Love & Air Sex  (limited release Feb. 7) is a sweet, raunchy rom-com with heart about friendship, breakups, and the art of "air sex." It follows a lovelorn Stan (played by Michael Stahl-David) as he follows his ex, Cathy (Ashley Bell), to Austin, TX, just to have matters complicated by both the Air Sex World Championships and the fact that their mutual best friends — played by the laugh-out-loud funny Zach Cregger and Sara Paxton — have just broken up. I recently spoke with Ashley and Michael about everything from horrible first dates to how complimenting someone's genitals can be a love language. Keep reading for the interview and the trailer!
POPSUGAR: You guys have both done some dark films before this. Was this lighter film a welcomed change of pace?
Ashley Bell: Oh my god, so much so. Yes!
Michael Stahl-David: Comedy stuff is really the most fun. There's a sense of play, there's a sense of getting to screw around and trying to make each other laugh and people are laughing on set. Also on a movie that really centers around relationships and what's funny about those. It's always about relationships to me."
AB: I love that this movie kind of bathes in awkwardness. There are so many funny moments and so many relatable moments reading the script where you're just like, "Oh golly, I've been there or I've seen that!" And for me, coming out of The Last Exorcism movie, I was dying to do a comedy.
PS: I would say this film is a modern take on the romantic comedy. Do you have any favorite romantic comedies that you maybe looked to inspiration for making this movie?
AB: Bridesmaids wins, everything. I love that movie so much. I love that it's women in that movie, and women wrote it, and they're so smart and so funny. It's just a game changer, you know? That's my fave.
MSD: I guess I sort of drew inspiration more from awkward indie films than from romantic comedies for this. I actually like romantic comedies. When Harry Met Sally is probably one of my favorites, one of the best ones, obviously.
PS: Now neither of you have to perform air sex in all its glory in the film, although you do have some sex scenes. Did you research the art of air sex to prepare for the roles?
AB: Well, we did not have to do any air sex, no. When you read the script it was kind of like, "Oh my god! What is air sex? Is this real? Is it imagined?" It's definitely real. It was created in Japan. There is an actual world championship that takes place in Austin. It is judged based on story and narrative, so it's quite dignified.
MSD: I never saw any live, unfortunately, but I did watch some on YouTube and I felt like the routines that (Zach) Cregger, Sara (Paxton), and company were a lot funnier than what I saw. I don't want to denigrate the air sex community, but the random things I saw on YouTube, I was like, "Oh OK. We're competing, we're in the mix."
PS: Were there any funny air sex outtakes?
AB: So many scenes were killed from laughing because Sara and Zach are so funny. I mean, what they were improvising and adding in or doing, they're just so brilliant in their roles. If we weren't cracking up on screen, Bryan definitely was laughing or somebody was laughing or squeaking because they were holding it in.
MSD: Cregger comes from performing sketch comedy live. The way we shot those air sex scene was on stage with a bunch of extras in the crowd like really cheering and he was really performing for that. So it was exciting to see him and Sara both perform. You can see this kind of light kick on like all right, it's showtime! That was really fun to watch.
PS: Were there any awkward moments while filming the sex scenes?
AB: Yeah, I think those are always awkward [laughing].
MSD: Hi, nice to meet you! Wanna hop in this bed in our underwear? What's awkward about that?
AB: On day one.
PS: There's a lot of talk of the importance of penis size in the movie, but by the end it really seems to be more about the person. Do you think size really matters?
AB: You know it's the character that matters, it's the character of the person.
MSD: What's funny about the way that writing comes into the script is that you know there's the love languages. In a way, for Sara and Cregger's characters that is their love language. They relate on this gross, funny, coarse level and when they compliment each other's genitals that is this really tender and sweet moment of them coming together. So, it's not really played for laughs, it's played as this genuine moment of validating each other. But what they're talking about it, it is sort of ridiculous.
PS: Michael, your character took a big risk flying to Austin to see an ex he hadn't talked to in months. Have you ever made any grand gestures for love like that in your real life?
MSD: I will travel. I definitely will get on a plane, for sure. I remember showing up one time . . . my college girlfriend had been snowed in and I took the train up to her to school and showed up with a sled and just kind of surprised her. She was like, "uhhh, I have tests." I was like, "OK, I'll wait." Nothing as foolhearted, necessarily, as that, thankfully. But I can relate to getting swept up into an idea like this is really going to work, it's going to be great! And you're not really considering what the other person's experience is going to be.
PS: Now Ashley, it doesn't get much worse than having a first date with someone at a restaurant filled with memories of an ex. Have you had any first dates that went awry like that?
AB: One time I went on a date with an aspiring magician and he spent the day pulling quarters out of my ears, which was really disconcerting.
PS: When it comes to being friends with your ex on Facebook and still having their number in your phone, do you think it's best to cut all those sorts of ties after breakup?
MSD: You know, I think the Facebook thing definitely. It's awkward and not a pleasant thing to have to do but you have to unfriend. You're not friends. That's not the relationship. I have an ex who I really cared about and we broke up. We had to not speak to each other for a long time in order to be able to heal and both move on, and now we're friends. I think part of that was that I wasn't following her on Instagram, wasn’t following her Facebook, so we were able to live our own lives separately. I think the phone thing is extreme, but if you're going to be tempted to call, if you're going to drunk text them . . . yeah, I would definitely not have it. You can always get it somehow if you need it a year from now to reach out or find their email. If you don't need it, then don't be tempted.
PS: There's a lot of will-they-or-won't-tension between your characters. Do you agree with the outcome?
AB: That actually was one of my favorite parts of the script. It's not a love triangle, it's a love hexagon of sorts. I love that these characters never actually connect face to face. But they both take that scary plunge into a new relationship, and I think that's great and that's so true and human and real and bold and scary and awkward. I think that's what Bryan so perfectly encapsulates in the film.
MSD: I think that's part of the reason why the movie really works. I think people can relate to that and I think when movies are simpler than life there's a feeling . . . sometimes it's wish fulfillment, but there's also like, "That's not true! That doesn’t reflect my experience!" and people get pissed when the ending is too easy. So, I think it's nice that it doesn't have that. Although I do think the tension of that question is what makes the movie work. You really don't know till the end what's going to happen for sure.