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Knocked Up - Paul Rudd interview

Paul Rudd in Knocked Up

Interview by Rob Carnevale

PAUL Rudd talks about the joy of appearing in new comedy Knocked Up and why it’s easy to feel spoiled in such a creative environment among friends.

He also discusses the pressures that inevitably come with finding huge comedy success and how appearing as Mike in Friends changed his career…

Q. Was Knocked Up as fun to make as it is to watch?
Paul Rudd: It’s pretty fun, yeah. Working with these people, it’s easy to get spoiled. We enjoy each other’s company and the actual process of making these movies is really fun too.

Q. Is that because it’s more collaborative than a lot of films?
Paul Rudd: It is collaborative… with Knocked Up, Seth [Rogen], Leslie [Mann] and I were kind of signed on to do it before it was ever written, which was a new experience for me. So, we really had a lot of say and we’d get together and improvise scenes, film then and some of the improvisations would find their way into the script or Judd [Apatow] and I spoke a lot about things in our own marriages, and our own lives, that found their way into the movie. That means we’re not married to the script, really, so sometimes we’ll go off in different directions and Judd will ringlead it and say: “Yeah, go in that direction…” Or he’ll yell jokes, or we’ll go off and write stuff out. So it’s really fun and easy to feel a little spoiled.

Q. With that in mind, does it amaze you that it comes together so tightly when you see the finished film, especially when you can go off in so many different directions?
Paul Rudd: Well, we shoot a lot of film and Judd is always getting so many different options. He has different reactions to everything. During the scene where Katherine Heigl tells Seth [Rogen] she’s pregnant, for instance, they shot 30 different takes of different emotions and entirely different things. So I’m not so much amazed that it all comes together, but it’s a real kind of testimony to the editing because it takes a while to finally get the right blend and tone. Judd has to look through a lot of footage.

Q. Is it true that you actually knew Judd Apatow before you met him. That you were email buddies?
Paul Rudd: [Smiles] Yeah, that is true. I was at a dinner. I knew who Judd was but I’d never met him. I was a fan of Freaks & Geaks and I liked The Ben Stiller Show. But I was at this dinner party talking about fake names and how it’s a real gift to be able to nail a good fake name – because you don’t want to go too far with a crazy sounding one, or retreat into the too normal sounding name. I recalled how Gern Blandsten is one of my favourite names I’d ever heard, which was a Steve Martin record. Somebody at the table then said: “Well, that explains Judd Apatow’s email address!” So I went home and emailed him to say “way to go on the reference”. He emailed me back and we became pen pals for a while.

The first time I ever met him actually was on Anchorman. And that was strange, you know? It felt as if I was meeting an Asian schoolgirl or something that I’d corresponded with for years and now she’s come to my country.

Q. And now he’s currently one of the hottest writers, directors and producers working in Hollywood?
Paul Rudd: Yeah, and I do really enjoy working with him. We’re not that far apart in age, a lot of the same stuff makes us laugh. We always have a nice time working with each other but I feel the same way about Seth and a lot of the people on these films like Jonah and Leslie. It’s nice to work more than once with people you really like.

Q. Do you find that it helps to develop a shorthand when it comes to comedy that’s this sharp?
Paul Rudd: It does get easier but I think at times it can also be a detriment too because maybe it’s easier to get a little lazy. But for the most part it’s beneficial. I know we can have similar reference points and I know, with Seth, his internations and we play off each other well because we’re better friends. So I think it does benefit the performance.

Q. Given the success of Anchorman and then The 40-Year-Old Virgin did you feel any pressure going into Knocked Up with expectation?
Paul Rudd: I never really thought about it then. But I do now, especially now there’s been three of them and they’ve been so successful. You always want something to be good and people to like it. I’ve heard Judd answer this question and whether we’re riding this wave of success and feeling good about ourselves. But he said: “In a way, it just makes it further to fall. It’s gonna all come crashing down sometime…” [laughs nervously]. He’s very funny about it but there is a little bit of that in all of us. Somewhere along the line one might not work as well as one we’ve already done.

Q. I guess you’re working in a particularly tricky area of comedy given that Judd describes what you do as dirty movies with heart. How easy is it to find that balance, so it doesn’t just become dirty?
Paul Rudd: That’s kind of what happens. There’s a kind of movie that does accomplish both things or a conflict of ideas that you wouldn’t think would work together well. But the movie industry – and television too – is always looking to try and capitalise on success, so other imitators come along but they never get it right. They think that what makes something work is like a boner joke. In my opinion, I think a boner joke does make almost anything work [smiles] but it’s nice to have a little something else to go along with it.

Q. How big an impact did appearing in Friends have on your own career?
Paul Rudd: I think it certainly raised the recognition factor. Before that I’d walk down the street and if there was someone who recognised me – which was really not that often – they’d ask me how Alicia Silverstone was. After Friends it was kind of the same thing; it wasn’t that more people were stopping me or anything but they asked how Phoebe was. So I knew it was having an effect.

But I went into it knowing that one episode of Friends is seen by such a huge number of people and would be bigger than any single thing I’d done combined. So, that was kind of strange for me. It was also never intended that I’d do as many as I did. I only signed on to do two…

Q. And ended up doing 17…
Paul Rudd: Was it 17? Jesus! It was fun and cool to do. But it was also kind of casual because they would say: “Well, we have this idea and we’re maybe going to write one in two weeks, are you free?” Of course I was back then, so that’s how it happened.

Read our review of Knocked Up

Watch clips from Knocked Up