RT's Guide to Forgetting Sarah Marshall

How to survive your next break up with a celebrity.

by | April 14, 2008 | Comments

With Forgetting Sarah Marshall, star Jason Segel aims to accomplish what Knocked Up made possible: find critical and commercial success via a romantic comedy that’s equal parts raunch and heart, which stars a guy only comedy nerds know by name. Segel plays a recently-dumped dude whose Hawaii vacation is interrupted with the appearance of his ex-girlfriend…and her new boyfriend.

Read on for everything you need to forget Sarah Marshall, as told by Segel, co-stars Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Russell Brand, Jack McBrayer, director Nicholas Stoller, and producer Shauna Robertson.

Jason Segel wrote the script and stars as Peter, a struggling musician who can’t escape the ubiquity of his celebrity ex-girlfriend. Segel has long been an apostle of Judd Apatow (who produces here). He was initially the lost, romantic stoner in Freaks and Geeks, and, most recently, played lothario Jason in Knocked Up.


Segel on his characters:

Luckily, [I didn’t relate to] Jason from Knocked Up. That’s based on my sleazy friends who I have a few of, unfortunately. I think I relate most to [Peter]. He’s just a normal guy. I’m not very lucky in love so the role was very comfortable.



Is Segel expecting a reversal of fortune post-Sarah Marshall?


Yeah, hopefully. That’s why I put in all the nude scenes.
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Segel has found widest success on How I Met Your Mother, playing regular character Marshall. But like all things Hollywood, show production was shuttered due to the writer’s strike.

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Segel on life during strike time:
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I did not get into any good habits. I wanted to start exercising, but no. I’d wake up and watch Judge Judy, People’s Court, and when Dr. Phil ended I knew I was allowed to have a drink. That was my daily ritual. I’m much better with structure in my life.


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Kristen Bell stars as the titular Sarah Marshall, who aims for upward mobility after dumping Peter. For geeks, who has more girl-next-door sex appeal than Bell? (Except maybe Kari from Mythbusters.)


Bell on geek culture:

It’s intense. But it’s so different from anything else. I didn’t grow up a comic book nerd [and] only recently have been exposed to all of this. [I’ve] been very accepted in a very loving and welcoming way. I’m so flattering and I’ll tell you why I respect this subculture. It’s a group of people who like what they like because they like it. It’s [nobody] striving to follow the mainstream or commercialize something or do it because others are doing it. No one cares. It’s frantic pushing to get what you want. There’s a sense of originality that’s just inspiring. I just love it. How can you not respect that? I don’t care if you love dinosaur comic books. Whatever entity you’re into, if it makes you happy, then that’s what people should strive for.

Having acted on Broadway on and off since 2001, Bell maintains a strong interest in theatre acting.


Bell on the dream Broadway role:

It’s not going to happen for 50 years, but here’s what it’s going to be. It’s going to be my final hurrah as a performer. Get ready. A musical version of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. I will be playing Baby Jane. I’m sure it’d be very well received in 2060. But, yeah, its one of my favorite movies. I’m not sure if it’s going to be a serious musical, or an ironic musical comedy like Reefer Madness. But that would be my dream role.

Apatow movies, whether directed or produced by him, are uninhibited when it comes to nudity. Sarah Marshall continues the tradition.


Bell on physically ranking Segel on a scale of 1 to 10:

I can’t answer that. I’m a lady.

[Laughs.]

I’ll just give it a 15.


For most, Forgetting Sarah Marshall will also serve as introduction to UK stand-up Russell Brand, who co-stars as Sarah’s new boyfriend.


Brand on coming to America:

You have an awareness of expanse. You can sense that its borders stretch on forever here. It houses millions of inhabitants to great diversity. Very different then the UK. I feel like a big towering colossus in the UK but here I feel like a diminutive imp peeping out from a crack.

In the UK I’m considered left field, anarchic, and hedonistic. In America, it’s rather liberal. I made a trip like Jack Kerouac across the US. Even in Kansas I met amazing people. The people I met in Kansas were cool. Illinois, Ohio — I thought they’d be the bumpkin yokel racists, but they’re okay. They’re just people who need to be further enlightened and with more ability to communicate.


Brand originally had designs to become a serious actor, wanting “to be like James Dean, but the only way [would’ve been] to put cigarettes out on [his] torso.” While referencing Jim Carrey, Richard Pryor, and Woody Allen as his heroes, he had a minor malfunction drinking bottled water.


Brand on spit takes:

I think I just spat on you. I imagine my spit is quite pure. It’s very pure spit. If you’re gonna get spat on, at least it’s mine. Let’s go back to James Dean.

As Rachel, Mila Kunis portrays Peter’s new flame after he situates himself in Hawaii.


Kunis on working with Apatow for the first time:

Look at the people I’m surrounded with. It doesn’t get better than this.

It’s been long circulating Kunis learned to speak English watching The Price is Right. We decided to settle the story.


Kunis on The Price is Right:

Let’s get this right. It’s been around for 10 years. It’s not entirely true. I won’t discredit the school system for helping me learn English but I did watch The Price is Right with Bob Barker. He spoke slowly and I was able to understand him. It was kinda the first show I was able to understand on television.

Jack McBrayer (who has a small role as Darald) hails from Macon, Georgia, as evidenced by his open nature and crazy thick drawl. He currently serves as part of the dedicated crew on critical fave TV show, 30 Rock.


McBrayer on how he began working with Apatow:

The first time I got to work with him was in Talladega Nights. Adam McKay and Will Ferrell both knew me from my work in New York and in Chicago’s Second City Improv group. So when they were writing it, they just threw me a bone. Once I got in there, I started working with Judd in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. I’m just glad to be on his radar.

Nicholas Stoller makes his directorial debut here, having placed his foot in the door writing Undeclared episodes and Fun with Dick and Jane.


Stoller on how he transitioned from writing to directing:

I tricked a lot of people. It was a lot of pretending I knew what I was doing. Jason and I were friends for years and I was talking to him on the set of Knocked Up and asked what he was working on. As I was talking to him about the writing process, Universal ended up green lighting it. Suddenly, I was directing.

Early on in careers, people tend to pay extra attention to reviews. Stoller, first-time director, is no exception.


Stoller on critics:

As long as the reviews all say the same thing, then I’ll be, like, “That’s about on point.” There’s always gonna be people who don’t like what you do. Or like it way too much. If everyone says the same thing then I’ll go with that. I have to read everything, but I don’t take it personally. If I’m excited about a movie and think it came out well, that’s how I’ll take it.

Apatow productions have revitalized a long-dormant art form: the red band trailer. The trend started prominently with Superbad and has continued with Forgetting Sarah Marshall and the upcoming Pineapple Express, sometimes to the studio’s frustration.


Producer Shauna Robertson on “leaked” trailers:

We’re really open with our stuff. Photocopy our script and put it up. Who cares? We don’t care if things get leaked unless we hate it. We have the problem of liking our stuff too much and other people not liking it. So we’re like, ‘Leak it, whatever.’


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