In the hilarious new comedy Wanderlust, over-extended and over-stressed Manhattanites George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) leave their over-priced micro-loft in the West Village and stumble upon Elysium, an idyllic community populated by very colorful, sexually adventurous characters, including alpha male Seth (Justin Theroux) and free-spirit Eva (Malin Akerman). Surrounded by nudists, a former porn star, and a woman with no boundaries, even in the bathroom, this seemingly refreshing way of looking at things quickly makes George and Linda question whether staying there is the right thing for them to do.
During a press conference at the film’s press day, co-stars Justin Theroux and Malin Akerman talked about working with director David Wain, how much input they had into their characters, how awkward it is to be wearing clothes when you’re surrounded by nudists, how hard it was to keep a straight face (Akerman was the one to break character the most), and how excited they both are for their next feature film, Rock of Ages (Akerman has a role in it while Theroux co-wrote it), due out in theaters in June. Check out what they had to say after the jump:
Question: Justin, how did you work on the look for your character, with the hair and beard?
JUSTIN THEROUX: It’s something that happens naturally, out of my face, but not so much out of my head. I had a wig for my hair, and then I had to grow a beard out. Then, I actually had to grow it again. There was a scene that David [Wain] wanted to pick up, right after I shaved it. He said, “Hey, in about a month, we’re going to do this other scene. Can you grow it back?” And, after you’ve lived in Georgia in the summertime with a beard that big, it’s a pain in the ass. I don’t mind a little scruff, but it’s like going to bed with a small animal, like a hamster, living on your face. There were definitely days I wanted to unhook it, but did not.
Do either of you think open relationships like the ones at this commune can work?
MALIN AKERMAN: I don’t think so.
AKERMAN: I think it’s complicated enough to have a relationship and make that work properly. To then try to incorporate three or four more people, or six or seven, is a lot of work.
THEROUX: That’s called being single, or being divorced.
AKERMAN: Moving and shaking it is fine, if that’s your thing, for sure.
How did you get comfortable around all of the nudity?
THEROUX: There were only a couple days where we actually had the real nudists on set, and it was kind of weird. I actually thought it was going to be awkward for them, when we got there. They’re nudists, so it’s not awkward at all. It’s actually more awkward when you’re wearing clothing.
AKERMAN: You don’t know where to look.
THEROUX: You just have to hold eye contact.
AKERMAN: Also they were at craft service, naked and grabbing food.
THEROUX: We all stayed away from the Doritos that day.
Justin, were there any parts of Seth’s wisdom that resonated with you?
THEROUX: One of the things that I like that he said was, “I live where I am.” I was like, “That’s actually a pretty good line.”
AKERMAN: Yeah, that is a great line.
THEROUX: But then, he’s not good at following his own advice.
AKERMAN: I think I just started tuning him out. All the bullshit that came out of Seth’s mouth, I was just like, “Whatever!” You just let him talk.
THEROUX: I think that he got some of the commune members under his spell by saying these things that seem to make a lot of sense, but they actually don’t make any sense.
Justin, what do you think it was about Linda (Jennifer Aniston) that made Seth change his entire view?
THEROUX: I think that like all narcissistic, cult guys, if a hot girl walks in the room, they’ll drop their schtick and be like, “Hey, you’re just a hot girl.” They’ll try to cover it in the schtick with things like, “We live where we are.” He scores with this faux wisdom that he espouses. He’s one of those guys who sees everyone as a mirror, reflecting his own awesomeness back at him. I think it was more like, “Oh, yeah, you’re a girl I haven’t slept with.”
What was it like working with director David Wain, and how much input did you each have into your characters?
AKERMAN: It was a wonderful experience. I’ve been so lucky to be able to work with David and Ken [Marin] on Childrens Hospital. That group is so collaborative, and so not narcissistic or egotistical. They really just want it to be the best it can be. So, we would always do the scripted lines because they’re hilarious, and then they just said, “Go and do your thing, and do some improv, and see who you think Eva is and what she would say, in this situation.” They were really liberal with letting us bring what we thought was good for the characters.
THEROUX: It was very collaborative. They have no ego when it comes to that. If it’s funny, they’ll stick with it. They’ll be like, “Oh, that’s funny. Let’s do that one.” There’s a whole other movie that could be cut out of the alternate, ridiculous lines that we kept saying. David would shout from behind the monitor, “Now say this! Now do that!” Then, you’d crack up and try to get yourself together to say the line that he was actually asking you to say.
AKERMAN: There’s probably another movie too, just of us all just laughing for three or four hours, wasting so much time.
THEROUX: Universal doesn’t know how much money was wasted, just shrieking into cameras and laughing.
Malin, how hard was it to keep a straight face, in the bedroom scene you had with Paul Rudd?
AKERMAN: It was ridiculous. I never kept a straight face. The camera was literally behind my head, so you see these weird cuts. It cuts back and forth really quick because the whole time, as we were sitting there, I couldn’t even look at him. I was crying because I was laughing so hard. Poor Paul. But, he kept it together. He’s so good.
THEROUX: If you look where they cut, I think you can see that the corners of Paul’s mouth are starting to twist up.
AKERMAN: He broke quite a few times during that scene, too. Just the ridiculousness of what he’s saying in that scene is brilliant. He’s so funny.
Justin, was it fun to throw in all of those old references to society and pop culture that Seth makes?
THEROUX: I feel like the era that he checked out of society was like 1994. He said, “I can’t stand all these beepers! That’s it! I’m out of here!” That was his swan song. He was like, “I’m just going to leave it all behind!” We actually had a whole funny backstory that he had this high-pressure life in the stock market, had Charlie Sheen on speed dial, slept with a .45 under his pillow, and he lived in a penthouse in Miami. That’s not in the movie because I was laughing every time I did it. It was actually a very informative piece of that puzzle. This guy was a total D-bag before getting there. Now, he’s just learned some schtick that actually puts chicks under his spell. It’s funny to see how unplugged he is. He just can’t even imagine. If he knew that iPhones existed, his heads would explode.
Even though Seth is really the antagonist, do you see him as bad-intentioned?
THEROUX: No. Like all narcissists, they never think they’re terrible people. They’re always like, “I don’t understand that you’re pissed off at me. That makes me so upset for me.” It’s that logic that’s a circuitous thing. They just can’t take in anyone else’s problems. I don’t think he cares that he almost destroyed a marriage. I think he’s just like, “But I would love to have sex with your wife.”
Where do you think Seth ended up? What were some of the endings that you shot?
THEROUX: One of them was that he took the $11,000 and moved to Miami, but it was just too dark. It was him in a meth apartment with a bunch of friends, watching a news report on TV, with some pregnant teenager and some terrible police sirens outside. He was trying to create a new Elysium, but in an apartment.
Did you enjoy working in this ensemble? Were those big scenes really long days?
AKERMAN: Yeah, they were long days, definitely, but we had so much fun.
THEROUX: They were long days with some of the best comedic players around. It’s like being in an all-star game.
AKERMAN: You don’t want to go home.
THEROUX: You get excited, when it goes to the next person’s close-up, because you’re like, “What’s Kathryn Hahn gonna do? This is gonna be batshit crazy. This is gonna be really funny.”
AKERMAN: There wasn’t a dull moment, really, in those long days. Usually there can be, especially when you’re doing a table scene. You’ve got to do everybody’s shot and it’s a long day, but it was a great show.
Who was usually the first to break during scenes?
AKERMAN: I’m definitely up on that list, for sure.
THEROUX: That was some stiff competition. Paul was the one who actually could keep it together. That’s probably why he’s such a pro. He could keep it together better than anyone. If he was off camera, he would act like he had a golf ball in his mouth.
AKERMAN: Everyone had their moments. It was too difficult to keep it together. Justin kept laughing at his own lines.
THEROUX: I did. Well, they were David’s lines, but it was just so stupid.
Did the cast hang out together, off set?
AKERMAN: We absolutely did. We became a “we.” There was no “I” in anything. It was like, “I guess we’re going to go have dinner now,” and “I guess we are gonna do everything together.”
THEROUX: We literally became the commune we were making fun of. Except we had email.
AKERMAN: I think that is reflected in the film, too. There’s such familiarity and friendship, and I think it helped the cause for this film.
THEROUX: It helped the chemistry overall because we were all excited to be hanging out together.
Can you see the appeal of a slower life?
AKERMAN: I could see myself going on a vacation in the slower life, for like a month.
THEROUX: Temporarily. It’s nice to have a job in a slower-paced part of the country because there’s something about when you’re working in a city and you’re still in the city, even when you wrap. It was nice to have the weekends and not have the options that you could just spontaneously go to any of 40 movies. It was like, “Do you want to go to the lake, or do you want to go to the one restaurant in town, or do you want to go hang out at the gas station?”
AKERMAN: We never hung out at the gas station.
THEROUX: Speak for yourself.
How long do you think you would last in a place like Elysium?
THEROUX: About an afternoon.
AKERMAN: A day. It would be over for me, as soon as I went to the bathroom with no doors. I don’t want to smell anybody else’s poop.
THEROUX: I don’t know. I think as soon as I saw the naked guy in the driveway, I’d be like, “Oh, I can drive another two hours.”
Malin, what do you think of all the characters you’ve gotten to play now?
AKERMAN: Oh, my god, I am so excited. I feel like I’ve had such fun characters, along the way. I always love the quirky stuff, which is why I love Childrens Hospital. That really pushes the envelope of comedy. I also think it’s so great that web series are now being picked up and made into television because you can go a little further. I’m not shy. I like to do stuff that puts people on their toes. I feel so humbled and so excited, and I can’t believe some of the stuff that I’ve gotten to do. I can’t believe some of the stuff that I have done, in hindsight, but it’s been great.
Is there any line you wouldn’t cross?
AKERMAN: It depends.
THEROUX: I don’t know. I love them because their humor is not cruel to anyone. David [Wain] and Ken [Marino] have this way of coming at a joke, which is what makes it their own voice. There are jokes that sometimes you’re like, “I don’t understand why this is so funny, but I’m going to say it anyway because it’s making me laugh.”
Do you know what you’re going to be doing next?
THEROUX: I did Rock of Ages with Malin [Akerman]. I co-wrote that, and that’s coming out in June. That was a lot of fun. That movie is going to be very entertaining.
AKERMAN: I’m so excited for that movie.
Are you still working on the Les Grossman (Tom Cruise) movie?
THEROUX: The Les Grossman movie is something that’s kicking around, but we’re trying to figure that out and figure out schedules, so that’s in development.
For more on Wanderlust, here’s our interview with Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston.