Capone chats with one of his ROLE MODELS--the lovely and talented Paul Rudd!!!
Published at: Nov. 3, 2008, 10:08 a.m. CST by Capone
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
I've always had a great fondness for Paul Rudd and his abilities as both an purely dramatic actor (I firmly believe his performance in Neil LaBute's THE SHAPE OF THINGS is the finest work of his career), and his more recent examples of perfect comic timing and ad-libbing in film under the Judd Apatow banner (THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN; KNOCKED UP; FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL) or made by his old buddies from the comedy troupe "The State" (films such as WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER and last year's THE TEN). His latest film ROLE MODELS falls into the latter category, as Rudd sees himself once again being directed by David Wain and worked with a script by Wain and Ken Marino (for the first time, Rudd is also credited as a co-writer).
Since I first interviewed Rudd last year while he was promoting THE TEN, I've gotten an opportunity to get to know the man a little bit, especially when he was in town recently for a really hilarious post-screening Q&A of ROLE MODELS. He's as gracious with his fans as he is funny in his movies, and the pairing of Rudd with Seann William Scott is golden. And the Queen of Comedy, Jane Lynch, is especially splendid in the film. But more on that in my review later this week. For now, here's my latest sit down with Paul Rudd, who I can't wait to see host "Saturday Night Live" in a couple of weeks.
Capone: So who's the Kiss fan among the writers?
Paul Rudd: That would be David Wain, although I've grown very fond of them recently.
But when you sing at the end of the movie, is that you trying to sound like a bad singer…or is that how you sing?
PR: [laughs] I’ve sung in movies before, but in this one film, I was so skittish, in all honesty, that anything would come across saccharine and unearned, like, unearned sentimentality, which is just the worst thing ever.
Capone: Especially with kids in the movie, that’s a hard thing to avoid.
PR: Oh, yeah, god, is it just going to be… So, that made me more nervous than actually singing, though singing…and singing kind of like a ballad in front of a bunch of LARPers was just surreal in and of itself. But, it was just, 'Oh, god, well, hopefully, we can undercut it with lots of jokes, so that it doesn’t make people throw up.' I wish I could say that I’m like [celebrated stage vocalist] Brian Stokes Mitchell when it comes to Broadway theater singing, but I’m really more like [former child actor] Brian Bonsall--Brian Stokes Bonsall. [laughs]
Capone: When we were talking last night, you mentioned you had a good story about meeting Judd [Apatow] for the first time. I definitely want to make sure we get that in.
PR: Oh, yeah, how I met Judd was…I knew who he was, because I was a fan of “The Ben Stiller Show" and “Freaks and Geeks” and “The Larry Sanders Show,” and I knew he had been attached to all of those. He hadn’t done “Undeclared,” or maybe he had; I don’t know. But, anyway, I was at a dinner, and I was talking about fake names, and how, I think, the ability to come up with a really good fake name is its own special skill, because you don’t want to go too far in the silly direction, but it also has to have just enough flavor that there’s something odd about it.
[Director] David Wain is very good at this. In fact, on THE TEN, everybody has a full name, every single minor character, extra, they all have first and last names, ‘Barge Michaelson’ being one of my favorites. But, I was saying this, and saying that, in my opinion, the all-time greatest fake name was Gern Blanston.
Capone: From the Steve Martin comedy record.
PR: Yeah, on the record he said, “When people ask me if Steve Martin is my real name, I tell them my real name is Gern Blanston.” And, so I started talking about how funny, even as a kid, ‘Gern Blanston’ was the funniest name. And, I got really, like, deconstructionist about it. I was, like, ‘Guh’, the ‘G’ sound, and then ‘Blanston’ had to end with an ‘o-n…B-l-a-n-s-t-o-n’. And, I’m, like, going on, boring the hell out of everybody at this table, who so clearly didn’t want to be talking about this. But, somebody said, “Oh, that explains Judd Apatow’s e-mail address,” because they never knew what that meant. He was--at the time, not any more--but he was at firstname.lastname@example.org. So, I went home and e-mailed him, congratulating him on having the best e-mail address, ever. And, he wrote me back, and then, I wrote him back. And, over the course of a year, having never met, we had, like, a pen-pal relationship. It was like writing to a young Asian girl: “We wear blue jeans here. I’m going to send you a Duran Duran cassette.”
Capone: Oh, boy!
PR: So, we would send e-mails to one another on occasion, and it was the only kind of relationship I had like that. And, when I auditioned for ANCHORMAN, he was there. The first time I ever met him was when I auditioned for ANCHORMAN. And, it was weird. I kind felt like I knew the guy, even though I’d never met him.
Capone: That is funny. On the way over here, I was thinking--as I often do--about ANCHORMAN, and thinking about how when I first saw the film…I look at it differently now…but, when I first saw the film, I thought, ‘What is Paul Rudd doing in a movie with all these goofy guys, because he’s an actor. Paul Rudd is an actor, and all these other guys are all “Saturday Night Live” guys or “Daily Show” guys.'
PR: I think that’s a really nice way of saying also, like, All those guys are really funny, and I’m not quite.
Capone: No, I wasn’t even thinking that. It seemed like…
PR: [laughs] That’s how I think of it.
Capone: It seemed like you were lowering…well, not lowering yourself, but it almost seemed like, Why is he in a goofy comedy like this, when he’s a bona fide actor? And this was before I ever saw the film, by the way. But I had just seen you in all the LaBute works, so that that was still kind of fresh in my head. But, it took me about five minutes of watching the film to realize you utterly belonged in that company.
PR: Yeah, I tend even for things that I like, I’m just kind of…I don’t have this tenacious drive to really hunt down things I want to do. And, it’s just an innate laziness, I suppose, on my part. But, ANCHORMAN I just loved. I read it and thought it was so funny, and I really went after it. I really hoped to get at least…I just wanted to try and get a chance to audition for it.
And, I met [writer/director] Adam McKay a couple of years before. It had not been set up, but he liked WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER. A lot of comedy writers were familiar with that movie, so I’m convinced that that movie helped me at least be able to get an audition. I went in to audition for it when it was set up, and I even went in…I remember we were shooting “Friends” at the time. It’s weird, because the wardrobe head of “Friends” was also the costume designer on ANCHORMAN. She worked with Judd on his television shows. So, I was actually at the “Friends” set, going through their wardrobe and trying to pick out ’70s clothes. I even had a little mustache. I went in…I so don’t do that, dress the part, even for the audition, but I did it for the ANCHORMAN audition, then felt like a jackass afterward, because that’s so lame when people do that, right?
Capone: Images of Sean Young in a Catwoman outfit suddenly pop into my mind.
PR: [laughs] One of my very first auditions was for this part of this guy who is supposed to be kind of dangerous and kind of a rebel guy, when I’m so clearly not that. And, I had heard this story about Danny DeVito auditioning for “Taxi,” and he went in as Louie De Palma and jumped on the table and was screaming, “Who wrote this crap?” and, like, blew the doors off the place. And, I remember thinking, ‘That’s the way to audition. You got to go in there as the part, man’.
And, I went in for one of my very first auditions, for this part of kind of like a dangerous kid, and I went in with a cigarette…and I didn’t smoke or anything, I didn’t light it, but I was really, really abrasive to the casting director. And, I could tell that this was not going well at all, but I didn’t know how to get out of it. And, I was just sweating and nervous and just kind of being like a dick. And, I remember doing the audition, and I was so freaked out that I threw the cigarette down and then stomped it out on the floor--and it was carpeted--like it was a prop.
And, then I left and they said, “Alright, thank you very much.” And, I left and driving back, I thought, ‘Wow, I am so not getting that part’. And, I could just imagine the casting director picking bits of tobacco out of the carpet. And, so I vowed, ‘I’m not going to go in like the character.’
But, I dressed up and went in for the ANCHORMAN audition trying to look as much like Brian Fantana as I could. And, in the movie, that was my real hair, real mustache, and sideburns and everything else.
Capone: And, now there all of these rumblings about people wanting to make a sequel. Is that a real thing?
PR: I first heard about it online.
Capone: Same here.
PR: Yeah, and the same thing with GHOSTBUSTERS 2. All of a sudden, these different rumors, and I only heard about it kind of like the same way everybody else had, which was exciting. I kind of thought, ‘Oh, it’d be really fun’, because it was a blast making ANCHORMAN, and they were great. They’re amazing, all those guys.
I saw Will Ferrell and talked about it with him briefly. And, I e-mailed Adam McKay, saying ‘I’m so into the idea of doing it,’ but, it has to be weirder than ANCHORMAN. I mean, there’s no point…I mean, I think everyone thinks there’s no point in doing it, unless it’s something very strange and funny and specific. But, I do think that everybody is excited about the idea. It just needs to be written. And, getting Adam and Will to…their schedules are so crazy.
Capone: For some reason, I thought had heard that one of the ideas that was being tossed around was just bumping up the timeline about 10 years, and dropping those same character in the ’80s.
PR: In the ’80s. I had heard that, too, yeah.
Capone: …which, actually, is a great idea. It opens up a whole flood of possibilities.
PR: It does make sense, yeah. Early on, even when joking around, even when we were shooting ANCHORMAN, and [we] were saying, “The next one, we should be on the moon,” like, literally, in arenas that are impossible.
The very first versions of ANCHORMAN were unfilmable, by the way. There were so many anchormen on a plane, and they were smoking so much that the plane filled up with so much smoke that the pilots couldn’t see. And, the plane crashed on an island inhabited by orangutans. They were transporting on the plane tons of martial arts equipment, so it turned into kind of like a battle of the apes and anchormen and had orangutans throwing Chinese throwing stars at each other. It was a full-on epic.
Capone: This was actually written?
PR: It was written.
PR: And, you literally can’t film it. This was the earliest versions of ANCHORMAN.
Capone: Today you could film it, but not then.
PR: Yeah, today, but not then. This was just after HEAVEN’S GATE, and no one really wanted to put up too much money.[laughs]
Capone: When you know you're going onto a set to do a day's worth of ad-libbing, can you prepare ahead of time for some of the roles you’re playing these days? Even for this character you’re playing in ROLE MODELS, is there any kind of preparation that you can do? Or, do you just sort of come in and do it, at this point?
PR: Each one is individual, and there are certainly things that you can prepare. I mean, with this, I tried to research LARP as much as I could, and DARKON and all that kind of stuff.
Capone: I seen that movie, yeah. It's great.
PR: DARKON is great.
Capone: That’s the movie title, right?
PR: So, there are things like that you can prepare in the writing of it. I think it depends in some part on who I am working with. There’s a familiarity enough, certainly with David and some of the “State” guys, and same thing with Judd and Seth [Rogen] and that crowd, that part of me wants to try and be as kind of open as possible, so that I show up and I don’t really know what we’re going to say. And, I know where it needs to go, but…
And, in something like KNOCKED UP, Judd and I talked about our own marriages and lives and being parents. You know, I never read any baby books, and so we put that in the movie, and my wife was furious about it. And, the whole lame, geeky fantasy baseball, I’m embarrassed to say, like, I did that and so…I should say, ‘do that.’ [Laughs] Yeah, so some of these things you don’t actually research. It strikes closer to bone. My research is my life. [Laughs]
Capone: We’ve talked about it last night, about Jane Lynch, in particular, in this film. Was everyone sort of in awe of her? I mean, beforehand, obviously, but once she got on the set?
PR: Yeah, it’s pretty easy to be awed by her. She’s so gifted and so funny. You know, it becomes a lot easier when she’s super approachable and laughs; she laughs at everybody’s stuff. We wrote it for her, never even asking her if she would do it. She was just kind of like the person we had in mind. I went, “Oh, Jane will be great in this.” And, then, we asked her, and she said, “yes.” But, it is pretty hard not to be awed. But, then, I’m kind of familiar with that. I’ve certainly in the last several years worked with people who are pretty awe-inspiring. And, it’s hard, it takes a lot of concentration not to just laugh hysterically in the middle of a scene, which I do all the time.
Capone: Who, in particular, have you worked with that has gotten that reaction out of you?
PR: …like how funny they are?
PR: Oh, man, there’s a lot. It’s a long list. I mean, even going back to ANCHORMAN… [Steve] Carell, Will Ferrell. [David] Koechner really makes me laugh. I mean, I’d say all three of those guys. You know, Seth can really get me.
Capone: Was Eva Longoria on that list? [Rudd co-starred with her in OVER HER DEAD BODY earlier this year.]
PR: [Laughs] You know, because she was dead, I didn’t have too many scenes with Eva Longoria. Yeah, that’s funny. We haven’t talked about that one, have we?
Capone: I’ve got it here on my list of things you must answer for.
PR: And, I’m totally willing to talk about it. You know what, it’s time I did. I have some explaining to do. [laughs]
Capone: I was going to say, It’s like this beautiful track record and then…Whoops!
PR: [laughs] Yeah, yeah, I totally agree. I was so terrified to read any comments of anyone, and I would, too, on occasion, and it was, like, ‘Oh, god, they’re so right. Fuck me! No. I should absolutely…ahhh’. Yeah, that was tough, that was a tough moment in my life.
Capone: Was it tough at the moment, or was it only tough after?
PR: It was tough…it got tougher…you know, I feel a little asshole-ish doggin’ it, because the guy [Jeff Lowell] who wrote and directed it is a great guy and naturally a very funny guy. It turned out to be a little bit more….it was a little different…I went into it thinking that it might be a little different take than it really was. It seems like…who am I to insult…that’s really lame of me. So, I do get a little skittish.
That being said, I get it that the whole ‘dead coming back’ is right there under the ‘personality switching’ food chain of movie crapdom. I get that now. There are several reasons, also personal reasons, of why I would say ‘yes’ to certain things, whatever they might be. They have never been financial. You would think maybe that would be one, that there was some financial incentive.
Capone: I wouldn’t have thought that, no.
PR: I always try and say, ‘I want to try to do the things that I would see, things that I would like.’ You never really know how they’re going to turn out, and so, if they don’t…I’ve certainly done some clunkers, for sure. And, I take it really hard. It really bums me out. And, that one…I got kind of depressed when it came out, in all honesty. I actually did, I mean, I remember…
Capone: I feel bad now.
PR: No, no, don’t, don’t, because…you know what, I really…I, I, I…It’s a tricky thing, because I know I’m going to sound kind of like a dick, baggin’ on it, but…
Capone: You know, I interviewed Frank Oz a couple of years ago for DEATH AT A FUNERAL, and right at the very beginning a very long interview, he brought up THE STEPFORD WIVES. So, I said, “Well, you brought it up. So, what happened there?” And, he’s, like, “I fucked up.” And, he owned it, he owned it. And people responded so well to his honesty in saying, “I fucked up.”
PR: And, I did. And, I think, I maybe was not the best choice. And, I also was not very good in it. So, I take responsibility for how kind of crummy I was in that, but you know…
Capone: [Laughs] You didn’t stand out as being the crummiest thing.
PR: Well, it’s a tough…it seemed like a movie, like…When I watched it, I thought, They don’t really make movies like this anymore. It seems like this was from 1984, you know?
But, yeah, there are so many factors that go into how they turn out, with editing and direction and all sorts of stuff. And, so, you go in hoping for the best, and then if it doesn’t turn out the way that I hoped, all I have to do… that’s what I tell myself as I was ready to jump out of a window, “You know what, I am really lucky to be working at all in the movie business. So, screw me for actually being precious about so much stuff, and just be thankful that I’m getting to work with such great people on so many things.” And, it’s just, like, full steam ahead. But, you never know exactly how they’re going to turn out. They’re not all going to be good.
There are also other reasons. Granted, the timing of that one [when] it came out…I filmed it a while ago, but…People say this with actors, they say, “Why did you choose to do this next? And, why did you choose to go in this direction?” Even when I had never even done anything, I would ask actors, ‘Do actors really get to pick and choose what they’re doing?’ That’s so not the case. Sometimes, your options--unless you’re in a very small percentage of people--your options are limited. And, you have to pay rent, and you have to work and try and learn and get better, so I’m really always just kind of thankful that I would be hired in the first place. And, in the case of OVER HER DEAD BODY, they were very, very nice people and nice people to work with, and I feel, just from a personal relationship, the cast was awesome, the company was very, very nice. And, it just turned out…it was just a little different than some of the other ones I’ve been in.
Capone: I did want to talk about I LOVE YOU, MAN. I didn’t read the test screening review, I just saw that it was good. Tell us a little bit about that, because I don’t know that much about what that film is even about.
PR: I read that script, and I thought it was brilliant. It was one of the favorite scripts I’ve ever read. It was so commercially viable, but really very smart and not mean-spirited, which is what I really loved about it. It’s so easy to make jokes that insult, and I’ve contributed to this. And, it doesn’t make fun of people. But, it’s a movie that I thought, If this movie isn’t made now, it’s going to be made by somebody, even if it’s a different script. I mean, the time is right for this movie. And, I think, it’s something that a lot of guys will relate to. It’s also not specifically a guys’ movie.
But, the idea is that Rashida Jones and I are this engaged couple. We get engaged right at the beginning of the movie. She says, “yes,” she’s excited and calls her friends and asks if I want to call anybody and tell them the good news. And, so I think, Well, I have my parents, but they’re sleeping, I’ll tell them tomorrow. And, she goes, “What about any of your friends?” And, I have nobody to call. And, it’s only because…not that I’m a weirdo, it’s just that I’ve been a ‘girlfriend’ guy for so long that I don’t have any close male friendships. It becomes painfully obvious in this moment. And, she’s going to have lots of bridesmaids, and I don’t really have a best man for my wedding. My parents are Jane Curtin and J.K. Simmons, and I have a brother played by Andy Samberg, who is gay, but we’re not particularly close.
It’s funny, J.K. Simmons is kind of like a Great Santini kind of father, and Andy Samberg is a totally cool, normal, total dude, but he’s gay, and they talk with each other, like the football star and…but, it’s like all this gay, like, totally accepting gay speak. It’s so funny. But, we’re not particularly close. And, so then, I have to go and try and meet some guys to try and find some friends.
Then, it turns into a romantic comedy, but it’s kind of between two guys, because I meet some guys, and nobody’s right. And, then I meet Jason Segel. We have a very ‘meet cute’ kind of thing, where I’m a realtor and I’m showing Lou Ferrigno’s house, and he’s there, because they’re hot divorcés…and good food. Anyway, we become, you know, total…like, I have a buddy for the first time in my life, and it just rocks my world.
But, it’s two guys, two straight men, who actually wear their hearts on their sleeves. And, I just loved it. I thought it was a really, really funny script, and it was sooo fun to make. I haven’t seen it, but I’m really kind of curious as to how it is. I’ve heard it turned out okay.
Capone: Speaking of gay speak, in doing research, I stumbled upon The Advocate interview you did, was it last year or a couple of years ago? Am I right, like, The Advocate?
PR: Yeah, I think so.
Capone: And, it was just, like, going through your whole career, everything. It was funny, because I couldn’t tell what movie they were interviewing you about, because the whole interview was, like, just bouncing around to any gay references in any of the films that you’ve made. It was great, it was actually a really funny interview.
PR: Well, one of the first roles I did, that I loved, was playing a gay character that was a normal person [I'm going to assume that he's talking about THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION]. And, you know, I do a lot of theater. There’s a lot of gay people in theater [laughs].
Capone: I’m sure people have wondered, at least earlier in your career.
PR: If I'm gay, yeah. It was at a time…This was pre-“Will and Grace,” too. And, I remember agents saying, “Are you sure you want to play a gay character?” And, I thought, Well, of course, it’s a great character, and if I didn’t do this, it would so go against my own belief system. I would hate it if I didn't do it because people would think I’m gay that I don’t want to do this. That would be just horrible.
I know that, after 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, even though they were just jokes, You know how I know you’re gay?” which was really just insults, like, “You know how I know you’re a jackass?”--we were the idiots, by the way! I don’t think that there were many gay people that, I think, were offended, but I know there were some that thought, 'How could Paul Rudd, who with honor and dignity played a gay character, go and do this and say these things?'
And, it’s true, I guess. I get older, and then I’m such [a sucker for] infantile humor. It’s such an obvious, lazy reach to go for the gay joke. But, sometimes, it’s funny.
Capone: Great seeing you again. Thanks so much for all the time.
PR: You too. Take care. And thanks a lot for that screening last night. That was an awesome crowd.