Emily Blunt is trying to find the perfect place to hold her wedding with Jason Segel. As she walks around a local bed and breakfast in Sonoma, California, she thinks she’s finally found it and starts to talk to the owner about price and dates. It’s at this point the owner starts to proposition her with some filthy language that I can’t write here. Startled but determined to use the location, she tries to persevere until he finally crosses the line. It’s at this point that everyone watching starts to laugh and writer-director Nicholas Stoller (Get Him to the Greek, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) calls cut.
But let me back up a second.
In late June of last year, I got to visit the set of The Five-Year Engagement when the production was filming at the Beltane Ranch in Somona, California. In the film, the Ranch is going to be a local B&B called the Drunken Pig. If you’re not familiar with the story, Five-Year Engagement “looks at what happens when an engaged couple, Jason Segel and Emily Blunt, keeps getting tripped up on the long walk down the aisle.” The film stars also stars Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Rhys Ifans, David Paymer, Mimi Kennedy, Jacki Weaver, Jim Piddock, Kevin Hart, Brian Posehn, Mindy Kaling, and many other familiar faces. Hit the jump for more.
Before going any further, if you haven’t seen the trailer, I’d watch that first.
– As you saw in the trailer, Jason Segel and Emily Blunt start the film living in San Francisco and have their engagement party in Sonoma. After the first year of being engaged they move to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where they stay for a few years. It’s not clear from the set visit what happens after that, but the film covers the full five-year engagement. According to producer Rodney Rothman, “the film jumps back and forth in time a little bit,” though they’re not exactly going non-linear as Nick Stoller told us “it’s not like Pulp Fiction or anything.”
– Alison Brie plays Emily Blunt’s sister. In order to fine-tune her British accent, she bought The Devil Wears Prada on DVD and studied Emily Blunt so she could sound like her.
– Chris Pratt plays a chef. Pratt described his character and the trajectory of the film while on set: “I play a chef. Alex is my character and Tom is Jason’s (Segel) character. Tom and Alex work together in a kitchen. And as Tom decides to follow Emily in her quest for higher education in Michigan, Alex takes over in Tom’s place at the restaurant, and then ends up getting promoted and running this really successful restaurant, which lands him on Top Chef. I kinda become a celebrity chef, and really successful and sort of doing exactly what Tom would be doing if he hadn’t moved away. So I’m kinda living his dream in a way.”
– While Emily Blunt and Jason Segel are debating about when to get married and trying to find the perfect time to do it, Brie and Pratt’s characters got married incredibly fast, had two kids, and everything is working out for them, which is hard for Segel and Blunt’s characters to deal with. Segel told us:
“I think the difference between the two relationships is that we represent a relationship of over thinking and they represent a relationship of spontaneity. For a long time we think that we have it right, then slowly we see that there is something about their freewheeling attitude that they are just taking life as it comes. That means that maybe they had babies before they wanted but they are living life and they’re married. They are way ahead of us we realize at some point in the middle of the film.”
– David Paymer and Mimi Kennedy play Jason Segel’s parents. Palmer said, “I think that Jason looks at our marriage as — even though we’re older and kind of kooky — he kind of looks at us as an ideal. If he could have something that long lasting, that would be cool.”
– Jacki Weaver and Jim Piddock play Emily Blunt’s parents. As Stoller told us, “Weaver plays a really bitter divorcee whose ex-husband (Piddock) is always with a new Thai girlfriend. Every time we see him he’s with a brand new Thai girlfriend and Jacki hates this. And she’s really bitter and Violet, Emily’s character, really doesn’t want to become her mom, who felt like she gave up everything to become a mom. So it plays into the emotional aspect of it.”
– The main four characters (Blunt, Segel, Pratt and Brie) had two table reads in which they discovered a lot of stuff they wanted to incorporate into the movie. For the secondary characters like Kevin Hart, Brian Posehn, Mindy Kaling, Rhys Ifans and others, Stoller had meetings to brainstorm ideas.
– We were on set on the first day of filming in Sonoma. The movie takes place in Michigan, Sonoma and San Francisco. They filmed in Michigan for over two months.
– Like Stoller’s previous movies, the cast says the lines as scripted, but almost every other take has something added and it’s often suggested by Stoller. During the first scene we watched being filmed, Stoller had two cameras going for coverage and he would scream out lines without saying cut. The editors are definitely earning their money on this one.
– Unlike Stoller’s previous films where his characters worked in the entertainment industry, all the characters in Five-Year Engagement have normal jobs and deal with normal situations.
– They’re filming on the ARRI Alexa (which is a digital camera).
– Jason Segel and Nick Stoller sold the film immediately after Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Stoller came up with the idea for the film when thinking about different ways to explore a relationship. He also wanted to explore the issue of people who are engaged or together for a long time without getting married.
– Jonah Hill wanted to be in the movie as a third separate person who likes Infant Sorrow, as he did in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek. As far as I know, he’s not in the movie. But maybe they did it without it getting out.
– They had two table reads that they used to incorporate improv into the script as well as a couple of proper rehearsals with the main characters.
– Stoller says they wanted the R-rating to portray really awkward bad sex more so than for language. They took inspiration from When Harry Met Sally and Annie Hall when showing the passage on time on film. As Stoller told us, “When Harry Met Sally is very seasonal, Annie Hall too. Those are both movies that take place over a long time. The characters, their dress changes, but they don’t look different. Their dress changes, their hair might change a bit, they might look a little bit more sophisticated, but it’s the seasons are changing, everyone around them is maturing, and that’s what we tried to do with it.” He went on to say that they’ll use markers like facial hair or wedding invitations to visually show the passage of time in the movie.
– Stoller would sometimes step in and ask them to cuss less in order to make the times they do use curse words more funny. He also said that they add up in the editing room and at a certain point it starts to turn you off if there are too many.
– According to Segel and Stoller, there are some comedically bad sex scenes in the film. Blunt told us, “We have a really bad one with a fake orgasm happening on Jason’s part, which is even funnier. You guys were like, “Yeah. That happens a lot with girls,” but this is actually from a guy. So that happens and I have a really horrible one with Rhys Ifans involving him and his enormous dog.
– Blunt and Segel both talked about the improv on set and their thoughts on it. Blunt said:
“I found it really freeing. I think that the Nick Stoller way of doing things is to just try it because you never know. I think that that is a really liberating way of working. I think often with comedy it’s so much about stretching a scene around and finding the best way, line, joke, and you don’t know. Everyone has to work together. I think the openness everyone has to play in is crazy. It’s something that I have never experienced before really.”
Segel went on to say:
“We learned a lot in the editing room for Forgetting Sarah Marshall. You really just never know what you are going to use until you start throwing stuff together. You craft the tone of the movie in editing to some extent. A lot of it happens in writing and then when we are filming you are trying the scenes in a lot of different tones sometimes. Then the final crafting goes in the editing because you don’t know what is going to get cut yet. You don’t know what is going to get laughs in the test screenings. So you want to have everything in your tool box when you get in the editing room.”
– While I’ve been on some sets that take all day to get one shot, Stoller kept everything moving very fast even though everyone was laughing and adding a lot to their scenes. Like I said before, Stoller throws out ideas after every take and while some of them might not work, when they get to the editing room he’ll have a lot to work with.
As a big fan of the entire cast and Nicholas Stoller, I’m genuinely excited to see the finished product. If the film is half as funny as some of the stuff I saw on set, audiences are going to love watching the engagement unfold. The Five-Year Engagement opens April 27, 2012.
For more on the film and the full gallery of new images:
For more on the film: