During last week’s trip to LA, a small group of bloggers and I met with director Jake Kasdan to discuss his new comedy, Sex Tape. Kasdan is no stranger to outrageous comedy, working previously on films like Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and Bad Teacher, also with Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel. The director told us that working with the same actors was a definite advantage when it came time to make his latest film.
“It was a great headstart on it because we all really knew each other,” said Kasdan of Sex Tape. “We’d had a great experience, the three of us, I knew them both really well and they had sorta broken the ice on the first movie in a way that I think was great. There’s just this great advantage to having an existing relationship. In terms of [the directing] approach, it’s completely different material – we’re having a totally different set of conversations on the subject matter, the jokes and the dynamic between them; we had something new to talk about, but within the context of a sort of way of thinking about it that we’d established together.”
I’m always curious about the process behind filmmaking, especially when it comes to comedy, as it seems like an incredibly challenging genre. “What’s the biggest challenge in filming a comedy like this for you?” I asked Kasdan.
“You’re sort of figuring it out every day – this one was really pleasant, fun thing to work on, you know?” Kasdan replied. “I mean, obviously it’s a great job, but this was an unusually fun movie to make. I think that the thing that we were trying to calibrate going in is – I’ve made a bunch R rated movies that have fairly some fairly edgy sex stuff, and and sometimes a lot of sexuality can make it harder for people to laugh, even if they’re having a good time. It can just make it harder for people to actually laugh at comedy. The experience [of] sitting in a theater, looking at naked movie stars and laughing out loud don’t always go comfortably hand in hand; and it’s not even a balancing act as much as just trying to figure out moment by moment how that works, because we knew that in this movie it was actually the subject matter and you couldn’t be backing away from that, because that’s the whole reason to do it. And that was a big part of the appeal to me, was that it was a really funny way of looking at something really, kind of universal and human: How does a relationship maintain itself through marriage and years and years and kids and lives and all that. I thought it was really [a] legitimately funny way of getting at something that is itself full of a lot of comedy. The big comedy idea lets you get to it in a kinda cool way, and knowing that we knew we had to approach it with the a careful hand at how we were shooting all that stuff and how we were kind of approaching it, so that the sex wouldn’t overpower the comedy and the content.”
One of the ways that Kasdan kept the bawdy humor from overpowering the story was by enlisting a talented cast of supporting actors. “There’s fewer people on this movie than probably anything I’ve ever done,” He explained, “And it obviously puts incredible importance for who you get to play those parts, and I just got this amazing group of people – a lot of them I had worked with or almost worked with [before]. Rob Lowe, I didn’t really know until very recently – I was just a huge fan and thought he’d be hilarious.”
A blogger in attendance said that Lowe’s character, to her, seemed close to things he’s endured in real life. “Like the cocaine and the porn and that kind of stuff – so how comfortable was he playing this role?” she asked.
“Completely comfortable!” Kasdan laughed. “If he had any discomfort about it he didn’t reveal it in any way whatsoever. He loved the part, and he had a really funny idea about how to approach the guy that I thought was sort of inspired. Going off of a couple of conversations we had about what it would be like if he was doing it, it wouldn’t be like the stuffy boardroom guy – Rob is not that, you know? What we sorta came to was sorta more like the Silicon Valley mold, of the inspirational CEO who speaks in New Age platitudes. But it’s like a certain sort of disarming – it doesn’t read as pretentious, exactly, because he’s just smiling so much, kinda friendly you know – it’s like an odd combination of stuff. The thing that Rob does in this most recent phase of his career that’s so different from 20 years ago – like America’s heartthrob guy – is he’s emerged as this brilliant comedy actor, even despite the fact he still looks like that, and yet he’s been funny reliably so many times, starting to me with West Wing. He has this kinda unique space right now where you kinda know he’s gonna be funny, but you really have no idea how.”
Kasdan also discussed some of the small touches that added to the movie’s humor, such as the decor seen in the mansion where Lowe’s character lives (“There was something about the idea of this guy who has these insane kind of like fantasy portraits of himself – not anyone else, just himself!”) and a cameo from Jack Black, who plays the owner of a popular “Tube site”.
“It was in the script when I came on board and I thought it was a hilarious sequence,” said Kasdan. “The very first thing it was called Jack and asked him to come do that thing. If somebody’s going to be listing porn sites…there’s only one man! He’s like one of the funniest people on the planet. I’ve worked with him a bunch, and he is a genius. And I realize it’s been a little while since people have seen Jack be really dirty in a movie!”
But Black may have some competition from the film’s unexpected young breakout star, Harrison Holzer. “He’s amazing,” Kasdan told us. “We were looking for someone someone to play that, [and] it was really hard to find, as you can imagine – it’s just hard with any kid, and it was the only thing was kind of a struggle. Right when we were getting very close, I said to our casting director, ‘I feel like we need to see a few more people – I’m not in love with this material, with anything I’ve seen yet’. And we’d seen some really talented kids. Then the next day, they sent me this tape and we we pretty much hired him and started, – like, ‘NO one’s going to beat this, this let’s get this kid in here’. It was originally a little younger in the script, and it was like, it doesn’t matter. This doesn’t come along often! He came and started rehearsing with us, and then we quickly discovered he not only could do all that, he can [also] improvise hard jokes in perfect joke form – some of it the dirtiest stuff I’ve ever heard in my life. To where I was truly like, this kid is offending MY sensibilities. And I made Bad Teacher for a year and a half!! Like really outrageous s–t.”
This type of “Technology generation gap” was something Kasdan expounded on further with regards to how the film’s premise was executed. “I think we’re moving further and further into more digital, and for better or worse, a greater comfort level with a certain kind of exhibitionist thing,” he explained. “You know, for these characters, the idea of making a sex tape is like this outrageous thing that they do, sorta for all the right reasons, but it’s a wild thing to do and they can’t believe they’re doing it. Part of that is the thing that they’re doing, for a lot of us – it’s just a completely horrifying idea, right? You’d rather do anything other than that. But then, there is a whole world of people out there and, you know on the show New Girl (Which Kasdan has both produced and directed) I’m always surrounded by slightly younger comedy people, and I hear stories in the writer’s room, and we will talk about that – there’s an entire universe of a slightly younger generation that just regard this stuff completely differently, and part of the thing is, they send each other pictures of themselves, and it’s just part of a relationship and courtship and it’s not like some sleazy secret. It’s part of intimacy,so I think that in some way technology is actually affecting some of our interactions – in some ways, not so great, in some ways, who are we to judge? I think it’s actually more universal than it seems like it is, [and] will be for quite a while even if we’re not calling it ‘The cloud’ in 5 years. We’ll be calling it ‘The bunker’ or whatever – it’s the same stuff.”
And thanks to the cloud making it so easy to stay at home in our PJs and binge watch shows, one of our group brought up an excellent point: Why should we, busy women in our 30s and 40s, get dressed and go to the theaters to see Sex Tape rather than just wait to watch it at home later?
“I think this is a movie about exactly people who feel that way – I would describe myself in exactly the same demographic, and you eventually want to go to a movie during the summer that is about people who feel that way,” said Kasdan, speaking to the film’s relatability. “It is still a fun thing to do. The great kind of trick with this movie is this big crazy idea: You kinda know what the ideas is when you hear the title, right? Sex Tape. Like, if you think about it for about a minute and a half and you go, ‘It’s a comedy’ – it’s probably about a couple that loses their sex tape, right? A great part of why I love that, it was this is a sneaky way of getting at something that I think is totally universal and totally human, because a lot of people feel this way. My life is overwhelming, my relationship with the person that I love is just changed – in a way I love, but that other thing was great too, and what happened? It was a funny thing – I showed [the script] to my wife – we have have three little kids – as we got to a place where it was getting close enough to happen, I said, ‘You should read this’, as I do with everything I’m serious about. She read it, and I think had been a little skeptical because of the title, and immediately finished it and said ‘I love this’. She said, ‘When I have dinner with my girlfriends, this is all we’re talking about,’ – this phenomenon at this juncture in life, especially the little kids – all of our close friends have kids from babies to 8 or 10, that’s sort of where we’re livin’ right now and it’s just like – we dig it, but it’s definitely all the various issues of life where you look at yourself and go, ‘I’m like, the parent person now!’ And yes, I love it, but also loved what other things were like before that – and it all seemed very relevant, universal stuff to her and I thought, well, that’s the reason to make this movie.”
Sex Tape is in theaters now, so get out of your pajamas and go to the cinema this weekend!