If you've been sitting around dreading going to see Jason Segel in The End Of The Tour , I'm here to tell you that you've been wasting your time. And that's because, however worried you are about the film that came out on Jul. 31, I guarantee you that no one is more nervous about the acting in it than Jason Segel himself. Segel stars as the late David Foster Wallace, who authored Infinite Jest, won a McArthur Fellowship, went viral for his 2005 Kenyon College commencement speech titled "This Is Water," and was just generally considered one of the most influential writers of our time before he tragically took his own life in 2008. He was a controversial figure with an inarguably intense personality, so Segel seemed like an odd choice to portray him in a film, especially coming off nine seasons of the decidedly non-tragic sitcom How I Met Your Mother.
Anyway, Segel has really never grappled with a serious role before, so I wasn't surprised that some people were nervous about his ability to pull it off. When all we know of an actor is them behaving one way, it's uncomfortable for us when they try to break out of that box; I get it. But what I am surprised about is how scared Segel himself was to take on the project. As he himself said when discussing how it felt to find out that director James Ponsoldt wanted Segel to portray Wallace, "I was surprised and flattered and terrified. I hadn't done anything like this before, but it was a strange kismet — I was at a point in my career where this is what I was looking for."
Terrified is a big word, especially for someone who's being sought out by the director because he's liked your past work! Most people would be brimming with confidence in that type of situation. But not Segel, who goes on to talk about how his life curiously mirrors Wallace's that they were both moving into unfamiliar circumstances right around the same time.
There was a natural transition going on. I had arrived in my thirties, and How I Met Your Mother, which I had done for almost a decade, was coming to an end. There's a scene toward the end of this movie where Wallace says, "It's time for me to acknowledge the reality that I'm 34 years old, alone in a room with a piece of paper." And I was coming out of a long tunnel of movies and TV shows into the unknown, and so I really related to that.
Woof. Deep stuff. And apparently Segel felt so far out of his element that he couldn't even employ the tricks that other comedic actors use to get accustomed to dramatic acting, like Bob Odenkirk doing a couple funny takes before a serious one, just to get them out of his system.
I was too scared to try funny takes! In a movie this size, you really don't have the time or the film — literally the film — to ease yourself in. And I didn't want it to ever feel like, "Now watch Jason Segel try dramatic acting!"
Man, it sounds like he was really up in his head about it. Which is actually probably a good thing, because it means he gave the project his all. And in hindsight, now that the movie is out, we know that all his hard work paid off, and that Segel's performance is being well-received, so this is all great. Somebody should tell this guy that comedy is harder than drama so he can relax a little more the next time around!