David Wain Talks Working With Paul Rudd On Wanderlust
Since making his feature film debut with Wet Hot American Summer in 2001, director David Wain has never made a movie without Paul Rudd. From the dickish Andy in the summer camp comedy to the narrator with a moral dilemma in The Ten, to the acerbic and bitter Danny in Role Models, Wain has always turned to Rudd for his projects. But what is it about the actor that makes Wain never want to make a movie without him? Fortunately, I recently had the opportunity to ask.
With Wanderlust arriving in theaters, I had a chance last week to sit down with David Wain to not only talk about his working relationship with Paul Rudd, but also how he worked on the script with co-writer Ken Marino, the confidence that comes with being surrounded by friends on a movie set, and whatís going on with the Wet Hot American Summer sequel. Check it out!
Paul Rudd has had a role in every one of your films now. What do you think it is that drives the two of you to keep working together and also, why do you think he makes such a great leading man?
I like working together with him for many reasons. He genuinely makes me laugh all the time and heíll take material that Iíve written or co-written and make it twice as funny just by viewing it with his personality and his acting. And he also can change it up every time and he can adjust it, and he can elevate it. He really is just like a magic man on screen. And he has so much charisma too. And getting to the second part of your question, I just think thereís something about him that heís kind of just attractive in all the right ways. Heís like a regular guy, but also more than a regular guy. And I think that about Jen [Aniston] very similarly, actually. And thatís why I think they were such a good couple in this film.
And itís not just Paul who youíve worked with before. All over the film you see people from The State, from Wainy Days, and from your previous films. When youíre working with a group of people that youíre used to working with does it instill a level of confidence?
Of course! The comfort zone of working with your friends is something that I discovered the value of during The State, how much fun it was to run around with your college buddies and make a TV show. And I felt no reason in the past 25 years to stop doing that. Itís just been a total blast, and itís the comfort zone, itís the fun factor, and all of that comes out on screen. And, to my great luck, these also happen to be the funniest people in the business.
Thereís obviously an extra challenge that comes with making comedy, because not only do you have to create a cogent story, but you also have to be sure that what youíre doing is actually funny. How many takes or versions do you typically do of scene before you think that youíve gotten the right stuff?
It really depends. It can be as few as two and as many as 15. It just depends on so many things. But on this one in particular we really were dealing with a lot of sexual material, so we wanted to make sure that we got as many different alts on set and improv so that we knew that if something didnít quite land right with audiences we had other options to go to. So that was a lot of what we did in this. And then just in general comedy, yeah. You shoot and you try things, but itís not the only way to do it. In Wet Hot American Summer we didnít have the time or the money to over-shoot very much. We did very few takes, very few angles and very few extra scenes. But we had the luxury of spending years working on that script while we were looking for money, and sometimes your first instincts and your limitations can be great mothers of invention as well. So I think itís a combination of things.
Well, thereís never any absolute answer, but you through a process. And especially with a studio film where a lot of money is being spent and itís our responsibility to appeal to the greatest number of people, we do a lot of formal test screenings and a lot of surveys and research and we also just get a lot of feedback from people we trust. Just a lot of screenings, basically. And you listen to the laughs. Part of the game, though, is that you have to not take everything literally. You have to be like, ďOkay, maybe they didnít laugh, but maybe itís important to the story anyway or maybe I just believe in it anyway.Ē Itís just a constant figuring out back and forth and hopefully by the end youíve taken your best shot.
As a writer, youíve worked in both television and film. Do you have a preference when it comes to medium?
No, definitely not. Theyíre different enough that itís great to be able to do both. With something like Childrenís Hospital you have to work so fast and get the scripts written and shot and edited so quickly that you donít have time to overthink it and that lends itself to a certain greatness. Thereís a certain fun to it. And something like a movie you have a lot of time to mull over these jokes and that has its own excitement. So I hope to continue to do both.
Much like the cast, this isnít the first time that youíve written with Ken Marino, as you wrote the script for Role Models together. What is your writing process while working together and was it different while working on Wanderlust than it was when working on previous projects?
Well, itís similar to the way we did The Ten, both are scripts we did on our own on spec and we just got together in a room for seven days with the goal of working twelve hours a day and going from no idea to a finished first draft. And we did that for both of those films. Role Models, we came on to the project two months before shooting and started over with it. Otherwise we just work as hard and focused as we can and we either sit together and do it either physically together or on Skype, because we live on different coasts.
Is it always together or do you ever take scenes or pages to develop by yourself?
Rarely. We mostly just work together.
I donít know that it is better, itís just the way that we developed it. Itís just our style. We like to just sit and bounce it back and forth and it helps our discipline, just to be sitting there and be like, ďHey, letís sit down and do it.Ē And I think when we are together and we are working we work pretty fast.
Going back to working with an ensemble cast, which has become a staple of your projects, is there ever an added pressure to making sure that all of the people are getting as much screentime as possible?
Yup, and thatís part of the fun. Some of my favorite movies have very large ensembles and everyone has a special part or special moments, and I just think thatís so much fun. Iíd hate to make the movie and exclude everyone. So thatís part of the fun, is finding that little space for all the great people.
I do want to specifically ask about working with Joe Lo Truglio on this film, because you have worked with him many, many times before but heís nude for almost the entire time heís on screen in this one. How awkward did that get on set?
It was at first, and then we got very used to it very quickly. And I think thatís very true of what those characters must be like. Once you see something every day you donít think about it anymore.
What was the discussion of bringing him on board knowing what heíd have to do?
[Laughs] Well, it was like, ďIf you want to play this part, youíre going to have to be naked.Ē And he was like, ďWell, alright. As long as I can use a stunt cock.Ē For a romantic comedy there was an enormous amount of stunt work in this movie. Just so many doubles for so many things, like the guitar playing.
Does Justin Theroux not know how to play guitar?
Not to save his life. Not one second. He couldnít even fake one note. But we replaced his head and we put arms through his sleeves, we did camera cutsÖanything we could to make that fake work.
It really did work. You have a scene where it pans up right from his hands to his face.
Yeah, we just cut where we can [laughs].
I do also want to ask about the potential Wet Hot American Summer sequel, because Michael Showwalter recently said that the project was 100% going to happen. Can you confirm or deny?
Heís since has revised that statement. We are writing the script and we are putting together the elements. It is a process in a real way.
What would you say is the hardest element of putting that together?
Well, the hardest part will be gathering up 25 huge stars in one place at one time for a very, very low-budget movie. Weíre going to do our best.
Is it strange kind of looking back on that cast? You bring together so many funny people in your movies, but watching that movie now and seeing Bradley Cooper and Amy Poehler and Elizabeth Banks and knowing how theyíve blown upÖ
Iím amazed and not so surprised because theyíre all so great, but yeah. Itís really cool. Itís amazing.
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