Let me just start this off by saying that in real life, Emily Blunt and Alison Brie are basically glowing vessels of radiance and beauty and that I basically melted into a quavery glob of goo when they walked into the room that night for the Q&A session. Which was a little embarrassing, not least of all because I’d been determined not to be one those people who lose their senses and better judgment at the sight of some celebrity—how majorly lame would that be right? But then there they were, and there I was—my face was flushing, my mouth was stretching into a ridiculous love-grin, and I found myself breathing out in a high pitched voice, basically whisper-squealing, to my photographer, “Omygosh they’re so pretty!! Aren’t they so prettty??” He nodded, busy drinking an elegant glass of red wine and nibbling on an exquisitely fried risotto ball.
We were on the second floor of The London hotel in New York, in a very small, very intimate conference room that was decorated a bit like an engagement party: red and white paper lanterns were strung from the ceiling, and around the room were little round tables covered with white tablecloths; in the middle of each table was a lovely bouquet of red and white roses. At the front of the room were Emily Blunt and Alison Brie, answering questions about The Five-Year Engagement, the new romantic comedy by Nicholas Stoller.
The premise of The Five-Year Engagement is about couple who has been engaged for (as you might’ve guessed) five years. But the movie isn’t so much about the kind of romance you’d normally expect to see in a typical romantic comedy as it is about the problems a long-term relationship can face when the people in that relationship—despite how much they love each other—start moving down different paths in life.
The creators and stars of the film are a powerful bunch: Nicholas Stoller, who directed Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him To The Greek, is the director of the movie, as well as the co-writer of the script with Jason Segel; Judd Apatow, the man who has basically been involved with every single wildly successful comedy released in the past eight years, is one of the film’s producers; Emily Blunt, from The Devil Wears Prada and The Adjustment Bureau, plays Violet Barnes, Tom’s fiance; Jason Segel, from Freaks and Geeks, How I Met Your Mother, The Muppet Movie, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, plays Tom Solomon, Violet’s fiance; Alison Brie, from Community and Mad Men, plays Suzie Barnes, Violet’s sister and Alex’s wife; and Chris Pratt, from Parks and Recreation and Moneyball, plays Tom’s friend, Alex, and Suzie’s husband.
Jason Segel and Chris Pratt weren’t there that night for the Q&A, but Emily Blunt and Alison Brie were, and they answered questions about the movie, and talked about weddings, fashion, and farts.
On keeping a straight face during the movie shooting: Emily: We didn’t. Alison’s a pro because she works on Community and she’s surrounded by funny people all the time, but I have no self control. But out of the whole cast Alison was by far the best at not breaking, and I was by far the worst. When someone’s improving, it’s really really hard to hold it together.
Alison: I do have that experience on Community, but when I break though, it’s the worst because, I start crying immediately—like laughter to tears immediately— and Emily would just always just look over at me and say, “Alison, stop crying. You’re always crying.”
On Suzie and Alex’s relationship and Chris Pratt’s Portuguese singing: Alison: Suzie and Alex live their lives by the skin of their teeth, but because they’re both just so weird and yet so weirdly on the same page with each other that everything works. Like he sings this weird song in the movie, this weird Portuguese song, but it actually sort of works in this super touching and amazing way. And Chris Pratt was just was incredible, he crushed it.
Emily: I don’t know how you didn’t laugh when he sang that on set.
Alison: Because I was like, falling in love with him at the same time! It was the weirdest dynamic, because you were like, this is hilarious; and sexy; and romantic—what’s happening to me! It was very weird.
On Tom and Violet and modern relationships: Emily: What the we tried to show in the movie is a modern couple: It’s actually the girl who has a career and she moves off and he has to follow and he has to adjust and I think that is a modern couple. A lot of people have asked me questions about that, saying do you think Violet’s just kind of selfish and career driven, and I’m like, hey, if the genders were reversed, this would never be a question, this would not be an issue, this wouldn’t even be raised. And Jason [Segel]—because Jason likes women and he gets them and he sees the modern day couple—and he’s like, yeah, let’s switch it around, and make it that Tom is emasculated and Tom doesn’t know his place in the world and that he’s the one martyring himself and he’s the one at home feeling a bit lost. So I thought that was really interesting, because even though it seems different for a romantic comedy, it’s actually relevant to what the world is like nowadays. My own mother said to my dad, “When are you going to ask me to marry you?”, and that’s how it happened.
On favorite fashion moments in the movie: Alison: Suzie had a lot of great fashion moments. Leesa Evans did an amazing job. When I first came in and we were doing the hair and makeup tests, I was like, Suzie’s kind of out there, so you can do the makeup kind of funky, but everyone was super timid; and then I came in with my costume, and they were like oohhh, that’s what you mean. One of my favorite outfit is the scene where I’m in these bright red tights and a striped dress and a little hat and a little jacket, and just a lot of accessories. Every outfit I was in, there’d be some crazy tights happening.
Emily: I had so many favorite fashion moments. Leesa really wanted to create this very singular look for Violet—because Violet likes vintage shops and she likes thrift stores and she doesn’t have that much money, and so everything were these one-of-a kind pieces that she’d either got found in thrift stores or that she’d tailor and alter, so it was really fun putting together all of those looks. And I particularly really loved the stuff that I wore to the university, because they were so cute and different and a bit quirky. My wedding dress was also an amazing moment, I loved it. It was really beautiful.
On filming at the University of Michigan: Emily: It was really fun! It was really fun to film in the actual rooms and walk the corridors, and there were actual students around and It was great. I think it was more of a nightmare for someone like Jason Segel, because the college town is like his demographic, so everywhere he walked, someone would be like, “Get your dick out!” Or “Drop your pants!” So he got annihilated out there.
Alison: Ann Arbor’s such a fun town, We had so much fun and everyone was so nice.
Emily: We went to the funny student bars at night, this place called Old Town, we did karaoke. Alison and I did karaoke— a little Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi, and also Total Eclipse of the Heart, which was not my finest moment, but it was fun.
On Tom and Violet’s changing relationship throughout the movie: Emily: At the beginning of the film, you really like Tom and Violet together, and you think they’re fun and they’re a cool couple, and you think they’re going to be invincible; and then you gradually see this descent into unhappiness together, partly because of the pressure of planning the wedding and trying to make everything perfect. I wonder if they hadn’t been engaged, if they would have run into all of the emotional problems that they actually had. I think it kind of cements a union when you go down on one knee—it’s like a big declaration to the world, and so things can ratch it up for sure.
On who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy in Tom and Violet’s relationship: Emily: I think that’s what’s clever about this movie, is that as much as you like Tom—because he’s so likeable, Jason, in how he plays this part, and he played such a great part in this— I think what’s clever is that it’s a really fine thread that Nick and Jason worked on, to really try and make the audience understand every character’s predicament, so you really understand the position they’re in. There’s no villain. And I think you understand them at every turn; even when they move to Michigan, you see that it means the world to her, so you’re kind of happy that he makes the sacrifice, and he says that he’ll be happy and he told her he’d be happy and she believes him, and when he gets there, and doesn’t find work, you feel bad for him. So I think it’s really clever, how it’s this sort of balancing act of understanding the whole time
On embarrassing wedding stories: Emily: My cousin just got married, and my mum and my brother just called me today and they were like, “The ceremony was. a. disaster.” and I was like, what happened? So my cousin Dominic was getting married to a girl whose name was Shonda, and the priest kept kept calling her Rhonda, and he kept forgetting the lines, and he kept taking huge pauses, and it was really embarrassing, and he literally called her Rhonda, like, 5 times. It was like he was drunk or something. Mom was like, “He was obviously drunk.” So my cousin had a bad one yesterday.
On funny things that happened on the set: Emily: There was one night we were filming this funny scene at like, 2AM and we were all delirious with laughter at this one point, and the sound guy holding the boom—the guy with the big mic on set— he was holding it and he was laughing so hard that he farted twice. And it was so loud. And so we decided that this was the barometer as to whether something was funny or not— if we got farts out of the crew.
On advice to people planning their weddings: Emily: Don’t have too many cooks in the kitchen. Also, it has to be YOUR wedding. It has to be whatever you want. It’s essential. Because actually a lot of the time people get married for other people, for your parents, for your relatives, for your friends, but I really think that if you want to get married in your backyard, then you should. It really should be very personal to you.
For more information about The Five-Year Engagement, go here. The movie will be released in theaters on April 27th. -———————————————————————————————————————————————————
Written by Helen Zou Photographs taken by the splendiferous Andrew Park