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David Wain on ‘Role Models’ and Directing McLovin

David Wain’s first two directorial efforts — Wet Hot American Summer and The Ten — were very much in line with the absurdist humor we've come to expect from Wain and his fellow alums from The State. But his latest moves him away from that scene for the first time — next month’s big-budget studio comedy Role Models, starring old friend Paul Rudd and new friend Sean William Scott as energy drink reps who, through a series of wacky machinations, are sentenced to community service as child mentors. Wain, who's hosting New York’s 40th-Anniversary party tomorrow night alongside Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black, spoke with Vulture about Paul Rudd’s writing, the future of McLovin, and whether or not girls on the street feel the urge to randomly make out with him.

Did you watch the debate?
I did. I thought it was just so interesting watching John McCain amble around, like he was saying, “Where's my newspaper? I lost my dog!”…I haven't been paying super-close attention to the election. I heard McCain had picked a V.P. but I haven't heard who it is yet. I guess I have to read the Huffington Post to find out. Or Vulture.

The screenplay for Role Models is credited to you with Paul Rudd and Ken Marino. What was the writing process like? Would you improvise lines?
We did pretty much everything. Some improvising as the camera was rolling, some stuff where we were sketching out the scene before we shot it. Sometimes we wrote the weekend before we were shooting. It was a seat-of-the-pants type thing. The studios and the producers all kind of rolled our sleeves together and did it together, and that kind of energy ended up benefiting the film.

Were you hesitant to do your first big studio comedy or eager to give it a shot?
I was hesitant. My whole history in movies and in other stuff has been very guerrilla. Independent-minded. Very low-budget stuff. And that's definitely always been my comfort zone and what I've done in the past. I had the stereotypical view of what the studio-film experience was going to be and that the studio was going to be all over me and they'd try to water it down and make it not funny. And for the most part, you know, the studio isn’t a thing; they were a bunch of human beings, and these human beings were of great assistance to me.

Was there anything you were particularly happy about doing with your expanded budget?
The climax is this big faux-medieval battle sequence and there's no way I could have shot that on a low budget. The best part of having the big budget is that you can actually have a second to breathe or try it a couple of different ways. [And] you can afford to pay to bring in the best person to build this prop, or to do this stunt, or the funniest actor to do this scene.

This is Christopher Mintz-Plasse's first big post-McLovin role...
I didn't know that was his name. I just called him McLovin. I saw his name on the call sheets, and I realized…When you are McLovin, your second movie is a pretty big deal. But I didn't think of it from his point of view. Who cares! No, the truth is when I came onboard we had to find out who would play this character. We were looking mostly at younger boys, and no one was doing it even close. It was a very tough character, a nerdy kid but you have to actually feel for the guy. And then when I saw Superbad I said, we have to get this kid.

What’s the process like on your web series, Wainy Days? Where in New York did you shoot?
Mostly in the Los Angeles section of New York. Most of it's fake. One time, I was so busy that we shot a bunch of them where I wasn't even in a lot of them. The one with Rashida Jones where she plays me, or the one with Jason Sudeikis where he plays me. I went and shot my part of seven pieces in one day.

How does playing the character of David Wain on Wainy Days affect your interaction with people?
You mean do girls come up and want to make out with me? I wish that happened more often. The line between that and real life has always been blurry. I'm just embracing it.

Photo: Getty Images