Exclusive Interview: Wanderlust Director David Wain
February 26, 2012
Sometimes, you have to wonder how director David Wain finds the time to do everything he has on his plate at any given time. While it's been over three years since his last feature film, the hit comedy Role Models, pairing Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott, Wain's been busy during that time with his long-time collaborator Ken Marino writing and producing "Children's Hospital" on the Cartoon Network, as well as doing his own web series "Wainy Days" (conveniently collected on DVD earlier this month).
And yet, he also had time to make Wanderlust, a raunchy comedy pairing Rudd with Jennifer Aniston as a New York couple who wind up living on a commune of hippies when he loses his job and they choose to embrace a more laid-back lifestyle.
It probably wouldn't be fair to say Wanderlust is a return to form for Wain (since he never really lost his form to begin with), as much as it's an attempt to cross-pollinate a mainstream cast with his odder and more esoteric humor, while reuniting with the likes of Joe Lo Truglio and Kerri Kenney-Silver from "The State."
ComingSoon.net has spoken with Wain a number of times going back to Michael Showalter's The Baxter in 2005 and again for his next two movies after that, so we got back on the phone with him last week, mainly to talk about Wanderlust, working with Judd Apatow and Jennifer Aniston and more.
ComingSoon.net: I'm trying to remember when "Role Models" was, because that was the last time we spoke, and it feels like it was some time ago.
David Wain: 2008, it came out in '08.
CS: Was this something you and Ken had already been working on? I know you guys have been working together for a long time, so did you have a lot of ideas you had been knocking around and this was one you developed into a movie?
Wain: We actually wrote this before we did "Role Models." We got together in a room about five years ago, having done ten this way and we were excited about it. The way I'm talking about it is we got into a room without even an idea in our heads and forced ourselves to come up with an idea and then outline the idea and write a first draft in a week, 12 hours a day. No matter how sloppy or crappy it is, we would just do that. So that's how we started writing this movie.
CS: It certainly feels more like "Wet Hot American Summer" or "The Ten" than it does "Role Models," more like the stuff we're used to from you guys.
Wain: In a way, we had designed it that way. Because "Role Models" was a project we inherited that was already set-up at the studio and we kind of reformed it a little bit of our voice, this one was one that we were building ourselves from scratch, so we wanted to take the opportunity to do something that was more in our voice and personal in the best way we could.
CS: I know Judd was a fan of "Wet Hot American Summer," which is sort of how Paul got involved with working with him. Was he interested in this and then set you up with "Role Models" or how did you end up working with him?
Wain: Well, I had known Judd very, very loosely through Paul and just having met him on the set of "Freaks and Geeks" actually many years ago. I've always admired him and kind of looked up to him, and occasionally, he had given me some really good advice at various points along the way, but I didn't know him well. Once we did that first draft of "Wanderlust" and then we put it away when we got busy with "Role Models," and then we also of course got to do "Children's Hospital" and we did a lot of writing over the next few years. Then when we got back wanting to get "Wanderlust" going, we did some more drafts of it, and then we finally took it to Paul and said, "Hey, we'd love you to play the lead role." Then Paul came on as the producer as well as actor, then the three of us took it to Jennifer Aniston, got her on board and then we all took that whole package to Judd and said, "Hey, we'd love you to be our partner on this."
CS: Because Judd knows your stuff as a producer, was he there to help get you what you needed but otherwise gave you the freedom to do what you wanted?
Wain: No, no. We wanted him to be more involved in that. We could've found a producer that does what you just said, but we were looking for someone like Judd, who has a lot to offer creatively and who was going to push us hard to do our best work. Because we had a good experience with him as the producer doing that for us on "Role Models," we wanted someone who wasn't just going to say, "Oh, it's great." That's what Judd did. He helped us and kind of really coached us into doing as much we could at every stage of the process.
CS: I was curious when you did this because I remember both Paul and Kathryn Hahn were talking about this at the junket for the James Brooks movie ("How Do You Know") so when did you actually shoot this?
Wain: No, the James Brooks movie was shot before "Wanderlust." Kathryn Hahn was in three in a row with Paul, actually, because they were in "My Idiot Brother" as well and that was shot right before "Wanderlust."
CS: How did you arrive at the title "Wanderlust?" I liked the movie but the title was interesting because it's not the most obvious connection, so was that title something you can up with early on?
Wain: When we were writing it, first it was called "Commune" and then it was called "Elysium" and then we just wanted to find a title that was a little bit more indicative of thematically what it's about, the notion of leaving what's comfortable and just exploring other ways of living. I acknowledge it may not be quite exactly what the movie's about, but I like the word and it stuck.
CS: It must have been great getting Jen on board. Last year she did a lot more straight comedy, first with Sandler and then she was amazing in "Horrible Bosses." Did she get your type of comedy right away and how it needed to be delivered?
Wain: Well, she had seen and liked "Role Models," and I had actually met with her on a different project after she had seen "Role Models," so we had a brief introduction to each other. Yeah, she seemed to be a fan of what we were doing, and definitely I can tell you once we got to working on the movie she jumped right in full force and was such a great and immediate member of the team as if she had been around for years like a lot of us have been working together.
CS: She worked with Paul a couple times, doing a movie with him and then he was on "Friends."
Wain: That is correct.
CS: Paul had done more mainstream dramatic films before he went full-on into comedy, so did he help ease Jennifer into the type of humor you guys do?
Wain: I think so. They're good friends, so I think there was definitely a comfort zone for her, but like I say, obviously she's no beginner. She really has been doing great comedy for a long, long time and so our particular brand, she just sort of followed along and jumped in and it was a very tight group of other actors put together and cast and crew, so everybody kind of supported each other a lot and having fun improvising and so forth.
CS: One of the scenes that gets huge laughs is when Paul is preparing to hook up with Malin and just talking himself up in the mirror. He's just so good at doing that sort of improv, so do you just let him go and film all of it?
Wain: Yeah, totally. That was the scene for example, which is similar to many where the first part of what you see on screen was what was on the page in the script, and then we just kind of let him go off and improvise and a lot of what's really special about that scene is the stuff that he just made up on the fly.
CS: There's been some talk about Jennifer's nude scene, which actually was handled in the movie as I would expect since the joke is that they're flashing the news cameras, which would have to blur out the nudity to air anyway, so I was wondering why that got so much attention.
Wain: I think Jennifer is such a specific type of celebrity that her every move is scrutinized so much more than almost anybody else on earth and so every little element of what she does just becomes this big story, having nothing to do really with the movie or anything else. I think that's really all it is.
CS: Does it help get attention for a movie like this or not helpful?
Wain: I honestly have no idea. It's really not my thing. Marketing is not my area of expertise, so I just really don't know.
CS: You mentioned the celebrity thing but you shot in Georgia, sort of in a pretty remote area. Were you able to get away from the stuff she usually has to deal with being a celebrity? It's funny that most of the stuff you've done, other than "Wainy Days" and "The Baxter," you haven't really shot in the city.
Wain: Yeah, well, it's true. I live in Manhattan and I think I make some effort to shoot places that are different from my own environment. I like the opportunity to be outside and I really enjoyed being out in the country for a change and for Jennifer, I know in particular it was such great, great break from being hounded by paparazzi all the time. She felt free there in this little town of Clarksville where we shot, was so welcoming and we would go to the local restaurant there all the time, and it was really like living a different life for a few months. It was very special.
CS: I'm surprised that no one's making a bigger deal about the Joe Lo Truglio nudity because that's a bigger part of the movie, I think.
Wain: If you live in the bubble of my own self and looking at all the stuff that's been written, I think that people are making a pretty big deal out of it. (Laughs) It's talked about a lot and I'm asked about it a lot.
CS: So does he just like being naked or did you some sort of prosthetic or CG to enhance him?
Wain: It was just a big fake d*ck. (Laughs)
CS: Did you have any problems with the ratings because of that?
Wain: Nope, they were fine with it. (laughs)
CS: I don't know if I'm crazy but I thought I noticed a couple of throwbacks to "Wet Hot American Summer" like the random guy playing electric guitar.
Wain: It's the same guy playing the same part. Peter Salett is a recording artist who played the part in both movies.
CS: I also loved your cameo with Michael and Michael. I almost feel like I'd want to see an entire show or movie of the three of you doing a news/talk show.
Wain: (Laughs) Yeah, there is actually quite a bit more of it on the DVD. In fact, on the Blu-ray of "Wanderlust," there's going to be a thing called "The Bizarro Cut," which is an entire version of the movie that is made up of almost entirely of material that's not in the movie. It's completely another cut of stuff.
CS: I'm curious about that because I've seen the commercials--and this happened with "Bridesmaids" as well--but the commercials show stuff that isn't in the movie. Obviously they get material earlier and some stuff doesn't make the cut but I was curious why that happens so often these days.
Wain: They start working on the marketing before we finish the film then sometimes there are scenes that are part of the movie universe but they're not in the actual theatrical cut. What's interesting to me is these days the theatrical cut that's in the theaters is just the first version of it, and then the cut that's made in ancillary versions is much longer than in theaters. Although, I do highly recommend seeing this in a theater because it's a beautifully shot movie and it would be better to see it with an audience.
CS: There's so much stuff in the movie that's very funny and I know some of that can't be shown in the commercials, but how involved are you in the marketing in terms of what they use for the commercials? Do you offer ideas or just let them do their thing?
Wain: Well, they communicate with me and I can thrown in my two cents, but my own acknowledgement, it's really not my area of expertise, so I let them and Judd, of course, who is a huge expert in this, mostly drive it.
CS: When you were on "The State" did you and Ken write a lot of sketches together?
Wain: We didn't write together exclusively by a long shot, but we did write a number of sketches together during "The State" like "The Jew, The Italian and the Redhead Gay" and the hot dog one, which we named our production (company) after and a few others, but we really started working as a pair when we started doing "The Ten."
CS: Many marriages don't even last that long, because how did you guys keep this partnership going for 23 years? I'm not even sure I knew you guys were so involved with "Children's Hospital"
Wain: Yeah, and Ken, for the next season of "Children's Hospital," which we're editing right now, is not just an actor, but he's the writer, director and producer on that show. I think Ken and I just really get along and we enjoy working together and all of us in "The State" kind of continuously are working on various projects in different configurations together over the years. We all sort of see eye to eye comedically and we all try to work together. I think they're the funniest people I've ever met, so I have no intention of stopping working with them.
CS: This is kind of hypothetical, but do you think "The State" as it was on TV would probably be more understood by audiences than when it was shown back in the '90s?
Wain: I have no idea. That's so hypothetical, but that's fine.
CS: So what are you doing next besides "Children's Hospital"? Is the sequel to "Wet Hot American Summer" something that's at the forefront?
Wain: Well, there's a lot of things always on the forefront, definitely working with Michael Showalter on "Wet Hot American Summer," I'm working hard on the editing of this next season of "Children's Hospital." We're doing a new show on Adult Swim called "Newsreaders" we're preparing to shoot soon. Then we're going to do another season of "Children's Hospital" that we're going to shoot. I've got another movie that I've been working on, so there's going to be no rest for me at this point. Also, the "Wainy Days" DVD just came out, and I just finished that project.
(You can read more about what Wain had to say about that Wet Hot American Summer sequel here.)
CS: I saw that you and Ken did some rewrites on the new Sandler movie as well.
Wain: Yeah, I forget what it's called now--they keep changing the title--but yes, the one with Andy Samberg, and I'm really proud of it.
CS: I've actually heard good things about it from someone I know who doesn't normally like Sandler's movies.
Wain: Yeah, I think it's definitely one of my favorite ones that I've seen and it's just really cool. We did a couple drafts of the script and a lot of our work is in there, but Sean Anders directed it and David Capse wrote the script originally, so we won't have a screen credit on that.