Last June I got to visit the set of writer/director Nicholas Stoller’s Get Him to the Greek when it was filming at the famous Greek Theater in Los Angeles. Last night I posted my set report, new images, and a huge on set interview with Jonah Hill. For tonight…it’s an on set interview with Nicholas Stoller.
As a big fan of his first film (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), I was curious how he’d be on the set of his second big studio film. Would success have gone to his head? Would we find a bowl of just green M&M’S by his side? Would we watch as he spent all night trying to find the exact angle to shoot Russell Brand?
Thankfully, Stoller could not have been nicer and more normal and even though he was insanely busy trying to film a fake concert with 1,300 extras, he still managed to give us twenty minutes and he described what he learned on Sarah Marshall that he was able to bring to Get Him to the Greek. Of course, we also talked about filming at the Greek, why this movie as a follow up, and so much more. Hit the jump to read or listen to this great interview:
And if you haven’t seen the awesome trailer for Get Him to the Greek, check it out before reading the interview. Look for my on set interview with Russell Brand tomorrow night.
Nicholas Stoller: We’re going to do a take of this and then reload our 100 special effects .
Question: So how much of the movie do you think of what you’re filming, how much of this concert is going to actually be in the film? You guys are filming 3 songs, but are you going to do all 3 in the movie?
Stoller: We could use them for ending credits certainly. And there’s a big chance that we could end up cycling one of them out and putting something else as our big hero song, but it’ll definitely all be on the DVD, you know, even if it won’t all end up in the movie itself.
So you would do a like a 2-1/2 hour cut of the movie and have like….
Stoller: A 4-hour cut. We’re doing the “-Apocalypse Now” cut of the movie, not “Redux”. I mean we can put it on the DVD as like the Greek Concert uncut or something.
And you can sell it at Best Buy before the movie comes out.
Stoller: Oh yeah. Definitely, yeah. I think that could work.
Well they do that now you know.
Stoller: They do that? Oh yeah that’s true. Sell the concert? Yeah.
Yeah, have like the little concert before you go see the movie.
Stoller: We also sell it like put it as promotional stuff, you know, on YouTube or whatever. Whatever the kids these days on the Internet.
Nick, where did the idea of teaming up Jonah and Russell again come from?
Stoller: It was actually the first table read of “Sarah Marshall” they were just hilarious together. They really had a good chemistry and from that moment I was like they should be in a movie together and I thought of this idea.
So you knew back then even before the movie even started shooting?
Stoller: I was like they’re hilarious. If I don’t like destroy my career by screwing this one up, then I’m going to try to pitch this as a movie.
I noticed right off the bat we have some viral marketing on your shirt?
Stoller: Oh yeah, just a little bit. This is actually from “Sarah Marshall” believe it or not.
Where do you get one of those shirts? Those are awesome.
Stoller: I don’t know. These are limited edition.
Thanks a lot! They’re cool. Thanks for the tease.
Stoller: Oh yeah.
Were you reticent at all to make this second film a spin-off of the first?
Stoller: I wanted to do something completely original so I thought a spin-off would make sense. I wasn’t actually, because I think that it’s such a different film. It’s such a different movie like the first “Sarah Marshall” is really a romantic comedy in one place. This is a road trip, crazy. Crazy road trip adventure that it’s so different. I think I would have been concerned to do another romantic comedy right away vs. doing a spin-off.
Is “Sarah Marshall” going to be referenced at all?
Stoller: We shall see. Perhaps. There’s no like there’s no plot point that is tied into her but there is definitely some like some little jokes.
What’s the time line of these two films because it seems like he was pretty popular whenever “Sarah Marshall” takes place and this we hear that this is now and you shot some 1999 stuff this morning.
Stoller: Yeah. This is a few years after “Sarah Marshall” I would say. Like 2 or 3 years after Sarah Marshall happened. And we’ve dated that the ’99 concert, but we actually aren’t sure if we’re going to reference the date. It’s just 10 years ago he did this awesome concert when he was like 24 basically, and now this is 10 years later.
When and how did you decide that Aldous Stone deserved his own vehicle?
Stoller: Basically when Russell auditioned for us I was like “this guy’s incredible. He’s just such a talent” and 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.
And how would you describe the chemistry between Jonah and Russell?
Stoller: It’s pretty…they spend the whole movie trying to figure each other out and what makes them tick. Like they cannot be more different, you know they’re both comedians, they’re both hilarious, but in terms of screen presence they cannot be more different. And I think they’re different in interesting ways. It’s not like there’s like a straight man and a crazy guy. There’s certainly an aspect of that, but they’re both like hilarious and one is just totally wild. I think that Russell’s character is completely off the wall and kind of dark and you know a pretty dark guy and Jonah’s character is just trying to figure him out and like super positive and naïve and gets kind of punched in the face repeatedly and repeatedly through the course of the movie. So yeah, it should be fun. Figuratively not literally. And literally-once.
Well, I overheard up there you decided to move the shower of sparks to earlier in the song?
Stoller: Um, when? Oh, yeah we might move it earlier. We’ve shot it later in the song. We like to do a lot of options and we might move that earlier. We’ll just shoot that earlier tomorrow night in order to get that in case we want to jump forward in the song.
So Jonah is in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” as a completely different character.
Is there any chance of you referencing his like…making a joke sort of about that?
Stoller: We haven’t yet. We probably should. That’s a good idea. We should add it to our to-do list.
How long is the to-do list?
Stoller: It’s really long. It’s very long but that’s definitely something we probably should do. I’ll add that to my list. Yeah, we haven’t…we’re trying to keep them like a separate character.
This is also apparently going to be rated R?
And I mean in the synopsis there are orgies. There’s drug use. There’s a whole bunch of stuff.
So are you pushing it like to a hard-R or is it going to be a soft-R or is it in the middle?
Stoller: It’s a medium-R.
You know what I mean though?
Stoller: Yeah, yeah. No, no it’s not like…I don’t feel like it’s like…everything that happens in this movie is something that happens because the story needs it to happen not because I thought it would be funny to have sperm everywhere. But the sperm everywhere scene is amazing. You’re going to love it. It totally makes sense.
Recently there’s been a lot of male nudity in a lot of films. Are you also going to be pushing the boundary of nudity for men and women?
Stoller: We did in “Sarah Marshall” because he was laid-bare by and he was supposed to be completely laid-bare by the moment and by his girlfriend dumping him basically. So I felt appropriate to the scene and also was shocking and a cheap laugh. So those were the two reasons why we did it. I feel once you’ve done it, you don’t need to do it. I think if we did it again in this it would feel a little bit cheap and without reason. Without reason. Cheap is fine, without reason is not cool.
Does Russell Brand have a no-nudity clause? Is that the real reason?
Stoller: That’s the problem. We’re trying to get it written out and he just won’t. He has this crazy, they call them barristers, and his barrister is like intense.
Is Jason Segel involved or was he involved in the writing process at all in this film?
Stoller: He wrote songs for the movie. Yeah, he wrote songs for the movie and he gave some notes and he wrote some songs and he’s just genuinely awesome. Yeah, he wrote “Going Up” and he wrote “Bangers, Beans, and Mash” which are two of the big songs at the big final concert.
Can you talk a little bit about how Sean Combs got involved in this? Was he a tough sell? Did he want to do this immediately?
Stoller: He wanted to do it for some reason. He auditioned which is awesome and was amazing. We cast him…I like prayed…there are certain actors that like I really want in your movie and hope that they knock out of the park and I really hoped he would be awesome. And he was awesome.
He’s been in a lot of movies lately. “Monster’s Ball” and “Made”.
Stoller: Yeah, his character’s very close to “Monster’s Ball”. Very close. But “Made” he was hilarious. He’s just really…the dude is so funny it’s crazy. It’s like crazy.
Jonah said that he’s purposely doing certain lines to make Sean angry. To get that kind of reaction on-camera, have you noticed that?
Stoller: Yes. It’s funny because you can’t…Sean is hard to read as a man. You don’t really know what’s going on except that everything he says is hilarious and he’s a super funny guy. And then only afterwards…when he’s on-camera everyone breaks. He never cracks. I’ve never literally seen him crack, and when he’s off-camera, that’s when I saw that he was enjoying himself because he was like laughing and I literally didn’t know, he’s so deep in the character.
Was it intimidating at first to be telling Puff Daddy what to do?
Stoller: No. It’s just totally easy. No, it was…he was so psyched and such a…he was so psyched to do a movie. He was definitely intimidating but just for my own reasons. Just because I’ve liked grown up knowing about him and knowing about his music and all the awesome producing he’s done, but in terms of working with him he’s just been awesome and really fun to work with.
How is directing your 2nd film different from the 1st?
Stoller: I understand what coverage is. I literally didn’t understand what coverage was. I literally didn’t get it. I did not understand it.
Stoller: It’s like a hard thing for my brain to understand and like Brenda, our script supervisor, would be like “he just jumped a line” and I’d be like “I don’t know what that is. Just move on”. And I found out like after “Sarah Marshall” kind of cut together and was all right, Jason was like “Yeah, I was pretty worried about you the 1st week”. Like he wasn’t sold on me the first week. So yeah, it’s a lot…it’s easier because I understand, I really do understand filmmaking and not filmmaking as like an artistic process but literally the act of making a film like how coverage works and what you need to watch for and different performance levels. But this movie’s so crazily ambitious that that definitely has made up for it being at all easy.
What’s the hardest scene that you have yet to shoot, or is it all behind you?
Stoller: Well, I don’t know what’s out there. I don’t want to say…there’s a scene in the future that’s between our characters and I don’t want to say, because I don’t know if it’s out there. The Greek is definitely really complicated. We’re doing a concert at the Today Show. That will be complicated because we’re shooting it at the “Today Show”. It’s going to be another big concert.
The thing is, I’ve been looking in the crowd and people are sort of using their phones to possibly record some of the music or part of the concert or whatever. Are you a little nervous about…
Stoller: You should warn me. You should tell us as they weren’t supposed to bring their phones in. I mean, that’s what’s going to happen.
For you as a director, are you sort of excited when people are putting this stuff out there to get people excited about it or do you sort of want it all to be hidden until it’s time to unleash it?
Stoller: I mean, I think in our day and age there’s no way to hide it all and keep it all under wraps, and you know, I certainly don’t love it when I see someone filming the stuff on their video camera or their cell phone or whatever, but at the same time I’m a realist and I know like we did a big concert in London at the O2, which is like a big concert venue thing in London, that Russell playing Aldous, he did like a big standup show-a 15,000 seat standup show-and we did 2 songs and people recorded it on their cell phones and put it on YouTube. It was kind of awesome that people were that excited about it and all the comments were really positive and then well we’ll probably have to take that off YouTube until the movie comes out.
Where else, what have you filmed in what cities? You’re doing London, New York, can you talk about where you’re filming and…?
Stoller: Oh yeah. We spent the first week in Vegas, we shot in Vegas. Then we were up in L.A. And then we’re going to shoot New York. Then we’re going to shoot in upstate New York and then we’re going to fly to London and shoot in London.
Is there one place that you’re specifically looking forward to?
Stoller: Yeah, Los Angeles because I live here and it’s easier. So yeah, I think L.A.
And Jonah told us that the…he doesn’t envision this as being one of the longer Judd Apatow produced kind of movies. So are you…
Stoller: You mean like literally length?
Stoller: Yeah, this’ll be under 2 hours. Under 2 hours.
Like closer to 90 minutes?
Stoller: I don’t think we’ll get to 90 minutes. You don’t really know that. Yeah, this’ll be 73 minutes.
Stoller: Yeah, this is going to be a 65 minute film. I think he doesn’t like it. There’s no way to know. I think a road-trip movie by it’s very nature can’t be a 2-1/2 hour opus. It’s just like it’s not…you know.
Are you shooting a lot of extra stuff for the DVD?
Stoller: Yeah, we’re shooting a ton of stuff, yeah.
Stoller: Well, like in the script it calls for one song in the movie. Today we shot the original concert-we shot 2 songs. We’re going to shoot 3 songs for the concert that was 10 years ago-the original Greek concert and then at the new Greek concert we’re shooting 4 songs. So that’s like we’re going to have 7 songs that we’ll put on the DVD, you know, as it’s own thing, which will be cool and fun. And actually I think the movie, I’m incredibly biased, but the music’s actually pretty good. Its’ not like parody music. We tried to play this cool rock star. And one of the songs is written by Carl Boratz, which is kind of like exciting from “Libertines” and like Jason Segel wrote a few of the songs. And these guys named Dan Bern and Mike Viola wrote some of our songs so it’s pretty cool.
You have a few other projects that are currently in development?
Stoller: Oh yeah and the other thing I’ll say is, sorry, is that we’ll see if this actually happens but I want to ideally score the movie with Aldous Snow’s music. So the whole…ideally we’ll see what happens. Ideally it’ll be wall-to-wall songs-like Aldous Snow songs, which is kind of cool. Not as a joke, not as a parody thing, but just literally like an emotional moment just play his songs. What?
I assume there are other artists?
Stoller: I mean, I’m sure we’ll end up using other artists…we’ll definitely end up using other artists but the majority of the music I think will be…
So are you going to put out just a record of his music?
Stoller: I think we are, yeah. We’ll see what happens.
Okay, going back to what I said earlier, not to interrupt the….you have a few other projects that are in development and I know that you guys have been trying to get the Muppet Movie off the ground forever. What’s going on with some of your other stuff?
Stoller: Well the Muppet thing…right now because Jason and I have both been working on other stuff, we’re not working on the script right now, but we’re about to go back into notes and about to do another draft of it because Disney’s very excited about it and wants to get that going. So that’s pretty exciting.
Can you talk about that being an old-school style….
Stoller: Yeah, old-school Muppet movie like harking back to “Great Muppet Caper”, you know those original ones. The original Muppet Movie like old-school kind of thing, yeah. So I’m very excited about that.