Over the past few years, Nicholas Stoller has found his calling as a feature film director. What started as a career in screenwriting branched out in 2008 when he helmed Jason Segel’s love lorn comedy, Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Not only did the movie expose audiences to British comedian Russell Brand but it gave us the opportunity to check out Stoller’s directing chops.
With Get Him to the Greek, he’s both the director and the screenwriter for the Sarah Marshall spin-off. Even though the movie includes a lot of the same ingredients as its predecessor (Brand, Jonah Hill) it’s thematically different. This isn’t a romantic comedy. It’s a coming of age raunch-fest with the music industry as its backdrop…
Out of all the venues in the world, Stoller picked the Los Angeles based Greek Theatre as the centerpiece (and title) for his film. His reasoning behind his choice wasn’t that complex and had a lot to do with how easily the name could roll off the tongue.
It’s a classic rock venue. It’s such a beautiful place to see music performed. I’ve seen The Flaming Lips here. The White Stripes. De La Soul I saw here. I’ve seen a lot of groups here. Also Get Him to the Staples Center just doesn’t work (laughs). Get Him to the Hollywood Bowl. It just doesn’t work.
Luckily for him, the managers at the Greek Theatre were more than willing to accommodate his cast and crew during their shoot.
One of my producers, David Bushell met with them and said, “Can we shoot here?” It was actually going to be pretty problematic for our movie if we couldn’t. It’s too famous to fake it. They said yes pretty much right away. They were so accommodating. It was very easy and an awesome place to work.
Besides the pseudo-rocker Aldous Snow, Stoller was able to get a few real musicians to make cameos in the film including Lars Ulrich from Metallica.
I kind of contacted him through our various people and he was into the idea. I loved that documentary Some Kind of Monster. It’s one of the great rock documentaries. He just seemed like the perfect foil for Russell because he’s so sure of himself. He’s been to like a 1,000 hours of therapy. You could imagine him crying for 3 hours and being totally fine with it. And he’s also like a foot shorter than both Rose [Bryne] and Russell so visually it’s like a funny joke.
They also got some of the cast from NBC’s Today Show to make brief appearances in the movie. They even got to use the real set.
We shot it over the weekend. We shot it a little on Saturday and Sunday, then the following Saturday. It was very cool that they let us shoot there. I did not think that they would let us. I kept waiting for them to shut us down. [Meredith Vieira] was a great sport. She’s just a really cool person. I kept apologizing to her like, “I’m so sorry” and she’s like, “Oh, this is fun.” I think she had a good time or was very good at pretending she had a good time.
There was one celebrity appearance Stoller was unable to get because of a serious scheduling conflict…
There was one scheduling thing, I wanted to get Jimmy Page. I literally spoke to him on the phone, which was crazy, and he was at his daughter’s wedding and couldn’t make it. But we got really everyone that we asked for. It was really exciting.
Stoller used some of his experience within the film industry to help his portrayal of the music business. Because despite what people think, they’re not that different from each other.
I’m very familiar with the movie industry and music is like the movie industry, it’s just turned up to 11. Everything’s pushed, everything’s crazier, everything’s a bit…dumber (laughs). That was kind of my theory going in. I had enough people, like Lars read the script and said, “This captures it. Usually I read scripts and they’re totally off base.” It was exciting for that reason.
Speaking of music there are several hilarious songs featured in the film along the lines of the single, “Inside You” that we heard Snow perform in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
I was very involved with the music. We hired a lot of songwriters but for the most part we gave them concepts. Like “the clap.” I thought of the title, “We’ve got the clap.” That was the chorus of it. Then we contacted Dan Bern and Mike Viola, who are great singer-songwriters, they also wrote the songs for Walk Hard. They did “African Child.” They did a bunch of the songs in the movie. They did “Furry Walls,” along with Judd [Apatow].
The production of Get Him to the Greek covered the globe. They went from London, to Las Vegas, to Los Angeles, which sounds like an excruciating process. According to Stoller, the work hours in Europe are a lot different than the U.S.
You can’t go overtime. They vote on whether you can keep going, which is interesting because they’re sane! It makes sense. Why would you want to work more than 12 hours? I understand that. But the crews were just awesome.
Stoller’s next feature film will be in a genre he’s never tackled before, superhero. He’s writing the script for the big screen adaptation of Stretch Armstrong, the famous Hasbro toy about a man who’s extremely…”stretchy.”
Rob Letterman who directed Gulliver’s Travels, which I wrote is directing it. He’s a real talent. I just saw a rough cut of Gulliver’s Travels and it’s awesome. It’s with Jack Black and it’s going to be great. Rob and I are both excited to do a big budget superhero movie. We’re taking it totally seriously. There’s a light kind of Iron Man tone to it and it’s with Taylor Lautner.
In terms of Stretch Armstrong’s plot and star…
We’ve figured out a pretty cool origin story because there’s not much. Hasbro doesn’t have a story for this guy. We’re basically writing the script right now. [Stretch] is a teenage character around [Lautner's] age. With a big visual effects movie like this, I think they’re going to start the pre-production offices really soon. I think some time this summer [July]. I believe their starting [production] next spring. And I met Taylor and he is a dreamy dude. He’s good looking. Sweet guy. So many people go up to him. It’s insane.
Stoller’s screenwriting future seems set but he hasn’t decided what he wants his next directorial gig to be. He doesn’t like handling other people’s material.
I’m not sure right now. I love romantic comedies. That’s my way into material. I couldn’t imagine someone handing me a script and me just directing it. I can imagine rewriting something or writing something with someone else but the idea of taking someone’s script and doing it word for word it’s not the way I creatively work.
Get Him to the Greek debuts in theaters nationwide on June 4, 2010.