You never know what gem of an information nugget you will unearth when conducting an interview, or, as in the case of my chat with Jason Segel and James Ponsoldt, before the formal interview began while I was checking the sound levels on my recording equipment on May 2, 2015. I had spoken to Ponsoldt a few years ago for his sublime film, THE SPECTACULAR NOW, and during that set-up, he mentioned a place he like to stop for pie when driving between Los Angeles and San Francisco. I asked him what kind of pie he would be getting on his next drive, which led to a discussion about berries, which led to Segel revealing his extensive knowledge about the hybridization of same, and that when not acting, he’s a gentleman orange farmer.
Agriculture discussed, we turned to the topic at hand, the career changing role Segel has as David Foster Wallace in THE END OF THE TOUR. I wanted to know about the pre-conceived notions both men had to toss aside about Wallace in order to make the film. They were then kind enough to get philosophical with me about the nature of hero worship, and how it gets us off the hook (or as Segel put it, lets us stay on the couch) before moving on to listening to the actual cassettes David Lipsky recorded of his conversations with Wallace, what they both felt was the best way to serve both Wallace and his fans, and the adventure of filming in a car. Never mind the revelation that Segel gave up watching television, though his reasons might make you question your TV watching habits.
They were also kind enough to humor an off-topic question about doing Shakespeare, which proves that they are not only smart and witty, they are true gentlemen, in or out of the orange orchard.
THE END OF THE TOUR, a story about hero worship, professional jealousy, and the perils of pleasure. Segal plays writer David Foster Wallace who has opened his life up to novelist and Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky for the last days of Wallace’s 1996 book tour for Infinite Jest, hailed by critics as the book of his generation. During that time, Wallace is both open and wary, friendly and prickly, and both men play many parts as they get to know one another while interacting with friends and fans. The film co-stars Jessie Eisenberg as Lipsky, as well as Anna Chulmsky, Mamie Gummer, Mickey Sumner, Ron Livingston, and Joan Cusack as the publicist. Ponsoldt directed from a script by his former college professor, Donald Margulies, his previous work includes the sublime THE SPECTACULAR NOW, and the visceral SMASHED. Segal’s previous work includes nine seasons on HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, superbly reviving THE MUPPETS for fans old and new, not taking credit in THIS IS THE END, baring even more than his soul in FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL, being, according to Mr. Ponsoldt, the emotional core of television’s Freaks and Geeks, and being part of the cast of the sadly underrated SLC PUNK. He is also the author of Nightmares, co-written with Kirsten Miller and composer of the song Dracula’s Lament.