Justin Theroux and Malin Akerman star in “Wanderlust,” the outrageous new comedy from director David Wain and producer Judd Apatow about a harried couple (Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston) who pack up their lives and head south to escape the pressures of Manhattan and end up in Elysium, an idyllic, freewheeling commune populated by colorful characters where just about anything goes. Justin Theroux plays Seth, Elysium’s charismatic leader and narcissistic lothario, and Malin Akerman plays Eva, the sexually adventurous hippie who promotes free love and tries to seduce Paul Rudd’s character.
MoviesOnline sat down with Theroux and Akerman at a press conference to talk about their raucous new comedy. They told us how much input they had into their characters, what it was like getting comfortable with nudity all around, why the ensemble scenes were especially fun to shoot, and why knowing Capoeira comes in handy if you’re leading a supposedly non-violent lifestyle. Akerman also talked about keeping a straight face in her bedroom scene with Paul Rudd and Theroux updated us on the upcoming “Rock of Ages” which he co-wrote and in which Akerman stars.
Q: I have to ask about your hair. Not today, but in the movie.
JT: I thought I did a good job with it today. I had a person upstairs who did the whole thing.
MA: I don’t.
Q: Was that something you worked on?
JT: It’s something that happens naturally out of my face. Not so much out of my head, but I had a wig for my hair and then I h ad to grow a beard out. Then I had to grow it again actually. It was a scene that David wanted to pick up right after I shaved it. He goes, “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 – - this gentleman knows – - with a beard that big, it’s a pain in the ass. No offense to you (referring to a journalist in the front row), but mine was triple that.
Q: That’s why I keep it short.
JT: I know, exactly.
Q: Most guys love growing beards.
JT: I don’t love growing – - I didn’t mind it when it was like these [guys’]. 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.
MA: Without having to buy one.
JT: Exactly, I know. So there were definitely days where I wanted to unhook it but did not.
Q: Do either of you think open relationships can work?
MA: I don’t think so.
MA: 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.
JT: Or six.
MA: Or six or seven.
MA: Ooh, that’s a lot of work.
JT: That’s called being single. Or being divorced.
MA: Moving and shaking it is fine if that’s your thing, for sure.
Q: How did you get comfortable around all the nudity?
JT: 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 and you’re nudists. You’re like oh gosh.
MA: You don’t know where to look.
JT: You don’t know how to have – - you just hold eye contact. You’re just like hey, what’s going on?
MA: Also them being at craft service naked, grabbing food.
JT: We all stayed away from the Doritos that day.
MA: But yeah, there was some nudity.
Q: Were there any parts of Seth’s wisdom that resonated with you?
JT: There was one thing that – - he’s so wise. One of the things that I like that he says was, “I live where I am.”
MA: That is actually pretty good.
JT: I know, I was like that’s actually a pretty good line.
MA: Yeah, that is a great line.
JT: You know, but then he’s not good at following his own advice.
MA: I think I just started tuning you out.
JT: I know, so did I by the way.
MA: All the bullsh*t that came out of Seth’s mouth. You’re just like whatever. You just let him talk. That is a good one actually.
JT: I think that’s how he kind of at least got some of the commune members under his spell is to have these sort of things that seem to make a lot of sense and then they actually don’t make any sense.
Q: What do you think it was about Jennifer Aniston’s character that made him change his entire view?
JT: I think like all kind of culty, narcissistic guys, if just 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, like hey, we live where we are. That’s I guess the way he scores is this sort of faux wisdom he sort of espouses. So I think it was more – - there’s one scene where he says, “I saw you in me today. I saw a lot of myself in you.” He’s one of those guys who like everyone who he talks to is just a mirror reflecting his own awesomeness back at him. So I think it was more just like oh yeah, you’re a girl I haven’t slept with. That kind of thing.
Q: Can you talk about the scene where you fight Paul in the Escalade. How crazy was it?
JT: The capoeira scene. That was awesome. I don’t do any capoeira obviously or any Afro Brazilian dances but that was a lot of fun. A, because I didn’t have to shoot most of it. There was some guy who came in and shot that. To us, it just made us laugh so hard. It was so stupid because as it was originally scripted, it was just a straight up fight scene, and then they punch blah blah blah. Then at one point I was like wait a minute, he’s actually nonviolent so how can he? Then they’re like well, if he’s dancing at him, then he can kick his ass. Even when he’s punching him, he’s like slapping him. He’s like it’s an open handed slap! He says something like that. But it was a lot of fun to shoot.
Q: How much input did you each have in your characters and what was it like working with David Wain?
MA: I think it was a wonderful experience. I’ve been so lucky to be able to work with David and Ken (Marino) 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 once we got there, we would always do the scripted lines because they’re hilarious, and then they just kind of went, “Go, and do your thing and do some improv and see where you come from, who you think Eva is and what she would say in this situation.” So they were really liberal with letting us bring what we thought was good for the characters.
JT: It was very collaborative. They have no ego when it comes to – - if it’s funny, they’ll stick with it. They’ll be like, “Oh, that’s funny. Let’s do that one.” Then there’s a whole other movie that could be cut out of the alternate ridiculous lines that we kept saying.
Q: We’ve been told there is one.
JT: Oh, there is? Good.
MA: Great. Oh, good. Of course there is.
JT: Am I getting a residual check for that? Yeah, so honestly David would shout from behind the monitor, “Now say this. Now do that.” Then you’d crack up and try and get yourself together to say the line that he was actually asking you to say.
MA: There’s probably another movie too just of us all just laughing for three or four hours, wasting so much time.
JT: If Universal knew how much money was wasted of us just shrieking into cameras, laughing.
Q: Malin, how hard was it to keep a straight face in the bedroom scene with Paul?
MA: Ridiculous. I didn’t. I never kept a straight face. It was literally behind my head. You kind of see these weird cuts. It cuts back and forth really quick because the whole time as we were sitting there, I was looking like this. I couldn’t even look at him, and I was still crying because I was laughing so hard. Poor Paul but he kept it together. He’s so good.
JT: If you look where they cut, I think you can see Paul where just the corners of his mouth are starting to twist up.
MA: Oh, he broke quite a few times during that scene too. I mean, just the ridiculousness of what he’s saying in that scene is brilliant. He’s so funny.
Q: Are Seth’s references like VHS his final reminders of society?
JT: I feel like that’s the era that he checked out of society, like 1994 was like, “I can’t stand all these beepers. That’s it, I’m out of here.” That was his swan song, like I’m just going to leave it all behind. We had actually a whole funny backstory that he had this high pressure life in the stock market, had Charlie Sheen on speed dial and slept with a .45 under his pillow. He had this really funny run which I think actually is not in the movie because I was laughing every time I did it. But it was just this whole backstory to him, and he lived in a penthouse in Miami . It was actually a very informative piece of that puzzle. Like oh, this guy was a total D-bag before getting there. Now here he is.
Q: He still is.
JT: I know, exactly. He’s just learned some schtick that actually puts chicks under his spell or something.
Q: You can see what an idiot he actually is.
JT: Totally, and also how unplugged, literally just unplugged he is. He just can’t even imagine. If he knew that iPhones existed, his heads would explode.
Q: He really is the antagonist. Do you see him as bad intentioned?
JT: No, because it’s like all narcissists 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 kind of logic that’s that sort of circuitous thing. They just can’t take in anyone else’s problems so 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.” It’s that kind of thing.
Q: What were some of the other endings Seth had?
JT: One of them was, he took the $11,000 and moved to Miami and there’s a scene of him, I think it was just too dark. It was him in a meth apartment with a bunch of friends watching the news report on TV. He was with some pregnant teenager or something. It was just so – - and it was just in some terrible [neighborhood] with police sirens outside. And he was trying to create a new Elysium in an apartment basically.
Q: Justin, you played Jesus Christ in “The Ten” and you played this cult leader. Do you have a messiah complex?
JT: I don’t know. Maybe David has a messiah complex for me because I actually played J.C. in David’s other movie, “The Ten.” I actually think Seth is kind of an offshoot of that character, a natural progression. It’s like a spinoff series of Jesus.
MA: Didn’t you say that in the script it would say “a Justin Theroux character”?
JT: It was literally “A Justin Theroux type.” I was like, “What are you talking about? Are you asking me to do this with you? Dude, you think I’m a total horrible person.” But no, I don’t have a messiah complex. Is that the question?
Q: I just wanted to reference “The Ten.”
JT: I love “The Ten” too, yeah.
Q: Do the ensemble scenes become long days?
MA: Yeah, they were long days definitely but we had so much fun.
JT: They were long days with some of the best comedic players around. It’s like being in an all star game.
MA: You don’t want to go home.
JT: You don’t want to go home at the end of the day. You kind of 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 batsh*t crazy. This is gonna be really funny.”
MA: There wasn’t a dull moment really, those long days. Usually it can be, especially when you’re doing a table scene. You’ve got to do everybody’s single and you’re just going oh my God, it’s going to be all day long but it was a great show.
JT: Forever. But the picnic table scene for example. We were laughing so hard, and the truth circle scene.
MA: Oh my God.
JT: There was some stuff Kathryn Hahn was doing that was killing. At one point she was down humping a stump. It was just so wrong yet so right.
MA: The part that still made it in was this [hand gesture.] We’re all like what is that? Beth is like, “What are you doing to somebody?” She’s amazing. She’s hilarious.
JT: It’s like the worst hand job in the world.
Q: Who was usually the first to break in those scenes?
MA: I’m definitely up on that list for sure.
JT: That’s 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.
MA: He was the best.
JT: I mean off camera. If he was off camera, he would do a lot of just sort of as if he had a golfball in his mouth.
MA: Everyone had their moments. It was too difficult to keep it together. You kept laughing at your own lines.
JT: I did. Well, no, they were David’s lines but I oftentimes, like the goodbye scene where I had to say “Suck on it” and I had to be crying, I was like, “All right, I’m gonna really try and do this.” It was just so stupid. He’s known these people 10 hours and he’s crying.
Q: Did the cast hang out together off set? Did that carry over into shooting?
MA: We absolutely, we became a “we.” There was no “I” in anything. It was like all right, well, I guess we’re going to go have dinner now, and I guess we are gonna do everything together.
JT: We literally became the commune we were making fun of, except we had e-mail.
MA: And we had closed doors. So it definitely [helped], and I think that is reflected in the film too. There’s such familiarity and friendship, I think it helped the cause for this film because we’re supposed to be – -
JT: It helped the chemistry overall because we’re all excited to be hanging out together.
Q: Malin, I got to talk to you when you were just on Entourage and starting to do movies. What do you think of all the characters you’ve gotten to play up to this innocent hippy and the angry doctor on “Childrens Hospital”?
MA: Innocent hippy, she’s a whore.
JT: Innocent whore hippy.
MA: Yes, innocent whore hippy. 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” and doing that because it really pushes the envelope of comedy. I think it’s so great too that web series are now being picked up and made into television because you can go a little further and I’m not shy. I like to do stuff that puts people on their toes.
JT: Edgy stuff.
MA: I am having so much trouble speaking today by the way. I’m so sorry. We had the premiere last night, okay? That’s all I need to say.
JT: We had the afterparty.
MA: But I feel so humbled and so excited and I can’t believe some of the stuff that I’ve gotten to do. And I can’t believe some of the stuff that I have done in hindsight, but it’s been great.
JT: Wait ‘til you see “Rock of Ages” for this one.
MA: I can’t wait for that one.
JT: She has a very funny scene in that.
Q: Is there any line you wouldn’t cross?
MA: It depends.
JT: I don’t know, I mean they would never pitch a joke that was – - I love them because their humor’s not cruel to anyone. David and Ken have this very sort of U turny 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 and I don’t know why. A classic example is when they’re like, “Hey, do you have a room?” Then it cuts to a scene of them in a room and she goes, “Remember a minute ago when you said do I have a room? Does this answer your question?” It’s not a traditional joke in that respect but it’s so them. It’s so particular to them or the George, Paul, Ringo joke. They beat it to death. It’s a joke within a joke almost.
Q: It’s also wrapped in Reynolds when they find the deed.
JT: So stupid. It’s a very subtle joke. You’re like should I laugh? I’m starting to laugh. But whatever.
Q: What’s up for you next?
JT: I did “Rock of Ages” with her. I co-wrote “Rock of Ages.” Shame on you for not knowing who a writer is. So that’s the first thing that’s coming out in June. I’ll be there to support her.
MA: I’m so excited for that movie. Aw, thanks. I’ll be there to support you.
Q: Did that come out of working on the Les Grossman movie?
JT: The Les Grossman movie there’s something kicking around but we’re trying to figure out and figure out schedules, so that’s in development.
Q: So “Rock of Ages” was a pitch?
JT: No, “Rock of Ages” was a musical that was pre-existing and I came on for the screenplay portion of it with some other people. And it was fun, a lot of fun. That movie’s going to be very entertaining. Trust.
MA: Very entertaining.
Q: Do you see the appeal of a slower life?
MA: I could see myself going on a vacation in the slower life for like a month or temporary.
JT: Temporarily. It’s nice to have a job in a slower part of the country, a slower paced part of the country because I don’t know, there’s something about when you’re working in a city and you’re still in the city even when you wrap. I think it was nice to just have the weekends and not have the options that you could just spontaneously go to any of 40 movies. It’s 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.
MA: It was really great, but we never hung out at the gas station.
JT: Well, speak for yourself.
Q: How long do you think you would last in a place like Elysium?
JT: About an afternoon.
MA: A day. It would be over for me as soon as I went to the bathroom with no doors.
JT: As soon as I went to the bathroom, exactly.
MA: Or anybody else for that matter. I don’t want to smell anybody else’s poop.
JT: 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.
MA: I think I might be intrigued by that guy. What’s his deal?
JT: Exactly. So Malin would pull over.
MA: So that penis of yours, tell me about it.
JT: I’ll have a sip of your wine.
“Wanderlust” opens in theaters on February 24th.