Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston star in “Wanderlust,” the raucous new comedy from director David Wain and producer Judd Apatow about a harried couple who leave the pressures of the big city and join a freewheeling community where the only rule is to be yourself. When overextended, overstressed Manhattanites, George (Rudd) and Linda (Aniston), pack up their lives and head south to move in with George’s McMansion-living jerk of a brother, Rick (Ken Marino), they stumble upon Elysium, an idyllic community populated by colorful characters including the commune’s alpha male, Seth (Justin Theroux), the sexually adventurous Eva (Malin Akerman), and the troupe’s drop-out founder, Carvin (Alan Alda).
MoviesOnline sat down with Rudd and Aniston at a press conference to talk about teaming up again to work on “Wanderlust.” They told us what the directing process was like with David Wain, how they enjoyed shooting on location in Georgia far away from the paparazzi, and why they think the alternate lifestyle Elysium offers their characters in the film might get old pretty fast in real life. They also revealed how shockingly at ease they became with having a bunch of naked people everywhere on set and why they’re looking forward to seeing the Bizarro cut Wain has planned for the DVD. Aniston also shared her thoughts on receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Q: Paul, you’ve been in all of David Wain’s films. What keeps that actor-director relationship going, and Jennifer, this is your first time working with him. Can you talk about the experience?
Aniston: I was welcomed in with open arms and I had just the time of my life.
Rudd: For me, I’m a huge David Wain fan. He’s one of my best friends now, but he just makes me laugh continually, much to the annoyance of his wife actually. She’s like, “Don’t encourage him,” when we have dinner and stuff. I just think he’s got a very specific sensibility that is unlike anybody’s I’ve ever met. I happen to think that he’s a really talented filmmaker.
Q: How was it for the both of you to get to team up again in a movie?
Aniston: Heaven. We were so happy. It felt like no time had passed. We’ve also seen each other throughout the years, and so it’s just that excitement of, “Oh, this is going to be so fun and comfortable,” and especially playing a married couple with the ease and familiarity. It was just fun.
Rudd: Knowing that there were certain things that we wouldn’t have to try and create just because we have the benefit of knowing each other for as long as we have. There was also something kind of cool about really feeling the time. The first movie that we ever worked on together was “The Object of My Affection” and Alan Alda was in that as well.
Aniston: That was really fun.
Rudd: Now the three of us are hanging out years later and playing very different parts, but being able to be nostalgic. It was really cool.
Q: Jen, you’re a California girl, did you ever go past the Elysium Fields, the nudist colony up in Topanga, back in the day when it was still open?
Aniston: Nope. Shoot. Is it still there?
Q: It’s gone. They went bankrupt.
Rudd: They had nowhere to keep their wallets.
Q: As people in the public eye, have you ever wished you could go someplace completely different, like your characters do in this film, and disappear into that lifestyle and not have to deal with the paparazzi?
Aniston: Everyday, yes. I mean, for me going to Clarksville and shooting this movie was a version of that, honestly, because there were no paparazzi and there was no secret, tricky little cell-phone pictures being taken. It was just this great community and these amazing people. For me, I really realized how much I was walled up in a way, not consciously so, but just this protective armor that I kind of have. It’s not for my friends or people in my family, but just being outside in the world, always on guard. So, there was just this sigh of relief after week one, knowing “This is just like John Travolta in ‘The Boy in the Bubble.’” It’s like riding on a horse out of the bubble. It was really special, and to get back in touch with that part of myself and that sort of anonymity, I really made a conscious effort to know, “Don’t wall up like that.” I think that you miss out on a lot of stuff when you’re so protected and isolated in a way. It’s not that bad.
Q: Can you talk about what your experience was like shooting in that area of the country, in Georgia?
Aniston: We loved it. We absolutely loved it. We enjoyed Atlanta. We loved Clarksville. It lent itself beautifully to the story that we were telling because we were all in a place that none of us lived. So, we were sort of brought together.
Rudd: It was also a great time of year. The seasons were changing. We were there in the fall and there were the lakes and trees.
Aniston: It was still warm when we got there, but then the leaves started changing.
Rudd: It was really beautiful.
Aniston: We went trick or treating.
Rudd: That’s right. I didn’t.
Aniston: I did.
Rudd: I wasn’t there. That was the one time that I left.
Aniston: You did. Why did you leave?
Rudd: My kids.
Aniston: That was fun though.
Q: How long do you think that you would really last in a place like that, or was there ever a time in your life when you might’ve been more open to living in a similar place?
Aniston: I honestly don’t think I would. I think going for a little bit would be sort of…
Rudd: It depends on what version it is. The version of this one, the one in the movie, because I remember being twenty and meeting people or I meet people now who say, “I used to work and lived on a kibbutz,” and then I remember seeing the movie “Together,” the Lukas Moodysson one and thinking, “Wow, what a cool communal way of living.” There’s something great about the idea of working the land, and living communally is healthy. That’s good. I think that probably somewhere we always did, but the version in the movie I think would get old pretty fast.
Q: Were there any takes that you just couldn’t believe how long they were letting you go?
Rudd: I mean, come on. That’s just about every single one in the movie, I’d say.
Aniston: David would wait, but then he would do it just for his own laugh. You’d hear him laughing. We would just be going on and on and on and then finally he’d yell cut, laughing and we knew we were just giving David a kick.
Rudd: I like it. I’m not a fan of just doing the scene, cut, setup again and do the scene again, cut, do it again. It’s nice when you can keep going and sometimes find a rhythm, a groove, something can happen, particularly if you’re improvising. So, it’s great when you have a director that wants to work like that. For me, I like it.
Aniston: That’s where you find the magic, the fun stuff comes, when someone is not so strict on sticking to the script. So, you’re allowed the spontaneity and great moments can happen.
Q: Paul, did you ever surprise yourself in the bathroom scene?
Rudd: That was just gross. That was our first day of shooting. That was the second scene that we shot and it did go on along.
Aniston: You set the tone. You had that and the toilet, sitting on the toilet with Jordan [Peele] and Kerri [Kenney]. It only went uphill from there.
Rudd: That was the first scene. The mirror was the second scene and I remember vividly seeing the many faces of the crew with the expression of, “What the fuck am I working on,” like legitimately concerned. “This is not what I read. This is weird.” But they went with it.
Aniston: They had the best time. We had the best time with our crew.
Q: Given your history with David, do you go into the movie knowing that you have that freedom?
Rudd: Yeah. We’ve worked together enough that we’re kind of “Oh, lets try this and this.” We can kind of share a brain a little bit, but that style actually is more Judd Apatow than David. The first time I worked with David was on “Wet Hot American Summer.” A lot of people have asked us, like, “God, you guys must’ve improvised a ton,” and actually we really didn’t. Most of that was written. I think David’s history and the way he’s always worked has actually been to write a pretty tight script. Judd writes a script and it’s tight and it focuses on jokes, but he loves to, like you said, just keep cameras going and see what happens, yell out direction while we’re filming, yell out a line here and there. He kind of shapes it and directs it as it’s going on and conducts it like an orchestra. I have noticed with David, and I’ve noticed this with other directors that I’ve worked with more than once, that that way of working seems to becoming a little more mainstream, a little bit more of the norm. It’s kind of the way that I have now started to work on these things. So, that I would say is actually more of a Judd influence than anything else.
Q: Do you feel pressure now that people expect you to bring comedy to a movie?
Rudd: Well, that’s kind of…
Aniston: If it’s a comedy, yeah.
Rudd: There’s pressure every single time, the pressure of not sucking. Now that you’ve pointed it out, I think I’m screwed.
Q: David talked about how much extra stuff he shot for the Bizarro cut. As actors, does that make seeing the finished product more of a surprise?
Aniston: Oh, God, yeah. I mean, well, we haven’t seen the bizarro cut, but going to the premiere last night I did not know what [to expect]. There have been so many incarnations of it. That’s sort of what was so fun, sort of seeing it and experiencing shock and awe.
Rudd: I love David talking about the bizarro cut. That’s when I say that David has a very specific sensibility, like that’s David to a tee. David would probably like to make the bizarro cut the regular movie where we’re like panicking and then he’ll say, “What about your parents? Why don’t you ask your parents to help out?” And you say, “Don’t worry about it. It’s not important for the movie or anything,” and kind of addressing the question that you might want to ask, “But it’ll muddle up the rest of the script. So, don’t worry about that.” We would actually film that conversation. You would never put that in a movie, but he’ll do it for the bizarro cut. Leaps in logic and things like that he’ll point out which just really makes me laugh.
Q: What was the sequence you shot “Our Idiot Brother” and this film in?
Rudd: This one came after. I went from “Idiot Brother” right into this one.
Q: What was it like playing these very juxtaposed characters?
Rudd: I looked at Justin [Theroux] and his beard and hair and got nostalgic. Really. I was like, “I miss it. God dang it. I miss it.” It was fun. I loved working on both of those movies. They were really great experiences, and also working with friends on both of them. I’d worked with Jesse [Peretz] and Kathryn Hahn was in that, too. So, it was cool.
Q: One of the themes in the movie is the idea of free love. Do either of you think that works in a relationship?
Rudd: We get that question a lot.
Aniston: I just think that for some people it’s possible, but to each his own. I think eventually it’s going to start to not feel good.
Rudd: Emotions can get in the way and it gets muddy.
Q: You have a scene where you take your shirt off. How comfortable are you with that kind of thing?
Aniston: There’s a little bit of nerves, but adrenaline kind of takes you through it, and then you have the girls come in and cover you up immediately, but I got very comfortable with seeing nude people, pretty much immediately. It was very bizarre, and to know that these were actual nudists, because there’s a nudist colony in Clarksville and how comfortable they are being nude. Then there would be the ones you could tell were not the authentic nudists because they were groomed, and so you could spot a fake miles away. Maybe not miles away.
Rudd: Unless they were rocking a merkin, let’s be honest. They could’ve gone to the make-up trailer.
Aniston: Shockingly, it was bizarre how at ease we all became with having a bunch of naked people everywhere.
Rudd: But we do have to focus on keeping eye contact so that we don’t look too pervy and weird. It’s a weird thing when not everybody is naked.
Aniston: Right, but that’s where sunglasses come in.
Rudd: That’s true. I didn’t think about that.
Q: Congratulations on having your star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Jennifer. How do you feel about the timing of that now and are you looking forward to the event?
Aniston: Well, I’m extremely flattered, humbled and nervous and excited all at the same time. It feels very surreal, to be honest. I was born here and it’s sort of something that you went and saw as a kid. You were excited about just walking and seeing the names, and to imagine that you’re going to be there is really special. It’s fun.
Q: Jennifer, your character bounces around in terms of her career and goals. What were some of the aspirations you both had in Hollywood if acting didn’t work out?
Aniston: Well, there was the period where I wanted to be a therapist if the acting thing didn’t work, and that was pretty much it. I don’t know why. I just liked talking to people. I was always the girl that people would come to and talk to about their problems. I still am. But I also really knew that acting was something that I was going to…I had a good feeling about it. I think I was innocently ignorant where I just wasn’t so, like, “God. I hope this happens.” I was waitressing and waitressing and waitressing and doing this and that and the other thing. I would audition and I couldn’t get hired to save my life, but I would do Off Broadway theater and that was great and I was excited and thrilled, feeling like, “Well, it’s Off Off Broadway, but there’s still the Broadway in there.” So, yeah.
Rudd: At least you had that. I was in shows that awf, awf, awful. That couldn’t have been a more cornball joke. That sucked.
Aniston: No. It was good.
Q: Was the Spin Doctor’s song always going to be the song in the film?
Rudd: It was just so fun to sit around and think about what the song could be.
Aniston: You spent more time on that –
Rudd: I’ll put more time into that than anything else. I do think it reveals a lot about the character, but it’s just super fun when you go, “Oh, yeah, that would be a good one and it’d be really funny to play.” The one that we almost did, David and I spent hours laughing about it, was the song “Tough Enough” by the Fabulous Thunderbirds. One because it’s a very specific song, but who would learn that song on an acoustic guitar and then try to play that, sitting around going, “Ain’t that tough enough.” So, it was almost that, but then The Spin Doctors seemed like, “No. I don’t know how you beat that.”
“Wanderlust” opens in theaters on February 24th.