Five years ago, no one knew the name Amy Schumer, but thanks to her appearance on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” and a number of stand-up specials that eventually led to her Comedy Central show, Inside Amy Schumer, the 33-year-old stand up has been taking the country by storm.
Now she’s teamed with director/producer Judd Apatow for her first movie Trainwreck, which is a departure for the director, since it’s the first time he’s directing a movie not based on his own material. That’s proof enough of the strength of Schumer’s first screenplay.
Last summer, ComingSoon.net visited the set of the movie out in a suburban area of Queens where they had set up inside a house that was so tight on space that we had to sit outside in a tent to watch what they were filming on monitors. And yes, we did use the word “filming,” because Apatow has taken the unconventional approach by making an improv-heavy comedy movie shooting on film.
Presumably, you’ve already seen the trailer for the movie, but Schumer plays a journalist at a men’s magazine (also named “Amy”) who has spent her life sleeping around after being raised by an adulterous drunken dad. Meanwhile, her younger sister Kim, played by Brie Larson (21 Jump Street), settled down and married a divorced guy with a kid named Tom (Mike Birbiglia). Kim has her own baby on the way, making Amy feel even worse about how her own life has turned out. While doing a story on Bill Hader’s sports doctor, she ends up sleeping with him and she realizes that she may have finally met a guy with whom she may want to spend more than one night. So basically, it’s a romantic comedy about a woman who hasn’t been ready to settle down… until she meets a guy who changes her mind.
We arrived on set just as they were filming a scene at Kim’s baby shower where Amy is trying to fit in with her sister’s square suburban friends. They were sitting in the living room playing a game called “skeletons in the closet” where each person has to share the worst thing they’ve ever done. Most of the women are sharing fairly tame “skeleton” stories and Amy’s being cynical about their sharing until it’s her turn when she pretty much shuts them down with her own “dark secrets.”
The friends were played by other hot up ‘n’ coming female comics like Nikki Glaser (who appeared with Schumer in “Women Who Kill”), Bridget Everett and Australia’s Claudia O’Doherty as Schumer and Apatow decided to use this scene to share Schumer’s film as a showcase for funny women. Most of the women are sharing fairly harmless secrets about smoking or “wearing jeans to my boss’ dinner” or “letting her 6-year-old watch ‘Glee.’” The others are acting so shocked with each secret revealed, while Schumer just sits there, rolling her eyes and giving them incredulous looks until she delivers her own line, which changed with each take.
“I let Tom’s brothers tag team me Christmas morning” or “I once let a cab driver finger me” or “once, in Mexico, I paid a guy to f*ck me” are just some of the examples of Schumer’s way of ending the game that leads to stunned silence from the other women, as Schumer is clearly going for her usual take-no-prisoners approach to comedy with this movie. One of her “skeletons” was a particularly graphic sexual encounter about losing a condom insider her during sex, and the other women are mortified. With each take, Apatow was changing the camera angle, not only to focus on each woman as they told their secret, but also for their reaction to Amy’s stories with Claudia doing funny ad-libs and Bridget having even funnier reactions.
“Is that not in the spirit?” Amy would ask innocently after one particularly negative shocked reaction from the others?
Watching that scene over and over made us wonder how Apatow was going to figure out which lines to use since there were so many variations, and I guess that’s something we’ll only find out once we get to see the movie.
Working with Judd Apatow is his long-time producing partner Barry Mendel, who previously produced movies by M. Night Shyamalan (including The Sixth Sense) and Wes Anderson. Although the comparisons are too similar to ignore–Apatow’s involvement and a hot comic in her first leading role in a movie she wrote–it’s probably not a good idea to bring up the word “Bridesmaids” to that film’s producer. He’s really hoping this movie will stand on its own as he told us in an on-set interview.
“This is completely different than Bridesmaids,” he began. “Bridesmaids is a wedding movie and this is a straight up romantic comedy and I don’t see them as that similar.”
He gave us an analogy of another Universal comedy he saw post-Bridesmaids that tried too hard to follow in that blockbuster’s footsteps. “Judd produced a movie called ‘Five-Year Engagement,’ and I liked that movie and I saw it with an audience and the audience was going crazy for it in a way that made me envious of movies that I’d produced–our movies don’t get that kind of reaction–and the movie ended up not being a huge hit at the box office and one thing I wonder about is that it was very much sold as a follow-up to ‘Bridesmaids.’ They said from the producer of ‘Bridesmaids’ and they used the pink ‘Bridesmaids’ font and color and everything like that and part of me felt like, I wondered about why the movie didn’t do better and you know, you can have lots of thoughts and it might be like, well people just didn’t like it, or it might be the concept or it might be they didn’t like him or her, but one thought that occurred to me was whether people were too hard sold on it being a follow-up to ‘Bridesmaids’ and they were like, why are you leaning so hard on ‘Bridesmaids’? Isn’t it good enough to stand up on its own? Why are you trying to sell it so hard? So I kind of wonder about that, so to me it would be almost ideal if nobody talked about ‘Bridesmaids.’ They will, but I think I wouldn’t encourage us to be pushing it that hard in that direction.”
“One of the fun thing about Bridesmaids is that people discovered it,” he continued along that theme. “‘Did you hear about this movie called ‘Bridesmaids’?’ It wasn’t like ‘Bridesmaids’ was being compared to anything else. It was an original, so maybe if we just say, ‘don’t mention ‘Bridesmaids’ as like the ethos of the marketing campaign and just let people discover ‘Trainwreck’ and let ‘Trainwreck’ be a thing then other people can be like, ‘It’s like ‘Trainwreck.’”
Obviously, the big draw for Trainwreck will be Amy Schumer herself, being that this is going to be her first big introduction to the masses who may not be aware of her Comedy Central show, and that was also the big reason to come to the set, so here’s our full interview with Schumer from that day:
Q: From the scene we watched, it seems that Trainwreck is continuing from your stand-up work when everyone around you is having kids and by comparison your life feels complicated.
Amy Schumer: Right, I am. Well, this scene is actually taken pretty directly from my stand-up, from my hour special, because this is with comics. People don’t like when you repeat jokes–there’s this misconception that it’s always like the first time you’re saying it, like “How do you think of this?” Like you go up and do an hour and sometimes people will come up to you like “I already heard that” and they feel let-down, but this joke, this scene, this is the one where people will yell out that they want to hear it and Twitter or whatever, they’ll write, “Why didn’t you tell the Connecticut friends story?” so this we just decided to add later on. It’s fun to kind of live it out, but this scene is a very good example of a big theme in the movie where everyone’s life around me is taken in one direction and mine has gone in another one, and a lot of it is just me beating myself up why I’m different, and also some judgments and the way that they experience me. So, definitely, and this scene ends in such a destructive way, and kind of uncalled for, but yeah, this is a good scene where I’m kind of turning and being destructive.
Q: Is it harder to put together a feature film when you’re used to doing these shorts in the show and the comedy act and not make it be a bunch of bits?
Schumer: Yeah, definitely. I don’t think I would have even had the confidence to even try to do it, but Judd really encouraged me and made me feel like it was possible. I kept it real small in my mind, so I would think a scene at a time. We would beat out the scenes and I tried to think of it like the TV show, but in a lot of ways it’s a lot more relaxing because I do get to play this one character instead of shooting four scenes in a day where I’m playing all different weirdos, but because the story is close to my heart and a lot of the themes are really important to me, it was a challenge, but it felt pretty organic.
Q: How long did it take you to write the script?
Schumer: This script, I wrote, I would say, I think over the course of a month and a half, the initial draft, but I mean, that’s after working with Judd over two years talking about it, finally landing on the idea, and then kind of spewing it out and then since last July, we’ve been working it, modifying it and it’s been evolving the whole time.
Q: Can you tell us a little more about the story?
Schumer: Sure, I don’t really know how to talk about the story of a movie in a way that doesn’t give stuff away, so bear with me. I would say the story is about a girl whose behavior is catching up with her and things aren’t cute anymore and her defense mechanisms that have guided her along the whole time are finally catching up with her. Well, that doesn’t sound very funny, but it’s funny.
Q: Anyone who has seen your stand-up or “Inside Amy Schumer,” is gonna get that.
Schumer: All right, thank you.
Q: Can you tell us about how the movie is similar to or different from what people know about you already?
Schumer: Yeah, I think If people watch my TV show and they see the interviews and the end of the show, the segment where Amy Goes Deep, where I just talk to somebody, that’s me, that’s the most close, that’s myself just speaking to somebody. I think people have gotten to know me a little bit who watch that, but I would say it’s a hybrid of everything you see in the show. I think everybody, you know, there were a lot of people, who are a great person and also they have thoughts and do some things that they’re not so proud of that doesn’t make them the ideal human. I think everyone is, you know, partially a trainwreck. I’m just for some reason more willing to share that with everybody, but I think it’s just a way more vulnerable side of me than people have seen on the TV show.
Q: To that point, your character in the movie is called Amy. Can you tell us about that decision?
Schumer: That’s straight up laziness and no one ever changing it. One day we were like should we just keep it, and we were like yeah, let’s just keep it. It was, like my Dad in the movie’s name is Gordon and in real life it’s Gordon. He was very like, can we, it’s going to be Gordon, right? He wanted it to be his name, so yeah, but that’s just, and you know, it kind of throws me a little bit in movies, where it’s someone who is from comedy, where you know them and then every time you hear their name, you’re almost taken out of it, like your name’s not Rebecca. So, I don’t know. I think, you know, yeah, for some reason kind of throws me in movies, but really it was laziness.
Q: Had Judd Apatow approached you to direct the movie, because he hasn’t really directed anyone else’s scripts before. He always directs his own for some reason and when we’re watching the scene, it felt like there were things changing each scene.
Schumer: Totally, it’s such a collaboration. He, when we were auditioning people, they would come in and audition with me, and some of them we just treated as work sessions. So, he was kind of directing us in the auditions and I’m thinking, it feels like he’s seeing what it feels like to direct this, but not getting my hopes up, and then it was one of the last days filming this last season of my TV show and he called, and I could feel that it was an important phone call, so I stepped outside and the AD looked at me like, are you out of your f*cking mind. I need five minutes and he was like, I’m going to slap you, and I was like no, and Judd said, I’m going to throw my hat in the ring to direct this and I’m like oh, I had my eye on a couple other, and yeah, and I just felt all the blood rush to my head, don’t cry your makeup off, because the AD is already going to beat you up and yeah, so he called and was like, and I was like, I remember just, being honest with him, I’m trying to play this cool, but this is a very big f*cking deal and I don’t want you to think I don’t know that. So, yeah, that was yeah, it was a little, I had a little hope that that would happen, but it wasn’t something that was really on the table.
Q: What’s the biggest difference that you see with him as a producer and him as a director?
Schumer: I think he’s done this so many times and he’s worn so many different hats. He’s thinking about reshoots and what’s going to work in the edit, and then also directing, so it really does seem like you’re getting this all in one package, but I definitely feel like on set, he’s wearing both of those hats and it makes me feel very protected and relaxed that I don’t have to think about that stuff, because I don’t know about it.
Q: While we were watching, I noticed you guys did a lot of really lengthy takes which allowed you guys to explore the space, do some cool improv, stuff like that. Is that something you guys would also do on Inside Amy Schumer and if not, how do you like that sort of freedom to do that?
Schumer: Definitely we don’t do that on the show, because we have no money and we have to shoot like four scenes in a day. Yes, we’re like, “Can we please get coverage on this scene?” but this format and being able to stretch it out, you just feel very protected and you’re going to get what you need to get and a ton of options in the editing room. I love this. This feels like a vacation to be on this set, because seriously, I’m just like, even just getting, to have a trailer. They’re like, we’re getting you, it’s not the biggest trailer and I’m like, are you serious? I’m usually sitting at a cafeteria table with the extras getting blush put on. So, yeah, this way of working feels way more relaxed and yeah, just like I’m protected, but you know, on the show, I’m used to, we punch up the script. We know what everyone is going to say. We know we’re going to hit the beats in the scene. So, that also, you know, because I’ll know we got the scene. This feels like way more spread out to me, because I’ve never gone through this process before. Yeah, I just feel like protected and like I don’t know what the scenes are going to wind up being exactly.
Q: Do you find that you prefer that television model over the feature film one?
Schumer: I really like them both. Yeah, I mean, this is real nice. Yeah, on the TV show I would not be able to be here talking to you, because I’d be like “He can’t wear that. He’s not playing a soldier.” I have to be looking at every decision.
Q: So on the TV show you have a lot of interesting people coming in and out, like Paul Giamatti was on this season. In the movie, you guys have a really interesting cast, like LeBron James…
Schumer: LeBron and Tilda Swinton, whatever.
Q: Can you talk to us about having such a strange cast on your movie?
Schumer: I wonder if you’ll see the cover of a DVD and you’ll be like “What?” No, your brain is like no, so I don’t know how people will experience that, but it’s really funny that there’s a scene that’s Tilda Swinton and Method Man and Bill Hader and all these comedians that I’ve known forever, but I wrote this script in a manipulative way, hoping that Judd would want to make it. I was like, “and sports and this happens” and I tried to really be resourceful. Like I really wanted LeBron to do it, of course, like dream guy, so I’m like reading articles on him, seeing what I could put in the script that would make him more interested in doing it, even down to describing the Tom Ford suits he was going to wear. I wrote a dream script that I’m like, “I don’t even think there’s enough money for this in the world,” but it’s like LeBron said yes and I said “a Tilda Swinton type” and they’re like, “No she’s going to do it.” And then Method Man and Ezra Miller. It was everybody that it would be my dream is in it.
Q: I have to ask if Tilda and Ezra are playing mother and son again.
Schumer: No, I think they were probably real psyched to get to hang out under these lighter circumstances. I get to see them see each other and like, “Oh my God. We DO need to talk about Kevin,” but no, Tilda plays our boss. I am a writer for a men’s magazine. I couldn’t resist.
Q: When you were auditioning women for these roles in the baby shower scene, what was important to you about the women who were also going to be in the film?
Schumer: I have a lot of really hilarious women that I’m close to, and I wanted to write them roles that way that I thought would best showcase what they can do, and so a scene like this, in this scene, I’m the monster, and they’re being real tame, but the other scenes that we’ve shot with them, like Claudia O’Doherty I don’t know if you’ve seen her videos. In this scene is Claudia, Nikki Glaser and Bridget Everett–three of the funniest human beings I have ever met–and my friend Rachel Feinstein is in a scene that shoots in a couple weeks and I happen to also be close to them in life. I need to do my best to facilitate, then showcase, how hilarious they are. So, really writing, from trying to find their specific voice rather than trying to fit them into an idea.
Q: Now, obviously you’re half-way through shooting.
Schumer: I am? Oh, I was like “Cool…”
Q: But eventually you’ll go over to post-production and a lot it going to be put together in the editing room. Are you going to be there with Judd and making sure he’s using the best jokes? A lot happens in that editing room.
Schumer: As much as I’m permitted. It’s so important to me that the specific voice of this character is heard and not misrepresented. I feel like people get it wrong a lot and no one is going to know this girl better than I do, so he knows how important that is to me, and it is important to me. He likes to get a lot of options, but I think preserving this story and this point of view is important to both of us, and Judd’s made me feel very much like he wants my specific voice to be heard and that I’ll be able to be in the editing room.
Q: That’s good to hear, because his last movie was very personal. He always has his kids and his wife in the movie, so you really feel he’s writing a lot of stuff from him own life, so it’s going to be interesting to see him doing something from someone else’s.
Schumer: I know. I wonder what it’s going to look like.
Q: Have you hung out with Maude Apatow at all?
Schumer: Yes, she’s the coolest. Because she is cooler than me, you know when you’re around somebody, you can just feel it. I’m always trying to impress her and be laid back, and I try to play the older sister role, but she’s like, she’s just one of those people, she’s real sweet but you feel like she can see through you, so yeah. I’m trying to hang with her though, if you could put a word in.
Q: Is she old enough to see your show. Is she allowed?
Schumer: I don’t know if she’s seen my show actually, but that girl is an adult. I want her to be on the show, but I don’t know if the offer reached her. Judd says it didn’t.
Q: Who of the other guest stars in the film, maybe some people who don’t have a comedy background, do you think people will be most impressed by or most surprised by?
Schumer: I think Tilda’s, you know, one of the greatest actors of all time. And Ezra, but that’s what’s cool about the movie, like I would go see a movie because Method Man was in it, and people will, hopefully… oh LeBron, I think every audience will enjoy this movie. I’m lucky with my stand-up that it’s 50/50 men and women and the ages are all across the board, so I really feel like there’s no one who could show up to this that won’t dig it. So I think a lot of different people will be brought in because of the people in it. So, I think different people would impress different people. I’m impressed with comedians, so if you just put the stand-ups that are in this movie on a list, I’d be like holy sh*t, but that’s me.
Q: Aside from who we’ve talked about already, who are the stand-ups that are going to be in the movie? We’re under embargo so we can’t say anything until the studio says so.
Schumer: Oh, cool. I’ve never even heard of embargo lift, so I’m learning what I can say. So okay, Colin Quinn, Jim Norton, again, these guys could all get cut out. Dave Attell, Kurt Metzger, Robert Kelly, Pete Davidson, Nikki Glaser, Bridget Everetee, Rachel Feinstein, John Glazer, Russell Park, Vanessa Bayer, Tim Meadows, who, I mean, did the funniest sh*t I’ve ever seen in my life the last couple of days, Kyle Dunnigan. Did I already say Attell?
Q: It’s a pretty impressive list.
Schumer: I just don’t want to forgot anybody.
Q: How did Judd decide who to bring in? Did you have a lot of written for specific people?
Schumer: I did write some stuff for people specifically, and then some people he was like, what about thinking of that role in a whole other way, but because New York is my town, he’s been great about letting me draw from the actors and comics that I know and trust, so yeah, he definitely trusted me for a lot of that. I definitely had a heavy hand in the casting.
Q: It’s exciting that he’s shooting here because I’d never been to one of his sets since he does everything in California. Has he been one of these directors who wants to shoot at specific landmarks or is he letting you pick out of the way places?
Schumer: Both, I think he wants it to be a great New York movie and everyone is like “Oh my God, Judd’s shooting in New York.” That’s so cool, and I think it’s so badass and he’s doing stand-up while he’s here and yeah, I think it’s ballsy, but location-wise, it’s a mixture of places that are very important to me. I grew up here and I really want a shot at Alice’s Teacup…
Q: Is there legit a shot at Alice’s Teacup?
Schumer: Yeah, there’s a whole scene there. That’s why I put an extra five on, because of the scones.
Q: Which chapter?
Schumer: East side chapter, but I’d just like to talk about the scones I had that day, but then there’s also real classic shot of 59th Street Bridge, straight out of Woody Allen.
Q: Being that you’re from New York, are you ready to see your face all over Times Square in posters?
Schumer: No, that is something that I am not thinking about. That’s what the weirdest thing of the TV show is, like seeing a subway poster. It’s so weird and foreign. I can’t even take it in, because it feels like a movie, like a parody of someone’s life, that they’re like on a subway poster or billboard. You’re just like who, what, but that’s not something that I’m like, I can’t wait. Yeah, I want to make this thing that makes people laugh and make something that I’m proud of, but all of that stuff is not, is not at all exciting to me.
Q: I’m looking forward to your take on it afterwards.
Schumer: Is there any other take? But yeah, I won’t be like “the private planes are crazy, right guys?” Things are still really very similar to how they’ve always been for me.
Q: Is there anything that you can tease to us that you’re doing in the movie that you wouldn’t be able to do in the TV show?
Schumer: Yeah, I mean, can I say like where we’re shooting the final scene? Just like getting to shoot at Madison Square Garden and have big scenes there and yeah, mansion penthouse apartments and (places) where the TV show’s definitely not filming.
Look for more from the set of Trainwreck in the coming weeks, including our interview with Judd Apatow during a short break he took from shooting. Trainwreck opens in theaters on July 17.