Interviews for Jeff, Who Lives at Home.
Jeff could be labeled your everyday stoner slacker. He’s 30 years old, has no girlfriend and lives in the basement of his mother’s house. Obsessed with the Mel Gibson alien invasion movie “Signs,” Jeff is waiting for his own signs that will bring meaning to his existence and to unveil his destiny in “Jeff, Who Lives at Home.”
All his frustrated mother (Susan Sarandon) wants Jeff (Jason Segel) to do, besides get a life, is buy some wood glue. It’s a simple task that gets derailed when he gets a wrong number call from a Kevin. He has no idea who Kevin is, but Jeff feels that’s sign he has to follow. On his journey to the store, he comes across his brother, Pat (Ed Helms), a salesman with marital problems, who has pretty much given up on his brother. Things begin to spiral out of control when Pat sees his wife (Judy Greer) with another man. Meanwhile, their mother, working away at her cubicle, is contacted by a secret admirer in her office. All three come across signs that their lives will change in “Jeff.”
Segel (“The Muppets,” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) said he could personally relate to Jeff, which was one thing that attracted him to the film.
“I remember a period in my life when I was out of work and I was sitting there waiting for someone to cast me,” Segel said. “It was very much like Jeff where I know the sign that I’m supposed to be an actor is being past. Between 21 and 25 years old was a crazy out of work period. It was when I really started writing hard. I remember very much just sitting there thinking that I’m going to wait for the sign that I’m worthy of being an actor.”
Known for his comedic chops, Segel said he just wanted to play Jeff as a “regular” guy.
“It was very clear what my job was,” Segel said. “It was to show up and be regular. I think that everyone would agree. It was so well written there was no need to talk about what the character’s motivation was or anything like that. I didn’t try to bring any funny bones to it. It’s funny because by nature we’re a little bit funny, but the goal is to be honest.”
Written and directed by the brother team, Mark and Jay Duplass (“The Puffy Chair,” “Cyrus”), Helms (“The Hangover”) said the filmmakers allowed a lot of leeway with the script and were open to improv.
“It’s the most fun way to go to work on a set every day, just not knowing what you’re going to say,” Helms said. “I’ve done little bits of theater where you literally say the same lines every night and that has its own kind of zen appeal. You can really find nuances in the same lines, but there’s this whole other really exciting process which these guys are all about ... even the most mundane things feel really fresh and cool every take.”
Sarandon said the biggest mistake in comedy is trying too hard, especially when the comedy is falling flat. She said she didn’t have to worry about that with the Duplass’ script.
“You just try to do what your job is in the scene ... they set it up so well, you don’t have to come up with clever lines,” Sarandon said. “I think the thing that was so great was how comfortable an atmosphere these guys made. It made you feel like you could take chances and make mistakes and then get on track again. You know they have your back and they will take care of you so you just have to fulfill your job and be these characters and not try to be funny or get attention.”
Mark Duplass said the script was inspired by friends the brothers new in Austin, Texas, who spent numerous years in college, philosophizing about the universe and living off of $4,000 a year. But the brothers don’t see Jeff in the same light.
“There’s an argument to me made that Jeff has more integrity than any of us,” he said. “He believes his life is met for grand things, for big things. He won’t settle for just a decent job and maybe the right girlfriend. Jeff is waiting for glory and that’s what we love about him. At first glance you’re like ‘Oh, maybe he’s a stoner.’ But you did a little bit deeper and he’s kind of sacrificed a lot to look for that big thing that we all want.”
With “Jeff” being their fourth feature film, the brothers said that sibling issues rarely come to the surface while filmmaking.
“It’s like Frankenstein,” said Jay Duplass. “You make this movie and it’s like a big monster that threatens to ruin your life and eat up all of your food and your fun. So your there with your sibling and you’re just trying to get Frankenstein back into the grave.”
Mark added, “When we’re on set we’re so aware that it’s so hard to make a movie and almost impossible to make a movie that’s semi-entertaining and watchable. Whatever problems that come up between us immediately get dwarfed by the greater force of the movie that we have to deal with. It’s kind of like that moment where there are two villains that hate each other and they have to join forces to defeat the bigger villain. That’s basically how we work together.”
As for future films, Segel said he won’t return to write or star in the sequel to his hit film “The Muppets.” He said he completed his biggest goal, just getting Kermit and Miss Piggy, and the rest of the gang, back on the big screen.
“I just want to take time to focus on more human related projects,” Segel said.
Jeff, Who Lives at Home details:
Release date: March 16
Distributor: Paramount Vantage
Official website: www.jeffwholivesathome.com
Cast and Crew for Jeff, Who Lives at Home
Starring Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Judy Greer, Susan Sarandon and Rae Dawn Chong.
Written and directed By: Mark and Jay Duplass
Produced By: Jason Reitman, Steven Rales, Helen Estabrook, Lianne Halfon and Russell Smith