Movie fans of a certain age or taste may appreciate 33-year old Jason Segel somewhat as an actor, but I suspect not even many of those fans know his gifts as a writer.
I just re-watched “Forgetting Sarah Marshall“, one of the less-remembered Judd Apatow-produced movies featuring some of Apatow’s preferred ensemble of actors (e.g. Segel, Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, SNL’S Bill Hader). I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it the first time around. Since then I have gotten divorced, so I liked it even more this time around, given its subject matter. For Segal’s inventive script and his emotional honesty in playing a depressed television composer cuts a bit deeper than the surface-level emotions of most traditional rom-coms.
I also saw myself more significantly in his Peter Bretter character this time around. Aside from the obvious similarities about “forgetting” someone, or second-guessing oneself after a long-term relationship ends, or doubting one’s creative gifts, I had forgotten about his goofy secret ambition project: the Dracula Puppet Rock Opera. It provides a great finale to the film, and also encouraged my own ambitions some, since I have been at work since December 2012 on a goofy “secret” project of my own (a Christmas musical comedy for the stage –and mostly for adults– about three odd shepherds sent by a Johnny Cash-like angel off to Bethlehem, to welcome Jesus into the world… stay tuned here).
It also helps improve “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” that I have a thing for Mila Kunis, who plays Segel’s love interest in the film. She shows up in skimpy clothes on occasion as a Hawaiian-based concierge at the resort where the recently-dumped Segel is staying. But Kunis is more than just eye-candy, as we saw in– among other things– “Black Swan”. The third strength of FSM is Russell Brand, whose British rocker Aldis Snow (a highly improvised role) was a strong enough supporting character that he got his own movie a few years later, in the so-so “Get Him to the Greek” with Jonah Hill. Brand is the real deal, and in the right project or in his stand-up act, he seldom disappoints (though that short marriage to Katy Perry apparently disappointed…)
While watching FSM, I also recalled another Segel project I saw a few months back: Jay and Mark Duplass’ under-the-radar, slightly surreal dramedy Jeff Who Lives at Home (2011). He played a similar character in that film, a lost thirty-something with a good heart but without the confidence to become his best self. Like many of Apatow’s films, this one is another “coming of age” story for grownups about grownups. The Duplass Brothers’ work is intriguing, and a couple films are out on Netflix, so consider this a secondary recommendation of their work, too.
Oh, and get this! I just read a bit of Segel’s IMDB bio, and discovered a fascinating factoid relevant in early 2013, as NBA player Jason Collins became the first active male athelete in a major sport to come out as gay. Regarding Segel’s California high school years, the bio states that “his frame helped him as an active member of the 1996 state champion boys’ basketball team. He was the team’s backup center behind Jason Collins.”
So Jason Segel seems to have been in the right place at the right time even in high school… I’d enviously hate him for this, if he weren’t so naturally lovable. I don’t even watch the uneven “How I Met Your Mother” series, but if I did, Jason would be the reason to watch… not the cartoonish Neal Patrick Harris. Jason’s like the dependable #3 hitter in a baseball lineup: he doesn’t get the publicity or salary of a big-time cleanup hitter, but he’s often the man that makes the team a winner.
As a writer, Jason Segel has some chops. Plus enough Hollywood clout to pitch an idea and then get hired to script the most recent Muppets feature (2011), which he co-wrote with Sarah Marshall director Nicholas Stoller. (Note: a Muppets sequel featuring Ricky Gervais is in post-production now and slated for a 2014 release… Stoller is again involved, but not Segel.) Segel also wrote and starred in last year’s The Five Year Engagement, with Emily Blunt.
Kunis. Blunt. Rashida Jones (in I Love You, Man). This guy apparently gets to pretend falling in love with almost ALL of my favorite young actresses, speaking of luck or being in the right place. (Not Natalie Portman or Anne Hathaway yet… but one never knows.)
So now I have another new hero, apparently.
Look for Segel– along with fellow Apatow-blessed stalwarts Seth Rogen, James Franco, and many others, all playing themselves— in this June’s This Is the End. It’s a Rogen script –along with his writing partner Evan Goldberg (whose breakthrough hit Superbad! put most of these “kids” on the map) — about a party at Franco’s when the Apocalypse starts to go down.
Of your career, boys, this is certainly NOT the end. Oh, and I won’t forget you anymore, Jason. I promise.
- Jason Segel to Publish Children’s Book Series With Random House (readersread.com)
- This is What Jason Collins and Jason Segel Looked Like As High School Teammates (extramustard.si.com)
- Manday: Jason Segel (aresplendentresurgence.com)