I’m in love with the Film Society of Lincoln Center. It provides New Yorkers like me with some unprecedented experiences with the film industry – like seeing and hearing Paul Rudd in person. Not too shabby.
Rudd’s latest film, Wanderlust, was part of Film Comment Selects, a festival held Feb. 17 to March 1, 2012 consisting of a diverse list of movies chosen by the editors of the Society’s magazine, Film Comment. (Check out my article about the screening of James Franco’s film, My Own Private River, during this fest.)
As for Wanderlust, I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard in a movie theater. Written by the team of David Wain and Ken Marino and directed by Wain, it’s the story of a couple (Rudd and Jennifer Aniston) who are suddenly thrust into financial trouble. When they’re forced to leave New York for Atlanta, they come upon a commune of strange characters who play guitar all day and practice free love. I don’t want to give away too much, so I’ll resort to the cliche, “hilarity ensues.” (And I mean that.)
Besides Rudd, Wain, Marino, Alda, and Kerri Kenney appeared for the Q&A after the screening at Lincoln Center. I should warn you that just like the irreverent adult humor in the film, some of the quotes in this article are a bit on the “saucy” side.
My favorite tidbit disclosed during the discussion was that the cast has maintained an email list, staying in touch for more than a year after filming ended. Alda said he has never experienced such a thing in his career.
Wain and Marino had worked together on other films and television projects, including Wet Hot American Summer, a 2001 movie written by Wain and Michael Showalter that has become a bit of a cult classic. “We had such a kind of magical experience on Wet Hot,” Marino said. “We wanted to write another movie where we could kind of just all go off and shoot some kind of comedy where nobody else was around.”
The script started five years ago when Wain and Marino spent six months with “a big bowl of pot” and “all sorts of cups of booze.” Wain said they decided to come up with an idea and write the first draft in one week, working 12 hours a day. The script was more of a guideline than engraved in stone, though. Once filming began, with Judd Apatow (Bridesmaids, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) as producer, they shot a lot of what they call “alt material,” which means alternative improvisations. “And then, we would take all of that into the editing room and pick whatever we felt was best,” Wain said.
“Some of these alternative lines mean that the scene you had just done couldn’t possibly be in the movie,” Alda chimed in. The lines would have changed the story entirely.
This level of improvisation was a new experience for Alda. “Paul and I had a scene one day where we must have improvised a couple of hours throughout that scene, and it turned out to be one of the happiest times in my life in front of a camera because things came out that I really didn’t know were there.”
Rudd added, “Some of the crew had worked with us before and kind of knew there was this kind of improvisational way of working, but others hadn’t. And I remember looking around at the disturbed look on a lot of their faces, and I could tell [they were thinking], ‘What is this? What are we shooting? I didn’t read this part.'”
There is a fair amount of nudity in the film, although not as much as in the original cut. Test audiences apparently agreed it was “too much,” so Wain trimmed the … uh … fat.
Authentic nudists were used in some scenes. “The strangest thing was having actual nudists around when not everybody was naked,” Rudd said, “and the challenge of retaining eye contact and being very conscious about, ‘Are you enjoying the shoot?’ and ‘Thanks for doing this’ and ‘Are you cold?'”
Or… “Please get your balls out of the hummus,” Kenney quipped.
Actor Joe Lo Truglio spends most of the film nude, but he wore a prosthesis over his penis to make everyone at least a little bit more comfortable … or maybe too comfortable. The following is part of a conversation about that:
Rudd: “The second day, I was standing having a conversation with Joe, and neither one of us was paying any mind to the gentleman who was on his knees applying spirit gum to his [Joe's] balls [to adhere the prosthetic]….”
Alda: “I talked to that guy. He had a nervous breakdown from that job…. He was really nervous about the whole thing….”
Marino: “Was he uncomfortable with a real penis?”
Alda: “In his face? Yeah!”
Marino: “He was the guy who designed the penis. You’d think he’d be a bit more relaxed.”
Wain: “No, I think God designed the penis.”
At one point, Kenney was asked how Aniston blended into the zany group of comic actors who have known each other for years. Her answer? “She showed up first day with a strap-on.”
Obviously, it was a Q&A with a group of very funny people about an equally funny movie. If you like to laugh and aren’t easily offended, strap one on and get out there to see Wanderlust.