Jason Sudeikis on 'Hall Pass,' 'SNL' and the frequent flying it took to do both

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 18, 2011; 1:01 PM

Jason Sudeikis spent only the first six months of his life in Fairfax, but it's okay with him if the city claims him as one of its own.

"I don't mind that at all," the actor said on a recent early-morning phone call from Los Angeles. And then, with what sounds like a straight face: "I carry my birth certificate with me at all times."

If Sudeikis is never without proper ID, that may be less because of NoVa nativist pride than of necessity: When he was filming the upcoming "Hall Pass," a comedy of middle-aged male sexual manners, co-starring Owen Wilson, Sudeikis basically lived on airplanes for six weeks. Now in his sixth season as a cast member on "Saturday Night Live" -- a show with a punishing weekly schedule even without extracurricular activities -- Sudeikis relates his "Hall Pass" travel regimen with the offhand weariness of a seasoned road warrior:

"We'd do the show on Saturday, then go to the after party -- because you've got to go to the after party -- so I'd show my face there, then wake up Sunday afternoon, take a United flight to Atlanta, have dinner, fall asleep, wake up bright and early Monday, work all day Monday and Tuesday, Tuesday night get on a plane back to New York, do the ['Saturday Night Live'] read-through on Wednesday, then whenever I would do my last sketch, after that I'd get on a plane, go back to Atlanta, have dinner, fall asleep, do the movie all day Thursday, fly back to New York on Friday and do the show on Saturday.

"Then repeat."

Luckily for Sudeikis, at 35 he's still of an age when such to-ing and fro-ing barely registers. "I would do it again," he said. "I think it kind of got me out of my head and got me nervous -- excited nervous, not fearful."

In "Hall Pass," which opens Friday, Sudeikis plays a man named Fred who, when he and his best friend, Rick (Wilson), receive a week-long pass to cheat on their wives, descends into the kind of man-cave childishness whose essential elements of humiliation, sexual anxiety, and blend of vulgarity and humanism were made famous by filmmaker-brothers Pete and Bobby Farrelly. Those tropes would be exponentially more raunch-ified by Judd Apatow and "The Hangover" guys.

As it happens, "Hall Pass," which opens Feb. 25, was written and directed by the Farrellys, who pronounce Sudeikis a "breakout star" from his work in the film.

"We knew he was humorous from 'Saturday Night Live,' but he blew us away in this movie," Bobby Farrelly said in a call with his brother also on the line. "He'd just take a scene and he'd make it so much funnier than we'd envisioned. Pete compares him to Jack Lemmon, and he is sort of a throwback. We use that word 'anachronistic' about him, like he's from the '50s or '60s. He feels like he's one of your dad's friends, but man is he funny."

Pete Farrelly recalled a scene in a coffee shop, where an obnoxious neighbor of Rick's gives him a fist bump but calls it "pounding the potato." In the script, the Farrellys ended the scene with Rick muttering, "I'd like to pound his potato." Instead, Wilson took it a beat further, adding, "Nice guy, though," with Sudeikis adding a quick "Yeah, he's a nice guy" with split-second comic timing.

"Those are the little things that just kill us," Pete Farrelly said. "And we wouldn't have written it, because you couldn't possibly have imagined they'd deliver it like that."

Sudeikis was 19 when the Farrellys' first movie, "Dumb and Dumber," came out. "Saturday Night Live" first aired the year he was born. When he was 6 months old, his family moved to Overland Park, Kan. There, Sudeikis played basketball but also discovered the joys of performance at Shawnee Mission West High School, where a kid named Paul Rudd had graduated two years ahead of him.

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