For a movie called “Tag” you just kind of assume that as soon as someone yells CUT, the actors are going to start trying to tag each other…right?
“In-between scenes, if Jon Hamm ran up and tagged me and said, ‘You’re it.’ I would ask him if he was fucking out of his mind,” Jake Johnson, who plays lovable stoner Randy “Chilli” Cilliano in the movie, told me over phone. Ahead of Tag’s release on June 15th, HelloGiggles hopped on the phone with Johnson to talk through all things Tag, and what it’s like working with the likes of Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Hannibal Buress, Jeremy Renner, and Isla Fisher, who are playing a giant game of — you guessed it — tag.
The movie, based on a real story (really!) is about a group of friends who spend the month of May playing tag. Absolutely normal, right? And according to Johnson, so was the shoot because no one was actually trying to tag one another behind-the-scenes. That would be insane.
HelloGiggles: Were you always cast to play Chili, or was there any time where you might have played a different guy?
Jake Johnson: There was a time before Jon Hamm was on the movie. The director and I were talking about me playing his part and getting somebody else to play Chilli. I think James Marsden was in for a while, and James Marsden was going to play Chilli, and I was going to play Callahan, and then I think his TV show, Westworld, knocked him back out of scheduling, and then Jon was interested. Jon was just a better fit for Callahan, and I was a better fit with Chilli opposite him.
HelloGiggles: Speaking of Jon Hamm, what was it like going up against him for most of the movie? You two are friends, but also you’re kind of rivals at the same time.
JJ: Jon’s really a great guy, and we had such a blast getting to know each other. It was really fun doing those scenes together. Comedically, I think he and I got along really well, really fast and found a rhythm. I really liked acting with him, because those were easy scenes to do.
HelloGiggles: Everyone is just so funny this whole movie. Was there any behind the scenes competition to be the funniest both in the movie and behind the scenes?
JJ: I’ve got to tell you…that side of it, I’ve never experienced. The world that I’ve experienced more is we’re all on the same team, and the idea is that the movie’s really funny. It wasn’t a competition. It was more like Hannibal and I would hang out in my trailer a lot during the day, and we would talk about bits and scenes and help each other, give each other jokes. It felt more like we were all trying to make each other better.
HelloGiggles: Were you allowed to improvise anything while you were filming, or was it very much sticking to the script?
JJ: I’m not going to sign on to a movie called Tag, if I’m not going to be able to improvise. If I was trying to do Shakespeare, I would be happy to stick to the script, or if I was working on a Paul Thomas Anderson movie, and he said, “This is the way I see it.” But when you sign up to Tag, you’re signing on to add some jokes to it.
HelloGiggles: Was there any point where you were all doing a scene that you were riffing and improvising, and someone had to step in and be like, “Well guys, you’re taking this too far. This is too much.”
JJ: No, because that was every scene. When you’ve got this big of an ensemble, and everybody’s funny. You’ve got the five guys and then these girls like Leslie Bibb and Isla Fisher and Rashida Jones…and everybody’s being funny and cracking jokes. When you’re in a scene, you don’t want to tell people to stop being funny, so every scene got a little out of control.
HelloGiggles: Okay. Is this just the first in a Tag cinematic universe?
JJ: I like what you’re thinking. Let’s see what happens at the box office…If they wanted to get this group together again and make a movie called “Still Tagging”? Sure, I’ll run around and tag these guys again. It’s fun.
HelloGiggles: Did you play tag when you weren’t shooting? Was that the atmosphere on set? Were you constantly trying to tag—
JJ; I want you to think about the question you just asked me. We never played tag even while shooting. There was never a scene where they said, “Just play tag, and we’ll see what happens.” Everything was storyboarded out. I never played tag while shooting this movie. In-between scenes, if Jon Hamm ran up and tagged me and said, “You’re it.” I would ask him if he was fucking out of his mind.
HelloGiggles: Do you have any long standing practices with your friends from childhood that you’re still doing 15, 20, 30 years later?
JJ: I do. You know my childhood friends and I, that was the original group of people that all wanted to get into acting and writing together and doing comedy. We’ve been writing sketch shows and TV ideas since we were 15. Now that I’m 40, we’re all still doing it. A bunch of my friends were just at my place this weekend, and we were shooting a short to make each other laugh. My other friend sent me a TV idea he’s writing to get some notes on it. We’re all still connected through the love of trying to make comedy.
Tag hits theaters on June 15th.