- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In many ways it’s a golden era in Hollywood for a filmmaker like John Hamburg, director and co-writer of “I Love You, Man.”

The Judd Apatow revolution has flung the doors wide open for directors of adult comedies who, like Mr. Hamburg, are interested in creating features that reflect the real world and the dirty words spoken therein.

Audiences are warming to the idea that comedies don’t have to be watered down PG-13 affairs starring $20 million men like Jim Carrey. Studios, meanwhile, have learned to love the low budgets and long lives of box-office hits such as “Knocked Up,” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Superbad.”

“I Love You, Man” won’t do anything to change their calculations. The film grossed almost $18 million in its opening weekend — not a staggering sum, but a sizable portion of the movie’s budget nonetheless — and held audiences well as the week progressed.

“We made this movie, for a studio, on a relatively modest budget. It wasn’t like I was asking for a ‘Lord of the Rings’ budget to make an R-rated comedy,” Mr. Hamburg says.

Strong word-of-mouth and no direct comedic competition led to another strong showing over the weekend for “I Love You, Man,” which grossed $12.7 million, a decline of just 29 percent from its opening weekend. Compare that to bigger-budgeted fare such as “Watchmen,” which declined 68 percent in its second weekend and another 62 percent the weekend after.

“I don’t always feel like I have to make R-rated or PG-13; I just think it’s whatever the story calls for,” Mr. Hamburg says. “But this was fun because it is an adult movie and it deals with people talking about sex, and you don’t have to skirt around it. Most people I know live in an R-rated world, you know?”

He aimed for a mature R. There’s no casual nudity or over-the-top violence, just a stream of profanity that some may find shocking. Others will simply recognize it as the patois of the thirtysomething young professional.

“I know that there are a lot of people who don’t use those kinds of words,” Mr. Hamburg says, “but there are a lot of people who do. And I just wanted a movie to be as realistic as possible. And to me that was just like, they would talk, they would say the f-word, not censor themselves.”

Of course, a comedy is only as good as the talent on-screen. Mr. Hamburg knew the guys he wanted portraying the burgeoning “bromance” between real estate agent Peter and slacker investor Sydney from the get-go.

“The only two names we talked about were [Paul] Rudd and [Jason] Segel,” he says. Mr. Hamburg has known the pair for a while, but this was the first time all three of them were on a set together at the same time. As the director, Mr. Hamburg had to make sure their familiarity didn’t leech over into the film’s early scenes.

“They genuinely crack each other up, and that is really fun when you’re directing a movie about a pair of buddies,” he says. “My only challenge, honestly, was making sure in the early scenes of the movie, where they weren’t supposed to know each other that well, that they didn’t look too comfortable.”

Aiding Mr. Rudd and Mr. Segel was a veritable all-star lineup of supporting actors, including Jon Favreau, Jamie Pressley, J.K. Simmons, Jane Curtin and Andy Samberg.

How did Mr. Hamburg nab a guy like Mr. Favreau, one of the hottest talents in Hollywood, fresh off the success of last summer’s “Iron Man”? He just asked.

“I basically said, ‘Hey, you just directed “Iron Man”; do you want to get thrown up on by Paul Rudd?’ And he jumped at the chance,” Mr. Hamburg says. “I think he kind of enjoyed the idea that — after doing this massive movie he had done and promoted around the world — he could just come up to our set and have no pressure and play the world’s biggest jerk — and then go home and count all his money from ‘Iron Man.’”

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