THE RIGHT TOUCH

Tag stars Jon Hamm, Jeremy Ren­ner, Ed Helms hope new com­edy brings friends together

Toronto Sun - - SHOWBIZ - MARK DANIELL

A com­edy about a group of pals who’ve been play­ing the same game of tag for close to three decades?

When Mad Men star Jon Hamm heard the pitch for Tag (in the­atres to­day) he thought it was ridicu­lous — un­til he found out it was ripped from the pages of the Wall Street Jour­nal.

The film is based on the true story of 10 men who, ev­ery Fe­bru­ary, con­tinue to play a game of tag they started as high school stu­dents in Spokane, Wash. Tag trims the group down to five, and flips the ac­tion to the month of May.

As the movie opens, Ho­gan (Ed Helms) goes through an elab­o­rate scheme to tag Bob (Jon Hamm) and to tell him that their boy­hood chum Jerry (Jeremy Ren­ner), the only mem­ber of the group who’s never been tagged, is get­ting mar­ried later that month. Together with two other friends (played by Jake John­son and Han­ni­bal Buress), the pals join forces to tag the elu­sive Jerry be­fore he gets hitched. Tag also stars

Isla Fisher as Ho­gan’s ruth­less wife, Rashida Jones as a lon­gago love in­ter­est and Annabelle Wallis as the reporter who puts pen to pa­per to tell the boys’ story.

Who­ever is “It” at 11:59 p.m. on May 31 has to live with the shame for a year.

“I have to be hon­est with you, I don’t think I would do the movie if it wasn’t based on a true story,” Helms says seated in be­tween Hamm and Ren­ner in a Yorkville ho­tel. “It’s too ab­surd. If this had come to me and not been based on truth I would have said, ’Oh, that’ll be a dumb com­edy.’ ”

Be­fore the com­edy’s Canadian pre­miere ear­lier this week, Hamm, Helms and Jeremy Ren­ner spoke with the

Sun ex­clu­sively about turn­ing this un­likely story into a fea­ture film, why it’s im­por­tant to stay friends with peo­ple you’ve known since child­hood and how hang­ing out with an

Avenger gets you pretty much into ev­ery­thing.

In terms of crazy true sto­ries, this has got to be right up there with the nut­ti­est of them. How did you guys react when you heard about this group of friends who have been play­ing tag for al­most 30 years?

Hamm: It was based on a 2013 ar­ti­cle in the Wall Street Jour­nal, of all places. It was a real bit of hap­pen­stance. The (jour­nal­ist) was set to in­ter­view one of th­ese guys about some sort of busi­ness

Wall Street Jour­nal-type of thing and dur­ing the in­ter­view one of his bud­dies barged in like you see in the movie (laughs). And the in­ter­viewer was like, ‘What the hell just hap­pened?’ And he replied, ‘Oh, that was just my friend tag­ging me.’ He tried to get the in­ter­view back on track and the jour­nal­ist said, ‘No, no, no we’re talk­ing about that now.’ It serendip­i­tously came out of that. When I read that ar­ti­cle I was fas­ci­nated. I asked my­self, ‘Who are th­ese guys?

Why do they do this?’ And when we got to meet them, we re­al­ized that they do it be­cause it keeps them young.

Do you still keep in touch with high school friends?

Hamm: Yeah, I have a re­ally good close group of friends from when I was, ba­si­cally, in sev­enth grade. We’re all still con­nected ... That shared his­tory is im­por­tant to keep alive. Es­pe­cially as you get older. As you make your way through life and life kind of has its way with you, it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber where you’re from.

Ren­ner: I just have a gi­ant fam­ily. My fam­ily is so big, so I don’t re­ally have to reach out to friends.

Helms: You also have the Avengers. Ren­ner: And the Avengers,

that’s right.

At the end of the movie, they show scenes of the real guys and some of the stuff from the movie that movie­go­ers might think are out­landish but re­ally aren’t. Ed, you dress up as an old woman, and one of the real guys does the same.

Helms: Well, right now, I’m dressed up as a hand­some young man.

Hamm: Yes. You didn’t know this, but he’s ac­tu­ally an old woman named Ed­wena Helms (laughs).

Helms: Those home movies you get to see at the end has the same vis­ceral pay­off that those pho­tos at the end of The Hang­over do. The only dif­fer­ence is, those are real.

It’s like, if those Hang­over pho­tos at the end were real — that’s what this is. Maybe not as dirty as The

Hang­over, though.

Helms: I think there’s a lit­tle nu­dity in there.

Ren­ner: But it’s more clean. Hamm: There’s def­i­nitely some nu­dity, but less dil­dos.

What did the real guys think of the movie?

Hamm: Jeremy hosted a party the night be­fore the pre­miere. It was re­ally sweet. They said that this was the first time that they had all got­ten together in one place in like a decade. They got misty-eyed.

There are some hi­lar­i­ous am­bushes in this movie and lots of laughs. But at its core, this is a story about friend­ship. What do you hope peo­ple take out of Tag?

Helms: Maybe view­ers will have a nos­tal­gic pang where they want to reach out to some old friends. That would make it a suc­cess.

Hamm: It’s a fun trip to the movies. But it also sticks an emo­tional land­ing at the end and I think peo­ple will be sur­prised by that. In a sum­mer where ev­ery­one is blow­ing things up and sav­ing the world and di­nosaurs are go­ing crazy, this is not that. This is a fun, funny movie.

Ren­ner: We’re in a land­scape right now where ev­ery­thing seems so di­vided — es­pe­cially in our coun­try — and this is all about unity. This is a film that unites peo­ple and I want to cel­e­brate what unites peo­ple. We all saw the vi­ral video of you guys crash­ing a wed­ding in Mi­ami. Whose idea was that?

Ren­ner: I was in­vited. They were not.

Hamm: All of the Avengers have stand­ing in­vites to all of the wed­dings. We thought, ‘We’re kind of like the Avengers. We’re friends of the Avengers. We’re friend-gers.’

Helms: A wed­ding is just pos­i­tive en­ergy and that’s what we’re about.

So if you want to crash a wed­ding, bring an Avenger?

Hamm: Find your lo­cal Avenger, and bring them.

“They were just giddy at the fact that this ridicu­lous tra­di­tion that they’ve had go­ing on for over three decades, has been made into a movie. They were just like, ‘You guys are do­ing this? Re­ally? We started this kinda as a weird thing and didn’t know when to stop ... but now it’s a movie!’ ” — Jon Hamm re­veals what the real peo­ple that in­spired Tag think of the movie.

ERNEST DOROSZUK/POSTMEDIA NET­WORK Ed Helms (left), Jeremy Ren­ner and Jon Hamm at­tend the Canadian pre­miere of Tag, in the­atres to­day, which was held at the TIFF Bell Light­box in Toronto on Mon­day. (In­set) The boys of Tag crash a wed­ding in Mi­ami.

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