Jason Segel isn't your standard movie star. He's goofy and tall and built not particularly well. But in his new movie, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Segel has multiple sex scenes with multiple partners, including Kristin Bell and Mila Kunis.
Maybe that's because Segel, in his first leading role, also wrote the screenplay.
“I knew that the only way I would ever be naked in a room with Mila Kunis or Kristin Bell was if I paid them money,” he tells CityBeat. “I knew the only thing they accepted money for was acting. So I wrote a script.”
Segel stars as Peter Bretton, a television composer whose long-term girlfriend, TV star Sarah Marshall (Bell), suddenly dumps him. After a series of one-night stands and a lot of crying, he goes to Hawaii to get her out of his head. Of course, it turns out Sarah and her new boyfriend, British rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand, stealing every scene he's in) are staying at the same resort. But Peter sticks around to save face and make nice with a gorgeous woman (Kunis) who works there.
It's a simple premise, but Forgetting Sarah Marshall is done well. Yes, it's a raunchy romantic comedy, but it has a great deal of heart, and the emotional content—Peter pining for his ex, Sarah wondering if she made the right call—is easy to relate to. And yes, there's plenty of full-frontal nudity, though, it should be said, all of it is Segel. He's even in the buff during the initial breakup, which, he says, is taken from real life.
“I had a naked breakup, which was the impetus for that scene,” says Segel. “I had a woman call me from the airport and say, ‘I need to see you,' which I assumed meant we're gonna have sex. So she arrived and I was waiting for her, naked, and she looked at me and said, ‘Jason, we need to talk.' And this breakup begins, and I was trying to listen to what she was saying and experience this as a person, and I just kept thinking, this is hilarious. Halfway through, I look down at myself and say, ‘I have to go get dressed.'
“Let me just say picking out an outfit for the second half of a breakup is the hardest outfit you'll ever pick out in your life.”
Still, even though art imitates life, Segel had a tough time baring his naughty bits for the camera. He came up with a simple way to make things work: “Whiskey.” In fact, during the first take, the camera rolled for a solid five minutes before Segel decided he just wasn't ready. “I went to [director] Nick [Stoller] and said I was too scared. He asked if I wanted something to drink, and I said, ‘Yes I do.' So we went and had a little drink in my trailer, and I continued to drink and finally I got enough Irish courage to walk out there.”
Segel's brand of humor—horny and heartfelt—is the foundation of the films of comedy kingpin Judd Apatow, who made The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up and who serves as a producer on Forgetting Sarah Marshall. This isn't too surprising since Segel, whose current day job is on CBS-TV's How I Met Your Mother, got his start at 19 as lovelorn drummer Nick Andropolis on Freaks and Geeks, Apatow's brilliant but short-lived high-school series.
Even though F&G aired just one season, Segel says the cast, which included Seth Rogen and James Franco, remains tight for a reason. “It was the best time of my life,” he says. “We were all too young and naïve to know how scary the business is, how fickle fame is, and we were all so excited to be a part of it. Judd has such a liberating style in the way that he let us go off and do our thing on camera. When you're that age, you want to please him so badly, and the idea that he believes in you makes you want to do your best. It gave me the confidence for everything I've done ever since.”