Sex Tape: Behind the Scenes of Kasdan and Diaz Movie

Behind the scenes, Jake Kasdan reunited with two key collaborators – production designer Jefferson Sage and costume designer Debra McGuire, both of whom have collaborated with Kasdan on several feature films and on the television show “Freaks and Geeks.”  They were joined by Tim Suhrstedt, the film’s director of photography.

Sage says that the entire production team was committed to creating a very real world that would serve as a backdrop for the big, madcap comedy adventure.  “The world around the characters can’t be anything but real – you have to allow the audience to discover what’s funny through the characters, who they are and what happens to them.”

As a result, for the most part, Sage played it straight.  “The sets are very character driven.  My interest is getting the sets right for the characters and not to try to be funny because what happens to them is what’s going to be funny.  In fact, the look of the sets may not be all that very different from how they would appear if this had been a drama about a similar family.”

Ttere’s one huge exception – Hank Rosenbaum.  The Piper Brothers CEO lives in an enormous L.A. mansion, and his home is decorated in a way that reveals some of his very unusual personality.  “The screenplay initially described a ‘Lion King’ painting, with Hank as the baboon, presenting Simba to the other animals.  But Jake loved the idea of expanding it, so it became a series of four different paintings: Hank as Geppetto creating Pinocchio at his work bench, Hank as a dwarf being kissed by Snow White, Hank as Peter Pan flying above London.  We hired several artists to build the backgrounds and another special artist to develop the face of Rob in the paintings.”

Even finding Hank’s house was a challenge.  The film was shot in Boston, but takes place in Los Angeles.  “Where in Boston would we find a Los Angeles-style CEO’s mansion?” Sage wondered.  “Ultimately we stumbled onto one in the wealthy western suburb of Weston – it was somebody’s Italian Mediterranean California fantasy.  It had a beautiful neutral pallet of warm marbles and stones and space – we thought of it as a kind of labyrinth that Jay would get lost in as he’s searching for the iPad.  You really needed to feel that throughout his long search and being chased by the dog he would not encounter any other people.  In fact, the first time we scouted the place I found myself completely turned around.  ‘Just how many rooms are in this place?’”

Ultimately, the set Sage found one of the most interesting to design was the living room in Jay and Annie’s home – which would be the setting of their sex tape.  “I began to think of it almost as a boxing ring – it wasn’t meant to be confrontational, but it had to be an open space that you could get all the way around.  So, we wanted a big sectional sofa, and it took a long time to find just the right one.  We wanted tons of cushions that could go everywhere – they could be on the floor, they could be up.  The big, angled shape had to look good from above, in case Jake wanted to shoot down.  And that informed the choice of a Saltillo tile pattern in the floor, which gives us a nice gridded line.  It’s a flexible place – as the evening progresses, they can pull the sofa to pieces, the room gets disheveled, and it devolves into the scenes in the aftermath of the sex tape.”

For the costumes, the director turned to costume designer Debra McGuire, who, in her work on “Freaks and Geeks,” not only worked with Kasdan but, of course, a young Jason Segel as well.  “I worked with Jason on ‘Freaks and Geeks,’ and he was a boy!” she says. “More projects followed, and his characters were always boyish, in T-shirts and jeans.  Sex Tape is so great for him because he plays a man with a wife and kids. It’s the first time I think Jason’s been depicted as a ‘grown-up’ in collared shirts! He is physically fit and very tall and thin, so the clothes look amazing…and so does he! So handsome!”

It was interesting for McGuire to dress Rob Lowe as Hank Rosenbaum, not just because of the clothes but also because of what was under the clothes.  “That was the coolest thing for me, because underneath he had those funny tattoos, which said even more about his character,” says McGuire. “The challenge for us was to make him look very normal until the reveal. It was just fantastic.”

“With a comedy you’re always supporting the humor and never distracting from it,” says McGuire.  “Jake wants reality – not a heightened reality, but a ‘real’ reality. Real people who get themselves in a very complicated situation that the ‘everyman’ can relate to. As a designer, I don’t want my designs to be ordinary, unless that’s what the character requires.  It was essential that it be that way so that there was never a distraction from what the movie about.”

“Debra and I have been working together for 15 years now and we have a really great collaboration and also a shorthand,” says Kasdan.  “It’s really important to me what the characters look like, and Debra has a great sense of character and knows what values I’m interested in and what I’m likely to respond to. ”