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Hippies, Nudists, and Baring it All: A Chat With Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd, and the Cast and Director of "Wanderlust"

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At the Elysium Commune in 'Wanderlust' (photo courtesy Universal)
One of the funniest movies in the theaters right now is the irreverent Wanderlust. Long-time collaborators David Wain & Ken Marino’s latest co-written film stars Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston as a married couple who leave Manhattan behind when they find themselves suddenly unable to afford big city living. On their way down South to stay with Rudd’s unpleasant brother (Marino) and his family in their Georgian McMansion, the couple find themselves at a rustic B&B. When they venture forth from their cozy bedroom, they find themselves surrounded not by typical hotel guests, but members of a free loving hippie commune called Elysium.

Among the members of this eclectic family are the guru of the group, played by Justin Theroux, and Malin Akerman as the picture of peaceful, if not virginal, flower power. LAist met with these cast members and director David Wain to discuss Wanderlust, if any of them find the idea of communal living appealing, and how easy it is to get used to being surrounded by nudists.

If you know you’re going to do a movie about a commune, when do you decide how much nudity you’re going to have in the movie?

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David Wain: When we do the final lock picture, like a few weeks ago, that’s when we decide.
Ken Marino: Yeah. But the first thing we do is we lock ourselves in a room for seven days nude and we write.
Wain: We just study each other.
Marino: We just look at each other and see how God made us in all our glory.
Wain: Suffice it to say, there was a lot more nudity that was shot. We knew that we were shooting the maximum knowing that we would go into the edit room and figure out how much is just the right amount and how much is too much.

How does naked casting work? Do you have to be there for those or do you just leave it up to the casting director?

Wain: Basically, there’s a hamper where everyone leaves their clothes. So, we get there in the morning. We put our clothes in. And then, every actor comes in and leaves their clothes. And then, we all look at each other, and then at the end of the day we put our clothes back on and we leave.
Justin Theroux: There were only a couple days where we actually had the real nudists on set, and it was kind of weird. I actually thought it was going to be awkward for them when we got there. They're nudists, so it’s not awkward at all. It’s actually more awkward when you’re wearing clothing and you’re nudists. You’re like, “Oh, gosh.”
Malin Akerman: You don’t know where to look.
Theroux: You just hold eye contact. You’re just like, “Hey, what’s going on?”
Akerman: Also them being at craft service naked, grabbing food.
Theroux: We all stayed away from the Doritos that day.
Akerman: But yeah, there was some nudity.
Marino: The big naked run at the end; a lot of those people were stunt people.
Wain: They all were stunt people.
Marino: Because they had to be running from a moving car.
Wain: Our amazing stunt coordinator, Jack Gill, basically called on some of his friends who were all shapes and sizes. We said we don’t want pretty people. We want real looking people.
Marino: Pretty, but real looking.
Wain: And he said to them all “Hey, you want to run nude?” and they were like “Sure!”
Marino: And so, it was kind of awesome to watch these stunts being done by stunt people completely nude.

Jennifer, you have a scene where you take your shirt off. How comfortable are you with that kind of thing?

Jennifer Aniston: There's a little bit of nerves, but adrenaline kind of takes you through it, and then you have the girls come in and cover you up immediately. But I got very comfortable with seeing nude people, pretty much immediately. It was very bizarre, and to know that these were actually nudists because there's a nudist colony in Clarksville and how comfortable they are being nude... Then there would be the ones you could tell were not the authentic nudists because they were groomed, and so you could spot a fake miles away. Maybe not miles away.
Paul Rudd: Unless they were rocking a merkin, let's be honest. They could've gone to the makeup trailer.
Aniston: Shockingly, it was bizarre how at ease we became with having a bunch of naked people everywhere.
Rudd: But we do have to focus on keeping eye contact so that we don't look too pervy and weird. It's a weird thing when not everyone is naked.
Aniston: Right, but that's where sunglasses come in.

One of the themes is this movie is open community and free love, do either of you think that open relationships can work?

Wain: That open relationships can work? Yes, I do, and I would like you to tell my wife that.
Marino: I do not and I’d like you to tell my wife that.
Wain: Right. I do not. That’s what I meant. I do not. I do not. I keep forgetting which one it is. Do not.
Akerman: I don't think so.
Theroux: No.
Aniston: No.
Rudd: We got that question a lot.
Aniston: I just think that for some people it's possible, but to each his own. I just don't think…I think eventually it's going to start to not feel good.
Rudd: Emotions can get in the way and it gets muddy.
Akerman: I think it’s complicated enough to have a relationship and make that work properly. To then try to incorporate three or four more people...
Theroux: Or six.
Akerman: Or six or seven.
Theroux: Twelve.
Akerman: Ooh, that’s a lot of work.
Theroux: That’s called being single. Or being divorced.
Akerman: Moving and shaking it is fine if that’s your thing, for sure.

There’s a morning after shot in one of the trailers with Jennifer and a bunch of ladies in a bed. Why did that scene not make it into the movie?

Wain: There are so many scenes that we shot that for various reasons didn’t fit into the final cut and that’s one of them. You’ll see them on the DVD. There’s actually something called “The Bizarro Cut,” which is an entire version of the movie made up of almost all material that’s not in the movie.
Theroux: Oh, there is? Good.
Akerman: Great. Oh, good. Of course there is.
Theroux: Am I getting a residual check for that? Yeah, so honestly David would shout from behind the monitor, “Now say this. Now do that.” Then you’d crack up and try and get yourself together to say the line that he was actually asking you to say.
Akerman: There’s probably another movie too just of us all just laughing for three or four hours, wasting so much time.
Theroux: If Universal knew how much money was wasted of us just shrieking into cameras laughing...
Aniston: Oh my God, well, we haven't seen the Bizarro cut, but going to the premiere I did not know what would be in there, there have been so many incarnations. That's sort of what was so fun, sort of seeing it and experiencing shock and awe.
Rudd: I love David talking about the Bizarro cut; he would probably like to make the Bizarro cut the regular movie.

Do you see the appeal of a slower lifestyle, have you ever wished you could go someplace and disappear into that lifestyle and not have to deal with the paparazzi?

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Aniston: Every day, yes. I mean, for me going to Clarksville and shooting this movie was a version of that, honestly, because there were no paparazzi and there was no secret, tricky little cell-phone pictures being taken. It was just this great community and these amazing people. For me, I really realized how much I had sort of…how walled I was in a way, not consciously so, but just this armor that I kind of have, protective armor. It's not for my friends or people in my family, but just being outside in the world, always on guard. So, there was just this sigh of relief after week one, knowing, like, “This is just like John Travolta in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble." It's like riding on a horse out of the bubble. It was really special, and to get back in touch with that part of myself and that sort of anonymity, I really made a conscious effort to know, like, “Don't wall up like that.” I think that you miss out on a lot of stuff when you're so protected and isolated in a way. It's not that bad.
Akerman: I could see myself going on a vacation in the slower life for like a month or temporarily.
Theroux: Temporarily. It’s nice to have a job in a slower-paced part of the country because, I don't know, there’s something about when you’re working in a city and you’re still in the city even when you wrap. I think it was nice to just have the weekends and not have the options that you could just spontaneously go to any of 40 movies. It’s like, “Do you want to go to the lake or do you want to go to the one restaurant in town? Or do you want to go hang out at the gas station?”
Akerman: We never hung out at the gas station.
Theroux: Well, speak for yourself.

How long do you think you would last in a place like Elysium?

Theroux: About an afternoon.
Akerman: A day. It would be over for me as soon as I went to the bathroom with no doors.
Theroux: As soon as I went to the bathroom, exactly.
Akerman: Or anybody else for that matter. I don’t want to smell anybody else’s poop.
Theroux: I don't know, I think as soon as I saw the naked guy in the driveway, I’d be like, “Oh, I can drive another two hours.”
Akerman: I think I might be intrigued by that guy, “What’s his deal?”
Theroux: Exactly. So Malin would pull over.
Akerman: "So that penis of yours, let’s talk about it."
Aniston: I honestly don't think I would. I think going for a little bit would be sort of…
Rudd: It depends on what version it is. The version of this one, the one in the movie, because I remember being 20 and meeting people, or I meet people now who say, “I used to work and live on a kibbutz,” and then I remember seeing the movie Together, the Lukas Moodysson one, and thinking, “Wow, what a cool communal way of living.” There's something great about the idea of working the land and living communally. That's healthy. That's good. I think that probably somewhere we always did, but the version in the movie I think would get old pretty fast.

Do you base your characters on real life people or…

Wain: I would say, mostly, not really. It was more just invention with I’m sure inspirations in part from people we might have met at one point or another.
Marino: Yeah, I agree with that. I think that we just write these outlandish characters or these outrageous characters that we push in different directions and then we get somebody to play that part. It’s interesting because when we would audition people for certain parts, you’d see how certain people would bring the humanity to these outrageous characters.
Wain: The one character that was based on a real life person was Ken’s character. It was based on Ken.
Marino: Right. I’m a real dick, a real asshole.
Wain: Every time I see the movie, I just marvel and laugh at what a jerk this character is, like the completely unprovoked rage that comes from nothing.
Marino: I was laughing last night because at one point I say in a section of the movie, “Can I get a word in edgewise?” and all I’ve been doing for three scenes is talking as much as I possibly could. But it’s always fun to play those types of characters.
Akerman: Didn’t you say that in the script it would say, “A Justin Theroux character?"
Theroux: It was literally “A Justin Theroux type.” I was like, “What are you talking about? Are you asking me to do this with you? Dude, you think I’m a total horrible person!”

How much input did you each have in your characters?

Akerman: I think it was a wonderful experience. I’ve been so lucky to be able to work with David and Ken on Children’s Hospital. That group is so collaborative and so not narcissistic or egotistical. They really just want it to be the best it can be. So once we got there, we would always do the scripted lines because they’re hilarious, and then they just kind of went, “Go and do your thing and do some improv and see where you come from, who you think Eva is, and what she would say in this situation.” So they were really liberal with letting us bring what we thought was good for the characters.
Theroux: It was very collaborative. They have no ego when it comes to working. If it’s funny, they’ll stick with it.

Malin, what do you think of all the characters you’ve gotten to play up to this innocent hippie and the angry doctor on Children’s Hospital?

Akerman: Innocent hippie? She’s a whore!
Theroux: Innocent, whore hippie.
Akerman: Yes, innocent whore hippie. Oh my God, I am so excited. I feel like I’ve had such fun characters along the way. I always love the quirky stuff, which is why I love Children’s Hospital and doing that because it really pushes the envelope of comedy. I think it’s so great, too, that web series are now being picked up and made into television because you can go a little further - and I’m not shy. I like to do stuff that puts people on their toes.

Jennifer, your character bounces around in terms of her career and goals. What were some of the aspirations you both had in Hollywood that didn't work out?

Aniston: Well, there was the period where I wanted to be a therapist if the acting thing didn't work, and that was pretty much it. I don't know why. I just liked talking to people. I was always the girl that people would come to and talk to about their problems. I still am. But I also really knew that acting was something that I was going to…I had a good feeling about it. I think I was innocently ignorant where I just wasn't so, like, “God. I hope this happens.” I was waitressing and waitressing and waitressing and doing this and that and the other thing. I would audition and I couldn't get hired to save my life, but I would do Off Broadway theater and that was great and I was excited and thrilled, feeling like, “Well, it's Off, Off Broadway, but there's still the Broadway in there.” So, yeah.
Rudd: At least you had that. I was in shows that were Off, Off Awful. That couldn't have been a more cornball joke. That was horrible.