Nicholas Stoller is having a very good year. After being taken under the mighty wing of Judd Apatow, his hilarious-yet-touching directorial debut, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, opens today. Not only that, he and star Jason Segel are currently making the new Muppet movie. Clearly, it's time to learn a little more about this guy before he becomes too much of a big shot. Since they're old friends, we asked our frequent guest-blogger Nick Malis (who contractually required us to plug Malis in Wonderland and Cute Things Falling Asleep) to interview Stoller. What follows is a fascinating portrait of a young artist at the dawn of his career. Also, he talks about penises a lot. Stick around after the jump to hear Stoller opine on the homoerotic world of Judd Apatow's office, seeing Kristen Bell naked, and what Richard Roeper is like in bed.
Defamer: It's well known that Jason Segel shows his dick in this movie. What was it like on those days of the shoot?
Nick Stoller: Well, Jason wanted to make sure his penis wasn't too small because it was cold in the studio. But it was a fine line, because having an erection while getting dumped wouldn't really read as truthful. So, he would be backstage with "materials" provided to him by the prop master, and then would he would yell, "I'm ready, I'm ready," and then come running out, and we'd shoot.
D: Was he ever too hard to shoot a scene?
NS: No, he wasn't. His problem was that he couldn't get...uh, I don't know if 'hard' is the right word for it—more like a semi-chub. He didn't feel like he got to that place. To me, it always looked like a totally normal penis, but then again, I wasn't the one showing it.
D: At any time during the filming of this movie, did you get to see Mila Kunis or Kristen Bell naked? I know they're not naked in the movie, but did you get to see it?
NS: No, they always wore pasties. They were actually very cool about all that stuff. They just didn't want it to end up on the Internet. Plus, it would have freaked them out if I were trying to sneak around their dressing room. It wouldn't instill that trust you need as a director.
D: Richard Roeper said your movie made his list of the 50 funniest comedies of all time. What was it like to blow him?
NS: He's a gentle lover. Very generous in bed. He gave back. It wasn't just a one-way street.
D: How did your involvement with Judd Apatow get started? How did you work your way up in the ranks of the Apatow offices?
NS: Of Apatown, you mean? Well, I started out by writing on Undeclared—his college show. And from there I wrote a few screenplays with him. And then, I've been friends with Jason Segel forever, so I offered to guide him through the writing process [of F.S.M.] if he would support me as a director. And he said yes, and suddenly it was all happening.
D: But why did they trust a first-timer like you to direct this movie?
NS: I have no idea. Early on I said that I would just be very up-front with the fact that I didn't know what I was doing. I wasn't gonna lie at all, and I just decided to ask everyone questions.
D: What's a typical day like in Apatown?
NS: Everyone walks around with their penises out. I should just say it. We all have our dicks out all day. That's really what it is. Judd has what we call The Apatower in West LA, and you go there for meetings, but for the most part, everyone writes at home. And then we go to the meetings and all take our dicks out.
D: So, who has the biggest dick in Apatown?
NS: I'm contractually obligated to say Judd. But really it's me.
D: How involved is Judd in the movies he produces?
NS: He's very involved in the writing and casting. And having done this once, those two elements seem like the most important parts of a movie. Especially a comedy. And he's heavily involved in post. He's only around a little bit for production, but his producing partner Shauna Robertson is often on set. Basically, Judd creates a zone where we can kind of just do what we want. But, ultimately, he's very involved and wants to make sure that each movie hits some central truth.
D: Did you get into any arguments with him?
NS: Uh, no. We have a really good working relationship. He's very respectful and understands that I'm directing the thing. There were certain moments where I would insist upon a joke or a line and he would say, "Well, it's your movie. You can do it." But I've learned over the years that he's more right than wrong.
D: What is the test screening process like? Did you get any annoying notes from the studio? Anything crazy on the comment cards?
NS: Because Judd's so powerful right now, the studio was pretty hands off. As for comment cards, it ranged from audiences being way too savvy and literally talking about whether the movie would have appeal in the 18-25 demographic to being pretty dumb. The funniest ones were from guys in the audience who were so mad at having to see Jason Segel's penis, but in a homoerotic way. They were like, "Why do we have to see his penis for so long? I hate looking at his penis. It makes me want to make out with my roommate."
D: Well, I've seen them both, and I truly believe that Forgetting Sarah Marshall is better and funnier than Knocked Up. So, are you a better director than Judd Apatow?
NS: Ha. No comment. Judd, I think, is one of the best comedy directors ever. All of the things I employed on Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I learned from him.
D: How much of your current success comes from luck and knowing the right people versus actually working hard?
NS: The door opens, and you're very lucky when the door opens, but you do also have to be prepared. I would say it's about 1% hard work and 99% good luck. Though I do try to work a lot and be prepared for any kind of opportunity that presents itself.
D: Your career has just entered the next level. You're a big man in Hollywood right now. So, what does that feel like? Are people kissing your ass?
NS: Not as much as I'd hoped they would be. But we'll see. It all depends on opening weekend.
D: Forgetting Sarah Marshall opens on April 18th. Here's what else is coming out that day: 88 Minutes (the Al Pacino movie), The Forbidden Kingdom (the Jackie Chan/Jet Li flick), and Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? (the Morgan Spurlock doc). Why should people go see your movie over the competition?
NS: First I would go to 88 Minutes, then if I still had time I would go to see the Spurlock documentary, then I would see mine, and then I would see The Forbidden Kingdom. And then I'd see Smart People. But really, much like it's important to see a big action movie in the theater, it's nice to see a good comedy in a movie theater because everyone is laughing and having fun together.
D: What does it feel like to have a major movie opening this weekend? Are you gonna check BoxOfficeMojo every second?
NS: It's really odd. With the moviemaking process, you start out really intense and it slowly trickles off as you do post and stuff. So now, I haven't really worked on it in a while. I've just been doing press. It kind of feels like the movie came out already because I've watched it so many times. But then I wake up in the middle of the night very nervous because I realize it's coming out Friday.
D: You and I have known each other for a very long time. That's why, as a testament to our friendship, I want you to give me a scoop about your upcoming Muppet movie that will set the Internet afire.
NS: You know it's kind of all been said. It's gonna be an old school Muppet movie like The Great Muppet Caper or Muppets Take Manhattan. Basically the Muppets have to put on a show to save their studio. And in the intervening years, there's been a Muppet Diaspora, so the main Muppets need to go off with Jason [Segel] and collect other Muppets from all around the world. We're in the middle of writing it now. We're on page 50.
D: Alright, one last question. How awesome is Iron Man gonna be?
NS: So awesome!
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]
Forgetting Sarah Marshall opens in theaters today (April 18th). Do yourself a favor and go see it.