Who Loves Ya, Man?


Chick flick? Boychick flick!

How better to describe "I Love You, Man," than a movie of more male bonding than a gross of Elmer's Crazy Glue could schtick to.

And Elmer's not the fuddy-duddy with no one to call his buddy.

No, that would be Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd), whose upcoming nuptials are bereft of a best man because friendship has gotten the best of him.

With no bud prospects budding, Klaven is caught in a wedding daze, told his by bride-to-be to get grooming: Go West for your young man, she exhorts — or in any direction it takes to find him.

Klaven's chupah compass gets stuck on eccentric as he encounters Sydney Fife drumming up a social life attending open houses for the whine and cheese.

Is this the best man of his dreams? Is this the best he can do?

No one better to play Fife than bugle boy himself, Jason Segel, that long drink of Manischewitz who made his unforgettable screen presence felt last year in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," which he also wrote.

And he's marshalled his talents on the little screen, too, portraying Marshall the idealist lawyer on "How I Met Your Mother."

We meet now downtown, and the 29-year-old with a 6-foot, 4-inch frame is a work of abstract art in progress, building an eclectic resume that is at once as electric ("Marshall," TV's "Freaks and Geeks," "I Love You, Man," opening on March 20) as it is eccentric (uh, "Marshall," TV's "Freaks and Geeks," "I Love You, Man").

But the oddly good-looking guy is no oddball actor/writer, bouncing from one project to the other. The star whose character had a priapic preoccupation in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is occupied these days with the buzz of his big-screen romance in which he gets to show that love is never having to say you're sorry … man.

In real life, his friendships are highlighted by impressive high-fives: His main-man buds include Judd Apatow, who produced "Freaks and Geeks" — in which Segel played Nick Andopolis — "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "Knocked Up," in which Segel also appeared opposite longtime bro of a bud Seth Rogen.

Has fame come a'knockin' with "Man"?

"I really enjoy that whole element," says Segel of being a sightseer in a city of bro love.

Yes, he hangs with "a lot of dudes," and "I feel very comfortable with male closeness" on his budget of bud time. But those are bromance bromides: When it comes to circling the calendar for dates, on his message machine he's got female (not that there's anything wrong with that): His real-life relationships have included Linda Cardelini and reportedly Drew Barrymore.

Indeed, what he drew on for his infamous full-frontal nude scene in "Marshall" was a real-life break-up. How hard was it?

"I got drunk first," he says of shooting the anything-but-forgettable "Forgetting" scene.

Forget the liquor; life is more half-and-half.

"I'm a halfie," he says of his "equal education," being raised Jewish — his father's religion — while attending Catholic school as a kid. "I would go to Catholic school during the day and to Hebrew school — which was just a short distance away — afterward."

Aleph male? "At Catholic school, they picked on me because I was Jewish; at Hebrew school, they said I wasn't really Jewish."

Mixed messages for a child of a mixed marriage?

Forget bicoastal — it was bi-costly for the confused kid. But he made it all work, and the kipah is a keeper.

Invite him over for Passover and maybe he'll warble, "Seder, you with the stars in your eyes"?

"That's why I became funny," he says of his way of dealing with the differences. "I knew it was just [me] against the world."

It's his world and welcome to it — at least that's what Hollywood has been saying. He is about to cross the big pond with his next conquest, the ambitiously amphibian Kermit the Frog — it's easy earning green; Segel is co-writing the next "Muppet" movie.

So is Segel somewhat freaked out how much in demand he is?

Conceding that his current alter ego of Sydney harbors some memories of his past part as Nick Andopolis, Sydney sort of grows on you.

"In a way," muses Segel, "maybe he's a little bit of 'Freaks' all grown up."  


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