Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel say their new comedy Sex Tape seeks to tickle, not titillate

Sex Tape, a comedy about a couple's accidental airing of their bedroom shenanigans, exposes both actors equally

Actor Jason Segel from How I Met Your Mother buffed up to play opposite sex symbol Cameron Diaz in the comedy Sex Tape, about a couple who accidentally upload a video of themselves doing it. -- PHOTO: SONY PICTURES
Actor Jason Segel from How I Met Your Mother buffed up to play opposite sex symbol Cameron Diaz in the comedy Sex Tape, about a couple who accidentally upload a video of themselves doing it. -- PHOTO: SONY PICTURES

Less talking, more stripping sums up Hollywood's typical approach to women on the big screen, where actresses are far less likely to get speaking parts, and more liable to bare flesh, than men.

So it was important to Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz that they would each be as naked and on display as the other in their new movie, Sex Tape, which opens in Singapore tomorrow.

And in a neat role reversal, it was the How I Met Your Mother star Segel who felt compelled to lose weight for the comedy, which sees him and the whippet-thin Diaz as a couple who make a saucy home video to jazz up their sex life, only to accidentally upload it on the Internet.

Life! sat down to a lively joint interview with the pair, who obviously get along famously, and whose arrival at a Beverly Hills hotel suite was heralded by peals of raucous laughter down the corridor and the tail end of a story about Segel pinching someone's nipple.

They say their film was deliberately even-handed when it came to the scenes where their characters enact pages from a sex manual - and Diaz, 41, credits this to her co-star, who co-wrote the script.

"Jason was very conscious of that, because you do see that we are both very exposed, and equally, in this. And I think that's the generosity of Jason as an actor and a writer," she says of Segel, 34, who appeared in the long-running television sitcom How I Met Your Mother (2005 to 2014) and films such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) and The Muppets (2011), which he also wrote or co-wrote.

"He thinks it's fair that if he's asking me to do it, he should do it. So that is levelling the playing field."

However, she believes that if he had not offered to strip, it would have been her responsibility to insist on it.

"The onus is on me as a woman to say something," says Diaz, who has become one of the industry's highest-paid actresses - and sex symbols - after hits such as There's Something About Mary (1998) and the Charlie's Angels films (2000 and 2003). "And I probably would've been like, 'Hey, you do it, why am I the only one?'

"No woman is forced physically in our industry to take off her clothes - that is a choice," she says as Segel nods vigorously. "So, really, the onus is on the woman to say, 'No, you know what, I don't feel comfortable'. And not do it."

Both actors say they saw their sex scenes as funny rather than titillating.

"I took everything off in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and the intention wasn't to be sexy," Segel says. "And the nudity in Sex Tape isn't to arouse people, it's to be funny. And make people feel uncomfortable and exposed and vulnerable. So I think the intent is different from trying to sexualise anything."

Ultimately, neither performer wanted to overemphasise the film's value as a corrective to Hollywood's persistent gender bias.

Director Jake Kasdan - who helmed Diaz's 2011 comedy Bad Teacher - also downplays Segel's much-documented weight loss leading up to the film, in which the actor unveiled a far trimmer physique than the one he has sported for most of his career.

Kasdan insists part of it was simply that the actor had made a general improvement to his health and fitness around that time. "And he also got in shape for the movie a little bit, as one might if they were doing all this.

"What he said to me was, 'I didn't want it to be that my body is the joke. And I thought that was exactly right - we didn't want it to be the thing you get in a lot of these comedies, where everyone says, 'What's she doing with him? In real life that would never happen'.

"And we feel like the only reason anyone would say it is for superficial physical stuff. And Cameron obviously is just stunning and if you're going to be in every shot with her, you want to look healthy."

That said, Segel feels like few viewers will be looking at his naked form and getting turned on.

"I think women and men operate differently as viewers. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think that women in the audience are going, like, 'Ooo, look at those'," he says gleefully as Diaz dissolves into giggles. "Whereas men are much more viscerally watching nudity and sort of sexualising it."

At its heart, he says Sex Tape is not really about sex, but rather emotional intimacy in long-term relationships, and also the consequences of everyone uploading highly personal stuff to the "cloud", which his character does before realising it has synced to all the hand-me-down iPads he gave to friends and family.

"That's an entirely new phenomenon that we get to play with and we're right at the precipice of it in dealing with the consequences of those actions.

"And the other incredibly relevant thing is what it's like to be married for 15 years and try to keep the spark alive once kids enter the picture," says Segel, who, like Diaz, has never tied the knot. She is dating Good Charlotte singer Benji Madden, 35, while the actor has been linked to Australian actress Bojana Novakovic.

The veteran funnyman believes comedies can occasionally be a more effective form of therapy than, say, going to see a psychiatrist or marriage counsellor.

"I've had a lot of people come up to me about Forgetting Sarah Marshall and say, 'That really helped me through a break-up', because they laughed their way through it," he says of the popular romantic comedy, in which he played a writer devastated after being dumped by his girlfriend Sarah (Kristen Bell).

"And with Sex Tape, this is a topic of which a lot of couples may not know how to broach the subject. They could need to go see a marriage counsellor to talk about the fact that they're not having sex anymore or go see this and kind of laugh their way into a real discussion. Which I think is a really cool way to address some real issues."

This is why he and Diaz insist they will always be drawn to comedy.

"I love to make people laugh, it's a privilege," the actress says. "It's an honour, really, to get to do what we do. There are a lot of people in the world who want to do it and just a handful who get to, and that's not lost on either one of us. We show up every day grateful that we get to do this, you know."

Segel agrees, adding: "There's a certain value in dramatic work, because you can make people think and feel. But having done a TV show for nine years, and Cameron having done so many amazing comedies, you really start to see the impact of someone coming up and going, 'Hey, thanks, that was really funny'."

And for the price of a movie ticket these days, he thinks people deserve something light-hearted and fun.

"For a lot of people, going to the movies is a big deal - you have to get a babysitter and it's something that's expensive these days. Movies are more than US$10 (S$12.40) a ticket and people get to do it once or twice a month if they're lucky.

"And I think a lot of the time when you go out, you want to laugh, you are really looking for a break. That's one of the things I'm drawn to about comedy, it serves a real need. Because life can be really tough for people."

Sex Tape opens in Singapore tomorrow.

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