I Love You, Man: Celebrating Male Friendship

In “I Love You, Man,” the new comedy from writer-director John Hamburg (“Along Came Polly”) Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd), a newly engaged real estate agent, sets out to find the Best Man for his wedding, which only makes Peter’s relationship with his fiancée (Rashida Jones) suffer. This ultimately forces Peter to choose between his new best friend Sydney (Jason Segel) and his fiancée. The script’s tendency to turn the basic construct of: boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back upside down is what ultimately caught the eyes of producer Donald De Line and director John Hamburg.

Origins: Let’s Make Friends

“I Love You, Man” began its life as a pitch by Larry Levin entitled “Let’s Make Friends,” which grabbed the immediate attention of producer Donald De Line. “It had a basic, classic romantic comedy structure, but with a twist–it was about how a man in his 30s finds a new best friend. There hadn’t been a movie about male friendship or a comedy that explored men’s problems with intimacy. So I said ‘Done.’”

De Line was confident that once Hamburg committed he’d be able to marry his organic, naturalistic style of comedy with a knack for fashioning audience-friendly characters. So more than five years after first reading “Let’s Make Friends,” Hamburg found himself thinking again about the premise laid out in that script, and soon came up with his own take on the story of a man without any close male friends, who goes on a quest to find a Best Man before his wedding, calling his version of the screenplay, “I Love You, Man.”

“’I Love You, Man’ explores the challenges and difficulties related to forming and maintaining adult relationships, especially male,” says writer-director John Hamburg. “What we’re trying to do with this movie is bring something up that exists beneath the surface, which is the challenge of making friends as an adult. I think it’s hopefully shining a light on something that exists, and maybe guys will be more open to going to the movies together, sharing a box of popcorn, and just hanging out.”

Hamburg’s Talent

“What John brings to this project is character detail and an emotional truth that’s at the core of everything he’s done, no matter how absurd or ‘out there’ the premise may at first appear. With John, you comfortably slip into the main character’s shoes and recognize feelings and situations that you yourself may have experienced. That kind of approach to comedy is what sets John apart,” says De Line.

“It was a theme that spoke to me that I thought I could have fun with, that I could end some comic insight to,” Hamburg says. “And I always knew I wanted to direct it.”

Paul Rudd

For the pivotal role of Peter Klaven, Hamburg immediately thought of his longtime friend, actor Paul Rudd. “There’s a kind of open-mindedness to this character that I like,” Rudd says. “He has a positive attitude, but is often ill-equipped to handle many situations in the optimal way. He’s well meaning, and often wears his heart on his sleeve, but there’s something bumbling about him. I relate to peter, in many ways. John and I keep making jokes that the character is a lot like each of us. For instance, I personally TiVo ‘Antiques Roadshow.’ I guarantee that the character I’m playing does too. Unless, of course, his TiVo is filled up with too many (Project) ‘Runways.’”

Rudd has always been a big fan of Hamburg’s writing style, he says. “I’ve known John for years and read many things he’ written. All his male characters are similar to him in many ways, and I connect with all of them for the same reason. He’s really subtle about writing situations in a very funny but completely guileless way. He truly understands what’s funny about the banal.”

Jason Segel


To flesh out the enigmatic and charismatic Sydney Fife, Hamburg was certain actor Jason Segel would be Paul Rudd’s ideal sparring partner. Hamburg and Segel had worked together several years earlier on Judd Apatow’s television series “Undeclared” and Segel has since carved himself a comic niche with such hits as “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”

Segel appreciated the script’s naturalistic comedy tone and immediately took to the character. “It’s my favorite style of comedy, which is reality-based and not very broad or schtick-y. There are no hacky jokes so, as an actor, you get to bring some naturalism to the comedy.”

The two are clearly friends – both on and off set, so they already shared the kind of chemistry needed to create a convincing on-screen bond. “It’s extremely powerful when the two of them are on the set together,” notes co-star Jaime Pressly, “because they really do enjoy each other’s company and respect each other, and that comes through on camera. They’re hilarious.”

Shooting in L.A.

Shot entirely in Los Angeles, “I Love You, Man” shows the city in a way rare for Hollywood films. “Growing up in Manhattan, I always had a fascination with Los Angeles,” explains Hamburg. “I spent a lot of time in L.A. working, so I think I had a romanticized view of it, which is why I really wanted to set the movie here, to explore what’s underneath.”

As sprawling as the city is, L.A. can sometimes be a hard place to develop one’s “inner circle” – making it the perfect location for this movie’s premise. “When you’re searching for friends and community, Los Angeles has all these pockets but no center and it can feel quite lonely without any friends,” notes Hamburg.

One aspect Hamburg wanted to incorporate into the story was to show that where you live in the sprawling metropolis can define who you are and make it harder to break out of your mold. “There are many different aspects and parts of L.A.’ Peter Klaven lives on the east side, while Sydney lives was out in Venice, which feels like a beach town,” comments Hamburg. “Even though you’re both living in the same city, if you choose to live in Venice, you’re probably a different sort of person than someone who chooses to live an hour away from the ocean.”

While in other films, Venice has often been portrayed as a haven for kooks and drug dealers, Hamburg sought to show another facet of this relaxed and somewhat eccentric enclave. “The extras we used were some of the freakiest of the freakos,” says Jason Segel, “but they were behaving realistically – like they were on the Venice boardwalk on a normal Tuesday afternoon.”

Production Design: Sydney’s Man Cave

While he’s apparently got plenty of money, Sydney lives in a modest bungalow near the beach and spends most of his quality time in his “man cave” – a converted garage/fantasy room behind his house where boys can be boys and indulge in all things male.

Production Designer Andrew Laws’ design for the man cave is layered with detail, realistic touches that reflect Sydney’s personality. “He’s got a new TV and an old Sony Trinitron next to each other,” notes Hamburg. “And there’s a wall of photos – a lot of dudes – his wrecking crew.”

Laws notes, “John and I talked about it – it had to have just typical male stuff. Even the books on the shelves are very particular books, maybe not the things you would necessarily expect this guy to be reading. They tell you a little more about who Sydney might be.”

Bonding over Rush

During visits to Sydney’s man cave, Peter and his friend discover that they have one passion in common: the iconic rock trio Rush. “I was thinking of a band that these two guys might bond over, one not everyone else would be a fan of. And if you love Rush, you really love them,” says the director. “A lot of these stories come from my own experiences. I was a big fan of Rush as a kid and still am. I knew they had a lot of songs that would be really fun to put into the movie.”

The two spend a lot of time playing music together, but things really start to become serious when they attend a Rush concert. The filmmakers were overjoyed when the group agreed to appear in the movie, making their feature film debut. The concert was filmed at Avalon Hollywood (the historic former Palace Theater) on a one-day break from their 2008 tour. “That night was such a surreal experience,” says executive producer Andrew Haas. “It was midway through production, after some long days, and we had a concert hall packed full of Rush fans. I don’t know if you know Rush fans, but the energy was just electric and it gave us the fuel to power on.”

“The members of Rush were really great to work with,” says Hamburg. “It was quite a joyous night of filming and they were really cool and gave us everything we needed.”