LOS ANGELES—Judd Apatow has a novel “rule” when he’s directing his wife, Leslie Mann, in her make-out scenes with actors. “It depends on the person,” he said with mock seriousness. Judd directs Leslie and Paul Rudd in the comedy, “This is 40.” “If I think Leslie likes it, we don’t do many takes. If I think she’s disgusted, I make them do it all day. It’s a sadistic aspect. I know Leslie and Paul don’t like it, so I don’t mind. It makes me laugh.”
Judd shared another anecdote, this time during the making of “The Cable Guy” (he was its producer): “There have been other situations where I was grossed out. I remember when we shot ‘The Cable Guy.’ Leslie kissed Matthew Broderick. I had to watch them kiss like a zillion times. It was annoying.”
He turned a question on how he spent his own 40th birthday into another chance to talk about the “perils” of having an actress for a wife: “The day I turned 40, I visited Leslie on the set of ‘17 Again,’ where she was dancing erotically with Zac Efron for many hours, spinning and twirling. That’s what my day was like. I had to watch this young boy with chiseled abs erotically hold my wife!”
Known for collaborating with the same cast and crew in his comedies, Judd was asked about Paul, who’s one of his regulars and has a risqué scene in “This is 40.” Paul and Leslie play married couple, Pete and Debbie, their characters from the film, “Knocked Up,” but five years later.
Is there anything that Paul wouldn’t do? “Paul is very game,” Judd answered. “We’ve worked together for a long time since ‘Anchorman.’ He trusts me.”
On whether Leslie contributed to the script of “This is 40,” which he wrote, Judd said, “Leslie made a giant contribution. How the script starts is, I’ll say that I’m thinking about writing this. Even before I start, I’ll start telling Leslie what I think the story might be. She’ll say, ‘Then, you have to include a scene where Pete does this, and we have this.’”
Leslie did add dialogue, according to Judd: “Yes, because before we shoot, we go into long rehearsals, where we’ll do the scripted version of the scenes. Then, we’ll open it up and just play. I like to listen to how people talk. For me, the wording isn’t as important—it’s whatever is comfortable for them. Everybody will pitch ideas of how they would say things, but even more important thematically, I wanted it to be balanced, so that both Pete and Debbie were flawed. They do things right and things that are really wrong in their relationship.
“But, you wouldn’t want at the end of the movie to say that Pete or Debbie was right. Leslie is a big fan of discussing what the scene should be. So, she said, ‘You should show me when I get into that night club—how good it feels to have that release of dancing and having men interested in you, why she wants to be there.’ Then, she told me the story about going out with her friends one night and having a hockey team chatting them up. We turned it into a big sequence in the movie.”
Leslie, in a separate interview, laughed as she confirmed this sample of her script contribution. “That did happen,” she said. “We went out, and a hockey team happened to be there. They were so adorable! It was dark, so they couldn’t tell how old we were. Although, I think younger men like older women. So, for the movie, I thought of using the hockey-team scene—so that, the next day, my character gets a boost of confidence from those young boys paying attention to her.”
Back to Judd, we asked what it was like for him to be in The Hollywood Reporter’s recent writer roundtable with five other screenwriters. Talk about eclectic! Where else would you find Judd and German auteur Michael Haneke together?
“It was a funny experience, because I just wanted to be goofy and tell jokes, and they were very serious,” Judd said with a smile. “I thought we were all going to laugh, like how George Clooney and Brad Pitt make fun of each other at roundtables. They’re very light-hearted, but Michael Haneke wasn’t. He may be in private in a different setting. There may be a moment when he’s hysterical and has a lampshade on his head. But, he’s a brilliant filmmaker. So, I had to tone it down a little—but, I enjoyed it!”
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