’t making fun of them. It was just like a matter of fact. In “I Love You, Man,” Paul Rudd’s character just happens to be selling Lou Ferrigno’s house. He’s not a joke in the movie, he’s just a normal dude. I think once he understood that and Rush too, once Rush got that I wasn’t poking fun at them, that I’m genuinely a fan and the main characters of the movie are fans and it’s kind of a loving tribute to them, I think that’s when they came on board.
CS: It’s kind of similar to how Todd Phillips used Mike Tyson in “The Hangover,” I think someone should do a buddy comedy with the two of them.
Hamburg: I know, it was funny. When I saw “The Hangover,” I was like, it’s just very random that two R-rated comedies that came out within the same time frame have these two guys. Tyson’s much, much scarier than Ferrigno in his treatment in “The Hangover” I guess.
CS: I saw Lou at Comic-Con and a security guard was trying to stop him from entering, and I was like, “Are you kidding me? That’s Lou Ferrigno! He can go wherever he wants.”
Hamburg: How can you not recognize Lou Ferrigno? That’s like seeing him on the set of “The Hulk” and you’re going, “I need to see ID.”
CS: Right, that’s what I thought too. How did the movie play in other countries? Did they get a lot of the same jokes in Europe and other places?
Hamburg: The movie did really well in English-speaking countries. It did really well in England, really well in Australia, it did solidly in Germany. It hasn’t done as well in territories where it had to be dubbed completely because I think a lot of the performance and a lot of the comedy is very specific to the way Paul Rudd says a line, or Segel, or anybody in the cast. Obviously some of the comedies I’ve been involved in have traveled better. This movie did solidly, but like I said, in places where it was dubbed it hasn’t been through the roof.
CS: I was curious about that, because I guess they don’t leave them in English and put subtitles in most other places?
Hamburg: No, they don’t. They just feel like the majority of moviegoers internationally aren’t going to go to movies that are subtitled. I mean, I get reviews from all over the world. One of the fun things having one of these movies, you read reviews from Malaysia or Indonesia that actually kind of got what we were going for.
CS: What are your thoughts about “The Hangover?” I remember we talked so much about the current wave of R-rated comedy and that’s been doing insanely well. Do you think it was just the right premise at the right time?
Hamburg: I think two things. I think it’s a great premise because just those two words, “What happened?” made people want to go. It’s almost a mystery, it’s very titillating and it was really funny. I think that combination makes it work, and then there’s other factors. Yeah, people went and they wanted to tell their friends and it came at a good time. There weren’t a lot of R-rated comedies this summer that were just pure balls-out comedies and it totally delivered on that front. I think it was a combination of a really good hook and a really good premise and there’s a mystery and it was funny. And it ends with this end credit photo montage that was one of the funniest things in the movie, so you kinda walk out on a high.
CS: I was talking to someone else about that how the last 10 minutes of your movie makes the biggest difference whether people like it or not.
Hamburg: Todd and I are friends, I was really happy for him and I hope he’ll loan me some money some day.
CS: Did he ask you any advice on doing a sequel because obviously you have that experience?
Hamburg: He hasn’t, but I told him for a nominal fee I would absolutely consult with him.
CS: Obviously you’ve been working on “Little Fockers” and probably haven’t really been developing anything to direct yourself. How has that been going compared to working on the other two movies? Has it been very fluid returning to those characters again?
Hamburg: Yeah, it’s been fun. Larry Stuckey wrote the first draft of the script and we’ve been re-imagining it and writing a new draft. We had to figure out sort of like what the spine of the movie is and how to crack the story and we had to keep it fresh and not just the obligatory three-quel. It’s been really fun. A lot of the players from the first two are involved and it’s been fun. Paul Weitz is directing it and we’ve had a good time trying to crack the script. Yeah, I think we’re coming up with something that’s going to be a good continuation of the saga.
CS: Do you have any idea when you’ll start shooting? Is that on the horizon?
Hamburg: I don’t know exactly. It’s something on the horizon, but I don’t know that there’s an official date yet.
CS: I know that Ben’s on Twitter and I’m sure he’ll let us know.
Hamburg: He told me he just started Tweeting.
CS: Twitter’s such a dangerous place, so we’ll see how he takes to it.
Hamburg: I know, it’s kinda crazy, but why not? He really enjoys direct contact with the fans. I think he was digging it at least in the initial stages.
CS: Did Paul Rudd buy you dinner to get himself a role in “Little Fockers”? (See previous interview) Did that ever work out?
Hamburg: Oh, Rudd? Rudd has not done that. I don’t know what’s going on. I gotta remind him of that.
CS: Maybe he’s too busy anyways.
Hamburg: Yeah, he’s okay. He’s doing a movie with one of the greatest writer/directors of all time, James L. Brooks, so he’s doing okay.
CS: Nice. So, what about some of the ideas you were working on before for your own movies?
Hamburg: This summer’s been so busy trying to get “Little Fockers,” but in any spare time I’ve just been kind of jotting ideas down. I think in the fall I’ll start writing the next movie that I direct.
CS: Great, I’d hope it’s not going to be five or six years before you direct another movie.
Hamburg: Thank you. The last time, I finished “Along Came Polly” and then spent a long time working on “Meet the Fockers,” trying to get that in shape and wrote a couple of other scripts and series and different things, but I’m really excited to just sit down and write my next movie and hopefully get it going next spring.
CS: It was great talking to you again and I hope to see you soon and talk to you again.
Hamburg: Yeah, thanks a lot man. You wrote a great piece when the movie came out, so it was fun to catch up on it today.