“We’re, like, the least masculine writers in Hollywood,” deadpans Jason Segel, star of The Five-Year Engagement (out today), which he penned with buddy Nicholas Stoller. To wit: his latest flick, The Five Year Engagement, tackles the ups and downs of a serious, committed relationship—with a few dude-humor jokes along the way. TIME spoke to Segel about writing his own roles and high-brow romantic comedy.
Rom-com-wise, a five-year engagement is pretty fresh premise. Where’d you and Nick get the idea?
We’re just really interested in exploring relationships. And what we zeroed in on with this movie is how fluid relationships are over a long period of time. It’s about what happens when people say “I do” or accept a proposal and they mean “yes” for this moment and “yes” to how things are right now—without taking into account that power dynamics can change and things can go poorly.
So, you talked this all out over beers at a bar.
[laughs] Yeah, kind of. Nick and I really hit it off on Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and we were just trying to figure out what to do next. So we bounced around a few ideas, and this is the one that stuck. Well, this and The Muppets Movie.
Not a bad combo.
Did you always see yourself as the lead?
Yeah. Because I do a TV show [How I Met Your Mother], I don’t have the time luxury to write things that aren’t for me. Plus, Nick and I have a good system going — we write movies together, I star in ’em, and he directs ’em.
Overall, Five-Year is hilarious. But some of your fights with your on-screen fiancée, played by Emily Blunt, are surprisingly intense.
I don’t think that a romantic comedy has to appeal to the lowest common denominator. What I love about movies like Annie Hall and Broadcast News is how complicated they are. There is no villain. In Broadcast News, you don’t know whether you want Holly Hunter to end up with Albert Brooks or William Hurt or neither. That’s our model.
The movie was supposed to have a full-frontal nudity scene, a la Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Why didn’t it make the final cut?
Yeah, we had a full-frontal shot. It was right as my character was drunkenly walking out of a deli. But we decided it was gratuitous. The first time we did it, in Sarah Marshall, people had never seen the lead actor in a comedy do full-frontal for that amount of time. It’s been done a lot now. So we felt like, joke’s over.
Your character grows some awful facial hair during a rough patch. Was it real? And more importantly, was it inspired by a Muppet?
[laughs] It was not real, and it was not inspired by a Muppet. But it is inspired by my real life.
I’ve been known to grow passive-aggressive facial hair.
In relationships, and when I was younger and wasn’t getting cast, I’d just do it under the guise of “Oh, you think I care? Well watch this, I’m not even gonna try anymore.” It really is an expression of, like, “F*** this.”
I’m gonna use that next time one of my stories gets killed.
Go for it.
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