Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen Get Moriarty KNOCKED UP!!
Published at: July 14, 2006, 6:50 a.m. CST by staff
Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...
It’s been a weird 2006 for me so far. I’ve seen far fewer films than I’m used to in the theater, but I’ve been visiting a lot of sets and editing rooms, more than ever before. It seems like all I’ve been doing lately is traveling, something which starts to suck when you’ve got a baby in the house. Anytime I’m away overnight, it’s upsetting, even if I have seen some great stuff and met some great people.
Over the next two weeks or so, I’ve got seven different set visits or editing bay trips that I’ll be posting. It’s taken forever just to transcribe all this stuff, but the end result is a pretty fun cacophony of people and places. You’ll meet some rising stars and some old pros, you’ll get sneak peeks at epics, comedies, fantasy and horror alike, and you’ll see the cutting edge and absolute old school alike. There are some old friends on some of these sets and some people who I was pleased to meet.
I’m not doing this in chronological order, though. I’m going to mix it up a bit, hoping to get certain pieces up before ComicCon and then building through report after report to something very near and dear to my heart. This particular article begins just as I was returning from Vancouver, where I was working on my second episode of MASTERS OF HORROR. It was a two-week trip, so when I got back, there was a substantial pile of mail waiting for me. DVDs, scripts, screening invitations... it was overwhelming. Mrs. Moriarty had put everything into one giant stack for me, and when I finally got a chance to sift through it all, she had one of our neighbors over, the two of them chatting while her baby, nearly the same age as Toshi, played on the floor with him.
One envelope in particular seemed oddly lumpy, although small, about the size of a postcard. Mrs. Moriarty saw me holding it. “Oh, yeah,” she said. “That one’s interesting.” She and our neighbor both watched as I opened the envelope to remove a card. Before I could read it, something else fell out into my lap.
A pregnancy test. Positive.
”Who is Shauna?” my wife asked, watching me carefully.
Our neighbor stood up. “Maybe I should go.”
I opened the card to read the following:
I’m pregnant! And it’s yours!
Come and see us. We miss you.
PS – Me, too. Miss you, that is. I’m not pregnant with your baby. Yet.
When I read their names, I started laughing, and I was able to explain the joke to my wife before she grabbed a knife out of the kitchen and turned our neighbor into a material witness to a homicide. I explained that Shauna was the producer of ANCHORMAN, ELF, and 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN, all three of which I’ve gone to visit while shooting, and that Judd was the director of 40YOV. When the IMDb backed up my story, she finally relaxed. I explained to her that their new film deals with pregnancy, and that this was a very unorthodox invitation to the set. Nothing more.
A week and a half later, I drove over to the Arclight parking structure. I’m there a few times a week at least, since my gym is upstairs and Amoeba Records, one of my favorite places in LA, is right next door. Even though I’ve driven that block of Ivar hundreds of times, I’d never noticed the steakhouse tucked into the middle of the block before.
Walking into the outdoor courtyard, I was greeted by Tyler Fowler, the Universal publicist I’ve dealt with a few times in the past. He led me into the restaurant where the entire place was packed with extras, like it would be on any regular night. At a table in the middle of the restaurant, cameras were all trained on four people seated together: Leslie Mann (CABLE GUY, BIG DADDY), Paul Rudd (ANCHORMAN, 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN), Katherine Heigl (ROSWELL, THE RINGER), and the star of the film... Seth Rogen.
Even as recently as three years ago, that sentence would have been unthinkable. Even now, even after seeing the footage I’ve seen, I’m still amazed that Universal is really cool enough to release a movie where Seth Rogen is the star. Don’t get me wrong... I think it’s a great thing. Seth’s one of those comic performers who showed up fully formed in his first big role on FREAKS & GEEKS. He was still a teenager at the time, but he’d already figured out his own unique comic personality. He refined the persona on his next series UNDECLARED (which was not-so-coincidentally created by Judd Apatow), and then showed up to great effect in 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN last year. In the about-to-be-released YOU, ME & DUPREE (which I can’t review because it’s produced by my managers), Seth’s easily the best part of the film playing a married friend who is so henpecked that you can practically see the marks his wife left on him. He’s hilarious in every scene, and his panic is so convincing that even though you never see her in the movie, you know exactly who he’s married to. His scenes alone make it worthwhile to check the film out. As with Steve Carell when he did VIRGIN, Rogen’s finally making the jump from scene-stealer to the guy the whole movie’s about, and it was interesting getting a chance to watch him work.
In the scene I watched them shooting, Ben (Rogen) and Allison (Heigl) are out to dinner with her sister Debbie (Mann) and Debbie’s husband Pete (Rudd). Allison lives with Debbie and Pete, and in a lot of ways, they serve as the role models for Ben and Allison to follow as they struggle to decide what their relationship is. See, they’re not a couple. Not really. At the start of the film, they meet in a very funny but very believable sequence, and they end up sharing a one-night stand. The next morning, as the two of them talk over breakfast, it’s obvious that they have nothing in common, and so they go their separate ways. No harm, no foul. Everything just goes back to the way it was.
Until a few months later when Allison calls Ben and asks him to go out to get drinks. He thinks he’s getting a second chance at bat, but instead, she tells him that she’s pregnant, and that it’s his. He does what any man would do in the situation. He falls apart. And that collapse is the source of much of the comedy in the film. He tries to do the right thing. He and Allison decide to try dating a bit, to give a relationship a chance for the sake of the child she’s carrying. And it’s during this dating period that the scene they were shooting takes place.
As I walk up to the monitors, Shauna sees me and waves me over. A quick hug, then she hands me headphones so I can hear Seth, who’s already in the middle of the scene and talking to everyone at the table. “Okay, sure, I’ll admit it. When, uh...” - he gestures at Heigl’s stomach, where she’s just starting to show – “you know, there was a moment. Where it’s just... I’m in the white Bronco, AC Cowlings is sitting next to me, and I’m just, you know, going for it. Going for Canada. Not looking back. We’re just going for it, man! But... you know... it was, like, just a flash. Just a thought. Like... what if Doc Brown pulled up in the DeLorean, right, and he’s all ‘Get in, and we’ll go back in time and... you know... put a rubber on your dick!’ But we’ve all thought that... right?”
Heigl’s stare is one of absolute irritation. Ben must drive her insane, because she looks like she wants to kill him. “No, actually. I’ve never thought that.”
Leslie Mann glares at Paul Rudd, who’s busy studying his drink.
MANN: “Have you done that? Have you had a flash?”
RUDD: If I had a time machine... I’d sign the White Stripes.
MANN: Okay. Fine. At least your priorities are in order.
ROGEN: Jack. White. Rules.
MANN: I have an idea. Why don’t you two get in your little time machine and go back in time and fuck each other?
RUDD: ... who needs a time machine?
That breaks Rogen up, and the women just stare at both of them, disgusted. Rudd and Rogen start riffing off each other, boozy and way too loud, and it’s great. It all feels like a real fight. They’re not playing “jokes,” but are instead really tearing into one another. The women finally leave, and the two guys comisserate, drinking more as they talk. The conversation meanders.
ROGEN: She hates my sense of humor. What is that? I mean... literally... that’s all I’ve got. If she hates that, then what the fuck could she possibly like?
Apatow yells a few things to see what they’ll do, what direction the conversation will go. “Do the fat thing.” As Rogen talks about how Heigl’s putting the weight on, Rudd talks about how little weight Mann added, and how it actually scared him.
RUDD: I wasn’t sure it was even getting any nutrients. She just looked like she’d had a big meal.
Between takes, Shauna started talking about all the films she’s producing, all the films she’s part of in one way or another, and it was a little imposing. She’s got a pretty damn golden track record so far, and she seems to be working with all of her favorite people over and over. As I’ve seen on all the other sets I’ve seen her on, she serves as a great audience for the filmmakers. She loves the films she’s making, and she’s got a really acute sense of what’s funny. I think the filmmakers know that if they’re making her laugh, they’re doing it right. What more would you want from a comedy producer?
She told me about the couple that Rudd and Mann are playing. “They look like the perfect yuppie couple. That’s why Ben and Allison look up to them. They have the perfect house. The perfect jobs. The perfect kids. And they are... miserable. They are like the worst example ever and they scare the shit out of Ben.”
She told me that we would be watching dailies later, and that it was mainly stuff from the day before when they were shooting a scene where Rogen and Rudd are in a car, going to Vegas.
”Yeah, that’s the scene where they take mushrooms so they can go see Cirque Du Soleil.” And she described to me the ensuing mushroom trips that Rudd and Rogen go on. Absolutely hilarious, and considering the access they had to actually shoot at a Cirque show in Vegas, it should be one of the strangest scenes in a film next year. There is not nearly enough mushroom humor in movies, damn it, but thanks to Judd Apatow, things are changing. Describing it, she couldn’t keep it together, laughing about the entire sequence.
I watched several other takes of the same conversation, and each time, Rogen would hit the same points, talking about having a flash, but the details would change each time. There was actually a little more at the start of the scene. Heigl’s character in the film works for E! Entertainment, an on-air interviewer, which explains some of Rogen’s digs in the scene. They’re talking about how she’ll handle the pregnancy with her bosses at work.
HEIGL: I’m just not going to tell them. They can’t fire me over it, either. That’s illegal. And once I’ve had the baby, I get three months maternity leave.
MANN: I think it’s a good plan.
ROGEN: Flawless. Until her water breaks all over the guy from MY NAME IS EARL.
RUDD: Isn’t it weird, though, how you get pregnant and all of the plans you made for your life just... go... completely out the window?
MANN: Oh, your plans have not changed at all. You do everything exactly the same.
ROGEN: I know what you mean, man. When I found out, I just... I had this flash... like it was me in a white Ford Bronco with AC Cowlings at the wheel, and we were hauling ass for Canada, man. We weren’t looking back.
HEIGL: Oh. Nice.
ROGEN: I don’t mean it. I just mean, like... if Doc Brown pulled up in his time machine...
HEIGL: Who’s Doc Brown?
ROGEN: He’s the guy from BACK TO THE FUTURE.
He waits. She has no reaction at all. He looks at Rudd, looking for help.
ROGEN: You see what I’m dealing with here? Honestly?
RUDD: Okay, but seriously, if you had a time machine...
ROGEN: If a guy in a time machine pulls up and says, “Okay, man, you can do anything. You can go anywhere and change anything you want,” you wouldn’t say “Okay, well, then, let’s go back to that night and put a condom on his dick”? You haven’t... you haven’t thought that?
HEIGL: No. I haven’t thought about it. And I’m sort of surprised... I mean, that’s weird. That was your first instinct? To run?
ROGEN: Ummm... yeah! I mean, I wasn’t going to do it, but I was, like...
HEIGL: What stopped you?
ROGEN: The... ummm... knowledge that to do that would have been a bad thing to do.
HEIGL: And are you thinking about it now?
By this point, Rudd’s signaling for Rogen to shut up, trying to get his attention, but Rogen’s not seeing him. He just keeps making it worse.
HEIGL: Do you think about taking off now?
ROGEN: I... think about the fact that... I once had thought of it... but I don’t... currently... ummmmm... (exasperated) I just said I had a flash!
HEIGL: And what is a flash?
ROGEN: Oh, come on, everyone has flashes.
MANN: (to Rudd) Do you? Do you have flashes?
RUDD: About what?
MANN: About a time machine?
RUDD: The only flash I’ve ever had about a time machine is wishing I could go back in time and sign the White Stripes.
MANN: So you have had a flash.
ROGEN: Of course he had a flash.
RUDD: I’m sure all guys do it.
MANN: All guys dream of going back in a time machine?
RUDD: No. No. Not a time machine. It, uh... it wasn’t that specific. But more like, “What if I didn’t do this?”
MANN: Do this? You mean have kids?
RUDD: Sure. Get married. Have kids.
MANN: You wish you didn’t get married?
RUDD: ... no...
MANN: You just said you wish you didn’t get married.
RUDD: No. I just had a flash where I wondered, you know, what if this had been my path? It’s not like I did. And I don’t dwell on it. I don’t even... it’s not what I want.
MANN: You just said that. You just said that’s what you wanted. You wished that. You said so.
No matter what Rudd said, Mann just nailed him. She made everything a personal insult. It was maddening to watch because of how very, very good she is at it. I found it doubly disturbing because Apatow (who happens to be married to Mann in real life) was laughing every single time she did it, having to work to keep from ruinging takes with his laughter. And Rudd just squirmed like a bug on a pin in take after take, letting her terrorize him a bit.
Between takes, Rudd and Rogen would come back to video village, while Heigl and Mann would head outside for some sun or some fresh air. Universal publicity brought over some preliminary poster designs for the film, everyone still pleased as punch over the Key Art win for 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN, and I get the feeling Universal’s going to do everything they can to give KNOCKED UP ever possible advantage. They’re holding it until the end of summer 2007 so that they can have it ready for the same weekend that 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN opened, right at the start of August.
During a change in set-ups, Shauna and Judd took me over to where Judd’s trailer was parked, and Judd started pulling out DVDs with various dailies from earlier in the shoot, stuff that’s already been cut into rough assembly form. Some of it is looking pretty sharp considering how long Judd’s got to work on it. The entire opening of the film was assembled, the night where Heigl and Rogen meet in the first place. My favorite scene I saw comes from later in the pregnancy, when Heigl’s feeling horny and talks Rogen into trying some pregnant sex. It’s a classic ballet of the uncomfortable, and I give Heigl credit... she gives as good as she gets in her scenes with Rogen. They’re very funny together, with pretty strong chemistry.
Back on the set, Eric Alan Edwards had everything set up for the next shot. He’s a big mainstream studio guy now, but he started with films like MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO and KIDS, and he’s a pretty nimble photographer, able to move quickly, something I gather is important to Apatow. After all, he used Eastwood’s DP, Jack Green, on his last film. Keeping things moving seems to be his main priority, keeping people on their toes. We talked about his tendency to shoot as many as seven or eight long versions of each scene, riddled with improvs along the way.
”The guys from Universal DVD showed me something, and I think we’re actually going to use it on this film,” he told me. “It’s called the Randomizer. Basically, you’ll be able to watch the feature the way it was in the theater, or you’ll be able to watch it with the Randomizer on. If you do, there are about 180 places in the film where there are as many as ten takes available. The Randomizer will know when you get to each of those 180 moments, and each time, it will pull a random take and insert it. You’ll get a totally different film each time.” I’m not sure if that really will work, or if that really will be on the DVD, but if it is, that sounds like one of the most fun ways to rewatch a film I can imagine.
After a few more takes, they broke for lunch, and Shauna invited me to join them for dailies from the day before. There were two sequences they shot, and we saw quite a bit of footage from each. In the first sequence, Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann are trying to get some sleep, and their kids are making it difficult. The children are being played by Apatow’s real-life kids, so for them, they’re just playing a scene with their real Mommy, and since they know Rudd so well, they’re comfortable with him, able to play off of him. The littlest of Apatow’s daughters keeps calling him “Brian Fantana” between takes. Basically, his five year old has free reign in the scene to try and wake everyone else up, and she takes full advantage of it. There were also several takes of a scene set the next morning, after the sun is up. Again, Apatow kept everything loose, and the footage gave him a lot of choices, a lot of options.
The second sequence was greenscreen stuff of Rudd “driving” his convertible with Rogen seated next to him, the two of them on their way to Vegas, no matter what their women think about it. You can tell that they’ve both just had big fights, and they’re both determined to “prove something.” I must have seen a half-hour of footage of this stuff alone. Rogen tries a freestyle rap in each of the takes, and his attempts keep setting Rudd off on some truly bizarre riffs. Midway through the footage, a flurry of “You know how I know you’re gay?” jokes break out, and Rudd and Rogen can’t help but fire off some great burns at each other. I think the most self-aware of the jokes came from Rudd. “You know how I know you’re gay? Because we’re recycling jokes from another movie.”
They weren’t, of course. They were just warming up, just bouncing off each other to get ready for a couple of really great takes of them talking about Cirque and taking some mushrooms and Vegas and responsibility. No matter how outrageous the moment in this film, Apatow seems to be constantly dragging his characters back into focusing on some really identifiable, human stuff. This film isn’t a silly comedy... it means it. There’s material here that cuts really close to the bone, and then there’s stuff that’s just meant to make you smile. I really love the stuff I saw from early in the film where Rogen’s hanging out with all his buddies, and the actors who show up as his friends include Jason Segel and Martin Starr from FREAKS & GEEKS and Jay Baruchel from UNDECLARED. It feels like real friends hanging out in their scenes together, and not like some forced thing that’s just for a movie. Martin Starr’s character decides to grow a beard for a whole year, and everyone else busts his balls ferociously as a result. They make Cat Stevens jokes. They ask him how Vietnam is going. They make sure that they don’t miss a beat, knowing full well that if he can’t take it, they win the bet. That’s just sort of a running thing in the background of the film, that sort of comfortable familiar humor.
After lunch, I had a chance to talk with Rudd a bit about how much he just enjoyed doing theater in New York with Julia Roberts, and we talked about our children, both of us still pretty new parents overall. We talked about how much we hated leaving them at home, and it was obvious Rudd missed his baby something fierce. I wanted to stay to watch more shooting, but I had to get moving so I could make a screening later in the evening. I watched Seth run though his part of the scene one more time, and I laughed. You can tell, watching him work, that Seth still doesn't get it. He's a movie star, and he doesn't even realize it. I said goodbye to Shauna and to Judd and left, my virtue intact, decidedly non-pregnant. Can’t wait to see how this one cuts together, but in the meantime, I’ve got some reviews to write and some sleep to get, so for now...