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I Love You, Man - John Hamburg interview

John Hamburg directs I Love You, Man

Interview by Rob Carnevale

JOHN Hamburg talks to us about some of the challenges – and pleasures – of directing new comedy, I Love You, Man. He reveals why Paul Rudd and Jason Segel were always first choice for the two leads, and how he came to persuade The Incredible Hulk’s Lou Ferrigno to make a cameo.

Q. Where did you get the inspiration for the script? Was it from friends and real-life?
John Hamburg: Yeah, lots of it came from real life. Fortunately, unlike Paul [Rudd]‘s character I do have male friends in my life. But I think I could relate to the fact that in my mid-30s I found it hard to make new friends. And if I did meet a guy that I wanted to be friends with, there were no rules for how to go about continuing maybe what was a meeting. So, that awkwardness is something that I can certainly relate to. I’ve had a lot of awkward experiences. It’s not like I give people horrible nicknames like Paul does in the movie, but I can certainly relate to miscommunication. When I say goodbye to a friend, I may want to give them a hug when all they’re prepared to offer is a handshake.

Q. Do you have an audience in mind when you write?
John Hamburg: I just write what I think will be real and funny. I then hope that when we put it out there people will respond.

Q. What was it like directing Paul Rudd and Jason Segel, who have worked together twice before?
John Hamburg: For me, it was the greatest because you have two actors who I’m friends with… we all knew each other before this movie but I also respect them so much. They also genuinely like each other, so if you’re making a movie about friendship and two guys who are forming a friendship, who are also incredibly funny character performers, it’s just the greatest thing you can imagine.

Q. Was it always these two actors for the lead roles? And how easy was it to get them together?
John Hamburg: I got very lucky as a director because when I finished the script we approached Paul and Jason and they wanted to do the movie. They agreed to do it and their schedules worked out. It doesn’t always work that smoothly but thankfully on this one, things really aligned. Actually, I’m having post-production amnesia. It was tricky getting Jason from his TV schedule [laughs]… But for me it was always the combination of Paul and Jason. We always talked about them together. We sent them the script on the same day. The movie is Peter and Sydney and you have to believe in their friendship.

Q. Whose idea was the Lou Ferrigno cameo?
John Hamburg: It was my idea. I have no idea where it came from. I know that I was a big fan of the TV series, The Incredible Hulk, when I was a kid. I also knew that the story was about Paul Rudd as a Los Angeles estate agent and, in doing that, you do run into celebrities from time to time. So, randomly the idea popped into my head and the next thing you know Jason is in a choke-hold with Lou Ferrigno.

Q. Was he easy to get?
John Hamburg: It wasn’t easy but he read the script, got that it wasn’t making fun of him… that it was a version of the real Lou Ferrigno. And he loves these kind of comedies. He has three kids, who are into them, and he’s into them, so he got what the tone of the movie was and agreed to do it. And that was really exciting. But he’s also very big, so to be in a room with a guy that big was something of a thrill for a person like me.

Q. And you also have the likes of JK Simmons, Jon Favreau and Jaime Pressly in there, too. How did that come about?
John Hamburg: For me, I like to try and make the supporting cast as great as I can. They may not all say “yes”, but I always try to go for the funniest, most talented people that I can think of because I think it makes the movie going experience that much more enjoyable. It’s not like every part involves someone trying to be funny or steal a scene, but they bring a lot to these roles. Even Favreau’s role could have been a throwaway role as the husband of one of Rashida [Jones]‘s friend, but I think he turned it into an epic of jerk-manship.

Read our review of I Love You, Man