The ‘Freaks and Geeks’ Romance That Inspired ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’

The ‘Freaks and Geeks’ Romance That Inspired ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’

The greatest romantic comedy to open with a prolonged scene of male frontal nudity (thanks for nothing, When Harry Met Sally-era Billy Crystal) 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall starred Jason Segel as brokenhearted composer Peter Bretter who flees to Hawaii following a breakup, Kristen Bell as his titular ex and Russell Brand somehow stretching every acting muscle in his body to play the flaky out-of-touch rich guy character. Also, Peter’s love interest was played by Mila Kunis, back when she was known more for her film and TV work than for her cringey apology video work. 

Segel, of course, got his first big break on the beloved, tragically short-lived NBC show Freaks and Geeks, produced by Judd Apatow. Segel portrayed the awkward but lovable Nick Andopolis, best remembered for his embarrassing attempt to woo Lindsay using the seductive powers of “Lady” by Styx. In retrospect, it’s borderline irresponsible that this was broadcast on network television without some kind of “do not try this at home” warning.

Nick’s efforts may not have been entirely successful, ultimately, but in real life Segel did date actress Linda Cardellini, reportedly during the making of Freaks and Geeks, and for several years after the show ended. Not surprisingly, a lot of people believe that Cardellini was the inspiration for the fictional Sarah Marshall, who is an actress that dates Segel’s character while the pair are working on an NBC drama that eventually gets canceled. 

Segel has been somewhat candid over the years concerning just how much of Forgetting Sarah Marshall was inspired by real life, even revealing that the nude breakup was based on an actual incident that was somehow even more embarrassing than in the movie version. But to his credit, he has never explicitly confirmed that the relationship with Cardellini served as a template for the film.

Back in 2008, the Los Angeles Times asked Segel if he thought that the public would simply assume that Sarah Marshall was Linda Cardellini. “I can’t control what people think,” Segel responded, adding, “I was still very much a child, and this was more an amalgamation of a lot of different relationships and breakups I’ve had. People are bound to talk, but she was a great girlfriend.” He also dispelled a rumor that Cardellini broke up with him because he’d “gained 20 pounds,” telling an interviewer that the info, which was on his Wikipedia page at the time, was “a joke that got taken out of context.” 

And in all fairness to Cardellini, after Freaks and Geeks ended, she went on to appear in hit movies like Scooby-Doo and Avengers: Endgame, as well as acclaimed series like Gravity Falls and Mad Men — a pretty far cry from playing an “animal psychic” alongside Jason Bateman.

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