By Aditi Mishra, Daily Arts Writer
Published April 26, 2012
Ann Arbor residents had somewhat of a reunion last Friday night. As lines grew longer and longer outside the Michigan Theater, it became clear that Ann Arborites weren’t going to give up the opportunity to watch their city on the big screen, yet again, in Emily Blunt (“The Adjustment Bureau”) and Jason Segel’s (“The Muppets”) rom-com, “The Five-Year Engagement.”
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In the past year alone, the University-based “Answer This!” and Ann Arbor-filmed “The Ides of March” have made their way onto the big screen. But as much as we love having George Clooney and Ryan Gosling film on our campus while pretending it’s North Carolina, nothing beats seeing stars like Segel and Blunt work in our beloved Zingerman’s and walk through the corridors of Mason Hall.
Speaking with the Michigan Daily, Director Nicholas Stoller and Producer Rodney Rothman (both of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” fame) mentioned their respective connections with Ann Arbor. While Rothman’s wife attended the University during her undergraduate years, Stoller’s wife has an even deeper connection with the city.
“My wife and family are from here and (the film) was set here from the beginning ... and fortunately there was a tax cut that allowed this to happen, so it was a convenient convergence of creative and financial means,” Stoller said.
The film revolves around the engagement of the two main characters and how their wedding plans are brought to a halt when Violet (Blunt) gets into a University psychology Ph.D. program. Thinking that he can be a chef anywhere, Tom (Segel) agrees to move to Ann Arbor, only to find out that “5-star” has a very different meaning in a university town than in San Francisco.
No doubt, the city plays an integral role in the film’s storyline and how it unfolds. Remember when there were mysterious Segel sightings on campus last year? They weren’t just fun and games on the cast and crew’s part. Rather the locations provided the necessary backdrops for the movie.
“It needed to be a place which was a cool town, but a town where Jason’s character can’t work in ... you know, like, there are great restaurants in Ann Arbor but not the 5-star things he’s used to, so that was the reason we picked Ann Arbor,” Stoller said.
“The kind of romantic comedies that we really like, stuff like ‘Annie Hall’ and ‘When Harry Met Sally,’ the sense of place in those movies is really strong,” Rothman added. “The places where those stories take place are kind of characters ... and we wanted (Ann Arbor) to be that for this movie.”
The city played a major role in the lives of the crew as well, subsequently becoming home to some of the cast for months.
“Some of us went out more than others, our actors didn’t have to work every day so we’d get reports after that they were singing karaoke in some bars ... we’d be shooting randomly on campus somewhere or sitting in an outdoor cafe and I’d hear people just start talking about Jason Segel, like they’d met him the night before,” Rothman said.
Stoller added: “We didn’t really have interactions with anyone except for the crew, but yeah we would read every morning that ‘oh, I guess Jason and John Krasinski sang a duet at a bachelorette party.’ ”
The film plays off the contrast between sunny San Francisco and snowy Michigan. While the wide shots of the movie were shot in winter, a large number of scenes were actually shot using fake snow. Some may even remember the fake snow on East Liberty Street in the middle of April last year.
“I guess the biggest snow job we did was Main Street,” Rothman said. “I know that’s a strange term ...