Beginning At The End
Dan Mazer [Writer/Director]: “Well essentially, I think we, as men, have been burnt too often by our wives taking us to dodgy romantic comedies that are neither particularly romantic or comedic.”
Rafe Spall [‘Josh’]: “It’s true…”
Dan Mazer : “The type where you see every joke in the trailer, and they’re really not that good, and it’s always about sort of a gruff Irish pub landlord meeting a ditzy L.A. PR girl...”
Rafe Spall : “Didn’t you write that one Dan? [ laughs ]”
Dan Mazer : “It’s the next one! I’m looking forward to it as I’m inventing now. I’m thinking ‘Hold on… and they have to chase a dog that’s swallowed a wedding ring round Venice and get the wedding ring out of the dog because otherwise the ditzy PR girl loses her job.’ It’s not bad is it? It’s not bad [ laughs ]
“But it doesn’t tell us anything about romance or real relationships, I wanted to make it kind of a comedy about romance - as opposed to a romantic comedy - that felt authentic, relatable and something I would want to go and watch because relationships and romance are funny fertile areas for comedy, and I don’t see why they have to be unrealistic.”
Rose Byrne [‘Nat’]: “I really liked that it started where a romantic comedy should really finish, so it was sort of about what happens after the happy ending. That was really interesting to me because as I get I older I kind of think the way a relationship starts is no indication of how it will go, and I just liked that it examined that.”
Dan Mazer: “Rafe thought the script was rubbish, but then we offered him so much money…”
Rafe Spall: “I thought there was something there … I thought there was something, and with a bit of work… So we put our heads together didn’t we…”
Dan Mazer : “Yeah, Rafe really helped me out.”
Rafe Spall : “I did a pass on it… No, I thought it was just funny, and I think that Dan’s done a brilliant thing with taking a fresh look at the genre of romantic comedies, comedy romances whatever you wanna call them, but, simply and plainly, I think what really sets this film aside, is that it’s funny.
"It made me laugh on the script and it’s very rare that as an actor you laugh out loud when you’re reading a script, and I did on like the second page. Then I immediately wanted to be a part of it, even more so when I met young Daniel.”
Rose Byrne: “And I loved the minutiae of the script, like the bin and the bad lyrics and the obnoxious best friend that she hates, the in-laws… and just all those things that are really relatable. And Working Title is such an iconic company that produces these films that we’ve grown up watching and really identifying with, and I have huge affection for those films, so to be part of that lineage was really exciting as well.”
Rose Byrne: “I knew I’d be working opposite Rafe pretty early on.
“I was doing Damages with Glenn Close and Glenn had worked with Rafe, and she was the first person I mentioned it to. She lit up, and she’s a very discerning judge of character, and of actors in particular, and she said, ‘He’s brilliant, he’s such a great actor you’ve got to do it,’ and I did! And we really hit it off which was even better.”
Rafe Spall: “Well, a few other more famous people than me were looking at this film before me… then they dropped out…”
Dan Mazer: “Actually not true, I have to say the minute Rafe walked in for me to meet him for the first time, I just knew instantly, it was like love at first sight. It was a romantic comedy in itself, there was a meet cute and I just thought, ‘I don’t want anyone else but Rafe to do it.’ And fortunately it worked out and I couldn’t be more delighted.”
Rafe Spall: “This script came through my door and I loved it and well me and Dan had a really great first meeting, and then I had to subsequently prove to other people that I was capable of possibly being someone that any woman could find attractive… then had to go for a few more auditions, but Dan was always in my corner, and always made me feel confident that I was the guy the he wanted to play the part.”
Rose Byrne: “Dan had seen Bridesmaids and he approached me after that and said that ‘I really would love you to play this role and I think you could really do it, and we want this actor Rafe Spall.’”
Dan Mazer : “What was my first thought when Rose Byrne came aboard? I thought ‘Phwoarrr!’”
Rafe Spall : “’Phwoarrr…’”
Dan Mazer : “Not half… I should say so…”
Rafe Spall : “No seriously, I think she’s brilliant, I’ve long been a fan of her work, and she’s not only a brilliant dramatic actress and one of the great beauties of our age, but she’s a brilliant comedienne. She’s the full package.”
Dan Mazer : “Yeah, she really is. And it was amazing and I think I was writing this during the time Bridesmaids came out and I saw that and I just thought, ‘I have to work with Rose Byrne,’ and that was further underlined when I found out that that the brilliant scene in Bridesmaids where they’re making the speeches and they are trying to outdo each other, was essentially improvised between her and Kristen Wiig.
“I just thought if someone could be that beautiful and that funny…There’s no chance whatsoever they’re going to be in my film… [laughs] But I would really like them to, and - lo and behold - she read the script and liked it, and from that point on there was never any debate about who we wanted…”
Rafe Spall : “She’s a great laugh, she’s got a brilliant sense of humour, she’s the complete opposite to Nat really, she’s got a real sense of humour and she’s a laugher and I would just, I knew that if I was making her laugh during a scene, we were on the right direction really…”
Dan Mazer : “And she’s daring, she’s willing to take a risk which y’know, you don’t often find that with actresses of her calibre and who look like that, they often want to play it safer.
Rafe Spall : “The thing about her characters in Bridesmaids and this, they are completely different… completely different accents…”
Dan Mazer : “She’s got different dresses. It’s amazing, so versatile…” [ laughs ]
Getting Into Character
Rose Byrne: “We did a marriage counselling session in character, so I was doing my English accent and we were in our characters’ names and clothes and we were with a legitimate, certified marriage counsellor and we did a two-hour session and it was recorded - we said we were doing a documentary [ laughs ]. That was pretty early on that we did that. But that was good, it was fun.”
Dan Mazer : “Christ, I forgot about that…”
Rafe Spall : “Did you ever tell that marriage counsellor that we weren’t really a couple?”
Dan Mazer : “No…” [ laughs ]
Rafe Spall : “Well you have now… Dan was actually sitting in on the session because we were filming it, but this marriage counsellor thought she was just doing a session, and Rose and I were in character, and it was like two hours long wasn’t it?”
Dan Mazer : ”Yeah that’s before the movie started, and before we rehearsed and they went in and completely managed to come across as an authentic couple who were having problems to this marriage counsellor, who, obviously sees couples all day, every day…”
Rafe Spall : “Yeah, but Rose was doing it with an accent, it was extraordinary. I mean I was joking about her accents earlier, but I think her accent’s so good in this film…”
Dan Mazer : “Rose was annoyed that basically the marriage counsellor was siding with Rafe…”
Rafe Spall : “She got seriously pissed off…”
Dan Mazer : “Like properly annoyed. She just got so deep in character, just like, ‘I’m really annoyed the marriage counsellor is on Rafe’s side.’”
Rafe Spall : “The counsellor fancied me…”
Dan Mazer : “Who can blame her. She’s got urges, she’s got needs…”
Rose Byrne: “Rafe and I really hit it off easily and became friends and we have a similar sense of humour. It’s funny though, I also think that how you get along in real life doesn’t really always have a bearing on how you’re going to look on screen anyway, because you hear stories of co-stars who are at each other’s throats but on screen they have a fantastic chemistry.
“Or then you see married couples who do films together and they have no chemistry on screen, so it’s very random. The camera tells such a different story, I think. But it did make for a good working environment which is always better than a bad one [ laughs ].”
Dan Mazer: “We were very keen that there was a chemistry between them but then you realise that there does not need to be such a strong chemistry. At a certain point I had to dilute it, because Rafe and Rose got on incredibly well, loved each other’s company and had real fun on set together.
“We didn’t want to see that sparkle too much however, which was one of the challenging aspects of the film. You have this couple that get together at the beginning and from the very start you have to want them not to be with each other, which is a difficult line to tread without making it poisonous between them. It was a tough balance to strike.”
Keeping The Characters Likeable
Rose Byrne: “I guess as an actor, you’re very much your character’s lawyer, so you’re fighting for them, you’re gonna win their case no matter if they’re guilty or not guilty in that sense, so I was always on her side, and I don’t know if you can make someone likeable.
“And a lot of the comedy comes from, the difference between the two of them. That’s what makes it funny and for me, the more compromising the character the more interesting. It’s like those people in life that you are completely obsessed and frustrated by, but they’re the one’s that create the drama, so that’s what we want to see on screen.”
Rafe Spall : “It’s a definite balance to strike, to see why she would get together with him in the first place, why she might find him annoying but, the things that she finds annoying, Anna Faris’s character thinks is brilliant…”
Dan Mazer : “And also that was my job really, in the edit. I just wanted Rafe to go out there and be as funny as he could and kinda push that, because being annoying is quite funny…
“So I wanted him to push that as far as he possibly could and so then it’s my job afterwards to kind of strike that balance, when we could go to that extreme, and when we needed to pull back on it, and Rafe’s so brilliant that he can play the whole spectrum of levels annoyance…”
Rafe Spall : “There is some stuff that’s not in the film anymore that, well I think is really funny stuff that would’ve, skewed the balance a bit, but hopefully that’ll appear on the DVD at some point.”
Drawing Inpiration From Real Life
Dan Mazer: “Josh, Rafe’s character is slightly autobiographical, and I can be possibly the most annoying person on earth. On my year off I went travelling around America with a friend, and he left me halfway round, he abandoned me for being too annoying [rafe laughs] so, er y’know I am not necessarily the best gauge of what is and what isn’t annoying.” [Laugh]
Rafe Spall : “So I think someone said that Hugh grant, was playing Richard Curtin in Four Weddings and Funeral so I am playing Dan Mazer.”
Rose Byrne: “Dan was really open with the inspirations, about his own first year of marriage and how it was difficult, absolutely. And we all shared relationship stories and bits and pieces which was nice.”
Dan Mazer: ““My marriage and my friends’ marriages and my life have all been plundered with a reckless abandon. I have to say I have pilloried and pillaged and completely stolen things.
“I am very happily married and I love my wife inordinately, but we obviously have funny arguments and tricky times and early on in the script there is a row that my wife and I had and I wrote down verbatim, but when people read the script, they said, ‘Well, that is not believable, people would never say that. That’s not credible.’ So I had to dilute some of the reality of my life!
“My marriage and my friends marriages have definitely provided inspiration for this film but I must say that my wife is very keen to let the world know that certain instances and certain sexual predilections in the film are not hers!”
The First Day Of Shooting
Rose Byrne: “On the first day of shooting, we did a scene that’s actually not in the final film, but it’s a scene with Rafe and I: I’m coming home from a day at work, he’s been sat there writing all day, and he’s just moved into my apartment. It’s a sort of a weird bumpy first scene: he’s moving in, and all his stuff is everywhere, and in fact it didn’t make it to the end of the film. But that was the first scene we shot.”
Dan Mazer: “There are quite a lot of deleted scenes…”
Rafe Spall : “Will get to see them on DVD? Depends how successful the film is, to see how much they spend on the DVD.”
Dan Mazer : “Yeah exactly. It might go straight to DVD…”
Rafe Spall : “Yeah exactly, might go straight to dvd…[ laughs ]"
Dan Mazer : “There are quite a few deleted scenes and funny bits and pieces, out there.”
Rafe Spall : “Most of the time you see deleted scenes on a DVD, you can see why they are deleted scenes…”
Dan Mazer : “Yeah exactly. Yeah definitely, you really look forward to them, and then it’s ‘Eurgh, eurgh…’”
Improvising On Set
Rose Byrne: “Dan was really great with on-set improvisation, very accommodating. With all the comedy I have done so far, the laugh wins: so whatever’s funny wins. We would always be pitching ideas and lines and thoughts, and it was really good to do some physical comedy as well with the running and bits and pieces. So I would say it’s like eighty per cent scripted, twenty per cent improv.”
Rafe Spall : “Yeah most of the really funny bits were improvised…”
Dan Mazer : “Well, Rafe would come in on his days off and just, y’know, improvise on behalf of other people, just to spruce it up…”
Rafe Spall : “I’d do a bit of work, come in, do a bit of work with the actors, give it a bit of a polish, give it a bit of a buff…”
Dan Mazer : “What was brilliant and what I did very deliberately in the casting process, and one of the reasons I loved Rafe initially, is that I wanted to cast people who were brilliantly funny in their own right. People who you could sit down in a room with, and know you could have a laugh and that their first point of call was comedy, and that they would be comfortable and easy with comedy.
“Because I want this film to be first and foremost funny, so it would have been ridiculous not to let people improvise, and so when you’ve got people like Rafe, Rose, Stephen [ Merchant ], Olivia [ Colman ], and everybody, all those people who are naturally funny on set, you’ve kind of got to let them do their thing.
“It’s like Lionel Messi on the pitch and putting him in goal, it would be an idiotic thing to do. So they all went out there and they were brilliant. “
Rafe Spall : “Yeah and that’s a really nice thing to have someone, who is encouraging you to do that, but most of it was rubbish. It’s true! The nature of improvising is quite vulnerable in a way, because you have to throw so much stuff out there, it’s like you throw everything against a wall and see what sticks, because you’re all just searching for inspiration really, and every now and again you’ll get a gem, and most of the stuff…”
Dan Mazer : “No, I think most of it was brilliant. I ended up with a three-hour assembly of this movie and, when I came to edit it. Some of the funniest stuff in the movie comes straight from the actors, and it’s brilliant to have that resource, and for me to get the credit for it. So, if we could actually cut out all the stuff that was improvised and say it wasn’t, that would be ideal.”
Shooting A Wedding
Rose Byrne: “It’s kind of surreal, like shopping for the wedding dress and all that stuff. But, then again, it kind of isn’t either, because it’s just work.
“I’ve done so many strange things with work, like pretending to be a lawyer for six years, or pretending to be a CIA agent discovering mutants [ laughs ], so it’s all relative.”
Rafe Spall: “It’s weird, I wore a really nice suit that I got to keep which was much nicer than the suit I had on my actual wedding day. There’s one shot at the beginning of the film, where you see the marquee in a perfectly blue sky: I think that blue sky was there for 30 seconds, and we managed to get it. It rained, it was miserable, it was cold, loads of extras, loads of cameras, it was a big set-up, so that was a big couple of days really…”
Dan Mazer: “It was sort of miserable like a wedding [ laughs ], in many ways. Just a massive hassle, a bit miserable, less exciting than you imagined… Quite like a wedding in many ways.”
Rafe Spall : “Exactly. Disappointing.”
Rose Byrne: “The scene with the charades was actually pretty funny, [ laughs ] just because Jason [ Flemyng ] actually had to do all that stuff and that was pretty funny… and pretty awkward.”
Dan Mazer: “I think we know what Rafe’s most embarrassing moment is, don’t we?”
Rafe Spall : “Er, yeah. Naked photographs - of me - appear in the film. And, having to go into a room with, first and foremost, me and the stills photographer, take pictures of my willy, and then me and Dan Mazer, a body double, me with a sock on my dick, literally a sock, wasn’t it, remember the sock?”
Dan Mazer : “Yeah, yeah. It was a big sock, an extra large sock, a size 14.”
Rafe Spall : “Doing all sorts of positions with a body double and Rose, that was pretty embarrassing, especially because we’d really got on well and everything…”
Dan Mazer : “And it’s a weird thing, because I thought, ‘OK, what we do is put it at the end.’ It was the very last thing we did. I thought we would put it at the end of the shoot because then everyone would be much more comfortable, but the truth is, I would much rather see a stranger’s dick then I would like a very good friend of mine’s dick… It would be disgusting! And then y’know over the course of the, during the shoot, obviously Rafe and I were very close, spent every day with each other, and now all of a sudden I had to see his dick!”
Rafe Spall : “It’s a really weird thing…”
Dan Mazer : “It would have been much better if I had just seen it at the beginning…”
Rafe Spall : “First day…”
Dan Mazer : “Yeah exactly, first day. ‘Come on, get your dick out, be business-like about it, yeah.’ In the end it’s just like, ‘Oh yeah, come on Rafe, show us ya dick!’”
Rafe Spall : “But I took a picture of it on my phone the night before. My wife did it. Early in the morning I got Kris [ Thykier ] the producer, and I said, “I’m gonna show you something now… it’s my fucking dick.” So I did it, ‘Right. Ready, 1,2,3!’ And then Dan went, ‘Aaarrghhh!’ It was horrible.”
Dan Mazer : “Yeah, it was not right.”
Watch a clip of Rafe Spall's most embarrassing scene (opens in new tab)
A Very British Sense Of Humour
Rose Byrne: “As an Australian, I absolutely feel like I have a British sense of humour. We share such similar cultural traits and that’s really undeniable, so when I come here I definitely feel instantly that there’s a shorthand between English and Australian people, which I love.
“But to play an English girl was actually quite daunting, particularly doing the accent because I hadn’t done one like this before. I’d done Get Him To The Greek but that was quite a strong, characterised Essex accent, and this was far more sort of tricky in a way because it was very middle-class but very London and very current and modern. It’s a really specific sound so I was obsessed with trying to get that right, and that was hard.
“Anna Faris and Simon Baker were great with the British sense of humour. Well Simon’s Australian, so he has that similarity, and Anna’s game, she’s really smart and really easy going. She’s a real chameleon.
“It was really hard to keep a straight face with Minnie Driver and Stephen Merchant around. I am always the first one to laugh. Minnie gave that great speech to me in the kitchen about marriage, and that was brilliant. She did such a good job on that and that was really a hard speech to get right. She had to find a real through-line and it was really, really funny.”
Make 'Em Laugh
Rose Byrne: “We had lots of fun. I mean, gosh, I just laughed the whole time. That’s my problem, I just laughed the whole time. I’m too good an audience so I corpse very easily, and once people realise I’m like that then I’m picked on.
“So Stephen Merchant for instance, once he knew that I was the victim, he was just honing in on me and making me laugh, like Melissa McCarthy did to me in Bridesmaids . Once she figured out that I was susceptible, I was always the victim.”
Rafe Spall: “Yeah, it was hard to keep a straight face.”
Dan Mazer: “I mean, I sort of encourage that. I’m a great believer in not keeping a straight set, because a straight face on set because actually, we’re all in the business of trying to make people laugh and, actually, I think if people are laughing and the crew’s laughing, and the other actors are laughing, then that’s a really good thing and it means you’re doing something right and something’s funny.”
Rafe Spall : “There’s a bit in the film where Rose and I are blatantly laughing, during the wedding speech. I like it, because we’re supposed to be really straight faced, and then there’s another shot of me and Rose just laughing, and it cuts back and we are completely straight faced.”
Dan Mazer : “Definitely put that out to Total Film . The brilliant editing continuity…”
Rafe Spall : “No but I like that, and it’s really funny because I know what Rose Byrne’s trying-not-to-laugh-face looks like right. Since doing the film, I have subsequently seen Bridesmaids, and she’s doing that face all the way through Bridesmaids, I can see her trying not to laugh all the way through it.”
Dan Mazer : “Yeah. And it’s always a badge of honour make somebody else laugh I think…”
Rafe Spall : “Ah, it’s brilliant. You can always cut around it… It’s fun. I would always try and make Dan laugh at the monitor, and Rose laugh in front of me.”
Dan Mazer: “It is definitely a comedy first and is a romance second. Hopefully, everyone will be happy. Obviously, my history in terms of the films I have done before are quite edgy and different and iconoclastic and hopefully I have brought that sensibility to this film as well, but maybe a slightly more kind of accessible and palatable iteration of that.”
I Give It A Year opens in the UK on 8 February 2013.