Published at: Aug. 3, 2007, 4:01 p.m. CST by merrick
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
Every so often, a dream interview drops in my lap that comes seemingly out of nowhere. Without going into specifics, the opportunity to interview some of the creators and cast members of the new film THE TEN came from a not-in-Chicago source that approaches me every couple of months with some completely out-of-the-blue major film personality to speak with. I've wanted to interview Paul Rudd for as long as I've been writing for Ain't It Cool, no lie. I think he's a gifted actor and in recent years has proved himself to be on the most naturally funny men in film. The guy has done Shakespeare, tackled the devastating works of Neil LaBute (on stage and in film), and lately he's surrounded himself with two groups of creatives that make terrifically funny movies.
Although he'd done comedies before, I don't think I truly recognized his gifts as a comic actor until WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER, a film which just so happens to have been make by the same writers and directors (and many of the same actors) as THE TEN. But Rudd has also aligned himself with the team that works with Judd Apatow, and as a result has been in three of the finest and funniest movies in the last five years: ANCHORMAN, THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN, and this summer's KNOCKED UP. Earlier this year, he really shined in a small work written by THE TEN co-writer Ken Marino (with whom I'll also have an interview soon) called DIGGERS, and before the end of the year, expect to see Rudd as Michelle Pfeiffer's younger-man love interest in I COULD NEVER BE YOUR WOMAN, directed by his CLUELESS director Amy Heckerling.
Our phone interview was only supposed to last about 10 or 15 minutes, but thanks to Rudd's schedule and the ever-reliable New York City traffic, we actually spoke for about a half hour, giving us time to dive into his career in more detail. There are some people I interview because I know I should want to and then there are people who I consider it an honor to talk to.
Here's Paul Rudd…
Paul Rudd: Hey, man. It's Paul Rudd.
Capone: Hey, Paul. How are you?
PR: Pretty good, man. How are you?
C: Excellent, thanks.
PR: I just found out we're doing this for Ain't It Cool. I'm thrilled; I read Ain't It Cool every day. And you're Capone. Aw, man. You've got Capone, Quint, Moriarty. I even know Harry just got married.
C: I was just down there for the wedding.
PR: How was it?
C: It was a real blast, without a doubt. I don't even know if you know this, but at our Butt-Numb-a-Thon last December, Seth Rogan brought us a longer rough cut of KNOCKED UP, I believe it was our big midnight movie, and it was so much fun to see it like that, so early.
PR: How cool, man. How was that, though, the longer version of KNOCKED UP? That's like watching SHOAH, except hopefully funnier.
C: I lost track of exactly how long it was in that state, but I'd guess it was between two-and-a-half hours, maybe 2 hours 45 minutes. And when I saw the final version months later, I honestly couldn't remember what was different.
PR: Well that's good.
C: I assume all those cut scenes will be on the DVD. So at this point in your career, you're basically just working with the same two groups of guys, right?
PR: It sure seems like it.
C: The Cult of Apatow, and the guys who used to be on MTV's "The State." That's pretty much it for you now, right?
PR: That's really the way it's kind of wound up, yeah. And I'm having more fun now than I've ever had as a result.
C: It certainly seems to speak to a fierce loyalty on your part. Or is it more a comfort zone thing? These are the people you know you'll be at your best working with.
PR: I think falling into these groups, although I've known [THE TEN director and former "State" cast member] David Wain and those guys a little longer, I feel this is a group of people who have similar reference points, and we all find a lot of the same stuff funny. I really like a lot of these movies, and I like the scripts when I read them, and I like the people. Despite the fact that now a lot of them are friends of mine, I'm a fan of a lot of the people I've been able to work with. And that's been great.
C: But you've been around longer than most of these people have been making movies, so they're probably just as much fans of the work you'd been doing.
PR: That's very kind of you to say. It's probably not true, but I appreciate the compliment.
C: I can add to the list of people you continue to work with. You've got a movie coming out later this year that Amy Heckerling directed. Obviously, she was pretty important to your career. And you've also done a couple things with Neil LaBute, including THE SHAPE OF THINGS, which I think is the best acting you've ever done.
PR: Well, thank you. That was a really incredible experience, because that was a play before it was a movie. And to do the play in London and New York and then do the movie, which was never part of the plan, was great. I guess it's true with Neil and Amy, I've had the pleasure of working with people more than once.
It's nice because you do develop a little bit of a shorthand, and if you like each other, it makes the whole experience better. Shooting a movie or making a play takes a long time, so you want the finished product to be good, but you want the ride of making it to be good. And as you get older, that becomes more and more important. No one wants to spend months at a time with assholes. [laughs]
C: I should add that your track record in flawed. The one person you did not work with again was Michael Myers [Paul's first film role was in HALLOWEEN 6: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS]. In fact, you haven't done a horror film since your life intersected with the HALLOWEEN franchise.
PR: No, I haven't!
C: Was that not a good experience as a young actor?
PR: You know what? The funny thing is that it was good. That was the very first movie I'd ever done, and I'm really thrilled that I was able to do it. There was something trippy about working on a HALLOWEEN movie and seeing Michael Myers and seeing that face that I'd seen in movies and meet George Wilbur, who played him. And standing at the craft service table having coffee with Michael Myers. That's was too cool. When it first came out, I was in my early 20s. It was a time in my life when I was really…precious [laughs].
I thought, not that I was into taking myself too seriously or anything, but I so badly wanted to be in really cool things, and all of my favorite things as far as music and movies were all kind of, you know, independent movies or foreign movies. My favorite bands were these sort of alternative indie rockers, and stuff like that. I just really wanted to be liked [laughs], and I think I probably took some things a little too seriously, as it's easy to do when you're that age.
And when I first saw HALLOWEEN 6, I remember thinking, Oh God, this movie's not good, and I was really kind of bummed out. In fact when we first started making it, I remember thinking, Oh, this is the one that's going to be different! [laughs] I enjoyed making it; I thought it was really, really fun. But then I thought, Oh God, are people going to think I'm a joke? Am I ever going to get work as an actor after this comes out? I have since changed my tune; I love it. I'm honored to be part of a franchise that has lasted that long, that has that many devotees, and I couldn't be happier that I can say that my first movie is a HALLOWEEN movie.
C: Well if the acting thing ever dries up, you can book yourself on the convention circuit.
PR: [laughs] Which I've never even been asked to be a part of, which is kind of depressing.
C: I can make that happen for you if you want.
PR: I should be careful what I wish for. [laughs]
C: Let's talk about THE TEN a little bit. You're character acts as something of the Greek or Shakespearean chorus as you introduce the short stories based on the 10 Commandments. What is it about Ken Marino's writing that you like? I just saw you in DIGGERS recently, which is a vastly different piece.
PR: Right. I do think Ken is a really good writer, and he's just a smart guy, and versatile and talented. He's one of my really good friends. I was friends with a lot of this group for a few years before we made WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER, but that was really where we became good friends. Since then, David and Ken and Joe Lo Truglio, they are some of my closest friends. And it's just kind of great to work with people who are your friends.
I mean, Ken's sensibility…I knew when DIGGERS came out, I knew people would say, "Wow, it's a real departure," and it's not something they would expect from Ken if they'd knew what he'd done up to that point. But knowing him, it really isn't surprising at all. Same with David too. These guys are known for really specific absurdist comedies, and I think they're really good at it. I think they're capable of a lot more.
They're like many people with many interests, and they're intelligent guys. DIGGERS was really appealing because, yeah, it was Ken, but also the subject matter was something I knew nothing about, and it just seemed that that would be a really fun world to get to know. It's just a really small comedy but also with dramatic things about clam diggers in the '70s, which was a really viable way of making a living in this section of the country. And I knew very little about it.
C: I can honestly say I'd never seen a movie about clam diggers in the '70s, so it was new for me too as a viewer.
PR: [laughs] Yeah, yeah.
C: To people I've talked to about THE TEN who have even heard of it all say, "Is that the one about the Ten Commandments?" But it's not really a religious film, or is it a religious film? Are you guys going for the PASSION OF THE CHRIST audience or more than NARNIA crowd?
PR: I think we'll get it, I think we're going to get it. [laughs] Not at all. I think--I'd probably have to ask David and Ken--but I think they've originally ever intended on making a movie about the Ten Commandments per se, as much as they wanted to have a movie with everybody from "The State." There were people who had the misconception that there might be a lot of in-fighting, and some of them went off to do "Reno 911" or "Viva Variety" or "Stella."
But the truth is that everyone gets along, and originally they had thought what could be a way to do something together, because everyone is so busy. Maybe everyone could write one of them. It quickly became the Ten Commandments, and that seemed to be a good template, writing 10 different stories. They all have something to do with the Ten Commandments, but it was never really ever intended to have any sort of message. In fact, I think it takes pleasure in having nothing to say.
There's a whole thing at the end where we're just singing what it's all about, and that it's all about love. But there's nothing you have seen in the film that would warrant that sort of way of explaining what it's all about. We haven't earned it at all. You could say, "Nothing I've seen says that that's what it's really all about." It just seems insane and ludicrous to sing it [laughs]. It's really weird, and we all figured that the subject mater alone, some people will think that it's blasphemous or that we shouldn't be making a comedy about this. But it's not mean spirited; it's just weird.
C: I have to ask you at least one question about your working relationship with Seth Rogan. I think you guys are one of the great modern comic teams since…since…I don't know, Bill and Ted maybe.
PR: Wow, thanks man! [laughs] Thanks!
C: The two of you have such different acting backgrounds. You've almost got a generational difference too, but you really seem to mesh well. The scene in KNOCKED UP that I don't hear people talk about much, but it's the one that always gets me emotionally, where you two are in the Vegas hotel room wasted and opening up to each other about how you can't believe these great women are even with you. I don't know a married guy on this planet who hasn't felt that way at least once.
PR: Right, sure.
C: That's the most honest scene in the film. I know a lot of that comes from the writing, but you two sell that exchange. Can you talk about that chemistry?
PR: Seth and I obviously really get along, I mean, we're friends. And we've become much better friends over the years. I met him during ANCHORMAN, but we really didn't hang out or have many scenes together. Seth has this incredible encyclopedic knowledge of random references to anything, and I do too. So we can go on these weird tangents and know that the other guy can kind of comment on it.
Things will come up in improvisation, and a lot of what we shoot is improvised. I think that a lot of the same things make us laugh, but I could throw out some sort of reference and if I say something weird, he knows what I'm talking about and I same kind of applies, and we play off of each other well.
I remember doing the whole "You know how I know you're gay?" scene, and how that just came up in 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN, which was just them running the cameras and that just kind of organically happened. It was scripted or anything; we just started going back and forth with really random things, and sometimes they got very specific. And I remember one in particular saying, "You know how I know you're gay? You have a season pass on your TiVo to "The Christopher Lowell Show" [a popular Discovery Channel interior design show]. And he was the only person who knew who that was. [laughs] Obviously, because it isn't in the movie.
There are a lot of times when it comes to these extended runs of insults, or where we're just playing off each other, being able to rely on the other guy to get your reference or take what you're saying and play off each other is good, and with Seth and I, it just sort of happened. It isn't anything that we worked on. Maybe that's why it seems to work with people. It's just exactly two guys hanging out and what guys would do anyway. It's weird that we're not doing anything different than a lot of other dudes who hang out and play video games.
C: That's exactly what it feels like.
PR: It just so happens that our dumb riffs get filmed and put in a movie.
C: I know that you just shot FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL, which Judd produced, and Seth is not in that, but are you thinking about what you'll do next together?
PR: Yeah, we always talk about stuff like that. We were just recently saying, "We should write a movie or do something together." But we haven't really sat down and done it. I don't know whether if it's because we're just too goddamn lazy to get it started or that we're both too busy. But whenever we see each other, we're always saying, "Oh we should figure something to do together" if only just because we really like working together.
C: So the next thing we see you in is I COULD NEVER BE YOUR WOMAN. Working with Michelle Pfeiffer, who's having a hell of a year this year, and having your story with her be a love story, that had to send some really awesome waves through your body contemplating that scenario.
PR: [laughs] It's pretty crazy to think about. It's one of those, if I had a crystal ball moments… I mean, I remember seeing HOLLYWOOD KNIGHTS. That was insane. It was like, who's that woman, she's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen… [with a hint of sarcasm] and Robert Wuhl is the funniest guy I've ever seen! That movie, I don't really know what's happening with it. The funny thing is, we shot that movie before she shot HAIRSPRAY or STARDUST.
And it was done by this company, independently financed, and as a result there's been a lot of hang ups as far as distribution and contracts. It's been done, but hopefully it'll come out in September [the latest release schedule I've seen says November 9], because it's a really sweet, funny movie. Amy Heckerling who did CLUELESS wrote and directed it. But I honestly have know idea. The last I heard was that it was released in Spain, which is not a good thing. [laughs] I'll believe September when I see it.
C: You've been acting in films for about 15 years, and you still manage to find ways to reinvent yourself. I look at ANCHORMAN as sort of a turning point, because up to that point, you'd never really been that silly in your comedies.
PR: Yeah, that was one of…I read that and thought, Oh my God, I really, really want to be in this movie. I seldom have that reaction to anything. I don't have that killer instinct. "Oh, I want to get this. I'm going to work and really try…" I'm too, well, lazy I guess is the right word. But I read ANCHORMAN and I thought it was so funny, and this is way before it ever showed up at a studio. I just loved it, and I didn't care what part or anything like that. That's much more to my own personal taste than a more mainstream or other comedies that I'd done.
The one previous one I got that excited about was WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER, which I read and was one of the only scripts--like ANCHORMAN--that I would just pick up and read because it was enjoyable, it made me laugh. I think that WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER probably had helped really in me getting the part in ANCHORMAN, because Adam McKay had seen WET HOT, as have other comedy writers and people who I was a fan of but never really been associated with. And it did play a part. A lot of same stuff made us laugh.
And ANCHORMAN was my first connection with Judd Apatow. We're all generally of the same generation, some are younger, some are older. But when I first me Judd, it was a couple years before ANCHORMAN. I was at a dinner and I was talking about fake names and how to come up with a really great fake name is a real gift. I think David Wain is tremendous at it. But I was saying at this dinner that Gern Blanston is one of the funniest fake names I'd ever heard, and talked about how I thought it was spelled.
And no one gave a shit and I was boring everybody, but it's a reference from a Steve Martin record, and comedy nerds know that. And one person said, "Oh, that explains Judd Apatow's e-mail address." And so I went home and e-mailed him and said "Way to go on the e-mail name." And so then he wrote me back, and we became pen pals for a year or two. And the first time I ever actually met him was on ANCHORMAN. That group of McKay and Judd, I think growing up, Steve Martin was a major influence on shaping our comedic sensibilities. And David Letterman to a large extent as well. I don't know where I'm going with this or anything.
But when you have those kind of references or you like a lot of same stuff, you just work together well. That's why Seth and I can joke around or maybe why I keep getting the opportunity to work with a lot of those guys.
C: When was the last time you were on the stage? Because I know for a while you were balancing the film roles with stage work, especially with LaBute's works.
PR: It was about a year ago. I was in that play with Julia Roberts, when she did the Broadway play about a year ago. And the funny thing was there were three people, and Bradley Cooper and I were the two dudes in the Julia Roberts play, which was great and really fun, but you know, he was also in WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER, and we would get together and say, "Can you believe you and I are in this play with Julia Roberts?" It seemed silly.
C: I remember seeing you on some cable channel doing TWELFTH NIGHT with Helen Hunt. And you'd done Shakespeare before that, correct?
PR: I had, but that was certainly the biggest, most visible Shakespeare play I'd ever done. It was at Lincoln Center. I did a program that was all kind of Elizabethan theatre, Jacobian drama and stuff. And that was Nicholas Hytner who directed TWELFTH NIGHT that also directed me in OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION, so I'd worked with him before. And I was a huge fan of his because, I remember, even when I was in London doing that program, that Jacobian drama program, I had seen THE MADNESS OF GEORGE III on stage before they made a movie of it.
And that was one of the first time I'd seen a play and thought, Oh my God, now I get it. Now I see why people love coming to the theatre. I'm not a real big theatre goer, but that experience was incredible. So I always said if I ever got the chance to meet Nicholas Hytner, that would be really cool and then it happened that I was able to work with him. And now he runs the National Theatre.
C: And then to have one of your earlier films be Baz Luhrmann's ROMEO + JULIET.
PR: That actually also…like I said about going after ANCHORMAN. But ROMEO + JULIET was another one. It wasn't just "Oh God, that would be a great thing to be a part of." I had no idea what it was going to be like. I knew that they were trying make this movie. I just knew that it was the director of STRICTLY BALLROOM, which I loved. And then when I met him, I was able to get an audition, and it took like an hour--he would spend time with the actors, and he was so cool, and he was showing these pictures of what he imagined the movie would look like. And it was just so tripped out and crazy that I was instantly I knew this guy was a real auteur and a visionary.
That guy is so gifted, and he has a team of people, including his wife Catherine Martin who does all the set design. There is an army of people who follow him and they create these incredible things. There are things in that movie that you never even saw. We shot it in Mexico, and there was a street with these billboards and Mexican signs on them, and Baz Luhrmann was thinking of signs to put over them. And one of them was a dry cleaners, and he was taking lines from Shakespeare plays, and you never even see those things.
C: What is your role in FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL?
PR: I play this guy who teaches surfing at a resort, but one of those guys, you know, you go to Hawaii and they're from the mainland and they moved to Hawaii, and you think they've got it all figured out. But then you spend a little more time with them, and you realize they're sad and pathetic. It was that kind of guy, kind of "Man, all you really need is the sand and the surf; that's my sustenance. I haven't seen my daughter in four years, but that's cool, man, she's on her journey. We're all on our journey." That kind of guy, who's probably gone into a reef a couple of times.
[The sounds of sirens is getting progressively louder from Paul's end of the call.]
C: It sounds like you're in a war zone over there.
PR: I know, it's like calling from Beirut. [laughs]. Sorry.
C: Someone told me you just were on MTV.
PR: [almost whispering] Yeah, I just did "TRL." My God, they asked me, Who are you listening to today? And I didn't even have any popular music to mention. I felt like a grandfather on that show. In fact, I was talking about things and making references, and the host said I had already completely lost the audience, on air!
C: It was really great talking with you. Thanks so much for spending this time with us.
PR: Oh absolutely. Thanks a lot.
C: We always look forward to anything you're in. In fact, I just saw you in something I didn't even know you were in. Was it THE EX? You were in one scene where you fire Zach Braff.
PR: Oh right. My friend Jesse [Peretz] directed that movie. We had done a movie called THE CHATEAU, and he was directed that movie, so that's how that happened.
C: Well, there you go. Fierce loyalty.
PR: Is there any better reason to do this, I ask. I'm happy to work with people who I like.
C: Great. Take care.
PR: Thank you. Talk to you later.
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. Great interview Capone... hope you don't mind me edging in here, but I saw this video and had to add it to the Paul Rudd discussion... The geekiest thing is that I actually remembered this commercial... Now Paul Rudd is playing with power!