Jason Segel is such a big star now that when he plays a supporting role, he gets the “and Jason Segel” credit. bad teacher stars Cameron Diaz as Elizabeth Halse, the bad teacher, and Justin Timberlake as Scott Delacorte, the naïve good boy she’s after. Segel plays Russell Gettis, the gym teacher who makes sarcastic comments about Elizabeth’s shenanigans.
Segel played it cool at the Bad Teacher junket too. In a Four Seasons hotel suite, he kicked back with his feet up, because he didn’t have to do the heavy lifting. He could just hang out with the journalists he’s known since Forgetting Sarah Marshall, “How I Met Your Mother” and some as far back as “Freaks and Geeks.” He even asked how my summer was going, but I got into the interview as quickly as I could.
Jason Segel: Oh, interesting. No, I think as you get older you learn that that’s just a recipe for disaster. It’s very intriguing when you’re young. There’s some air of mystery about it but it always just ends in heartbreak.
Q: But it seems like your character still goes for it.
JS: Yeah, my character does. He sees I think in Cameron Diaz’s character sort of a glimmer every now and again that if this woman would just drop her façade and the superficiality, she would really be an awesome woman. So he’s determined to break down that wall.
Q: Can you maintain that aloof sarcasm in the face of a hot babe?
Q: Are you hoping to make gym teachers cool again?
JS: Were they ever not cool?
Q: I think they might not usually be.
JS: No, I’ve always liked the gym teacher. What a great life. Play sports all day, hang out and then go drink at the end of the night. It’s perfect.
Q: I guess if you’re good at sports, that’s ideal.
Q: You’re really a huge star now. Has that hit you?
JS: No, I never think of it that way at all. I’m very lucky but I still write most of my material. So that takes away any element of feeling like a big star because you’re working so hard for these movies. I still haven’t lost the idea that unless I write it, I’m not going to get cast in it, which is a great motivator to keep writing.
Q: What about Bad Teacher then?
JS: Well, this I’ve known Jake for about 15 years and for as much as I’m in the film, this was a surprisingly easy gig. I think I worked for 9 days total. Not that the part was an afterthought or anything like that, but it was a small supporting role, which I think it still is.
Q: Do you get a lot more friend requests since I Love You, Man?
Q: Even in real life, are guys more eager to buddy up with you?
JS: I think maybe so. A lot of the characters I play are just inherently accessible by virtue of the way they’re written. So I think people feel a lot more comfortable coming up to me and sitting down and starting to open up about their real lives than they would be someone who they were intimidated by.
JS: Yeah, it’s all happening. A couple teaser trailers are out now.
Q: For as long as we’ve been talking about it, isn’t that a milestone?
JS: It is. You know, it’s been five years in the making, something like that. To have it all finally come to fruition and be so close to release is just unbelievably exciting.
Q: What is it actually like to be on set with Kermit?
JS: It’s one of the coolest things ever and the real magic of it is no matter how old you are, you can see it from little kids to adults visiting the set to studio heads, within 10 minutes of being around those puppets, the puppeteer disappears and you’re having a conversation with the puppet. It’s a very strange phenomenon but it’s totally real.
Q: Since they actually have to execute the things in the script, were you writing with the Muppeteers?
JS: We didn’t write with them but we got a lot of really sound advice from them. First of all, in terms of what the actual characters would and wouldn’t do because they know these characters better than anyone. Some of them have been doing these same characters for 25 years. Longer, 30 years. What we did learn a lot about from them was what was actually possible and what wasn’t. It’s very easy to conceive of an idea of 50 full figure Muppets running away from a building but then you have them come in and say, “I don’t know how you plan on us doing that. That’s impossible.” So we learned a lot about stuff like that.
JS: You fake it. You make fun of the fact that you can’t do it. We have a line at the end of the preview where a building explodes. It’s the exact scene I was talking about. You never see the explosion. You just hear it. You just cut to the Muppets and then Fozzie says, “Wow, that was an expensive looking explosion. I can’t believe we have that in the budget.” That’s because we didn’t have it in the budget.
Q: As a Muppets fan, were you also a fan of Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal?
JS: Absolutely, yeah. Labyrinth was one of my favorites growing up, as was Dark Crystal, but I remember David Bowie in Labyrinth freaked me out in just the greatest way. Even as a little kid you knew David Bowie was cool.
Q: What’s coming up on How I Met Your Mother next season?
JS: We have no idea. We come back in August.
Q: Well, we saw a hologram last season. Are they getting close to the apocalyptic ending idea?
JS: Did I tell you about that? No, we always joke about that idea. I still think it would be hilarious just to reveal that all the narration is going on from a post-apocalyptic wasteland. I have no idea how they plan on ending the show or who the mother is. I’m as excited to find out as you are.
Q: At this point, the joke is how many different ways you won’t find out. If someone is still waiting to find out who the mother is, aren’t they missing the point?
JS: Absolutely. That concept was a great hook for when the show started, but I think as the series has progressed, that artifice has dropped away and it’s become more like Friends. It’s just about watching these people.
Q: What is Five Year Engagement?
JS: Five Year Engagement is what I’m shooting now in Michigan. It’s a movie that Nick Stoller and I wrote together and Nick is directing it, we’re producing it together with Judd. It’s about a couple that gets engaged probably too early in their relationship and it follows them over five years of engagement without being married. Emily Blunt is my lovely costar.
Q: The concept itself suggests something is wrong.
JS: And Nick and I have both known people like this who are together for such a long time but never quite pull the trigger because they’re waiting for the perfect circumstance, the perfect moment, the perfect venue. Ultimately that shouldn’t be what it’s about.
Q: Well, it’s one thing to be dating someone a while before you propose. It’s another to be engaged but never follow through.
JS: Absolutely. At one point one of the characters says, “Is there a time limit on engagement when you’re no longer engaged if you haven’t gotten married?” I think some element of that theme plays into it.
Q: Will it be R-rated?
JS: Yes, it’s the same team from Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Q: Are there any painfully honest moments like the naked breakup scene?
JS: There are. We really dug deep on this one. I think as Nick and I grow up, get older and are getting to different phases in our lives, he’s married with a kid now and I’m getting older. I think we’re wanting to explore that kind of stuff as deeply as we did getting broken up with in your early ‘20s. At the time, that’s the most painful thing but we’ve had a lot of life experiences since.
Bad Teacher hits theaters Friday.