Jake Kasdan has been on a roll lately. He’s executive producing and directing episodes of “New Girl,” the Zooey Deschanel comedy about to begin its fourth season on Fox. His last film, “Bad Teacher,” starring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel, cost about $20 million to make and grossed over $216 million at the box office.
Kasdan’s latest project, “Sex Tape,” once again starring Jason Segel (who co-wrote the screenplay) and Cameron Diaz, concerns a young couple, Annie (Diaz) and Jay (Segel), who are married with children. The heat of their early years together has cooled far below room temperature. How to recapture those moments? Annie suggests they make a sex tape.
They record a mammoth session on Jay’s new high-def iPad. Have you ever sent an email out by mistake or to the wrong person? Did you know that can happen with videos, too? Jay and Annie’s efforts to reclaim all versions of their performance make up the bulk of this frequently hilarious film.
I ask Kasdan if the recent uptick in his career is a function of more experience behind the camera or more maturity on his part.
“I don’t know,” he says. “I think a lot of making [films] for broad audiences is luck. I’ve been doing it long enough, made a bunch of movies and TV shows that I loved that were not commercial, so I know what that is like.”
One might say that Kasdan’s chosen career was beshert. He is the son of the writer Meg Kasdan and screenwriter-director Lawrence Kasdan, whose screenplays include “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and two of the first three “Star Wars” movies, as well as a forthcoming “Star Wars” film. He also directed (and wrote) what he has called his Boomer Trilogy: “The Big Chill,” “Grand Canyon” and “Darling Companion.”
Young Jake virtually grew up on movie sets, playing small parts in “Big Chill,” “Silverado,” and “The Accidental Tourist.” He worked as a production assistant on “Grand Canyon.”
“I knew pretty early on that that was what I wanted to do,” Jake Kasdan said. “Then as a teenager, I thought maybe I don’t want to do that. But growing up I’d watched my dad making movies and I loved what that was like, all the equipment and all the people. The process of it was always fascinating and exciting to me. And when I got a little older it was the content, the writing and rewriting dialogue.”
I was glad he mentioned his father, because it was something I’d wanted to discuss and wasn’t sure how to broach it to a filmmaker who was interested in promoting his latest film. So I asked if he’d ever done an interview where the journalist didn’t bring up his dad.
“It’s funny,” he said. “I was just thinking of it the other day. For the first five or six years I was doing this, there was always a question [about my father]. Then for a while, partly because I was doing a bunch of different stuff, it didn’t come at all. But for the last few weeks, talking about ‘Sex Tape,’ everyone is asking about him again.”
I ask if it has ever been a weight on the younger Kasdan, if he feels like Michael Jordan’s son playing in the NBA. “I never think of it that way, for a lot of reasons,” he responds. “Number one is that we’re very close. We talk all the time. We’re a very close family. He was also my original teacher, the man who taught me how all this works. It’s an education I got just by luck and the result is I’ve learned a huge chunk of what I know from him. It’s a great gift and I’m never confused about that. Also, we’re able to talk to each other about [filming problems]. When I first started, there were probably moments when people would have attitude about that — or maybe that was my perception.” He pauses for a few seconds to reconsider: “I think to some extent it was something in my head rather than some actual thing.”
I ask if the shoot for “Sex Tape” was particularly difficult since Segel co-wrote the screenplay and presumably came in with an idea of what he thought the movie should look like.
“Jason and I go back a really long time,” Kasdan said. “I directed the first episode of ‘Freaks and Geeks,’ and that was one of his first jobs. We have a shared sensibility. We both worked on the script. He and I work together really well and have an established shorthand. The advantage of having him there as a writer was really fantastic. It blurs the lines for who is responsible for what in a way that was really smart.”
Like his father, Kasdan — who is married to the indie singer-songwriter Inara George — was not a bar mitzvah and had minimal religious training.
“We had seders growing up and now that we have kids we’re doing it more,” he said. “Funny thing. We have a standing Friday night dinner with friends — for the first time in my life. We have some slightly more observant friends with kids the age of our kids ; it’s a kind of nice tradition. We say the bracha on bread and wine. My wife who is not Jewish has really embraced this. My gentile wife has become the master.”
Curt Schleier writes about the arts for the Forward.