How Amazon's 'Forever' Pulled Off That 'Up'-Inspired Opening Montage

Stars Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph and creators Alan Yang and Matt Hubbard explain the making of their opening sequence, set to Miles Davis' "It Never Entered My Mind."
Colleen Hayes/Amazon Studios

[This story contains spoilers from the series premiere of Amazon's Forever.]

The creators of Amazon's Forever, ostensibly a comedy starring Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph, have kept nearly every detail about their series a secret. But now that the eight episodes are available to stream on Amazon, it seems safe enough to discuss the dialogue-free montage that opens the season.

The carefully choreographed opening minutes, set to Miles Davis' "It Never Entered My Mind," evoke shades of the tear-inducing Up beginning (watch that, below), the "Mornings" episode of Master of None or even the opener of the John Cho thriller Searching. The montage was so ingrained in the series that it was a part of the pitch creators Alan Yang (Master of None) and Matt Hubbard (30 Rock) took to fellow executive producers Armisen and Rudolph.

The song was the first key to the sequence, which music supervisor Zach Cowie suggested to Yang before the scripts were even completed.

"He played a bunch of music that he was thinking about, knowing the premise of the show. And he's so good that some of those songs ended up making it into the show months and months later," Yang told The Hollywood Reporter.

The song was integral to the filming of the sequence, too — Yang played it on set during every take of what ended up being the approximately 70 separate scenes that comprised the montage.

"It felt like Dad was putting on his record player again. 'Oh right, that music,'" Rudolph told THR. "But it also had the same feeling every time because the camera always moved in the same direction from left to right. There was always a choreography to it because you knew the camera would be over here by the end so there had to be a specific amount of time. It was the same speed for every shot."

And although the scripts for each day seemed easy — "they go bowling and they smile," said Armisen — it was an incredibly time-consuming prospect. "They wanted it to be exactly right, so I was like, 'Oh, this is gonna take a little while,'" he added. The montage served two purposes: The viewer not only understands who June and Oscar are but also the ups and downs of their relationship and the ensuing monotony that happens occasionally in a marriage.

"We also wanted to just portray what their marriage is like, where one day you fight with a person, then the next day they throw you a surprise party, and you're back on board," said Hubbard. "It's not like it starts in this amazing place and then goes downhill. You have good days and you have bad days."

Added Yang, "Another thing I really love about the montage is just the subtle, small performances that Fred and Maya give. It's a silent movie for four minutes, so just the face he makes during that surprise party, or when Maya spits in the sink, or the moments when they're fighting, you read it on their faces."

It helps that Armisen and Rudolph didn't have to work toward any type of intimacy. They're not only longtime collaborators, they're also very close friends. "We just knew that we'd be able to capture that history because of bringing our own history," Rudolph said. "We already have such a strong bond, so that bond doesn't have to be created. Obviously we're playing characters, but there is something already there that isn't really on the page."

Working together at Saturday Night Live — and all the late nights that job requires — means the duo have a relationship few can claim.

"I'm realizing I don't have a word for it. It's more than just a friendship in that we worked with each other so intensely," Armisen said. "That gets you close pretty quickly. And also, now looking back, that was 2002 so that's a lot of years or many years. Whats the right grammar?"

"It's beaucoup years," suggested Rudolph.

"Beaucoup years."

Forever is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.