Frat Pack Tribute Movie Preview: Forgetting Sarah Marshall Set Visit
Set Visit and Movie Extra Report
by Rick Duran, Senior Editor
About three weeks after attending the press junket and screenings for Judd Apatow’s smash hit Knocked Up, Universal Pictures invited the Frat Pack Tribute to visit the set of Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Needless to say, we were thrilled to get such an awesome opportunity. On top of that, the Tribute was also invited to be an extra (playing a member of the press) at a film premiere for the film’s female lead, Sarah Marshall (played by Veronica Mars‘ Kristen Bell.) Depending on the film’s final edit, you just might see me in the background of the premiere scene, standing on stage as Bell’s character walks up to be interviewed.
As I arrived at the filming location, the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, the set definitely looked like a movie premiere, red carpet, stage and all. The backdrop for the stage where the press would stand had Director’s Guild of America logo printed across it. I made my way inside the Egyptian, where I was greeted by the film’s Unit Publicist Claire Raskind. She had just learned that she too would be an extra in the film’s premiere scene. Claire gave me the rundown of what to expect for the night and how our scene would be shot around 10pm. When I arrived to the set, Bell and the crew were wrapping a different scene being shot on a mountain outside L.A. Around the 7:00 hour, the press began arriving. I quickly learned the Tribute would accompany the likes of MTV, E!, Premiere.com, Hollywood.com, IGN.com, AintItCool.com and several others for the night’s shoot.
I was thrilled to learn Drew (better known as Moriarty) from AICN was going to be in the scene. As a long time reader of his, it was very cool to talk to him about his recent trip to Forgetting Sarah Marshall’s Hawaii set, in addition to many discussions about Judd Apatow’s current wave of success. As a matter of fact, Knocked Up had crossed the $100 million mark during the week of this shoot and many of the press members present were already buzzing about Superbad, which would not open for another two months. Between the loud buzz for Superbad, Knocked Up’s blockbuster success, and the Hawaiian shoot for Forgetting Sarah Marshall it was clear that people are genuinely excited for this new crop of actors emerging from the Apatow camp.
As the night’s first scene began filming, in which Sarah is exiting a limo while Peter (the film’s lead played by Jason Segel, of Knocked Up and CBS’ How I Met Your Mother) is left in the background holding her purse, Segel was greeted by fans from the sidewalk shouting about how they loved him in Knocked Up. Indeed, there was a hefty amount of love for this entire block of Judd’s films. At one point before the premiere scene began shooting, we were briefly introduced to Shauna Robertson, the film’s producer and one of the essential figures in Judd Apatow’s team. Apatow and Seth Rogen have been quoted in several interviews, “We know a joke works if it can make Shauna laugh.” One look at her track record and you will understand how vital a figure she has been in some of the best comedies of the past decade, 6 of which were made under Apatow Productions.
The limo scene set the description for the rest of the night’s shoot. It establishes how Segel’s character is gradually pushed out of Sarah’s life, which in later scenes will lead to the devastating break-up which will ultimately send his character to Hawaii. During the several takes of Bell and Segel’s limousine exit, the press members and I were invited to join the extras playing the screaming mob of Sarah Marshall fans. For the various takes, we were asked to shout Sarah’s name, and during one take were specifically asked to shout only that. This direction prompted one extra to yell “Sarah, I love you but they won’t let me” after the take finished. You won’t hear that line on film, but that was one joke I’ll always chuckle at. Additional takes were shot of Sarah being interviewed on the red carpet by MTV, while Peter is slumping in the background. Following those shots, the press members and I were informed that shooting had broken for lunch at 10 pm, and we’d be filming our scene around 10:45. During the break, we had a couple bites to eat and many laughs. One reporter from IGN.com impressed us with his knowledge of old school hip-hop lyrics. Once the break was over, we began to see the dozens of extras in full black tie suits and gowns, ready to play the premiere’s attendees.
The Frat Pack Tribute’s Rick Duran Takes Copious Notes (top left, looking down)
Our group was split onto both sides of the stage; I would be standing along the far right side next to the film crew from Hollywood.com. For the remainder of the night, I had my tape recorder in one hand, pen and notepad in the other. Whether or not this counts as my lazy stab at method acting, I created a prop for my takes: whenever film was rolling, I’d scribble the word “Notes” on my pad. By the end of the night, I filled up about two pages with that word. Our role in the scene was to be interviewing the actors (played by extras who resembled several celebrities), while Sarah would make her way up to the stage. Meanwhile, Peter would be stuck on the red carpet, being shunned by a friend of Sarah’s and a loud photographer. In between a couple takes, we had the opportunity to speak with Segel and Bell up on stage, discussing their experiences during the shoot which later turn to them trying to one-up each other with jokes. The two actors seemed genuinely happy throughout the night, both onstage with us and off. At the end of her takes, Bell would dance for nearly a minute before having to go back to her mark. Segel would join her for a dance or two throughout the night. During our brief conversation with Jason Segel, whom also wrote the film’s screenplay, he shared a story about bad red carpet experiences, including one night where he was told to “get off the red carpet” so the photographers could “take pictures of celebrities.” Sure enough, during a couple takes, the actor playing a loud photographer would yell out that same insult. For other takes, the actor would try different insults, including one calling Segel “Frankenstein.”
The yells from this photographer gave us a brief view at the Apatow crew’s penchant for trying out various versions of jokes. Across from us, on the opposite end of the Egyptian Theater’s red carpet, the film’s director Nick Stoller (previously a writer on Apatow’s Undeclared) watched from a monitor and instructed the actors to try alternate versions of particular lines. Our best example of this was after Bell left our stage and posed for pictures on the red carpet. During this scene, the photographer would yell out catcalls in a variety of ways, at one point screaming “Ooh yeah, give me that A-S-S! Yeah!” That actor would throw out different jokes for a good 10 to 15 minutes worth of takes. The same could be said for another actor playing a friend of Sarah’s who is less enthused to see Peter. After a few takes, the interaction between their characters would develop a little more tension, as would the actor’s following reaction to shouting at an unseen character. Though that scene had moved on from our area and further down the red carpet, we had to remain in place for continuity, interviewing other extras playing interviewed celebrities. As the night grew later, the interviews taking place on our stage grew wackier with the extras. I believe some of this fun was caught on Hollywood.com’s camera. At the beginning of the night, the interviews were serious inquiries regarding the activity of a film extra, but by night’s end everything from celebrity gossip to jokes about presidential candidates were going on while film was rolling.
A nice shot of Rick’s hand, at right. Oh, and star Jason Segel too.
The night’s filming wrapped at around 2:15am, two hours later than they anticipated. We were told that footage from the scene would be sent to us soon and that was it for the night. For the 7 or 8 hours I spent on set that night, so many details seemed to run by pretty fast. The stories of the Hawaii footage suggested Jason Segel segued into Leading Man status with ease. Our brief encounter with him showed how he was very proud to be a part of Apatow’s highly collaborative productions. Kristen Bell had a high amount of spirit throughout the night. Her former Veronica Mars co-star Enrico Colantani (her onscreen father) had apparently stopped by the set to say hello; that would have been cool to witness. In general, it was a rather relaxed atmosphere and we were all excited to be put in front of the camera. From the brief snippets of dialogue we heard, in addition to descriptions of previously shot footage, we had our confirmation that Forgetting Sarah Marshall will be an R-Rated comedy.
Stars Jason Segel and Kristen Bell
It was an honor to be invited for the visit and walk-on opportunity, but an even bigger thrill just to witness the latest project from this highly successful and talented group. In person, Jason Segel and Kristen Bell were very kind people, and it was a treat to see these two film what will ultimately be an extremely high profile movie in Summer 2008. Much like what Judd and Shauna have overseen with Steve Carell, Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill, it was nice to see Jason Segel get the same opportunity. Here is an actor whose has been part of many television ensembles being given the chance to bring his screenplay to life, and playing the lead role in a mainstream studio comedy. That’s why people were buzzing about Superbad hours earlier; audiences are responding to films starring actors not as familiar as Hollywood’s top marquee names. And on this particular night, we witnessed Jason Segel playing a man overshadowed at a Hollywood premiere, when in a little less than a year, he will the center of attention and celebration at a premiere of his own.
Interview with Jason Segel and Kristen Bell
During our visit to the set of Universal’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, we had the opportunity to chat with the film’s stars Jason Segel (Knocked Up, How I Met Your Mother) and Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars, Heroes.)
The following conversation took place while a movie premiere scene was being filmed. The Frat Pack Tribute was among the many media outlets invited to participate in the scene. In between takes, Segel and Bell took part in a couple impromptu mini-interviews with our group of invited media guests.
An audio version is also available:
Jason Segel: We shut down Hollywood Boulevard. This is madness.
I think some of these extras did just wonder in on set from Hollywood Boulevard. Has anyone tried to come in and slip you resumes & headshots?
Jason Segel: No, but there’s the heavy smell of booze permeating the whole crowd, so you might be right.
Tell me about the part you’re playing in this film.
Jason Segel: Sure. I play a guy called Peter Bretter whose movie star girlfriend dumps him after 5 ½ years, so he goes to Hawaii to clear his head. As he’s checking into the hotel, there she is with her new boyfriend. It’s a romantic disaster trapped in paradise.
And this is from the creative mind of Judd Apatow, he’s one of the producers on this?
Jason Segel: Judd is one of the producers, I’m the writer and Nick Stoller, one of our old friends is the director. It’s a bunch of old friends.
It must be nice to stick around with those guys and have old buddies to count on when your working.
Jason Segel: Yeah, the fact that Judd would let me write something was nice enough and now it’s getting made, it’s unreal. He’s the most loyal person I’ve ever met.
Where did this idea come from?
Jason Segel: I always have awkward relationships with the ladies for whatever reason. I don’t know and so here we are. I was able to sort of take all of those terrible, terrible, terrible dates and turn them into a money making venture.
Have you had any weird encounters on red carpets with exes at all?
Jason Segel: Not with exes, but I’ve been yelled at by my share of photographers. In the film, which we’re about to shoot, I was once walking down the carpet and someone screamed at me, “get off the red carpet so we can take pictures of celebrities.”
Jason Segel: Yeah, thank you. I appreciate that. That was a hard night.
It wasn’t fun.
What’s it like working with Kristen Bell?
Jason Segel: Kristen Bell is the best. You know when I wrote that part, it was a very fine line because I didn’t want anyone to be a villain in the movie. And she’s played it to perfection. She couldn’t be a more talented actress and a great person.
(Kristen Bell approaches our area)
What do you guys do during downtime? Are you cracking jokes?
Jason Segel: You know she talks, like a lot. She kinda just talks and talks. It’s nice at first because she says a lot of interesting…oh, she’s here now. She’s great. She’s funny.
Kristen, what do you have to say about Jason Segel as your leading man?
Kristen Bell: Oh… who? Oh the writer?
And your non-celebrity boyfriend in the film.
Kristen Bell: I haven’t met him yet, but I hear he’s awesome.
(We are asked to move back as the scene is being prepared for shooting)
Kristen Bell: Alright everyone, six feet! Six or seven feet! (To Segel) I don’t talk that much
Jason Segel: No, you don’t talk that much at all. I stopped listening every time she talks.
Kristen Bell: No, Jason is the talker.
Jason Segel: Everything I say, she’s like, “you told me that before.”
Kristen Bell: Because he tells stories over and over again.
Like what? What’s a story he keeps telling?
Kristen Bell: Anything. This one time at band camp. Whatever. All the time.
Jason Segel: Whatever. I love band camp. (laughter)
How would you describe the chemistry that you guys have?
Jason Segel: Uh… wow…
Kristen Bell: Vicious.
Jason Segel: I feel like I didn’t know I had a midget fetish. But, here we are. (laughter)
Kristen Bell: Or I a giant.
The title of the film is called “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” So how do you get over someone? How do you forget them?
Jason Segel: That’s a good question. I guess the film is about that you can’t forget them, but it’s more about coming to terms with what’s happening and appreciating what you had. It doesn’t have to be forgetting someone.
So you drew on this movie from a lot of your personal experiences?
Jason Segel: Yeah, here and there. I’ve had an interesting relationship with women my whole life so I don’t know. I sort of was able to channel it I suppose.
What does that mean “interesting” exactly?
Jason Segel: I fall very hard very quickly and then I end up getting smashed. I end up getting slaughter every time.
Have you run into any exes on a red carpet situation?
Kristen Bell: Thankfully, no, but I don’t date much. So no, I have not. Strictly professional.
So this is real acting on your part?
Kristen Bell: This is the real acting. Right here. Right now.
Jason Segel: She went out with Alf for a long time.
Kristen Bell: He’s a really good guy!
Once he went through the rehab.
Kristen Bell: Yeah! (laughter)
Has this film allowed you to indulge in any bad Hollywood behavior?
Kristen Bell: No, because I’m an angel.
Jason Segel: Sent from heaven.
(Segel & Bell are asked back on set for a few minutes, and return after a take.)
Would you say you’re more like your character on Veronica Mars?
Kristen Bell: I would say so, yeah.
Who do you look to to play this character? Is there someone that you’re trying to emulate?
Kristen Bell: Not really. It’s just sort of nailing… it’s actually my own instincts. The expectations when you get onto a red carpet where everything is super exciting and amazing. It’s really easy to slip into that BS mode. When it’s just like, I hate to say it’s BS, because a lot of people do get excited, but there’s a point where you have to check yourself into reality and say I can be excited to be here, but I still need to be sincere. And there’s like a certain amount of insincerity in Sarah Marshall just because she’s just trying to get through the job. But, then I think the great thing about the script is that there’s a lot of sincerity in her as well in her off camera hours.
When you said “Check myself into reality,” I swear it sounded like you were going to say check yourself into rehab. I was like, “What? What’s going on here?”
Kristen Bell: No, not me, not me (laughter)
What red carpet questions do you never want to be asked again? Like what have you heard a million times?
Kristen Bell: When there’s drama going on in celebrity circles they’re like, “what do you have to say to so and so and so and so?” I’m like, “I don’t know so and so and so and so. I certainly wish them well, but who cares?”
(Kristen is called back to set)
Kristen Bell: Hey, I’m having serious conversation right here!
Thank you so much.
Photos Courtesy Universal Pictures