Jason Segel Doesn’t Want to Get Naked (But He Will Anyway)

The comedian on binge eating, the subtle joy of smoking, and the not-so-subtle joy of filming a sex scene with Cameron Diaz.

Were you more sick of saying “bromance” after shilling for I Love You, Manor “keeping the spark alive” while talking Sex Tape

This is my second interview for [Sex Tape], so I still love saying “keeping the spark alive”! 

The characters you and Cameron play duplicate every move in The Joy of Sex over a span of three hours—how is that physically possible?

There are a lot of pauses, and lots of hydration. It’s not three hours of continuous action. We try to show—no pun intended—the ins and outs of making a sex tape.  

Did you notice how unattractive the 1972 models from the book were? 

They are all artists’ renderings—so they tried to make them look as appealing as possible. When you see how hairy they are, you realize that was the look at the time. That was a choice. The Joy of Sex is very impractical. Most of it is clearly not for pleasure, just showing off.

Is there ever a time when filming a sex scene is actually fun? 

The standard trope is true—there is definitely nothing sexy about it. Our director, Jake Kasdan, was sensitive to the fact that we were both totally nude. Most of the sex tape, it was just me, Cameron, and Jake actually operating the camera. 

You dropped a ton of weight for the role. What’s your secret? 

There is no mystery: Eat healthy and exercise and then trick your brain into thinking you like it. I gained a bunch of weight for the movie I just finished—The End of the Tour—and I was reminded of how shitty I felt. When you exercise every day, you wake up feeling really sprightly. When you are doing the opposite? Every day feels like that Thanksgiving-afternoon haze.  

Your assistant took a photo of you in New Orleans, passed out and covered in Taco Bell wrappers: Did she present it to you as a laugh or a wake-up call?

She gave it to me in a very somber “pull it together, man” way. 

What’s worse: a sex tape or sexting? 

Sex tape. You don’t look as good as you think you do when you make all the faces. 

The Dracula musical subplot in Forgetting Sarah Marshall is based on an actual script you worked on after Freaks and Geeks was canceled. Was it always supposed to be a drama, like in the movie? 

I didn’t put any labels on it. I was out of work, and then I hit this period where I was too tall to play a kid anymore and too young to play a doctor. I got really weird, and I honestly thought that I would resuscitate my career by doing a lavish Dracula puppet musical. I played a few songs for Judd Apatow, and he said, “Honestly? Don’t ever play this for anyone, ever.”

But it still ended up in the movie.

The hard thing about writing a romantic comedy is that you know how it’s going to end: The guy on the poster gets the girl on the poster. I thought of two things when writing that script: One is that if I open that movie with the main dude doing full-frontal nudity in a dramatic scene, it will force viewers to submit to the notion that they have no idea what’s going to happen next. The second: I end the movie with a Dracula puppet musical. 

You’re an unabashed smoker in an industry full of people who hide it. Have you quit? 

I do my best. I’ve gone through periods of not smoking, or using the gum. Occasionally I’ll have to smoke in something—and the thing about cigarettes? They’re very, very addictive! It’s not like being addicted to chocolate or something. Every time I smoke, I realize it’s got me again. 

You suffered from night terrors as a child. Did you ever sleepwalk? 

No, I just had recurring nightmares. One was about Dracula, and one was about witches eating my toes. I’m still terrified of witches eating my toes. 

Out of all the songs you’ve written, is there a favorite? 

Probably “Inside of You” for Russell Brand [in Sarah Marshall]. We were both trying to think: What is the worst song that you can hear your ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend sing in front of you? I was listening to Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash Into Me,” and it’s just such a thinly veiled metaphor. “Crash into me.” So then I thought, Why not push it just one step further and remove the veil? 

Sex Tape is in theaters July 25.

Photos by Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters / Corbis