Two dudes and a whole lotta ‘bromance’

A few years ago, Vanity Fair rounded up some of the stars of the eighties teen comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High for a class reunion photo. The talent list from that film remains impressive – Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Forest Whitaker, Eric Stoltz, Nicolas Cage, Anthony Edwards and, sadly, Lana Clarkson, the actress who became most famous for being found shot dead in the home of legendary record producer Phil Spector.

One wonders how long it will take some enterprising magazine editor to round up the cast of the short-lived but beloved high-school television drama Freaks and Geeks – a show starring James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Linda Cardellini and Lizzy Caplan, among many, many others, and co-created by this generation’s Preston Sturges, Judd Apatow? I give it five years, maximum.

One of the few actors from the ever-expanding Apatow universe not to appear in Freaks and Geeks was the always charming Paul Rudd, which is strange, given that he’s in practically everything else attached to the Apatow line.

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But Hollywood abhors a vacuum, except in scripts, and has fixed this unnatural vacancy by teaming Rudd with Jason Segel in the heart-warming “bromantic” (don’t blame me, it’s on the press release) comedy I Love You, Man . Fulfilling their Apatowian destinies, Segel and Rudd play two lonely but kind-hearted guys who bond over Rush songs, dog feces, beer and the prerequisite doses of gleeful adolescent smut.

Although Apatow had nothing to do with I Love You, Man , audiences will be forgiven for thinking he did – his signature moneyed-but-still-indie tone and sheen is all over the film.

Furthermore, remember that Segel wrote and starred in Forgetting Sarah Marshall , which also featured Paul Rudd in a small part, and which was produced by … Judd Apatow.

I’ve heard that Hollywood is like one big high school, but this is taking things too far. You’ve made the first “chick flick” for guys.

Segel: Yes. A dick flick.

Clever. How many times have you said that today?

Segel: Just once.

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What’s the market for this film?

Segel: Everybody.

Rudd: It’s weird, you know, they’ve done test screenings for this, and this is going to sound like a total marketing b-s line, but it’s true: It ranks equally with men and women. I think it’s for men because there’s the whole buddy-comedy aspect, but women feel as if it’s kind of their movie, too, because they say, “That’s exactly what my husband is like – guys are idiots!”

Segel: It’s got all the elements of a romantic comedy and all the elements of a buddy movie. It’s a great Venn diagram.

Rudd: And Jason’s character also has a dog, so I think it’s a great movie for animal lovers!

Segel: And Hulk fans [Lou Ferrigno has a cameo in the film] And Vespa enthusiasts [Segel’s character rides one] I had no idea male bonding came with so many rules.

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Rudd: Well, with my character, who’s very open and relationship-oriented, he’s a sensitive, heart-on-the-sleeve-type character.

But he doesn’t know the male rules.

Rudd: No, and the one who does, and is guiding him, is his gay brother.

Segel: I think my character believes you should be able to talk about anything with your male friends, whatever you feel like. My character’s advice is that you need to be more reserved around your girlfriend, because you don’t want to let her into your deep, dark man-cave. Your guy friends are where you should be able to be completely open.

Some critics argue that terms like “bromance” and “man-date” are ultimately homophobic, because they exist solely to mark the fact that the men involved are not gay.

Segel: Really?

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Rudd: Here’s the thing: “bromance,” when we were filming this movie, it wasn’t even a term. .. It seems as if in the last year it’s everywhere. We actually don’t like it – but everybody needs a way to describe something. I’ve heard my character described as a metrosexual, and I don’t think that’s true either. A lot of stuff I think is done by the press. Always being described as a “bromantic” comedy – we didn’t even think of that. The truth is, one of the things I like about this movie, is that we’re not macho, alpha-male stereotypes. I never related to those guys. I’m not like that, my friends aren’t like that. I fall somewhere in the middle.

Segel: I think that’s an issue beyond this movie, it’s a deeper cultural issue. For example, very simply, women refer to their friends as girlfriends, but you’ll never hear a straight man say “my boyfriend.” It’s just a deeper cultural issue than has to do with any movie. I don’t think the “bromance” thing is a trend, I think it comes down to men feeling insecure with their own masculinity.

Rudd: I don’t know, I don’t see that. I’m an American guy and I don’t have that, none of my friends have that.

Segel: Yah, but we’re artists.

Rudd: Ha! True!

Segel: Not too many dudes do two Broadway shows a year like you!

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Rudd: Sure, but guys will do this thing, they’ll say, “I love you, man” – the “man” tempers it. They say, “I love you, dude.” They never just say, “I love you.”

So, the tension is there.

Segel: I suppose, I guess maybe you’re talking to two of the wrong guys … You’re the stars, who else am I going to talk to?

Segel: Ha! Yeah, but we’re the least masculine dudes in that regard. It’s never been on my radar. I lived with my best friend until six months ago, my best friend since I was 12, and when he left I wept like an infant.

Are you two sick of each other yet?

Segel: No, not at all. We did three cities separately to promote the film, and then as soon as we got back together it became really fun. Rudd: We enjoy each other’s company, and we also really like the movie. It’s tough when you’re doing promotion and the thing’s a clunker.

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