Interview: Paul Rudd and Jason Segel Talk ‘I Love You Man’

Paul Rudd and Jason Segel talk to us about male bonding, improvising and being two of “Comedy’s New Legends.”
By  · Published on March 15th, 2009

To experience Paul Rudd and Jason Segel as interview subjects is a lot like the experience of Rudd and Segel, onscreen co-stars. Their personalities naturally gravitate to the character types they play in I Love You Man, their heavily improvised new comedy opening Friday.

During the 15 minute roundtable at the film’s New York press junket Segel did most of the talking. Rudd filled in with humorous anecdotes about approaching Rush to be in the movie and the appeal comedy held to his younger self, the Jewish son of British immigrants growing up in Kansas City.

Much as Sydney Fife, Segel’s character in the film, expends a good deal of energy hyping up his exceedingly modest best friend Peter Klaven (Rudd), the actor showered praises on his costar throughout the interview.

“I was blown away at what Paul did because in the hands of a different actor that performance could have been incredibly annoying,” he said. “Or the lines could have seemed like he knew what he was going to say before he said it. Those lines needed to be improvised because that’s what brings the necessary awkwardness and, as opposed to being annoyed with him you empathized with him.”

The film begins with Peter coming to the unsettling, all too common realization that he has no guy friends. Recently engaged to the beautiful, sympathetic Zooey (Rashida Jones), he launches a desperate quest to find a best man before the wedding. The search ultimately leads him to Sydney and the movie, from director John Hamburg, espouses considerable insight into the peculiar hang-ups men have when it comes to bonding with other men. Segel and Rudd both maintain they’ve not actually had such a problem, at least with each other.

“Paul and I have never had an issue like that. I don’t know. We’re not alpha male type guys,” Segel said.

“I think that most of my friends for my entire life, we’ve been able to wear our hearts on our sleeves a little bit and might not be considered macho bullshit alpha male stuff,” Rudd added.

Co-star Jon Favreau, a man’s man of Iron Man and Swingers fame, apparently agreed with their self-assessment. During an onset interview, Segel told us, Favreau was asked if he considered himself “a guy’s guy.” After looking at Segel and Rudd, his reply: “In this group I do.”

Though the stars never let macho posturing interfere with their real life friendship, Segel identified with another of the film’s central themes: the challenge of making new friends for people without a natural outlet to do so.

“I got lucky because I joined the basketball team when I was a 15-year-old because I was so wildly tall,” Segel said. “There is sort of a built in group of friends. If you don’t have that thing where are you going to make the friends?”

“I think that a lot of moving around to different cities [helped me understand the dilemma],” Rudd said. “Both of my parents are British and I’m Jewish and I grew up in the Midwest. So you have to adapt.”

Lately, they’ve had no problem making friends in Hollywood. The actors joined Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill on the cover of the April 2009 issue of Vanity Fair, which deemed them “Comedy’s New Legends.” Both men respond humbly when asked about it.

“I feel like it’s a gross overstatement. I’ve done one and a half successful movies,” Segel said. “That doesn’t a legend make. It’s a great headline and very flattering but [an overstatement].”

“I think we were all honored they’d ask us to be in the magazine, let alone on the cover,” Rudd said.

Segel will, however, allow some measure of satisfaction at the appearance, as sure a sign as any that he and his buddies have made it big.

“The thing that’s most exciting for us is that we’ve known each other for a long, long time and a lot of us have struggled together. I met Seth the day he got off the plane from Canada. Jonah and I basically went to high school together; we went to different high schools but we were only a year apart in the same city,” he said. “The fact that we made it through what were some tough times for all of us, that was the thing that got me most when I saw the cover, [the feeling of] ‘Wow. Wow. We did it a little bit.’”

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