Drinking Buddies: Olivia Wilde & Jake Johnson

By Meredith Alloway · August 18, 2013

Friendship, Fun on Set & How Swanberg Sold It Like a Car Salesmen

It’s beyond refreshing when you see actors like Wilde & Johnson getting back to their roots. With Johnson’s hit show New Girl and Wilde’s line up of movie blockbusters, it’s impressive to see them delve into the indie realm.

Luke (Johnson) and Kate (Wilde) are co-workers at a craft brewery in Chicago. They like to spend their free time making sandwiches together, pounding beer and discussing their significant others. Yup, that’s where Chris (Ron Livingston) and Jill (Anna Kendrick) come in and things get complicated. The film explores the many intricacies in male/female relationships and if a purely platonic one can even exist, especially when drinking is involved.

Johnson is just as hilarious and Wilde just as beautiful when you meet them in person. Sitting across from the two co-stars in LA this week, a few other journalists and I got to grill them on Drinking Buddies, comedy and character.

You couldn’t have done this movie if you were in AA!

W: No! I was thinking this would have been tricky if you didn’t drink beer. Because we were responding to a very specific environment, we had to understand that environment fully. If you couldn’t learn about the beer from experience, I’m not sure you’d really understand it.

J: There was no problem with it. That was Joe’s pitch. I called him to pass on the movie. I had just finished the first season of New Girl and in that summer I didn’t want to do a job that felt like work and he’s like ‘I ensure you this won’t. That’s not my style, you’ll drink; you’ll have fun. Everybody on my crew I hand picked, they’re nice people.’ I go, ‘You’re selling this movie like a car salesman and you’re giving me a good deal on a car. Now if this car is as good as you say then you are a genius.’ Everything that he sold me, he backed up. We had fun. He’s a true artist. He respects not only actors but also everyone on the crew.

One of my favorite scenes was the one where you guys rub ham on each other’s faces!

W: Soy ham! We love that scene too! All Joe told us was to make a sandwich and we made that weird seven-layer sandwich. We started laughing so hard and I think Ben Richardson, our DP, captured it perfectly.

J: One of the great things about working with Olivia is that she’s game and she’s…this is the wrong-she’s easy.

W: (In a Mickey Mouse voice) Wait a minute!

J: What I mean is, you can do in a scene what you can’t do with a lot of actors. With Olivia if it feels honest, anything goes.

Was it the same with Anna?

W: Anna isn’t afraid of anything and created such a complex character with Jill. She’s so fun and she can hang like anyone. She’s just a real woman, self-realized and ballsy and that’s maybe the requirement for everyone who had anything to do with this movie.

Do you think that Luke and Kate are meant to be?

W: No. It’s too intense to have them in the same relationship. I don’t think we’re saying it’s inherently dangerous to have a man and woman together in a room involving alcohol. I think it’s specifically these two that have a connection that’s electric that makes it dangerous. I hope the movie’s not suggesting that men and women can’t be friends because they absolutely can. They are very lonely best friends. Kate is not very sensitive.

J: I also think Kate needs someone more nurturing. They’re both similar. There are male motherly types and Kate needs the same type of partner that Luke needs.

Kate is aware of her beauty but at the same time seems extremely insecure.

W: I don’t think she thinks she’s hot shit. I don’t think she feels beautiful which is an issue with Kate. It’s sad for me to think about her loneliness. There’s something about her that’s afraid of the unselfish commitment of a real relationship. One of my favorite scenes is this sweet moment where Luke is sleeping and she climbs into bed with him. That came out organically because I sat down on the bed and the weight of my body forced Jake to fall back into me. She’s not confident enough to say what she wants and get it.

To you, what’s friendship and love?

J: I think they’re pretty connected. That’s a tough question. I don’t think I’m smart enough to answer that. (Everyone laughs)

W: I think Luke and Kate love each other. She’d give her alcohol-poisoned kidney to him. But I think the difference between romantic love and friendship love is romantic love involves a lot of compromise. Friendship you can be a little more autonomous

What’s it like working with Zooey [Deschanel] and Olivia? How are they the same and different?

W: Bangs and no bangs!

J: They’re very different but they’re the same in that they’re both in the top of their tiers as actors. There is a freedom both of them have. Zooey and I, when our characters [on New Girl] finally started to really click, one of the reasons we did is because we had a big talk with Liz Meriwether and our director of photography Russ Alsobrook about cross covering the scenes. Rather than shoot glory single shots of each, we were going to shoot the scene where each of us had a camera at the same time. We would say the script, but those moments in between would help keep our characters connected and that relationship feeling real. Zooey loves that, that kind of honesty and naturalistic things that make a performance special and I think Olivia’s the same way. If you’re actually connected in a scene, that’s where the real magic comes from. They’re both people who like to listen as actors.

Drinking Buddies is out now on VOD/Digital Platforms and in NYC on August 23rd and LA on the 30th!