Make no mistake: British folk rock band Mumford & Sons know they have a certain reputation — and they’re lampooning that hipster, flannel-clad image in their latest music video for “Hopeless Wanderer,” the fourth single off of their 2012 album, Babel.
The clip, which as of press time was nearing 2 million views on YouTube, following its August 4 debut, features actors Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman, Ed Helms and Will Forte as a faux Mumford & Sons, strumming and singing in a sun-dappled field just as earnestly (perhaps even more so) as the real McCoy.
With the Internet crazed over the clip, MTV News reached out to director Sam Jones, helmer of the VMA-winning video for “Walk” by the Foo Fighters, to find out all the secrets from set.
The “Hopeless Wanderer” could have been a dog.
Jones originally pitched two treatments for the video: one featuring actors and one starring a pooch.
“The other one I wrote was about a dog, actually,” he said. “Like, more of a French film about a dog, who’s kind of lost his owner. The two ideas couldn’t have been more far apart, and I think that when I wrote the one about the actors I was like, ‘They’re never going to pick this.’ So I didn’t really have specific actors in mind, and then they called and they said, ‘Oh, we love the one with the actors.’ And I was like, ‘Oh great.’ ”
The video was cast in about 30 minutes.
Despite his trepidations, the parody band came together rather swiftly and seamlessly. Jones’ first call was to “Saturday Night Live” actor Jason Sudeikis, who said he was a fan of the band after meeting them on the “SNL” set. Sudeikis then scrolled through his contacts and landed on actor Jason Bateman, while Jones suggested his long-time acquaintance Ed Helms.
“[Sudeikis] goes, ‘OK, let’s both hang up and call those guys and call each other back.’ So we did that, and we got two yeses. And he was like, ‘You gotta let me bring Forte.’ And I was like, ‘OK!’ It literally happened that quickly.”
Mumford & Sons didn’t pull any punches.
“Please make as much fun of us as you can,” the band told Jones after casting was complete.
“I think what they decided was, if we’re going to do this, we’ve gotta just let him do it and not know that much about it. They thought it would work better as a parody if they didn’t have a say in what the story was ” Jones said, adding that the guys were “really happy” with the finished product. “I just can’t imagine a lot of bands that would be that cool.”
One of the band members is in the video.
The band was on holiday while Jones and the actors filmed in April, but banjo player Winston Marshall just so happened to be vacationing in the States and asked if he could stop by.
“I said, ‘Of course you can come by! It’s your video,’ ” Jones recalled. “So he’s actually the close-up of the hands playing the banjo in the video.”
There’s a hair-raising “Saturday Night Live” connection.
In addition to two acting veterans from the NBC sketch show, Jones called in the wigmaster from “SNL” to help make over the guys.
“We had the wig person from ‘Saturday Night Live’ flown out because she was the only person who could do four wigs that quickly, and we could make our day,” he said. “And she already has all the head sizes of the guys from ‘Saturday Night Live.’ So seeing how they got into character and put the wigs on, and Jason Sudeikis wanted to wear the earring. That was his idea to actually wear the earring.”
Like a real frontman, Sudeikis sang the entire shoot.
“He was so great. He wasn’t lip-synching,” Jones enthused. “He was full-on singing. I always fight with that on music videos with people. They just kind of want to lip-synch. They don’t really want to sing because it feels weird. It feels phony … So Jason sang those things at full volume all day, which was amazing.”
But Ed Helms missed his big banjo moment.
A skilled banjo player, “The Office” star had to play against type as a keyboardist.
“Ed Helms is a super-great musician, so that was good,” Jones said. “It was kind of heart-breaking not to put him on banjo. He’s a serious banjo player. It was tough because he looks a lot more like the keyboard player [Ben Lovett] and Jason Bateman looks a lot like Winston. So I had to say, ‘Look, you gotta play the piano and not the banjo.’ And he was totally cool with it, and I said, ‘I’ll use your hands for close-ups.’ And on the day, Winston showed up so he didn’t even get to do it!”
A kiss isn’t just a kiss.
“The idea came about because I wanted to kind of make a bit of a parody of harmonies,” Jones explained of Sudeikis and Forte’s passionate liplock. “Because in the song, I thought the harmonies were precious. … I was kind of parodying more the whole notion of Simon and Garfunkel down to Crosby, Stills and Nash. Anyone who gets on stage and sings together and has that intimate bond, you know.”
Jones asked Sudeikis and Forte to do the scene — “Those guys are kissing each other every other episode on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ ” he defended — without telling their co-stars. As if the surprise wasn’t enough to have the entire cast “cracking up,” Forte was also sick from a late flight.
“Winston was there at that point and didn’t know about it,” Jones said. “He was just watching the monitor. He came out and was like, ‘That’s just brilliant. Brilliant, mate.’ ”
The actors consider themselves a band now.
At one point during the shoot, the piano Helms was pushing went off the trail, and all the actors came to his aid.
“There was a real sense of a troupe to it,” Jones recalled. “It’s funny because when we asked them for quotes for the press release, they all spoke of themselves as a band. I think at some point they all need to walk out onstage at some Mumford show and see how long they could kind of keep it up before people realized. It was wild to work with those actors because they’re funny in a very sophisticated way.”