So I had coffee with Forgetting Sarah Marshall director Nicholas Stoller a week-plus ago, in advance of his movie’s release, for a forthcoming Q&A magazine piece. Some of it didn’t make the cut, naturally, so you’re getting some parceled out odds and ends. But really, when it includes exacting shop-talk about male nudity, how can you complain? To wit, another fun excerpt:
Brent Simon: So testing the movie, were you surprised by the crowds’ “penis reactions,” or were there any memorably funny ones?
Nicholas Stoller: You know, how much penis do you think is in our movie? Like, how many seconds?
BS: Maybe like two.
NS: You’re good. Most people [say] like 10 or 15 seconds. It’s two-and-a-half seconds. Our funniest thing [was] in focus groups — guys would get like, “Why was the penis up there for 20 minutes?” Like, really angry, but also in that hilarious and awesome homophobic way, and also slightly turned on or confused about their own sexuality — like, “I am so angry you showed us a penis!”
BS: “I was not expecting that! That was not part of the deal for this movie!”
NS: Exactly. But of course the girls didn’t give a shit. The worst was that they might roll their eyes and say, whatever, it was a dumb joke — and they’re not wrong! But I thought we might have walk-outs on the penis. We didn’t. The only time we had walk-outs was the pig-killing scene. …Still, we tested it to the nth degree, it was almost scientific. You know, there’s a flash at the end, and we showed three flashes during the break-up. We tested four flashes in the break-up, and by the fourth flash the audience is kind of like, “All right, we’ve had enough.” We tested two flashes, and with two flashes it just wasn’t charged enough, the audience wasn’t on edge in the way that you are during a break-up — albeit they were on edge because they thought they were going to see Jason’s penis again. So we settled on three. Also, when he stands up from the couch, that’s 13 frames of penis, and we cut it to 10 frames, but you couldn’t read that it was a penis, so we added back in three frames, which as you know is just a millisecond. In total, 83 frames of penis.
BS: Very scientific indeed, as you said — and comedy’s “rule of three” is again proven out. So on a giant editing bay screen, how much time did you spend looking at Jason’s member?
NS: Oh, a lot of time. A lot.