Yesterday, we brought you the first part of ComingSoon.net’s visit to the Sonoma Valley set of Nicholas Stoller’s The Five-Year Engagement as well as interviews with Stoller, producer Rodney Rothman and stars Jason Segel and Emily Blunt. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out here.
Alex and Suzie
The best friend of Jason Segel’s Tom Solomon, Alex Eilhauer is played by comedian Chris Pratt, best known for his ongoing role on “Parks and Recreation.” In today’s scene, he’s embarassing his friend by performing a musical tribute to Tom’s ex-girlfriends, set to the music of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” during Tom’s engagement party. Also present at the gathering is Alison Brie as Suzie Barnes, the sister of Tom’s new fiancee, Violet (Emily Blunt). Though Suzie and Alex have barely met, they quickly become a couple themselves and, throughout the film, serve as a parallel look at relationships against that of Tom and Violet.
“I remember growing up I always saw the pretty girl end up with the loser *sshole,” says Pratt of his character, “and now I kinda get to be on the other end of that! I get to be the loser *sshole that gets the pretty girl!”
“You’re not an *sshole,” Brie adds politely, “You’re just a loser. You’re just a gross, weird loser.”
Because Blunt is British, Brie did speech training to match her movie-sister’s dialect.
“I actually, embarrassingly rented or bought/purchased — cause I’m like this I’m gonna need — ‘The Devil Wears Prada,'” Brie explains, “and just watched Emily’s scenes again and again… Emily’s become the on-set dialect coach. I think, normally working with a dialect you just get your lines, you memorize your lines and it’s really easy to finely tune an accent for those specific lines. But here, so much of it is improv. Not just improv, but collaboration I think. So it’s Nick coming up with stuff, and then you pitching something, and then you guys creating new lines two minutes before you say them. So it’s not all the improv in the moment, but I still just have five minutes to rework it in my head and run it past Emily maybe, and give it a go.”
“And Emily’s good,” Pratt adds, “She’ll come in and be like ‘I’m so sorry, but it’s not to-MAY-to, it’s to-MAH-to.
Like Segel’s Tom, Pratt’s Alex is a chef and ends up finding some of the success that eludes Tom after he and Violet move to Michigan. Alex and Suzie become a couple that Tom and Violet find themselves trying to live up to.
“I also feel like our characters kinda take the biggest journey in the movie,” says Brie, “from where you see them at the beginning to where you see them in five years. It really comes a long way. It’s been interesting to shoot it because we’ve been going backwards in time, kind of.”
“It’s basically our movie,” says Pratt, matter-of-factly.
“That’s the spoiler alert,” Brie continues, “We’re the stars of the movie. We have the biggest journey. We really change a lot, yea.”
“And we’re getting paid the most!” adds Pratt.
“Our trailers are the biggest,” she shoots back, “Diva City, that’s where I live.”
Although they’re quick to joke back and forth with one another, it’s the hope of both actors that the on-screen relationship will carry a realistic and dramatic side, too.
“I think one of the themes is just sort of if you wait for things to be perfect you’ll just miss out on life,” Pratt explains. “If you just kind of take that leap and have faith that it’ll be alright in the end, often times it is. And at least you take that leap. You can’t see the safety net, but it’s down there somewhere. These guys are balking and stalling and trying to make everything perfect and in the mean time they kind of start ruining their relationship. We fall face first into a pretty great relationship with a good family and great jobs and stuff.”
“So as you can imagine it’s quite a journey,” says Brie. “There may be some other parties. There may be some other speeches.”
“Billy Joel might be in the movie!” blurts out Pratt.
“There may be a cameo with Billy Joel,” Brie responds.
“No,” admits Pratt with sheepish smile. “No, but there won’t be.”
George and Sylvia
Perhaps the best example of the couple that Tom and Violet don’t want to become, Jacki Weaver and Jim Piddock play Violet’s parents, George and Sylvia. Now divorced, there’s a fair share of animosity between the two, particularly during the engagement party. To make matters worse, George has shown up with a significantly younger Asian girlfriend on his arm and, according to Weaver, she’s not the only one he has during the course of the film.
“Some are Japanese,” she explains, “Some are Chinese. Some are Thai. Some are Vietnamese. We run the gamut. And I actually happen to have a very dear daughter-in-law who’s Japanese. I don’t know what she’s going to make of the film. I say a few disparaging things.”
“I’ve just put in a pitch for Siamese twins in the last scene,” laughs Piddock. “Don’t know whether I’ll be successful or not.”
George’s freewheeling nature makes for a staunch contrast to Sylvia’s very straight-laced English mother, who is none to happy that Violet that is planning to marry Tom in the first place.
“My character is a bitter old bitch really,” Weaver laughs. “But it’s just quite good fun to play… Because I disapprove of just about everything under the sun,” she explains, “I’m not too keen on [Tom] at all. Emily and I have some funny scenes where we quarrel and it gets quite heated, the mother-daughter relationship. You know, some film mothers and daughters adore each other and some don’t. But how could you not love Emily Blunt? But I think I’m just one of those people who’s always discontented.”
“Probably because I was the less hands on parent,” adds Piddock, “I’m more okay with everything. Because I’m so self-involved with my own kind of life. You know, with my Asian lovers. And I think the implication is that I travel quite a bit for work and so I think he’s one of those guys who keeps anything intimate at an arm’s distance… My view of Jason’s character Tom is fine. I’m just probably not a great thinker.”
In the case of both actors, joining a Segel and Stoller films means getting used to the level of improvisation on-set.
“It’s funny,” recalls Piddock, “because the first day I had a scene where I was asked to do something particularly disgusting, even by my standards. And I couldn’t do it. We took about 45 minutes to get it because everytime I’d start both of us just completely went. And one of the things that was making me laugh was, they were so insistent that they get it and I know it won’t end up in the movie. So for some reason that made me laugh that so much care was taken for this horrible piece of business that was never going to be in the movie.”
“Also, Emily’s such a giggler,” smiles Weaver.”She has such a positive life force about her and she’s so giggly in a naughty sort of schoolgirl way that it kind of brings out the worst in you. And also Nick Stoller has one of the best laughs. It’s so infectious. And whenever he laughs at something you do, it’s like giving us a reward.”
Pete and Carol
On the flip side of things are David Paymer and Mimi Kennedy as Tom’s happily married parents, Pete and Carol who, after filming their wedding toast, were caught midway between themselves and their characters.
“We’re one of those marriages that’s just iconic,” beams Kennedy to her fictional spouse, “Iconic, right?”
“I think so,” Paymer nods.
“Totally,” she jokes, “… We’ve done very well marrying our actor-son Jason Segel off to Emily Blunt. That’s really happening, right?”
Unlike Violet’s parents, Pete and Carol are laid back and, when it comes time to present their wedding toast, they come out and perform a rhyme that they’ve rehearsed together.
“[T]he first day we worked,” Kennedy recalls, “Nick came into the trailer and said to all of us, ‘Anybody who wants to throw anything in their own toast, feel free’ and I jokingly said, ‘Yes, but then we’d have to rhyme it!’ And he said, ‘That’s the only caveat. Yours will have to rhyme.’ So I ran to [David’s] trailer and said, ‘Let’s come up with a toast!’ Even if he didn’t mean it, we could just throw it in and make everyone be delighted going, ‘What are they saying?'”
“And then he actually said that he liked that toast very much and that it might be in the movie,” Paymer adds.
“So that’s when he started throwing things in,” Kennedy continues about Stoller’s fondness for on-set improvisation. “I had a little scene with Emily where he made my character get a little strange. I was like, ‘Really? You want me to do that?’ and he said yes and it started to get really funny. I was telling her that there were 600 wedding guests and she goes, ‘That’s a lot.’ He had me say, ‘Don’t get in front of this train, Violet. This train has been going for 30 years!'”
Overall, though, the Pete and Carol characters couldn’t be happier about the girl that their son has chosen, even if they don’t quite get along with her parents.
“I think that [Tom] looks at our marriage as — even though we’re older and kind of kooky — he kind of looks at us as an ideal,” says Paymer, “If he could have something that long lasting, that would be cool.”
What Pete Solomon is less impressed with is his son’s career path. A lawyer himself, he thinks Tom would be a lot better off dropping his dreams of becoming a chef.
“I’m a little concerned about him,” Paymer admits with a smile. “He’s a chef and I know he’s really talented, but I’m always like, ‘So what kind of job can you get doing that?'”
“Honey,” protests Kennedy, “he’s following his bliss!”
“Yeah, but your bliss runs out after age 30,” Paymer moans with mock sincerity, “I just want to make sure he’s okay. At one point, he’s working in a deli. I’m like, ‘Is it a gourmet deli?’
“I can’t wait to have his sandwiches,” says Kennedy, “They’ll be great.”
The Five-Year Engagement arrives in theaters on April 27th.