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Jason Segel Explains The Mysteries Of Guydom

From the archive, an interview with Jason Segel, the hapless hero of Forgetting Sarah Marshall and the arrested-adolescent co-star of I Love You, Man. He's currently starring in the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother.

43:14

Other segments from the episode on October 16, 2009

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, October 16, 2009: Interview with Jason Segel; Review of the film "Where the wild things are."

Transcript

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Jason Segel Explains The Mysteries Of Guydom

TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. My guest, actor Jason Segel, got his start
with Seth Rogan and James Franco in the Judd Apatow high school series “Freaks
and Geeks.” Segel was in Apatow’s film “Knocked Up,” then wrote himself a
starring role in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” a romantic comedy that includes a
Dracula musical performed with puppets. He’s not done with puppets. He signed
on to write the screenplay for a Muppets movie.

He also co-stars in the CBS series “How I Met Your Mother.” Last spring, Segel
starred opposite Paul Rudd in the bromance “I Love You, Man,” which is now out
on DVD. Paul Rudd plays a real estate agent in L.A. who’s just proposed to his
girlfriend. As they plan the wedding, he realizes he has no close friend to
serve as his best man. So he starts looking for a man-friend.

That’s where Jason Segel enters the picture, as the ultimate dude with his own
man-cave, no apparent means of support and with a penchant for hanging out,
talking endlessly about sex, avoiding long-term relationships, getting high and
playing heavy-metal guitar.

This is a new world for the mild-mannered Paul Rudd character, but as he
becomes a little more adventurous, it begins to complicate things with his
fiancée, especially after he takes to heart Segel’s question: Why are you even
getting married?

(Soundbite of film, “I Love You, Man”)

Mr. PAUL RUDD (Actor): (As Peter Klaven) Zooey walked out on me because I asked
her why we were getting married.

Mr. JASON SEGEL (Actor): (As Sydney Fife) Why would you ask her that? That
conversation was between you and me. You can’t have that talk with her. I just
– look, I assumed you understood that.

Mr. RUDD: (As Peter) God, I am so sick of your ridiculous rules. I like it that
I can share things with Zooey. I like that if I can’t sleep at night, she’s
there to talk to. I – do you know the best night I’ve had in the last five
years is a night that Zooey and I split a bottle of wine, we made a summer
salad and watched “Chocolat” together?

Mr. SEGEL: (As Sydney) You mean “Chocolate”?

Mr. RUDD: (As Peter) “Chocolat.”

Mr. SEGEL: (As Sydney) “Chocolate,” with Johnny Depp.

Mr. RUDD: (As Peter) “Chocolat.”

Mr. SEGEL: (As Sydney) You’re not (bleep) French, Pete. It’s called
“Chocolate.”

Mr. RUDD: (As Peter) Chocolate’s got an E on it.

Mr. SEGEL: (As Sydney) That was your favorite night?

Mr. RUDD: (As Peter) Yes.

Mr. SEGEL: (As Sydney) Your best night in five years is watching “Chocolate”
with Johnny Depp? You should be ashamed of yourself.

Mr. RUDD: (As Peter) Well, the combination of wine and summer salad and
“Chocolat,” yeah.

Mr. SEGEL: (As Sydney) You should be embarrassed.

GROSS: Jason Segel, welcome to FRESH AIR. Describe your character, Sydney Fife,
in "I Love You, Man."

Mr. SEGEL: Sure. Sydney was a late bloomer, and so he's kind of terrified of
monogamy, and you know, he's a bit of a womanizer and really values his guy
friends.

He's a little bit mysterious. I don't want to give too much away, but he - you
know, he's got this attitude that I don't possess in life, which is this is who
I am, take it or leave it, which is what really drew me to playing that part.

It sort of reminded me of my friend, Russell Brand, who I did "Sarah Marshall"
with.

GROSS: Oh, he's terrific in your film, yeah.

Mr. SEGEL: Oh, thank you. Well, he has that quality in real life as well, of
this is who I am, you know, accept it. And I've never had that. I'm the kind of
guy who, like, stays up till midnight thinking I wish I hadn't said that thing
to that guy, I hope I didn't hurt his feelings.

And then I'll call the next day and apologize, and they'll have no idea what
I'm talking about. That's sort of how I'm bent, and it was nice to sort of play
the opposite.

GROSS: Do you agree with the film’s basic premise that it’s sometimes easier to
find a girlfriend than to find a good platonic male friend?

Mr. SEGEL: No, I do. You know, I was sort of surprised this movie hadn't been
made before. But as you get older, it's very tricky for men to make friends
with strangers.

You know, normally I guess your friends are sort of grandfathered in. They're
friends of other friends, or you know, your girlfriend's friends, one way or
another, and to try to make friends with a stranger is tricky for grown men.

I think women have it a lot easier. You guys can, like, walk into a woman's
restroom and come out with a new best friend. But for men, it's just, it's not
the same thing.

GROSS: Do you still have old friends, like friends from your high school days,
and…

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah. My best friend in the world is a guy called Brian Lind, who I
met when I was 12 years old, and he lived with me for the past couple of years,
and then six months ago he moved to New York to go to med school.

And I just gave him kind of a bro goodbye. I said, all right, man, go get them
out there, I'm proud of you. And he left, and I woke up at 2:00 in the morning,
out of a dream, crying hysterically, and I had to call my mother to calm me
down.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: That's funny.

Mr. SEGEL: It was horrible.

GROSS: You know, these bromance movies, where it's about the platonic
relationship between two or more men…

Mr. SEGEL: Sure.

GROSS: …why do you think they're so popular now?

Mr. SEGEL: Boy, I don't know. You know, I think maybe these kind of buddy
movies are allowing men to open up a little bit about, you know, it's okay to
let this guard down and let the machismo down and just be who you are.

GROSS: Yeah, but so many of the bromance movies are so much about the machismo.
Like, your character is really macho in his own way, is a real womanizer, and -
you know, living in what used to be called the classic bachelor pad, like
living in this, like, mass of, you know, boy stuff.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah.

GROSS: These are the guys who can't really grow up.

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah. My character certainly is stunted, and that's what I learn
from Paul Rudd's character. I think the slight difference in the way our movie
turns it on its head is you never hear in the movie, you don't see Paul Rudd
and I sitting around, like, talking dirty talk.

It's - we have very emotional discussions, and I try to delve into why he wants
to marry his wife, and I think sometimes conversations like that are what get
cut out of the buddy movie because it seems too sentimental.

In our movie, we actually do the opposite, and we expose that we know the
secret, that it's really women who do the locker-room talk more than men do.

I've never been around guys who sit around and talk about, you know, their
girlfriend this or their girlfriend that, but I have met friends of my ex-
girlfriend who clearly know everything about my anatomy, and you know…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: It's like you women, I think, are some dirty talkers.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Jason Segel, and he stars with
Paul Rudd in the new film "I Love You, Man."

Let's talk a little bit about a film that you wrote and star in, and that's
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall," which I missed in the movies, but I watched it on
DVD - it's out on DVD - and it's really good and it's really funny.

Mr. SEGEL: Oh, thanks.

GROSS: Let's hear what I know is your most famous scene in the movie, and this
is from the beginning of the film. And like you play a guy who writes music for
a crime scene kind of TV show.

Mr. SEGEL: Exactly. It's basically a "CSI" spoof. I was a guest star on "CSI"
for a while, and I just always found how serious, how serious it all is very
funny. You know?

GROSS: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Mr. SEGEL: So yeah, I play a guy who composes the music and is sort of just
dying inside because he wants to be a proper musician, and his girlfriend is
the star of the show.

And so one day she comes over to the house, and I think she's there to have sex
with me. So I'm waiting there naked for her, and she proceeds to dump me while
I'm naked.

GROSS: Yeah, well, let me explain it a little bit more. She told you that she's
coming over, and you didn't expect her that quickly. So you jump into the
shower, and you come out with a towel wrapped around you, surprised to find her
there. And as she tells you the news, the towel drops.

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah.

GROSS: And we get to see you full top to bottom from front and behind.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: Yes.

GROSS: Fully naked.

Mr. SEGEL: You're welcome.

GROSS: Yes, right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So here's the scene.

(Soundbite of film, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall")

Ms. KRISTEN BELL (Actor): (As Sarah Marshall) Peter, as you know, I love you
very much.

Mr. SEGEL: (As Peter Bretter) Are you breaking up with me?

Ms. BELL: (As Marshall) Pete, are you…

Mr. SEGEL: (As Bretter) I just need a minute.

Ms. BELL: (As Marshall) Okay.

(Soundbite of crying)

Mr. SEGEL: (As Bretter) Please don't go.

Ms. BELL: (As Marshall) Why don't you just put on some clothes, and we can sit
down and discuss this.

Mr. SEGEL: (As Bretter) No, I can't do anything right now.

Ms. BELL: (As Marshall) I'm so sorry, Pete.

Mr. SEGEL: (As Bretter) I'm in love with you.

Ms. BELL: (As Marshall) Why don't you just put some clothes on, okay?

Mr. SEGEL: (As Bretter) I'm not going to go put clothes on. I know what that
means. If I put clothes on, it's over.

GROSS: Okay, that's my guest, Jason Segel, with Kristen Bell, from his film
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall." Now…

Mr. SEGEL: That was taken from the pages of real life. I once got dumped while
I was naked, but she asked me to put clothes on during this real breakup, my
real-life breakup, and - as opposed to in the movie when I say no, I did go to
put clothes on.

So she waited for me while I went back into my room to get dressed. Let me just
tell you, Terry.

GROSS: Yeah?

Mr. SEGEL: Picking out an outfit for the second half of a breakup is like the
hardest outfit you'll ever pick out in your life.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: I came out, I came out in a blue buttoned up shirt and khaki pants,
like I was going to private school.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So did it seem funny to you at the time, or is it just in retrospect
it's - these things take…

Mr. SEGEL: You know what? I think maybe this is the mind of a writer, I guess,
but it was - while this breakup is happening, which was probably the most
significant moment of my life to date, you know, when that happened, and I'm
naked, and the whole time I'm thinking this is really, really funny. I'm going
to use this in a movie someday, and slowly her voice became like the teacher
from Charlie Brown, you know, just wha-wha-wha, wha-wha-wha, while I was slowly
constructing the scene in my mind.

GROSS: Oh, so what did she say? What did the real ex-girlfriend say when she
saw the movie?

Mr. SEGEL: Amazingly, amazingly, we don't speak anymore.

GROSS: Oh, shocking. Right, okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah.

GROSS: I should've seen that coming.

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So like, you're 6'4", I think?

Mr. SEGEL: I am 6'4".

GROSS: So when you're naked, there's a lot of you to see, and it makes it even
funnier because you have, like, such - there's such a big body there that's,
like, dwarfing your girlfriend.

Mr. SEGEL: I know. Well, you know, part of what I thought could be great, and I
think it did turn out really well, is, you know, I know it's a comedy, and so
everything has to be funny, but I didn't want that breakup scene to be funny. I
didn't want it to be played for laughs, you know? Because I think it was a
really important part of the movie, this - that the breakup be as painful as
possible.

So I thought the backdrop of me being naked gave me the opportunity to play the
scene totally seriously because every time you cut back to me naked, you're
going to get a laugh, you know?

And the other thing I thought was, I wanted it to be a guy literally at his
most vulnerable. And so, you know, I think naked is about as vulnerable as it
gets.

And the final thing is I hate romantic comedies for the reason that you always
know how it's going to end. The guy's going to end up with the girl, like hey,
probably that girl who's been really nice to him the whole movie works at the
cookie shop, you know?

You can tell what's about to happen, and so I've always been reticent to go,
and I thought as a viewer, if in the very first scene of the movie your lead
actor is suddenly full-frontal, you know, naked, you're forced to sort of throw
out your expectations and sit back and say I don't know what's going to happen
in this movie, you know?

So I think it sort of set the stage to lose any preconceptions about what the
movie might be like.

GROSS: I don't know how to put this in a way discrete enough so that we could
discuss it on the radio, but so here you are, in like six minutes into the
film, and you're there, like, stark naked.

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah.

GROSS: And we see you in every angle.

Mr. SEGEL: Sure.

GROSS: And so, like, what did you do to make sure that your privates would look
good?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: Sure. No, I absolutely understand the question, and I will try to
word it equally as carefully.

GROSS: Thank you.

Mr. SEGEL: Well, I found out in the meetings leading up to the movie about the
scene - because, believe me, there was a lot of talk about whether or not I
should even do it.

So all of the sudden, I'm sitting with Universal executives and Judd Apatow,
and we're talking about what it's going to be like when I'm naked, and they
told me that you can only get an R rating if it is completely flaccid. That's
the only way that you maintain your R rating.

So it was very important that that be the case, that it be completely like
that. It was very important for me personally that it not be completely
flaccid.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: You know, there was a real mental battle going on between personal
pride and maintaining our R rating. So I found that the right level seemed to
be to think about the most beautiful girl in high school, and that sort of got
things going a little bit, and then I would think about how she would never go
out with me. And so that kept it at just about the right level.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: That's really funny. So what rating did you get?

Mr. SEGEL: We got the R rating, pulled off the R rating.

GROSS: What did your mother say about the scene?

Mr. SEGEL: Oh, man. I still regret this moment. I thought it would be a funny
joke not to tell my mother I had done it and have her find out at the first
showing of the movie. So I walked…

GROSS: You didn't tell her? Is that what you're saying, you did not tell her?

Mr. SEGEL: Yes, I did not tell her that I had done it. And I walk her into the
first screening, and all of the sudden I walk out and I drop my towel and I'm
naked, and I look over at my father, and my father's laughing hysterically.

Even my little sister, who is laughing hysterically, and then I turn and I
looked at my mom, and she was staring at me with a tear streaming down her
face.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: And she said: Why didn't you tell me? And I said: I thought it would
be a funny joke not to tell you. And then she said: This is not a funny joke.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: That was the last we spoke of it.

GROSS: My guest is actor Jason Segel. We'll talk more after a break. This is
FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is actor Jason Segel. He co-stars in the CBS series “How I Met
Your Mother,” co-starred with Paul Rudd in "I Love You, Man," and got his start
on the TV series “Freaks and Geeks.”

When we left off, we were talking about the romantic comedy "Forgetting Sarah
Marshall," which he wrote and starred in.

The character that you play in it, the main character, is working on a rock
opera with puppets about Dracula and eternal love.

Mr. SEGEL: Yes.

GROSS: And I've read that you were actually or are actually working on a
similar musical, yes?

Mr. SEGEL: I am, yeah. Well, the way that - that wasn't written for the movie,
that Dracula musical. Sadly, I had a really bad out-of-work period from like 21
to 25. I couldn't figure out what I was going to do with my life because I
didn't have a college education, and I thought I was going to have to, like,
live with my parents for the rest of my life.

Looking back, I was such an arrogant kid, I thought the two options for me were
either movie star or live with my parents. Get a real job like never entered my
mind.

But - so I thought the way that I could jump-start my career was to write a
Dracula musical to be done with puppets, but I was writing it without a sense
of irony. It wasn't a comedy. It was going to be like a slow, labored drama.

So anyway, I finally finished a few of the songs, and I took it to Judd Apatow
to play for him. He was the first person I played it for. And the first song
starts and about halfway through he pushes stop on the CD player, and he looks
at me, and he goes, Jayce, just take my advice, you can't ever play this for
anyone - ever.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: And thank God I didn't because I would've looked like a crazy
person, and I got to save it for the movie.

GROSS: Well, you know, in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," your character doesn't
realize that the Dracula musical he's writing is really a comedy.

Mr. SEGEL: Yep, straight from the pages of real life.

GROSS: Right, okay. How did you realize it, because of Judd Apatow?

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah, yeah, basically, you know…

GROSS: But he didn't say it was funny. He just said never let anybody hear
this.

Mr. SEGEL: No, he said never let anyone hear it. And I'll tell you how it ended
up happening. Judd has the same feelings about romantic comedy as I do,
specifically how hard it is to come up with an original ending, you know?

And so we were sitting around brainstorming, what could be an original ending
for a romantic comedy? And I looked at him half-joking, and I said, well, we
could always use my Dracula musical.

And he looked at me, and it was, like, you know, Judd Apatow is a comedy
genius, and you just saw like ding. You saw this look in his eyes like oh my
God, that's weird enough that it might work.

So I just rewrote it that night, that my character's been secretly working on a
Dracula opera, and that's how that happened.

GROSS: Well, I want to play a scene that relates to this, and this is a scene
where you're at a bar with a girl who you hope is becoming your new girlfriend.

Mr. SEGEL: Yes.

GROSS: And she has asked the band - she knows you're working on this Dracula
rock opera. So she's asked the band to call you onstage and invite you to
perform an excerpt of the Dracula musical. And you go very reluctantly to the
stage and with great discomfort start to play one of the songs. And at this
point you still think it's a serious musical, and it's not until she laughs…

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah.

GROSS: …that you realize, oh, it's a comedy. So here's that scene in which
you're playing an excerpt of your Dracula rock opera.

(Soundbite of film, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall")

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. SEGEL: (Singing) It's getting kind of hard to believe things are going to
get better. I've been drowning too long to believe that the tide's going turn.
And I've been living too hard to believe things are going to get easier. I'm
still trying to shake off the pain in the lessons I've learned.

And if I see Van Helsing, I swear to the Lord, I will slay him. Ha, ha, ha, ha.
Take it from me, but I swear I won’t let it be so. Ha, ha, ha, ha. Blood will
run down his face when he is decapitated.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: (Singing) (Unintelligible) let this world know how much I love you.
Die, die, die. I can't.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: I'm such a weirdo.

GROSS: That's Jason Segel in an excerpt of his film "Forgetting Sarah
Marshall," which is on DVD. You know, in that die, die, die, I can't, you just
kind of capture very succinctly there the downside of immortality…

Mr. SEGEL: Absolutely.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: …in a vampire’s face.

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah. I think I understand why women never want to stay with me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: Imagine I'm out of work, and I'm sitting there writing that song til
all hours of the morning.

GROSS: So what are some of the, like, musicals or rock operas that have
influenced you and made you want to write one of your own?

Mr. SEGEL: Oh man. Well, I used to see "Les Miserables" with my family every
year when I was young, and I just loved it. I loved it, loved it so much to the
point where when I was about seven years old or so, I was finally old enough to
go to my brother's sleepaway camp.

And I was so excited because, you know, I really looked up to my brother, and
my brother really didn't like me that much at this age. Like, I would embarrass
him a lot. I wore a Superman cape under my clothes, for example.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Did you really?

Mr. SEGEL: I did, until I was way too old, until I was like 10 years old. But
so anyway, I was going to finally get to go to camp with him, and he said,
Jason, let me tell you something. This is my camp. I love it. You're not going
to embarrass me, okay?

And I was petulant. I said, of course, I'm not going to embarrass you, Adam,
geez. So first day at camp we're sitting there and the counselor gets up and he
says, all right, we would like to welcome everybody back, and we'd also like to
welcome the new campers. As a matter of fact, would anybody like to do an
impromptu talent show?

And I see my brother look at me like you'd better not, kid. And little Jason
Segel raises his hand, slowly makes his way up to the stage - in a Superman
cape - and I get to the front, and he says, all right, what would you like to
do? And I said, I'd like to sing. And I started singing…

(Singing) There is a castle on a cloud.

Mr. SEGEL: I sang the little girl's song from "Les Miserables" from beginning
to end.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: My brother was mortified.

GROSS: Jason Segel will be back in the second half of the show. I'm Terry
Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Jason Segel. He co-stars
in the CBS series "How I Met Your Mother." He co-starred with Paul Rudd in the
bromance "I Love You, Man," which is now out on DVD. He got his start in
"Freaks and Geeks," the short-lived TV high school series co-created by Judd
Apatow. When we left off, we were talking about writing and starring in the
romantic comedy "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," which was released last year.

You wrote a character that's played by Russell Brand in your film who's a pop
star, who's deeply in love with himself and has also stolen your girlfriend.

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah. Yes. You want to hear an amazing story...

GROSS: Yes.

Mr. SEGEL: ...about casting Russell Brand?

GROSS: Yes.

Mr. SEGEL: That part was originally written to be a young British author, like
I pictured like a Hugh Grant type.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. SEGEL: And so we're holding the auditions and people are coming in and
doing these terrible fake British accents and wearing suits, you know, three
piece tweed suits and everything. And so, about halfway through the day, we're
just exhausted and we feel like we're never going to find somebody, and then in
walks Russell Brand in his full regalia. He's wearing leather pants, he's
wearing a shirt unbuttoned to his navel and just like - it must have been three
pounds of necklaces...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: ...and his hair all teased. He's wearing eyeliner - I mean just
totally wrong for the part. And he walks in and he has the nerve to look at me,
the writer, and he said, you’ll have to forgive me mate, I've only had a chance
to take a cursory glance of your little script. Perhaps you should tell me what
it is you require? And I literally went home that night and rewrote the movie
for Russell Brand to be a British rock star. I couldn't imagine anyone to be
more jealous of or intimidated by if they were dating your new girlfriend than
Russell Brand.

GROSS: Now was he doing that because he genuinely hadn't read the script or was
he doing that to show you the obnoxious character he could be?

Mr. SEGEL: I think that it was a mixture of both. He definitely hadn't read the
script. He is in life, perhaps, the nicest guy I've ever met. But he just
nailed this kind of - because, you know, I must say I stole my character in "I
Love You, Man," the Sidney Fife character, directly from Russell. Russell has,
like I said, that quality of just not caring what other people think or at
least seeming like he doesn't. And I thought what an amazing quality to have in
your girlfriend's new boyfriend, someone who like - it's not that he's jerk, he
just doesn't even feel weird or bad that he's dating your girlfriend. You know,
it just like not on his radar that that should be an awkward situation because
it was very important to me for all the characters in "Forgetting Sarah
Marshall" that they not be stereotypes. I didn't want it to be a diatribe
against a cheating ex-girlfriend for example. It would have been really easy to
make her just a real villainous character.

And of course you want to hate your girlfriend's new boyfriend. But the thing
that occurred to me is my ex-girlfriend is a pretty cool lady and so why would
I assume that her new boyfriend is going to be a jerk. She's probably going to
date another pretty cool guy, you know? And so I felt like that's what made the
movie more complicated and real than just one of these, kind of, comedies that
come and go and are filled with raunchy punch lines. I wanted to try to really
explore what relationships are like.

The scene in the movie that I'm the most proud of is, you know, this whole -
the whole time, it's from my perspective. And you're really thinking, you know,
what a jerk for cheating on him and she must be really self-centered and all
that. And then, there's a scene about three quarters of the way through the
movie where I say to her, it's our first time we've had to talk since we broke
up, and I say, I just wish you had tried harder. And she just flips the script
and she says, you think I didn't try? How dare you? I tried everything I could.

I went to relationship counseling. I made you dinners. You wouldn't get out of
your sweat pants. You know, you sat on the couch for a week straight once. Why?
I couldn't drown with you anymore. And I felt like it's those kind of moments
that hopefully made the movie interesting.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Jason Segel and he's now starring
with Paul Rudd in the new movie "I Love You, Man." He is also on TV in the
series "How I Met Your Mother." I want to play a scene from the first series
that you were on...

Mr. SEGEL: Oh, sure.

GROSS: ...and this might have been like your real acting debut. This is in
"Freaks and Geeks" the now cult TV series that - did it make it through a whole
season or was it cut before the season was over?

Mr. SEGEL: No, we got canceled - 13 episodes and we could tell it was going to
happen. On TV shows, you have this thing called the craft service table, which
is like a set up of food, you know. And we got there for the first episode and
there was like a lavish deli spread and all sorts of like, beverages. And by
about episode 10, it was just like a box of Corn Pops and some creamer.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: We could see that the budget was being reduced, so yeah, we knew it
was coming.

GROSS: Well, briefly describe your character and then I want to play a scene.

Mr. SEGEL: Sure. This is my favorite character I've ever played, I think. His
name is Nick Andopolis and he is just a really open-hearted, really, really
loving and caring, not-so-bright stoner who's father is in the Army and is
incredibly tough on him. And he's constantly under the threat that if he
doesn't do well enough in school, he's going to be sent off to join the Army,
which he's terrified about. And I love Linda Cardellini's character, Lindsay
Weir. She's the object of my affection and I become somewhat obsessed with her
in a very sweet but creepy way.

GROSS: Well, she's in the scene we're about to hear. And in this scene you play
drums. And your real aspiration is to be drummer in a rock band.

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah.

GROSS: And your father thinks that the drums are distracting you from
schoolwork. So, he's ordered you to get the drums out of the basement and
warned you, as you just said, that if your grades don't improve, you'll have to
go into the Army. So, this scene is right after you've auditioned with a band
and it went really badly.

Mr. SEGEL: Horribly, hilariously badly.

GROSS: Exactly, so here you are talking with your friend Lindsay, who's played
by Linda Cardellini, and she's really smart and does well in school. So, here
you are talking with her about the audition.

(Soundbite of television show, "Freaks and Geeks")

Mr. JASON SEGEL: (as Nick Andopolis) Sometimes I go down in my basement, and I
put on a live album. I can see myself on the stage. Do you understand what I
mean? I can see it. And I'm playing a ten minute solo and I'm on one of those
hydraulic rises, you know? They make the drum kit go way up high. Like I'm
Peter Criss or something. Oh man. I'm not going to be that guy. I'm never going
to be that guy. I'll be lucky if I get to be the guy who pushes the button and
makes the riser go up, but I'm not even going to be that guy. I'm not even
going to be that guy because I can't even keep a C plus average, man.

Ms. LINDA CARDELLINI (Actress) (as Lindsay Weir): Oh, Nick I can - I can help
you get your grades up.

Mr. SEGEL: (as Nick Andopolis) He's going to make me join the Army. Oh man, I'm
going to have to join the Army. I'm going to be surrounded by a group of
psychopaths like my brothers and like my dad.

Ms. CARDELLINI: (as Lindsay Weir) Nick, come on. That's not going to happen to
you. I won't let it.

Mr. JASON SEGEL: (as Nick Andopolis) Oh my God. I'm done, man. I'm done.

GROSS: And at the end of that scene, you and she share your first kiss.

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah, I actually just got a little emotional listening to that. That
was one of the best times in my life. It's when I met Judd Apatow and it's when
I met Seth Rogen and James Franco and Linda, and Martin Starr, all these guys,
Busy Philipps. We were all so young and we were so naive that we kind of
thought every experience would be like that - if that makes any sense.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. SEGEL: And it isn't. Every experience isn't like that. It was a - it was a
really beautiful, beautiful time.

GROSS: My guest is actor Jason Segel. We'll talk more after a break. This is
FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Jason Segel. Her wrote and directed the romantic comedy
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall," which was released last year. When we left off, we
were talking about getting started on the TV series "Freaks and Geeks." How did
you get the part?

Mr. SEGEL: Well, I went in and I just auditioned. And the show was called
"Freaks and Geeks" and I seemed to fit in to both of those categories.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: So, I guess I was a bit of a natural fit. I've been 6'4" since I was
12 and kids used to stand around me in a circle and one by one they would jump
on my back while the rest chanted, ride the oaf, ride the oaf and so I think...

GROSS: Wow, that's sounds not only horrible but that it would hurt a lot.

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah, physically.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah.

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. SEGEL: Yeah, it was unpleasant. And I think that - I think that to some
extent, that whole cast was made up of people who always felt like the underdog
in their life. And Judd recognized those qualities in all of us and we were all
- you know, look, experiences like that - ride the oaf, I mean - they're either
going to turn you into a jerk or they're going to make you funny. And so, I
went with funny and I think a lot of the people in the cast would, you know,
would tell you they have their own versions of that same story.

And we all, sort of, became comedy dorks. And we united - we united on that. It
was - let me tell you, I remember me, James Franco and Seth Rogen would go to
my house every night and rehearse the scenes for the next day. I have never
done that since. But we all just wanted it to be so good and Judd was so
trusting in all of us. There's a scene in that show where I'm in the basement
with Lindsay, Linda Cardellini's character, and I sing to her "Lady," the song
"Lady."

And it's really weird and it's really creepy. And before the scene, Judd just
came up to me and he said, listen Jayce, this scene needs to be really weird
and really creepy and really funny and really sweet. Let's see what you got.
That's amazing, you know, for someone to have that kind of faith in you and it
was a little bit like when some parents are teaching their kids to swim, they
say sometimes you just throw your kid in the pool and see if they can swim.
That's a little bit what it felt like - all of the sudden we were required to
do big comedy and we had very little experience.

GROSS: So, what did you do, I mean, what did you think about as you were doing
that scene singing?

Mr. SEGEL: I...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEGEL: I was just myself to be honest with you, I think. Judd once said to
me after these shows got cancelled and I asked him, I went to him and I said, I
don't know what to do and he said, I'll tell you. I can tell you what you do
well is you are able to get really, really close to the creepy line while still
being likable. And that's what you should focus on. I think for some reason, it
just comes natural to me.

GROSS: Why don't we hear that scene in which you sing to Linda Cardellini's
character Lindsay?

(Soundbite of serial, "Freaks and Geeks")

Mr. SEGEL: (as Nick Andopolis) Lindsay, this song says all the things that I
haven't been able to say you. It's a little corny, but I mean it.

(Soundbite of song, "Lady")

Mr. DENNIS DEYOUNG (Lead Singer, Styx): (Singing) Lady...

Mr. SEGEL: (as Nick Andopolis) Lady...

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) ...when you're with me...

Mr. SEGEL: (as Nick Andopolis) ...when you're with me...

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) ...I'm smiling...

Mr. SEGEL: (as Nick Andopolis) ...I'm smiling...

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) ...give me...

Mr. SEGEL: (as Nick Andopolis) ...give me...

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) ...all, all, all of your love...

Mr. SEGEL: (as Nick Andopolis) all, all, all of your love...

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) ...your hands...

Mr. SEGEL: (as Nick Andopolis) ...your hands...

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) ...build me up when I'm sinking...

Mr. SEGEL: (as Nick Andopolis) ...build me up when I'm sinking...

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) ...touch me and my...

Mr. SEGEL: (as Nick Andopolis) ...touch me and my...

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) ...troubles all fade...

Mr. SEGEL: (as Nick Andopolis) ...troubles all fade...

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) Lady...

Mr. SEGEL: (as Nick Andopolis) See Lindsay...

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) ...from the moment I saw you...

Mr. SEGEL: (as Nick Andopolis) ...nothing between you and me should ever be
rushed.

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) ...standing...

Mr. SEGEL: (as Nick Andopolis) I made that mistake before.

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) ...all, all, all, all, alone.

Mr. SEGEL: (as Nick Andopolis) ...but I'm not going to make it with you.

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) ...you gave...

Mr. SEGEL: (as Nick Andopolis) We've got time...

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) ...all the love that I needed...

Mr. SEGEL: (as Nick Andopolis) We've got all the time in the world. And you
know why?

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) So shy, like a child who has grown. You're my...

Mr. SEGEL: (as Nick Andopolis) Because you're my lady of the morning. Love
shines in your eyes.

Mr. DEYOUNG: (Singing) You're my lady of the morning. Love shines in your eyes.

GROSS: That's Jason Segel in an episode of the late great "Freaks and Geeks"
which is on DVD, if you haven't seen it. So, where did you grow up?

SEGEL: I grew up in Los Angeles. I grew up in the Pacific Palisades of Los
Angeles which is like a very nice, like pretty affluent area. I was very lucky.
I had a really great childhood.

GROSS: Now, I read that you went to Catholic school, although you're Jewish, is
that true?

SEGEL: Yeah, I was the only Jewish kid at this all-Christian school and that
was a little weird. I remember this one moment where I sent out my bar mitzvah
invitations to everybody and the principal came up and said, listen Jason
everyone's really excited but I don't think that the kids know what a bar
mitzvah is. I was wondering if maybe you wanted to explain at communion what a
bar mitzvah is.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEGEL: Now keep in mind, these kids are already jumping on my back and saying
ride the oaf.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEGEL: So, 12-year-old Jason Segel walks to the front of communion and has to
stand in front of these kids and go: On Saturday I become a man.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEGEL: Nothing gets you beat up faster than the line: On Saturday I became a
man.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Oh, that's so great. What were some of the other adventurous aspects of
being the only Jewish kid at a Catholic school - Catholic or Christian? Like
what...

SEGEL: It was a, I think it was a Episcopalian.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

SEGEL: I'm not a hundred percent sure what the differences are. Well, I'll tell
you what was really weird, like I said I didn't really - I felt sort of out of
place at this school. But I...

GROSS: Maybe because you were.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEGEL: Yes, exactly. See I'm - my father is Jewish and my mother is Christian.
So...

GROSS: Oh, I see.

SEGEL: ...yeah, but I was raised Jewish. So, I'm at the school. And they don't
really like me very much there and then after Christian school I would walk in
the afternoons to Hebrew school. And then at Hebrew school…

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEGEL: …they would tell me that I wasn't really Jewish because my mother is
Christian.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEGEL: So, all of the sudden I'm like this young kid who - I would've been
happy to believe whoever would have been nice to me, you know. But it was this
feeling of like, not really belonging or not really fitting in and…

GROSS: The world's mainstream religions don't want you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEGEL: Yeah and, you know what occurred to me - it's funny you say that - but
what occurred to me is, this certainly isn't God. God doesn't want an 11 or 12-
year-old kid to feel this way, you know. My belief in God is that God wants
you, you know, God wants you to believe in him or it, whatever you would call
it. And so, it actually helped me forge this feeling of - all right, you know
what kid, it's you, it's you and God, and it's you and the world. It's - it
gave me a bit of a feeling of solitude that I think came in handy during, like,
my out of work periods, where when I decided the only way I was going to make
it was if I started writing. It was actually, I'm very grateful that I got that
feeling at such a young age because I felt like, you know what, it's - you
better do it, it's going to be you.

GROSS: That’s great, I mean, not everybody is able to find out what's useful
from a difficult situation. So, it's lucky…

SEGEL: And I could have been very, you know, I came from a well-off family and
my life had been pretty easy. So, I actually think maybe it helped me not have
a sense of entitlement that I’ve seen in a lot of like…

GROSS: Mm hmm.

SEGEL: …my peers who grew up in that same, you know, community. There is some
sense of, you know, like, oh, well I'm supposed to do well because of this or
that. You got to earn it, you know? I think that's sort of - that period really
helped me lose any sense of entitlement I might have had.

GROSS: Can I ask what kind of work your parents did?

SEGEL: Yeah, my father is a lawyer and my mom, my mom raised us.

GROSS: Mm hmm. So, when, how old were you when you knew you wanted to be an
actor and how did you know? Well, it sounds like you knew all along, actually,
with the Superman outfit and singing at your brother's summer camp.

SEGEL: Well, I think the seeds were there. My parents had put me into an acting
class when I was about nine or 10 or so, because I was having such a hard time
at that school making friends, that they wanted to send me some place that was
not religiously affiliated at all, you know. So they sent me to this acting
class, but it was more about not being shy than it was about acting.

I got started in a really weird way. I had just won a state championship
playing basketball in California, and my brother was a great basketball player
and I sort of wanted to play college ball, that's what I figured I would do.
But I had this art history class that I found very boring and so, it was right
next to the drama department and every day on the way to art history class I
would reach in real quick to the drama department and grab a play. And I would
read it during class. And I read one called "The Zoo Story" by Edward Albee.
And there’s a 40 minute monologue in it and I thought, I’d like to try this,
just to see if I could do it, you know. It's a two-man play. So, I found a guy
to do the play with me. And I asked the head of the drama department if he
minded if I put on this play. And he said no, no problem. So, I did it and he
came up to me after and he said, look, I think you're really good at this and
you might want to consider becoming an actor. And I said, no, I'm going to play
college basketball. I was kind of a jock at this point. And he said, well do me
a favor, I'm teaching a mock audition class on Saturday, will you come and just
see if you like it? So I said, sure.

So, I show up at this mock audition class. And I go in and it's him and this
lady and they have me do like half an hour of reading, like, sides blind. And I
did them and I left and they said, thank you very much. A week later, my
parents sat me down and said, we've been talking to Paramount Pictures all
week. He didn't want to tell you but that was the president of casting at
Paramount and he had set up a fake audition for me.

GROSS: Oh, you’re kidding.

Mr. SEGEL: And he didn’t want me to be nervous. So, he just told me it was a
mock audition class. And Paramount was in touch with my parents all week and
the next thing I knew, I had a agent and manager and I started working my
senior of high school. So, it was crazy, it sort of found me, you know.

GROSS: Jason Segel, it’s been so much fun talking with you, thank you so much.

Mr. SEGEL: Thanks.

GROSS: Jason Segel’s movie “I Love You Man,” recently came out on DVD. You can
also see his film “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” on DVD. Segel co-stars in the CBS
series “How I Met Your Mother.” Our interview was recorded last March. This is
FRESH AIR.
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Jonze's “Wild Things,” A Splendidly Different Animal

TERRY GROSS, host:

Director Spike Jonze’s last feature was “Adaptation,” about a screenwriter
driven to madness when he attempts to turn a book into a film. Now, Jonze has
done an adaptation of his own, turning Maurice Sendak's wildly popular
children’s book, “Where the Wild Things Are,” into a live action movie. So, how
did he do? Our film critic David Edelstein has this review.

DAVID EDELSTEIN: What a task director Spike Jonze has set for himself, adapting
Sendak's “Where the Wild Things Are.” Sendak's illustrated children's story is
one of the few things I can confidently call perfect. It's the tale of a boy's
tantrum and his fed-up mother's rejection of him — bed without supper. And it's
the tale of the dream that transports him over the sea, in his wolf pajamas, to
a land of monsters that crown him king and help him act out all his rowdy,
infantile impulses, until the rage goes out of his system and he longs to
return home.

Sendak's huge creatures are on the border between stuffed-animal cuddlesome and
mythically grotesque, perfect mascots for Sendak, whose fantasies are always
double-edged: They can liberate you or consume you. Jonze's film is a different
animal than Sendak's. Its wild things are more domesticated, and its characters
come with a backstory, to my mind, one that spells things out too much. Max is
a lonely casualty of his parents' divorce, who freaks out when he sees his mom,
played by Catherine Keener, getting frisky with a date.

One alteration by Jonze and co-screenwriter Dave Eggers is unpardonable. Max
dashes out of the house instead of getting sent to bed without supper, so there
are no bedroom walls melting away and forest rolling in — one of the book's
most archetypal images. But once Max is in a boat being tossed on the waves,
Jonze's vision begins to cast a spell all its own.

Max is played by a kid with the name Max Records, who has a mop of hair and a
sweet face but is also petulant and edgy. It’s an uningratiating performance
that ends up totally winning. Jonze and Eggers most agreeable innovation is
turning Sendak’s rather anonymous beasts into complex and conflicted
personalities. They sit around quarreling, smashing things, staring into space,
and wishing for a leader. And then comes little Max, who says he’s a king from
a distant land to keep them from devouring him.

If you’ve seen the previews, you know the setting is real — the rocky coast of
Australia, a burned forest, a desert — and the creatures, decidedly unreal.
Giant puppets, furry or feathered, modeled on Sendak’s drawings. Instead of
being bombarded by computer illusions, we’re allowed to suspend our disbelief
and bring our own imaginations into play. For all the artfulness, the feel is
rough-hewn. It’s a fabulous treehouse of a movie.

There is some computer animation, but it’s largely used for the creatures’
expressions, and I’ve rarely seen facial movements so evocative. Jonze
rehearsed the voice actors together, instead of taping them separately, as in
most animated films. And they’re like a crack repertory company. Chief among
them is James Gandolfini, who has tender, plaintive cadences, all New Jersey-
gangster expunged, as Carol the tempestuous lummox. Carol needs a king, a firm
dad, to direct his wayward energies. When he and Max walk in the desert, they
bond over childhood anxieties as few characters in movies.

(Soundbite of movie “Where the Wild Things Are”)

Mr. JAMES GANDOLFINI(Actor): (As Carol) This part of the canyon is not so good.

Mr. MAX RECORDS (Actor): (As Max) Why?

Mr. GANDOLFINI: (As Carol) Well look, this used to be all rock and now it’s
sand and then one day it’s going to be dust. And then the whole island will be
dust and then I don’t even know what comes after dust.

Mr. RECORDS: (As Max) Carol?

Mr. GANDOLFINI: (As Carol) Mm-hmm.

Mr. RECORDS: (As Max) Did you know the sun was going to die?

Mr. GANDOLFINI: (As Carol) What? I never heard that. Come on, that can’t
happen. You’re the king and look at me, I’m big. How could guys like us worry
about a tiny little thing like the sun?

EDELSTEIN: That gives you a sense of how soft the movie is, and I’m of two
minds about that. But then again, this isn’t Sendak’s “Where the Wilds Things
Are,” and the creatures aren’t just projections of Max’s id. There’s been a lot
of talk about whether the film is too scary for little kids, to which Sendak
crustily responded at a press conference: Let them wet their pants. I think the
scary charge is nonsense, though. Kids like to be scared. And these wild
things, in the end, are human, a family in all its imperfections, which is what
this boy needs. Unlike the childish carnivores of Sendak’s book, these movie
beasts just wouldn’t eat their own.

GROSS: David Edelstein is film critic for New York Magazine. You can download
podcasts of our show on our Web site, freshair.npr.org. I’m Terry Gross.
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Fresh Air Says Goodbye To Producer

TERRY GROSS, host:

Well, the day has arrived that we at FRESH AIR have been literally putting off
for weeks. We’ve known that out producer, Monique Nazareth, was leaving our
show and moving to Washington, D.C. But since August, we found clever ways to
keep her here a little bit longer, week by week. But our time is up. After
working with her for 12 years, it feels like saying goodbye to a member of the
family. For most of those 12 years, she’s been producing issue-oriented
interviews, tracking down guests around the world and finding studios around
the world to record them.

Many times I was sure that her plans were too logistically complicated and
wouldn’t work, but she’d convince me to take the chance anyway, and I finally
figured out that the chances we took inevitably paid off. I know one of the
guests she was happiest to reel in for FRESH AIR was someone who wasn’t part of
the beat she covered, although he, at times, appeared to be from a far flung
place - Mars. This one’s for you Monique, you better stay in touch.

(Soundbite of song, “Changes”)

Mr. DAVID BOWIE (Musician): (Singing) Ch-ch-changes, turn and face the strain,
ch-ch-changes, don’t tell them to grow up and out of it. Ch-ch-changes, turn
and face the strain, ch-ch-changes, where’s your shame, you’ve left us up to
our necks in it? Time may change me, but you can’t trace time. Strange
fascination fascinating me, Changes are taking the pace I’m going through. Ch-
ch-changes, turn and face the strain…
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Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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