Interview: Jason Segel

On Russell Brand, Gulliver’s Travels & The Muppets

 

How has Judd Apatow changed your life?

Judd’s been the patron saint of my career. I met him when I was 17 for Freaks And Geeks and over 10 years when people were not knocking down my door to do projects, Judd tried to force me into everything he was doing with varying degrees of success.

He never gave up on me – he’s the most loyal person I’ve ever met. And he taught me how to write.

How did he do that?

He came up to me and said, “Jason, you’re a strange dude, the only way you’re going to make it in the business is if you learn how to write,” and he literally took me to his house and taught me.

He also came up to me once and said, “I’ve zeroed in on what you do well and this is what you should focus on: You are able to get really really close to the creepy line whilst still being likeable”.

Talking of strange – we hear you’re writing the Muppet movie?

It’s my dream come true. I’m trying to bring it back to the early ’80s Muppet movies, The Muppets Take Manhattan-style, when it was all about laughter and love and friendship and all that.

You’re a big fan then?

They were my first comic influence, for sure. And Kermit inspired me to do the full frontal – I’ve never seen Kermit wearing pants.

Though he also doesn’t have a penis...

Good point.

Anything you can tell us about the Muppet storyline?

I can’t – I’m legally obligated not to. But I will. It’s about the Muppets having to get together to put on a show to help each other out for reasons I can’t let on. It’s a very simple story where you get reacquainted with the Muppets – no smoke and mirrors.[page-break]

 

You’re also filming Gulliver’s Travels?

I am – I’m leaving in two weeks for England and I’ll be there for five months. I’m a huge fan of England.

As strange as it sounds, when I’m writing something I like to go to a city that embodies the spirit of what I’m writing.

So I wrote Forgetting Sarah Marshall in Hawaii and there’s something about London that makes me think of the Muppets.

I was surprised that people call each other muppets, like a vague insult!

Are you going to be in Forgetting Sarah Marshall spin off Get Him To The Greek?

No – I’m writing a lot of the music for it though. I’m writing Russell Brand’s music and there’s a female character that’s kind of like Fergie and I’m writing the music for her as well.

What do you think of Russell Brand?

He was my entire inspiration for my character in I Love You, Man. I was so jealous of Russell for how much he ‘popped’ in Forgetting Sarah Marshall that I thought it was an opportunity to do my American version of him.

So I put on a swagger and just tried to be really cavalier. Russell has this attitude that I don’t have. He’s like: “This is who I am, take it or leave it”.

He’s very comfortable in his own skin and I’m very awkward in mine, being that I was 6ft 4in from the age of 12.

Now things are going so well in your film career, are you going to duck out of your part in TV show, How I Met Your Mother?

Actually, just the opposite. I just signed a one-year contract extension. I’ll be there for four more years. I feel very lucky to be on that show. They came along at a time when I was totally out of work, so I can never feel anything but grateful.

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