Back in late June, when director Nicholas Stoller’s The Five-Year Engagement was filming in Sonoma, California, I got to visit the set with a few other online reporters. If you’re not familiar with the film, 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.
During our set visit interview with Jacki Weaver and Jim Piddock (who play Emily Blunt’s parents) they talked about the freedom of being on a set with so much improv, their characters’ relationships with the rest of the cast, Piddock’s character’s revolving door of Asian girlfriends, and a lot more. Hit the jump to read or listen to the interview
Before going any further, if you haven’t seen the trailer, I’d watch that first.
As usual, I’m offering two ways to get the interview: you can either click here for the audio or the full transcript is below. The Five-Year Engagement opens April 27, 2012.
Jim Piddock: Um, Asian. I’ve just put in a pitch for Siamese twins in the last scene. I don’t know whether I’ll be successful or not.
Can you talk about your characters and the relationship they have with the main characters in the film?
Jacki Weaver: I’m Emily’s mother and I’m very domineering. I’m in fact Australian but my mother’s English so I’ve got no problem playing a domineering English woman.
Piddock: It’s true.
Weaver: It’s great being Emily Blunt’s mother. Every young man in Australia said to me, “Will you tell Emily I love her?” They’ve been divorced for quite a while, the husband and wife. They divorced under quite a cloud, which will probably not be revealed until you see the actual film. And there’s a residual resentment there from my character who’s a bitter old bitch really. Which is quite good fun to play.
How do your character’s get along with Jason Segel’s character?
Weaver: Um, well because I disapprove of just about everything under the sun, I’m not too keen on him at all. Emily and I have some funny scenes where we quarrel and it gets quite heated, the mother-daughter relationship. You know, film mothers and daughters adore each other. And some don’t. But how could you not love Emily Blunt? But I think I’m just one of those people who’s always discontented.
Have you been given the freedom to improve like everyone else?
Weaver: Well, what we tend to do is do a few takes exactly as scripted. I’m a theater actor mostly and that’s how I’ve been working for almost 50 years. But I’ve done a lot of improv as well, so once you’ve done a couple of takes as written, then Nick Stoller says, “Go for it,” and sometimes you end up with the most hilarious stuff. A lot of it’s very politically incorrect. And a lot of it’s not usable, might get onto the DVD. But some of it’s quite inspired.
The film is going to be Rated ‘R’. Do either of you have filthy, or very adult dialogue?
Piddock: I don’t have anything that isn’t. Uh, and then there’s the script as well. Well, that gag reel’s gonna be a long one, I can tell you that.
Weaver: Oh, no!!
Does it change how you improv knowing a lot of the takes will end up on the DVD?
Piddock: It’s funny, because the first day I had a scene where I was asked to do something particularly disgusting, even by my standards. And I couldn’t do it. We took about 45 minutes to get it because every time I’d start both of us just completely went. And one of the things that was making me laugh was, they were so insistent that they get it and I know it won’t end up in the movie, so for some reason that made me laugh that so much care was taken for this horrible piece of business that was never going to be in the movie.
Weaver: Also, Emily’s such a giggler, she has such a positive life force about her and she’s so giggly in a naughty sort of schoolgirl way that it kind of brings out the worst in you, you just love making her laugh. And also Nick Stoller has one of the best laughs. It’s so infectious and whenever he laughs at something you do, it’s like giving us a reward.
How much are your two characters in the film? Are you in the entire thing? Are you in certain segments?
Piddock: I think we’re mostly concentrated in the beginning and the end, and I think we drift in and out.
Weaver: Yeah, and when they’re in Michigan by themselves, we’re not there that much.
Can you talk a bit more about your character’s relationship with Emily?
Piddock: Yeah. Probably because I was the less hands on parent, I’m more okay with everything. Cause I’m so self-involved with my own kind of, life. You know, with my Asian lovers. And I think the implication is that I travel quite a bit for work and so I think he’s one of those guys who keeps anything intimate at an arm’s distance. So yeah, I’m much more okay with everything. My view of Jason’s character Tom is fine. I’m just probably not a great thinker.
Is there humor that’s derived from the culture clash between Americans and the British?
Piddock: It’s more character. It’s more who we are then where we’re from.
Is most of the interaction with Jason and Emily or do you get to interact with the supporting cast?
Piddock: We do with the other parents.
Do you get along with Jason’s parents?
Weaver: Uh, well we’re very different. The funny thing is we’re discussing the wedding and I’m Episcopalian and they’re Jewish and there’s a bit of…
Weaver: I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to give away. There’s a priest and a Rabbi involved and it’s quite funny.
Piddock: There is some culture clash stuff actually in that scene. A lot of clash, not just culture.
How long have you guys been on set? Are you starting now? Have you been on for a while?
Piddock: No, we really drew the long straw on this one. We got so lucky. All our stuff is concentrated, so we had a little chunk in Michigan, then we had six or seven weeks off and we have a little chunk now. So we don’t have to come in for one day and sit around for six hours. We got really lucky.
What was your reaction when you first got the script? Can you talk about your reaction reading it for the first time and what your initial thoughts were?
Weaver: I was staying in a hotel in LA waiting for the Oscars to happen, and Nick Stoller rang and said, “Could I meet you?” and he brought the script and he said, “Please, would you be in my film?” and I was so flattered I said “Yes” before I had even read the script. I read it and thought it was hilarious. Just the kind of thing that I know lots of young people love…what am I saying, I love it too. I love all that stuff. I loved Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Bridesmaids.
Piddock: I thought it was hilarious. I worked very briefly with Nick on Get Him to the Greek, just come in and improvise in a couple of scenes. So I went to London and did that. But it’s just so much fun because you get to do so many different things, so it’s rare. You never feel short-changed, do you, Jackie?
I’m curious how your performance in Lethal Weapon 2 as the Consulate Envoy helped you in connecting with this role.
Piddock: [laughs] You bastard. You have to drag that up. That was my first ever film. And this could be my last film! [laughs] So there’s the connection!
We know about the Thai girlfriends. Jackie, does your character have any…
Weaver: Well, let’s say Asian. Some are Japanese. Some are Chinese. Some are Thai. Some are Vietnamese. He runs the gamut. And I actually happen to have a very dear daughter-in-law who’s Japanese. I don’t know what she’s going to make of the film, but I say a few disparaging things.
Does your character have a romantic interest at all?
Weaver: Well, I’m working on that. For the last scene, I suggested to Nick [Stoller] that I do have a boyfriend, and he seems quite interested. He runs a very good set. It’s a very happy experience, isn’t it? It’s all fun. There’s no tension.
Piddock: Really. Yeah, across the board. Correct.
Do you have any sort of suggestive question or angle we should approach with Emily and Jason, that would make them embarrassed?
Weaver: Well Emily’s adorable. Just to make her laugh, it’s not hard.
Piddock: I’m trying to think…how could we get them. You could ask them if flatulence plays any part in the movie. Tell them you really think it’s important there’s a fart joke in the scene with the parents. That there should be a fart joke in there. That it could make the movie.
For more on the film: