“Nice to see you, Sean. Have you been having fun here at the campus?”
That’s how Vince Vaughn greeted me during my recent visit to Mountain View, California… home of the tech giant Google and a location for Shawn Levy’s latest comedy The Internship
. Twentieth Century Fox invited select journalists to a unique press day on the Google campus to absorb the workplace’s abnormal layout and creative structuring to get an idea of how it inspired Vaughn and Levy as they put this new film together.
To get a good sense of what it’s like to be an actual Google intern, check out this clip
. For our day, we were allowed to tour certain sections of the high-tech California campus, located miles outside of San Francisco in the thriving Silicon Valley. And we learned why Vaughn and cowriter Jared Stern took inspiration from Google’s imaginative headquarters.
Vaughn hatched the idea for The Internship, casting himself and Owen Wilson as one-time watch salesmen who are shocked to realize the career track they’ve chosen for themselves no longer exists. Fired by their blunt boss (John Goodman), the fortysomething men – who are years away from possible retirement – realize they have to reinvent themselves if they are going to survive. Against all possible odds, they apply for a competitive internship at Google, then refuse to acknowledge the fact that they are in over their heads.
Wilson told me that was the part of the project to which he most related.
“That’s what I responded to,” he tells me. “Vince worked into the screenplay these generational differences that were played for laughs. Ultimately, though, it isn’t so much the differences but the things that make us feel like we’re a part of something, that make us feel like we’re going to be useful. And that doesn’t matter how old you are. That feeling doesn’t go away. And so I think the journey that these two guys go on is one that finds them wanting to hit the reset button in their life. We use Google as the backdrop to tell that story, but it was a story worth telling.”
You do feel like you are part of something bigger when walking around the Google campus. Items that were prevalent in the movie catch your eye, from the colorful bikes employees use to travel around the campus to a courtyard that houses hundreds of tech wizards during lunchtime (where, if The Internship is accurate, employees eat for free).
Levy tells me they shot what they could on Google’s actual property, but the inability to shut down the company for weeks at a time meant they had to replicate the campus on soundstages in Atlanta.
“We would have been so invasive,” Levy says of possibly shooting entirely on Google’s campus. “Even on a mellow day, we’d have 150 people milling about.”
But it was important for Levy to replicate the energetic vibe of creativity and competitiveness one recognizes at Google, because it permeates the tone of The Internship.
“A lot has been said about the fact that there is Hollywood culture and there is Silicon Valley culture,” Levy says. “Both are a little iconoclast, a little idiosyncratic. And they both feed off of creative energy. You know, they are both businesses, and I get that. To work, though, they need to foster creativity from their people. That’s what I try to do on my movie sets. I’m sure that’s why this place [Google] is so zany, right? It’s supposed to encourage both happiness and, therefore, creativity from the very smart people who work here.”
And every once in a while, they blow off steam -- as when Vaughn and Wilson take to a makeshift field to play intramural Quidditch with their Google intern rivals.
“Honestly, it’s horrible,” costar Max Minghella recalls about having to run with an actual broomstick between his legs for the movie’s Quidditch scenes. “It’s really horrible. I was in a lot of pain. Epsom Salts were being passed around like it was a prison that day.”
But it’s worth it, for the scene is one of the flat-out funniest bits in The Internship… as well as a reminder for Wilson about how much time had passed since he and Vaughn last crashed weddings in 2005.
“Just in the very first take, where we had to run out and jump into each other, I managed to sprain an ankle, while this old so-and-so [gesturing at Vaughn] hurt his back. From then on, it was stunt doubles. So when I watched the movie, it was exciting to see what they were able to put together!”
The Internship is now playing in theaters nationwide.