The biggest challenge in interviewing Paul Rudd and Jason Segel, the stars of the new film I Love You, Man, is not getting good quotes; they provide an embarrassment of riches. The hard part is keeping it from turning into one extended riffing session on the first thing you say. A journalist wants to ask a few penetrating questions, even if the real fun comes from watching these guys play off each other.
The pair make an incredible comedy team in person, just as they do on screen, and their personalities are what you might expect. Segel tends to go for the big laugh, often with a bit of snark. When we wonder if Rudd and director John Hamburg, both around 40, made Segel, 29, the on-set butt of the newbie jokes, Segel turns it around: ‘I’m going to be a young man for a while. These guys are getting to the point where their style of movies… did you see Grumpy Old Men?’ Advantage Segel.
Rudd’s humour is sneakier. He comes off as the more serious and mild-mannered one, but when he does get a dig in at Segel, it’s done with surgical precision. We asked them about their recent spread in Vanity Fair magazine, in which Segel, Rudd and other ‘new generation’ comic actors were photographed by Annie Leibovitz, who shot each of them separately as a famous comic icon of an earlier generation. We wanted each of them to comment on the other’s photo and profile essay, which led a chagrined Segel to a confession: ‘I’ve had this magazine now for a few days and I just realised that I haven’t read anybody else’s profile. I’ve read mine like a hundred times. (Turning to Rudd) Whose picture did you do?’
You might expect Rudd to make fun, but he replies casually, ‘I did Gene Wilder from Young Frankenstein.’ ‘Awesome!’ says Segel. ‘Really cool.’ And then Rudd grins and drolly demonstrates that he, by contrast, has read the whole article: ‘Thanks. Your Buster Keaton was one of my favourites in the entire spread.’ Point to Rudd.
Between all the comic volleying, though, the pair show genuine appreciation for each other’s work. Segel on Rudd: ‘Part of what I admire most [is] his willingness to be a character actor and explore. The fact that he was willing to do three scenes in Forgetting Sarah Marshall as a stoned surfing instructor was a real honour for me. Paul is a leading man, but he likes playing different characters. That’s frickin’ cool to me. You don’t meet a lot of actors, [who] once they achieve that status, want to go do little parts in other people’s movies.’
Rudd on Segel: ‘How many guys are willing to be not just emotionally naked but physically naked in a movie? I think it’s emblematic of how he acts and how he is around people in life, not just the things that he is working on. There is a vulnerability about him and, besides the fact that he is naturally funny in so many of his personal stories in life, he is the victim and he enjoys that and he laughs about it. He doesn’t have an embarrassment when most people would.’
Can you feel the love? But they both seem vaguely mortified at how serious we’ve made them. Rudd looks at us in mock horror. ‘We’re supposed to make fart jokes. What’d you do to us?’
I Love You, Man is scheduled for release on June 18.
The best of brotherly love
The bromance – close platonic love between blokes – has a history in Hollywood. These are Time Out’s favourites.
Goose & Maverick
There’s a fair amount of man love going on in Top Gun (1986), but it’s the doomed bromance between Anthony Edwards’s loveable Goose and Tom Cruise’s rebellious Maverick that stands out. They sing, they play volleyball, and then Goose bites the dust, leaving a devastated Maverick behind him (never mind Goose’s widow, then).
Johnny Utah & Bodhi
Ah, we all love a forbidden bromance, and that’s what we get in 1991 action classic Point Break. Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) teaches Keanu Reeves’s FBI agent Johnny Utah the spiritual art of surfing, but when the latter discovers his new best bud is the criminal he’s gone undercover to catch there lies a dilemma of bromance-busting proportions.
Will Hunting & Chuckie Sullivan
The on-and-off-screen bromance between Matt Damon/Will Hunting and Ben Affleck/Chuckie Sullivan launched this platonic partnership’s Hollywood careers in 1997. Chuckie makes the ultimate bromantic sacrifice when he tells Will to leave him behind and start the new life he deserves. Ah, fellas. Time Out is shedding a tear right now.
Han Solo & Chewbacca
This is a bromance so strong it crosses species. In a galaxy far, far away, space smuggler Han Solo’s devoted other half is the Wookie Chewbacca, a 2.15m tall creature covered in hair. It’s a one-man-and-his-dog type affair, Star Wars style.