‘Bromance’ exposes guys to male companionship

Jason Segel opens up about male friendships in “bromantic” comedy, I Love You, Man.

Ever since a million MTV commercials showed The Hills alum Brody Jenner laughing and explaining what a “bromance” is, the word has been everywhere. And now, with the bromantic comedy I Love You, Man, it’s bound to become a bona fide cultural phenomenon. Long phone conversations, dinner dates, shopping sprees – everything once confined to female friendships will now be fair game for guy friends, as well.

I Love You, Man tells the story of Peter (Paul Rudd), a Los Angeles real estate agent who loves fencing, summer salads, the movie Chocolat and gossiping with his female coworkers – and, no, he’s not gay. In fact, he’s engaged to marry Zooey (Rashida Jones), who’s more than a little worried about the fact that Peter has no real friends. With the wedding approaching and no candidate for best man in sight, Peter, encouraged by Zooey, begins to search the city for bromance.

After a rocky start – a trip to a soccer game with a guy who talks like a squeak toy, a dinner that goes awry when the other guy gets the wrong idea (and plants a smoky kiss on Peter) – he meets Sydney (Jason Segel), who is the epitome of laid-back cool with his Venice Beach bachelor pad, haphazard wardrobe and penchant for fish tacos, beer and jam sessions. In spite of their differences, Peter and Sydney hit it off – almost a little too well. Soon enough, Zooey starts to get jealous that Peter’s spending all of his spare time with Sydney, and the two almost call off the wedding, which in turn causes a serious rift between Peter and Sydney.

The movie is funny, sweet and sometimes a bit immature. Rudd and Segel have amazing onscreen chemistry as they perform Rush duets, ride around on Sydney’s motorcycle, shop for tuxedos and take long walks on the boardwalk with Sydney’s dog.

It’s no surprise: the pair also worked together in 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall and 2007’s Knocked Up, which were both produced by Judd Apatow, who also produced Superbad, Pineapple Express, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and the short-lived TV show Freaks and Geeks, where Segel got his start. The Apatow crew – which includes Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and James Franco, in addition to Rudd and Segel – has often been described as a fraternity of sorts, full of plenty of bromance.

“We’ve learned each other’s moves really well, which makes it easy to improv,” Segel said in an interview at the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia. “I think that’s what works really well with our group. We all know each other’s style.

In Knocked Up, when we were doing the abortion scene, Jay [Baruchel], not thinking about it, said ‘I’ll help rear your child!’ Jonah [Hill] and I looked at each other because we both knew what the next joke was, and Jonah [motioned at me] because we both knew that it would be my joke, character-wise. Having that kind of relationship is pretty cool.”

Segel, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, had small parts in SLC Punk! and Can’t Hardly Wait before his role as the weed-and-Led-Zeppelin-loving Nick Andopolis in Freaks and Geeks put him on the Hollywood map.

Segel said he and Rudd also did a decent amount of improvisation in I Love You, Man.

“There were a few scenes that were almost entirely improvised, like our first man-date,” Segel said. “John [Hamburg, the director], said, ‘All right, your job this afternoon is just to get to know each other and enjoy each other’s company.’ So for four hours, they brought us tacos and beer, and our job was just to bond and look like we were starting to become friends. That was a really fun afternoon, ’cause I love that ‘fake beer.’ The prop department was good. They took care of us that day.”

Segel and Rudd’s Rush jam sessions came pretty naturally for the pair, Segel said. His character on Freaks and Geeks was a drum fanatic with a 29-piece set who wrote and performed a few songs for the show, and his character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall was a composer who eventually wrote a puppet rock opera based on Dracula.

“When I was in high school, I saw that all the really cute girls liked the guys in bands, so I taught myself to play piano,” he said. “Then, on Freaks and Geeks, I had to learn how to drum, and then I had to learn to play guitar in one day… so I started doing it as a hobby.

“I wrote that Dracula musical years before Forgetting Sarah Marshall. So when Sarah Marshall came along, I wrote all the music. I love it. When you’re alone, the piano’s a really good friend.”

I Love You, Man was released in theaters March 20.

Anna Hyclak can be reached at anna.hyclak@temple.edu.

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