With “Wanderlust,” director and co-writer David Wain sends a pair of Manhattanites (Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd) down the communal-living rabbit hole as they decide to move into an “intentional living” community led by a cultish womanizer (Justin Theroux). But working with a talented comic cast and plot points like free love, nudist winemaking and living without doors can lead to more material than you can fit into one movie. Luckily, Wain has a solution.
Why do you think hippies continue to be such a great source for comedy?
We all have sort of a fantasy of being that, you know? We all think like, what if we could just walk away from conventional life — let our hair grow and just relax and focus on enjoying every moment instead of doing whatever the f— we do. You know? It’s fascinating, and so we can simultaneously kind of fantasize and make fun of it. And any sort of radical stance that people take — living in a commune like that — is filled with contradiction and hypocrisy as part of what goes with it. I think that’s where a lot of the comedy comes from, just innate hypocrisy. You’re so virulently and dogmatically saying there are no rules.
You’re dealing with a good deal of sexual humor — and at times nudists. How much do you worry about ratings and the MPAA?
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Well, with rated R you can do most anything, and usually if it’s going to be too hard for an R, then it’s not that interesting to me. I don’t necessarily want to show ... penis and vagina or whatever. I guess basically the other answer is I’ve never had an issue with them. All four movies I’ve done have been rated R, and then none of them have come back and said, “Take something out.”
During production, how much is it a part of the thought process that some material can go on the DVD?
A little bit. I mean, you’re always thinking, “Maybe this will just be on the DVD.” Well, in fact, in our case maybe a little more, because the DVD has something called “The Bizarro Cut” on it, which is an entire movie of “Wanderlust” — from beginning to end — made up almost entirely of material that’s not in the cut. So it’s literally a whole other “Wanderlust.” It’s definitely the weirder, more obscure stuff.
When editing a comedy like this, with so much extra footage, how do you decide what stays and what doesn’t?
There’s definitely no science to it, but it’s a lot of work. That’s the big bulk of the editing work, is to make those calls as to what might be funny but takes you too far away from story or drags it too much — even though in a vacuum, it’s very funny. Jokes are very delicate things, and everything’s about context. It’s very subjective, and that’s just part of the experience and taking time and testing and screening, experimenting with different ways. But you can’t possibly test in front of an audience every possible combination.