Last week Champagne Living sent our Man-in-Residence to L.A. for the screening of This is 40. He was the ONLY guy
I’ve always love Judd Apatow’s work, anything that he writes, produces or directs I’m usually there for opening day. It’s funny meeting someone whose work you admire so much its even funnier meeting him in a room full of women. I had the opportunity to meet and interview Judd Apatow with a room full of mommy bloggers last week after I screened This is 40, on my trip to Los Angeles with Universal Pictures. What follows are pieces of the GROUP interview. Let’s just say that with this group, I couldn’t get a word in edgewise….but, that’s okay, because as you’ll see later this week. I made up for it.
CL: I’m wondering how do you get inspired to write about your own life? Do you just write it and you say this will make a great screenplay or I’m going to do a screenplay?
Judd Apatow: When I start, I don’t really know what form it’s going to take, so I just started making notes, and I’ll just write out in lists of moments. And then, I’ll put them on cards and lay them out on a giant table, and then, slowly a story begins to reveal itself. So, I knew I wanted to talk about their birthday and the meltdown their having and they start doubting their marriage and doubting each other and things will just keep getting worse. I knew I wanted it to be a meltdown movie that would end with them rebonding. Some of it is also not wanting to take responsibility for what’s actually happening, so, it’s easier to blame your spouse than to think about what you’re been through in your life and what you’re bringing to the party. That was also a big theme in the movie.
CL: When we saw Paul Rudd checking himself for hemorrhoids, I was wondering if there was anything that went too far that you decided to cut out?
Judd Apatow: Anything that went too far I had to cut-out? Well, I’ve never checked myself for that. I’ve never asked Leslie to check, but I should ask her to check ’cause there are probably things that need to be looked at. But I don’t think so. You know, Leslie usually pushes to go further. So, it’s not usually about me pushing them and them saying no, it’s usually Leslie saying, “I think I’d be topless in this scene, that would really show how vulnerable you are with your husband when you want to feel beautiful and you want to feel like there’s still some romance there, I should be topless.” And then, I’m like, “Really? What about the kids, you think they’ll think it’s weird?” And she’s like, “I don’t care, it’s my job. I want to get these on record.”
CL: You talk about writing as a form of self-exploration. And what did you learn about yourself or your marriage that you may not have already known when you did the film?
Judd Apatow: What’s helpful for me is to deeply think through Leslie’s point of view ’cause it’s so easy to just think, “I’m right. She’s annoying,” So, to have to write her point of view and show the effect of certain behaviors that I have or men have is helpful. And one thing that Leslie pointed out to me a long time ago was this idea of being shut down as a man feels like a terrible rejection. Where a guy might just want to zone out and go on the computer or read the paper, he thinks, “I’m not doing anything. Why would you be mad at me? I’m just sitting here.” But that act is hostile.
CL: We used to always call it “cave time.” Like a guy needs–.
Judd Apatow: –Yes.
CL: –Cave time. It’s just the way your brain’s filled.
Judd Apatow: Yes. And in Knocked Up, there’s a scene where she says, “Just ’cause you don’t yell doesn’t mean you’re not mean.” I came from a good divorced household, so, I loved going in my room, shutting the door, and watching the Merv Griffin Show. That’s what my whole childhood was, was shutting the door. So, that’s my instinct. And Leslie and I, we work through both my instinct to shut the door and her instinct to kind of really talk it through maybe past the point where we need to talk it through. So, it’s helpful, I think, for the kids too because since we shot the movie, they have gotten along way better as a result of having to re-imagine and dramatize their own issues with each other. Now some of it becomes ridiculous because they’ve played it. And then if they say things, they say it in the movie. I’m, like, “That’s so lame that you still say it.”
Well, I definitely think Leslie and I have had so much focus on our kids that that has been a detriment to our lives in a lot of ways. We’ve come from families where our parents got divorced, and I think we didn’t enjoy that experience. We try to really be there for our kids all the time. There’s this idea that if we’re happier because we’re not with them will be, they’ll be happier when we’re around, that’s a kind of a hard one for us. I think there’s a lot of focus on all four of us going to eat dinner together, not me and mom are going out to maintain our relationship separate from you. So, that’s what I wanted to write about sometimes, if you could take away 40 percent of your problems for a weekend, your whole body chemistry changes. And it’s important to do in addition to just meditate and shutdown and not take things so seriously.
CL: This movie really feels like a love letter to Leslie. I’m watching it, and her performance is just extraordinary. How is it for you to be able to shoot a movie starring your wife and being able to show her extraordinary range?
Judd Apatow: I’ve always thought that she was great and had the potential to do all sorts of interesting things, but Hollywood, there are very few scripts which give you those opportunities. There are very few movies just about people that don’t have gigantic action elements or superheroes. This world of the small human drama comedy is tiny. We don’t get that many of them. We get more of it on television. So, if I don’t write it, it’s a longshot that it will just suddenly appear. I was happy to be able to tailor something to what I observe about her. And that’s what I like about the movie and with the kids, which is because it’s a real family, I can show details that most people would never get into a movie, and you could tell they love each other and are angry with each other, and it just feels like life more than if I just hired some stranger kid to be in it. And Leslie’s so funny and has been the person that has inspired me to be as truthful as I am in the work. Because she doesn’t really consider herself a comedian, so, it’s more like I live with a serious actress, and I’m being influenced by her interest and honesty, and then I can keep my comedy going.
CL: I feel like it stepped up the stage for this is 50, this is 60, and this is 70.
Judd Apatow: Yes, I would do it in a second if something interesting happened because I like television. So, I look at it more like this was an episode of a TV show and we have two episodes so far and I’d like to do 20 more. I don’t know if we’ll ultimately do it. It really will just depend on what happens in life and if it seems amusing. I could not make it because we’re just so happy that nothing happens, and I could not make it because it’s so depressing that I don’t want to write about it, so we’ll see. We’ll see.
CL: Judd, I really admire how in your movies you have sort of a compodre of actors, your go-to group that you use again and again. The thing that I noticed in this movie that I didn’t notice in previous movies was the same level of attractiveness was in the couples, including Rob Smigel and his wife.
Judd Apatow: Oh, yes, yes, yes.
CL: And I was wondering if that was a conscious decision?
Judd Apatow: No, I read a lot of people to play the best friends, and I had a bunch of ideas for that. And I liked Robert Smigel in Punch-Drunk Love. I thought he had an interesting presence, and I wanted it to not feel like the classic best friends which we’ve seen a lot, so, the idea was to get people who were very alive and specific. And Annie Mumolo, who wrote Bridesmaids, is very funny. But I also noticed that she has a few lines in Bridesmaids that people really responded to her. And I’m not sure why even, but she’s a very funny talented person, but people like her instantly. I thought it was interesting to have two of the great comedy writers as the couple, so, I wasn’t really thinking of anything but that.
CL: Do you feel like this movie’s a celebration or a rebellion?
Judd Apatow: It’s more about what it takes to be committed to somebody for your entire life and that you have bumps along the way, and at moments you even doubt the entire enterprise. But I do think it is about what it takes to hang in there and learn from your mistakes and have a deep commitment for somebody. When I was a kid and my parents got divorced, I always thought, “Why didn’t they try harder?” So, I’m sure on some deep, psychological level, I’m trying to show people with the worst relationships not giving up. Maybe it’s a terrible message to send to people, and they all should be divorced at this point, but I like when people try. And I also think it’s interesting that your spouse always points out what’s wrong with you, and you could look at that as a positive thing or as a nightmare. I think Oprah told us this many times. And that’s part of what it’s about, just what do you do with that information.
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