Sex Tape: Interview with Director Jake Kasdan

The R-rated comedy Sex Tape will be released by Sony in theaters nationwide on July 18, 2014.

Jay (Jason Segel) and Annie (Cameron Diaz) are a married couple still very much in love, but ten years and two kids have cooled the passion.  To get it back, they decide – why not? – to make a video of themselves trying out every position in The Joy of Sex in one marathon three-hour session.  It seems like a great idea, until they discover that their most private video has gone public.  In a panic, they begin a wild night of adventure – tracking down leads, roping in friends, duping Annie’s boss – all to reclaim their video, their reputation, their sanity, and, most importantly, their marriage.

“Annie and Jay are a married couple who are ten years down the road.  They have two kids and they find themselves in that part of the relationship where they’re not doing their best to keep it alive.  They have a very happy marriage, but like a lot of couples, there’s just no time to have sex,” says Cameron Diaz, who re-teams with her Bad Teacher co-star, Jason Segel, in the outrageous new R-rated comedy Sex Tape.  “So Annie comes up with this idea – let’s make a sex tape.  It’ll be exciting, it’ll be fun, and then we’ll erase it.”

“They film it on their iPad to watch once and – theoretically – erase it,” says Segel.  “But Jay doesn’t erase it right away.  And then there’s a cloud malfunction resulting from Jay’s use of a new app.  Now, there are a bunch of people who should not have the sex tape who have the sex tape.”

And so begins a wild night of adventure as Annie and Jay try to return the video to the deleted items bin where it belongs – but in the tension of the chase, the truths of their relationship will come to the fore.  “The movie is about the challenges of marriage, and trying to keep it fresh,” Diaz continues.  “Losing the sex tape is something that might cost them, but instead it ends up strengthening the relationship – reminding them of the team they’ve always been.”

“Jay and Annie make this slightly questionable decision, but hopefully you understand why they do it,” says Jake Kasdan, who directs the film.  “There’s something about Cameron and Jason that makes this relatable – you can identify with them.  They’re hugely accessible and charming – and they make marriage look pretty good.”

The idea for Sex Tape began in the offices of producers Todd Black and Jason Blumenthal during a meeting with writer Kate Angelo.  After working with Angelo on the film The Back-up Plan, the producers were eager to work with Angelo again, so the writer came in to discuss possible ideas.  “We were coming up with ideas, she was coming up with ideas, and then Jason wondered what would happen if an ordinary married couple made a sex tape and they woke up the next day and the tape was missing,” Black remembers.  “My mouth literally dropped open, Kate’s mouth dropped open and Jason sat there smiling.  We proceeded to stay in my office for hours, riffing on this great concept.”

Rolled up into one idea was a story that could simultaneously be an outrageous sex comedy and also a romantic comedy with a lot of heart.  “We knew we had something right away – a married couple very much in love that decides to try something adventurous, and then all hell breaks loose,” continues Blumenthal.  “What’s more satisfying than watching a movie about a husband and wife forced on a challenging journey – especially one that involves retrieving their private sex tape – who fall even more deeply in love?”

“What I learned from producing Risky Business in the early 80s,” says producer Steve Tisch, “was that you can’t take the audience for granted – they’re smart, they know what they want.  My producing partner at the time, John Avnet, the writer/director Paul Brickman, and I thought, ‘Let’s give this audience something more intelligent with complicated characters and a plot that’s not one dimensional and see how we do.’ I think we’re doing that with Sex Tape.”

Angelo, a veteran writer of such television shows as “Will and Grace” and “Becker,” says, “Writing ‘Sex Tape’ was perhaps the most fun I’ve ever had writing a script, particularly because the idea of making, and then losing, a sex tape is so outrageous and cringe-worthy, it just keeps driving the story forward.  The key was grounding the couple and making their marriage relatable.  All of the bawdy and raunchy comedy in the film works because if you love this couple and relate them, then you can go anywhere with them.”

“I think everyone who has been married a while and has young children can relate to the feeling that the spark has dimmed a bit (sorry, honey, if you’re reading this),” Angelo continues.  “I loved the idea of trying to rekindle that spark with a night of reckless passion, innocently making a sex tape and then waking up to find it missing.  The surprise is that it’s the crazy and hilarious journey to track it down that brings them back together.  They are finally united and back on the same team.”

Once Angelo had turned in her first draft, the producers knew they’d struck gold.  “It’s a really good, sharp idea with a great title, and if we didn’t make it somebody else would,” says Black.

In putting the project together, the producers reunited the Bad Teacher team – stars Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel and director Jake Kasdan.  Segel would write a new draft of the screenplay with Nicholas Stoller.

“It was an incredibly funny idea,” says Kasdan.  “And a perfect idea for Jason and Cameron, both of whom I just love working with.  And it was an opportunity to make a big wild comedy about very real, human things– love and sex and marriage. As soon as Jason and I started kicking it around, I was laughing like crazy and I knew it was something we had to do.”

The comedy also hits home as Jay and Annie’s predicament is set in motion by an increasingly complicated relationship with technology that they only loosely understand.  “In the movie, Jay works at a radio station, and each time he gets in a new generation of iPads, he hands off his old iPads with his fantastic playlists on them. Those iPads are connected to each other by the cloud – and that’s where the debacle begins,” Segel explains.  “I’m a technology buff, I love technology, but I personally have a big fear of the cloud.  No one quite understands it.  In this movie, we get to make fun of how we’re becoming a real cloud culture – how we talk as if it were a real thing.”


“The whole technological farce aspect of it was hilarious to me because I feel like I’m constantly screwing that stuff up,” says Kasdan.  “I send things to the wrong people, over and over again. I think I’ve deleted something and it’s gone, but then it’s not gone.  I text somebody from one device, and then it appears on another device. All of these things that are supposed to make our lives more convenient can sometimes sort of get away from us, and you can get to where you feel like your gadgets are winning.  As we were making the movie, we found that people related very closely to this anxiety — a lot of people have had some sort of syncing debacle or texting accident or something.”


Kasdan says that balancing the tone of the comedy was an appealing challenge.  “The comedies that I am attracted to can be big and silly and broad in places,” says Kasdan, “the same way life can be big and silly and broad in places.  And the funniest stuff to me is always the stuff that feels most true.  Ultimately, much of the execution is about the actors who play the parts, and both Jason and Cameron have this deep, inherent honesty to what they do.”


Segel says that the threesome share a shorthand familiarity that made a risky – and risqué – project seem much safer and saner.  “I’ve known Jake for fifteen years now—he directed the pilot of ‘Freaks and Geeks,’ so we’ve been friends for a long time. We had a great time on Bad Teacher, one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.  It was a no-brainer to reteam the two of us with Cameron,” says Segel.  “There’s so much intimate stuff in the movie, that I think the fact that the three of us are so comfortable with each other gave us the opportunity to up the humor.  I felt really lucky to be there.”


“I was hoping for the opportunity to work with Jake and Jason again,” says Diaz.  “The experience of Bad Teacher was so much fun, but it happened so fast. It was one of those films that had to be done very quickly – there was no time to play.  This film was very different, and a very intimate experience for the three of us because of the content and the humor.”


Black says that in the end, that intimacy paid off when Kasdan, Diaz, and Segel shot the scenes of Jay and Annie shooting their tape.  “Before we shot the scenes of the making of the sex tape, I was really nervous about it –  how much Cameron and Jason would go for it, how much Jake would go for it, how much the studio would go for it,” confides the producer.  “It actually kept me up at night, nervous.  But Jake directed it beautifully, Cameron and Jason were game for the whole thing; there was no reason to worry.  The scene is always focused on what’s funny and what’s appropriate, nothing is gratuitous.”

“Oh my God, it was hilarious,” says Diaz of shooting the scenes.  “The most hilarious aspect was that Jake had to be a part of it,” she laughs.  “It was not just Jason and me. It was Jason and me and Jake.  We had these moments when Jason and I were in bed or in some funny position and we’d look up and see Jake looming over us trying to figure out what the shot was going to be.  And we’d ask ‘Hey, Jake, how’s it going?’  So, yes, the funniest part was how the three of us spent those days, with Jason and me half-naked and Jake in there with us, requesting, ‘Can you guys do it faster, faster, slower, a little higher, a little lower?’  Jake had full control of our sexual positions.”

“It was just the three of us, trying to come up with every insane moment we could for a sex tape,” says Kasdan.  “I shot most of the actual sex tape myself, with a handheld camera, as opposed to with a crew of a hundred people, so the video has a very homemade, handmade feeling to it. And the two of them were so incredibly free and brave and funny, it sort of knocked me out. Their ideas and their willingness to try any kind of joke… Even as I watch the movie now, there’s stuff in there that I can’t believe actually happened. But it all feels completely truthful, in the most hilarious, horrible way.”

Of course, making a movie is also a technically challenging feat, but the director of photography, Tim Suhrstedt, says that Kasdan had it all under control.  “One of Jake’s talents,” notes Suhrstedt, “is his willingness to rehearse a scene, let the actors get comfortable with how they physically move through it, and then make suggestions, adjustments, etc. Once he and the actors are comfortable, the placement and movement of the camera, lens choice and lighting considerations come from that. Since there is rarely, if ever, an ‘overlay’ of some arbitrary stylistic choice, I think the cinematography stays true to the reality of the performance, and, hopefully, helps the comedy of the scene.”

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