David Wain

David Wain

David Wain and Ken Marino teamed up to pen the script Wanderlust that Wain went onto direct starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd.

The comedy is released on DVD & Blu-Ray on Monday and the pair talk about where the idea for the film came from.

- Let’s talk about the genesis of this project. Who came up with the idea? And the name of the movie, Wanderlust, a lot of people in America might not know what that means, so who decided that?

DW: Like so many things that we have done together, it was very organic. Half the time, we can’t say, 'He came up with that idea,' because it’s a result of the two of us sitting there going back and forth.

And with this one, it was just a confluence of things, like this movie we had seen, Together (Tilsammans) (2000), a Swedish movie about a commune which became part of Wanderlust’s inspiration; and The State (1993-95), which was a comedy troupe, a group of people working in a democracy without a leader; I had also made a movie about summer camp, Wet Hot American Summer (2001), which was about a group of people living in a constitutional way, so we have just taken these themes and we kept thinking about what sort of movie would be fun to make with some of our friends that are great actors.

So we were like, 'What would be a fun story to spend what always turns out to be more than two years of your life on?' So that was the beginning of the idea. Originally, the title was Elysium, and the title Wanderlust came a little bit later in the process.

KM: And the short answer of who came up with the title Wanderlust: I think it was David.

- How did you stumble upon Tillsammans?

DW: Oh, Together? It was playing in New York very briefly in the theatres and I read an article about it and, I don’t know why, I just wandered into it. It immediately became one of my favourite films and I have seen it over and over again.

KM: And then he lent it to me, and I was like, 'Wow! That’s awesome!' It’s a fabulous movie.

DW: And I’ve watched it since then - we’ve had screenings - and it’s really just an amazing movie.

- So once you had the idea and the concept for Wanderlust, you went to the studio. Did you have Jennifer Aniston attached before you approached the studio?

DW: Yes, and Paul Rudd. And Judd Apatow. And we had done quite a bit of work already on the script, at that point, because of all those elements we mentioned.

So it was a pretty straightforward pitch to the studio, saying, 'Here’s a whole group of people with a track record as a certain value, and here’s the script, so what do you think?' It wasn’t a complicated pitch to them, and then they basically said, 'Sure. Let’s do it.'

- The cast have said that apart from the great script, there was a wealth of improv done on set. What is it like to edit a movie like this when you have so many different options to play with?

DW: It took about a month to put it all together. It was a tough edit, it was a long edit, and it was challenging because we did have so many different strains to play with. And it was always a challenge to balance the comedy and the story.

And we had to make sure that our protagonists, played by Paul (Rudd) and Jennifer (Aniston), both do things that are questionable, yet still trying to make sure that the audience could identify with them. It’s just trying to create those arcs.

KM: Yeah, there’s a very fine balance in figuring it out. It’s a romantic comedy -- it’s about a couple who are together and then they break apart and you want to root for them to get back together. And you also have the subject matter that we are dealing with: infidelity, or wanting to, and that’s a tricky subject.

DW: It was important to find a balance. We were really making sure that you know they care for each other and where they are coming from when they are coming up with these thoughts and desires throughout the movie.

- It seems that the couple has to get back together at the end of all romantic comedies, so do you feel as though however edgy you can get on the comedy side of things, you still have to have the couple get back together? Does that ideal of true love still remain?

DW: I don’t know if it does remain that way throughout everything. Certainly I think that every movie has a different viewpoint; not every romantic comedy has the couple together at the end.

The first movie I made, Wet Hot American Summer (2001), ends with the central couple ultimately breaking up and recognizing that.

KM: They are just too young to be serious about each other. Yeah, ultimately, for this story, we wanted to see them get back together. The challenge was, 'How do we structure it in a way where we are happy that they are back together?'

And one of the ways you do it is by putting Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston as the leads! You inherently want to root for them to be together.

- Do you have any funny behind-the-scenes stories?

KM: There are no specific stories. We had to skinny-dip on the first week of shooting, and it was very cold, and it was three o’clock in the morning, so everybody was thrilled about that. That was probably the night that bonded everybody!

- Did everyone join in the skinny-dipping?

KM: I’m not sure that Jen did that, because luckily in the script she was sitting on the shoreline.

DW: But we did have a lot of the cast in the water skinny-dipping, very early in the shoot, in the middle of the night, and it was a little nutty, but it was fun!

KM: I think that was one of the first nights where everybody just bonded together, because we were all in it, we all had to do it - well, I didn’t, and Dave didn’t - but they all had to do it. [laughs]

- So with the skinny-dipping, was it like Hair on Broadway, when they all got together naked? Is being naked something that bonds you?

KM: It pulls you together. Sure.

DW: Yes, naked parties of some kind are not unfounded in our body of work.

KM: If you look at the movie we did prior to this - not Role Models (2008), the one prior to that...

DW: It was The Ten (2007).

KM: It is basically a bunch of short vignettes and the last piece is a bunch of guys getting together, having a naked party and listening to Sade.

DW: Not Sade...

KM: Not Aretha Franklin...

DW: Well, they listen to an R&B artist who I can’t remember...

KM: Anita Baker?

DW: No. And every weekend these men get together, get naked, have fun together, dance and hang out.

- Can you tell us about Justin (Theroux) and Malin (Akerman) because they were just brilliant as the commune’s guru and free-love advocate, respectively.

DW: Oh, they’re fabulous. Basically, we had worked with both of them before, in other things, and it was just amazing to have them come and be in roles that I knew each were appropriate for. It was fantastic to see them act without shackles, and explode in the roles.

KM: When we wrote the script, originally the [guru] character’s name was Justin because we always had Justin in mind for it. And then we changed it to Seth for some reason, probably because we thought if we don’t get Justin, he shouldn’t be called Justin. Then we got Justin. And we’d made him Seth

DW: In The Ten, he plays Jesus, and he has long hair and a beard, so somehow I think we felt it had to be some cousin of that same character, a guy who considers himself all-powerful in some way.

KM: And then we had worked with Malin on the show Children’s Hospital (2008-), and she’s just super-funny and she’s beautiful, so we were like, 'Well, she’ll be a great temptress for Paul.' So we went to her and I thought she did an amazing job as well.

- Do you know how many people get the YouTube clip reference at the end, to the reporter who falls out of the grape stomper?

DW: In the screenings that we have had, it seems as though a huge amount.

KM: Or at least people who do get it are very vocal about it.

DW: There is definitely a big response.

- How do you guys work together as a writing team? Do you work in the same room, or do you send stuff to each other?

DW: We mostly work together, as opposed to alone passing things back and forth, but actually I live in New York and Ken lives in L.A., so we do a lot of it together, but on Skype.

KM: If we are not in the same room, we are virtually in the same room. And Dave’s a very fast typist, I’m terrible, so usually, 99% of the time, Dave is typing except for a couple of times when he is like, 'Just try typing!' and I will try, and then he’ll see how slow I type and he’ll jump back on.

- Do you mostly agree on things or is there a lot of arguing?

DW: I think we mostly agree that I am the faster typist. No, I think that’s part of the whole point, that we throw things out and we sometimes fight or discuss it, and that’s a big, main part of the process: you come up with something and then you defend it to your partner, knowing and trusting that each other is funny and that we, in the long term, are heading towards the same goal. But the back and forth is what makes it good.

KM: We have known each other since college - we were roommates in college - and we have been writing comedy since college when we were in a sketch group called The State, and so, at this point, we have a very short shorthand when working with each other, and we always know, even when we are discussing something where we disagree, ultimately it’s just about what’s the funniest joke.

I gauge if something is good if I make Dave laugh, then I’m like, 'Oh, that’s good, put it in.' If he laughs at something, I know that I have said something funny.

- Knowing each other for so long, is it harder to make each other laugh?

KM: It’s hard to make Dave laugh. He’s a comedy connoisseur, and when somebody knows a lot of comedy, I feel like I have to throw something out that’s fresh.

DW: But it goes the other way too. Sometimes one of us will say something, really just blurting something out, more as a joke or as something to kill time, and the other person will be like, 'No, that’s good. Put that in,' and the other will be like, 'No, I was just joking,' and we’ll be like, 'No, try it.'

KM: Sometimes we don’t think we can put stuff in, we’re like, 'We can’t put that in the movie,' and then we have a discussion with ourselves, and we’re like, 'Sure we can, we can put anything we want in.'

- Do you get surprised when something that you have worked really hard on doesn’t get a big laugh, but something that was more throwaway or something improvised does?

DW: Absolutely. All the time. It goes for each phase too: sometimes the thing that we thought was the funniest on the page, turns out to be not as good on-screen and vice versa, and then of the thing that worked best on-set, you get to the edit and you are looking at it on the screen and you’re like, 'Maybe it’s not as funny as we thought, even on-set when we were shooting it.'

Then, even after that, sometimes you put it together and go, 'This is a killer scene,' then you show the audience and the audience responds much more to something else you didn’t think was as good.

So that’s another reason why we film as much as we can, we collect as much material as we can, because you can never tell what is going to work in the final film.

KM: A great example of something that was funny on the day we were shooting is the goat-milking scene. But then fitting it into the movie, we had tons of jokes for that, but where do you place it into the movie?

How much time do you spend on that in the movie? Do you break away from the forward momentum of the movie just to have a bunch of laughs here? So you have to sacrifice some things.

Wanderlust is released on DVD & Blu-Ray 25th June.