The crowd is screaming. On stage the lights and smoke make it seem like the band is about to come out. We see the illuminated sign for Infant Sorrow. After a few moments, Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) comes out wearing a coat with no shirt. He starts to sing and the crowd goes crazy. If I didn’t see all the cameras and the hundreds of grips and production people, I would have thought it was a real concert. I’m very impressed.
But let me back up a second.
It’s June 16, 2009 and I’m hanging out at the famous Greek Theater in Los Angeles. It’s a cool summer night and I’ve been invited – along with a few other online reporters – to the set of writer/director Nicholas Stoller’s (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) Get Him to the Greek. While set visits are usually very private and intimate, Universal invited us on a night they were filming with 1,300 extras. Let’s just say it was an awesome night to visit the set. Hit the jump for more:
Before going any further, you need to watch the trailer for Get Him to the Greek. That way instead of having to explain the story, you can see it for yourself. Also, I’ve watched this trailer about a dozen times and it still makes me laugh.
As you saw, Get Him to the Greek reunites Jonah Hill and Russell Brand with director Nicholas Stoller. While Brand is playing the same character (British rocker Aldous Snow) from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Hill is playing a new character and the film is going to gloss over the fact that he played someone different in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Most won’t notice. And like Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek is produced by Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Funny People).
While some might think Get Him to the Greek must have come together after Sarah Marshall was released, director Nick Stoller told us the idea started to form when he first saw Hill and Brand interact:
“When Russell auditioned for us I was like, “this guy’s incredible. He’s just such a talent.” Then at the first table read, he and Jonah had amazing chemistry and I loved Jonah and I always wanted to work with him. And then when I realized I would be able to make one more movie after Sarah Marshall, I thought it’d be really exciting to get to have them to pair them up. But actually when we were in Hawaii shooting, I pitched Russell and Jonah this movie basically because I thought it would be a fun movie for them to do together. But it was pretty early on that I realized it would be fun to have them both in the big road-trip adventure.”
On set, Jonah Hill told us how he came to the project and it involves a very famous deli in Beverly Hills:
“Nick and I went to Canter’s deli one day and we’re friends and were just talking and it was right after Sarah Marshall. He’s like, “What do you want to do now?” Because I was having a hard time finding a movie that I wanted to be the lead in after Superbad because I love that movie so much that I kind of took smaller parts and writing and producing jobs because I didn’t want to jump out in front of a movie that I wasn’t going to be as proud of. It’s scary to do a movie that people like because what if your next movie just sucks. He was like, “I think you and Russell are really funny together. I have this idea that we have 72 hours but he’s off the wagon and fuckin’ crazy. You kinda have to deal with this insane person.” I was like, “I can see that being really funny. So I was like, “Yeah, you should write it.” We kind of pitched around ideas and four or five of the main set pieces we kinda came up with during that lunch, and then he just went off and wrote a million drafts of the script.”
Needless to say, Universal liked the script and concept.
While every set visit is different, my time on the set of Get Him to the Greek was very unusual. As I said, most productions try and keep everyone away from the set as they want to keep the story under wraps and not let anything leak. But when you have to film a scene that requires over a thousand extras, the normal rules don’t apply.
When we got to the set on the Monday night, it was already past 9pm. The reason for the late night is they needed it to be dark, as the production was trying to make it feel like a real concert with real fans. As you can see in the next few images, it worked.
I’ll bet when most people watch the movie, they’ll think Russell Brand and the production did some quick filming before a real concert because there was that kind of vibe and energy on set.
Anyway, the night we visited the Greek Theater was the first of a several nights of filming. The main reason they needed a few nights is the amount of footage that had to be shot at the Greek Theater, and the fact that there is a noise curfew. Within the first few hours of our arrival, we watched as the production set off some loud fireworks. But by the time we left, all of that was a memory, as they were going to have to wait until the following night to do it again.
Another thing that was cool about the set visit was how we got to watch the filming. At times we were standing behind director Nicholas Stoller and we got to watch on the various monitors and see what he saw. Here’s a picture of the set up:
And then later in the night, we were backstage on the side of the stage and we watched in an area usually closed off from the general public. It was also where we got to stand near Sean Combs as he talked with Russell Brand and Jonah Hill. While some set visits are closed off and they keep the visiting journalists in a separate area, everything was open to us and the set felt very relaxed and conformable. While they had a thousand extras and the production had to get a lot of important shots, everyone was cool and collected, and I didn’t get any sense of drama.
While Universal has asked us not to reveal too much about the scenes we watched, I don’t think they’ll mind me mentioning some of the songs we saw getting performed. The first song Russell Brand did was called “Bangers, Beans and Mash”. While they might only use a fraction of the song in the movie, we watched as he performed almost the entire song on stage. It was also during the song that we saw tons of fireworks and explosions. It was very cool and it’ll look great on screen.
After that song, Brand performed a song called “Going Up”. What was interesting to learn about the songs being performed was Jason Segel wrote them. If you saw Forgetting Sarah Marshall, you might remember his Dracula rock opera, entitled “A Taste for Love”, and the songs he wrote for that fake musical.
The music I heard on set all sounded like genuine songs and I wouldn’t be surprised as the movie gets closer if Universal doesn’t release some of them as viral videos or incorporate them into the marketing.
When we spoke to Nick Stoller, he told us they recorded 15 songs for the movie and at the time he thought they’d use 8-10 of them in the actual film. While we only heard a few of them, again, they sounded really good.
For the rest of the night, we got to see a number of different takes of Brand on stage and we got to see the camera follow him walk out on stage and also perform in front of over a thousand people. Also, as the night went on, we got to speak with Jonah Hill, Russell Brand, and even though he was incredibly busy, director Nick Stoller. Again, while everyone there had a ton to do, they all gave us a lot of time. It’s not always that way.
While I knew a little bit about Get Him to the Greek going in, after getting to talk to Stoller and the cast on set, I walked away feeling confident that the movie was going to be extremely funny and a worthy follow-up to Sarah Marshall for Stoller. Now that we’ve all seen the trailer, I think you’ll agree with me.
Get Him to the Greek gets released on June 13.