Judd Apatow, in a Dallas Hotel, Talking This is 40, Long Movies and the Value of Aimlessness
A couple weeks back we told you that comedy rainmaker Judd Apatow was in Dallas to promote his fourth directorial effort, This is 40, a sort-of spin-off of 2007's Knocked Up. As part of that press tour, Apatow -- who also directed 40-Year-Old Virgin and Funny People -- spent one morning at the Ritz Hotel, shuffling between interviews with local journalists, including this local journalist.
Universal Pictures Judd Apatow with his wife, Leslie Mann, who stars in This is 40.
That interview follows. It's been edited and condensed to make me seem slightly less dumb than I sounded on the tape.
Me: I really liked the movie. It's kind of ... raw.
Him: It definitely is. I like that. I feel like movies smooth out the edges of life and of relationships. Leslie [Mann, his wife and the film's star] is always frustrated by the fact that movies always make couple scenes so happy or make problems so easy to solve.
When you're married, you're projecting all your issues out onto the other person, and it's annoying having someone point out what's wrong with you, and they're usually right, which is even more annoying.
And it takes you 12 hours to figure that out, at least.
It gets edgy, it gets rough. Sometimes people say, "Oh, you make the women so tough or bitchy." I just think that people've been trained to have people be so mellow in movies. When you show reality, it's shocking.
People get mad and they scream at each other, say mean things and curse each other out. Sometimes it's sad, sometimes it's hysterical. People at their worst are entertaining. No one wants to watch a movie about people who just get along.
I had a great time making Funny People. I just wanted to do something that was painfully truthful. I thought it was interesting to talk about mortality through the eyes of somebody who spends his life trying to make somebody laugh. It's naturally funny because how people like Adam [Sandler] and Seth [Rogen] can communicate is through humor all the time no matter how bad the situation.
Funny People was about someone that is really resisting change, and even when lessons are presented to him because he thinks he's going to die, he still can't accept those lessons. That's how deep his wound is. This is a much more hopeful movie because it is about commitment and about the work it takes to be there for another person for the long haul. It's inherently more optimistic. They're trying to do better the whole movie. But all of their histories and ghosts and communication issues get in the way. But It's fun to watch them try. You're happy they're trying.
I wanted Pete and Debbie to be equally right and wrong. I didn't want anybody to leave the movie thinking that one person was more right than the other.
The end is sad. For me, anyway.
I think people project their own sense of relationships onto these movies. Some people saw Knocked Up and thought it was a happy ending. Other people thought, "Oh, they're going to break up tomorrow." It really depends on your own mood and what phase in your own life you're in. I see the end of the movie as being hopeful, but it's still going to be hard.
We're rooting for them to let go of all the pressure they feel to clean up life's messes.
It has a subtly Buddhist idea, which is non-attachment. Sometimes you have to stop trying so hard in order to be happy. You can't always be trying to fix things. You have to accept things as they are. That's the hardest lesson there is to learn.
Sometimes one of my daughters will say, "Are you guys fighting? Stop fighting." We'll say, "Imagine you have to spend every second of the day for the rest of your life with your best friend. Wouldn't they start driving you crazy at some point?" Every once in a while you'd have to get into a fight. It doesn't mean anything's going wrong.
You still want to be friends.
You just have to let out some steam.
When we sat down to screen the movie, the publicist very nicely said, "Okay, we're going to start it now. It runs about two-fifteen, so we'll be out of here at whatever time." The critic behind me said, "Two-fifteen? For a comedy?"
Whatever it is. The publicist very sweetly said, "Oh well, you know, it's a lot of laughs." The woman said, "I'll be laughing at the run time."
Which, look: She should get a different job. But it does --
How was she at the end?
I didn't really notice. But you're up against that, aren't you? Not the length, but the fact that you're making populist comedies that break some conventions.
We always debate how long the movie should be. The truth is, in order to show complex characters, you need an extra 15 or 20 minutes. I'll always do a shortcut in the movie to see what I lose by shortening it. It always ruins the movie.
I never really understand why people are willing to watch a Harry Potter or The Hobbit at close to three hours but to have a two hour and five or 15-minute drama with a lot of comedy is weird. People don't want to laugh for that long? There's a limit to how much happiness they want to have?
Sometimes I'll watch the movie and I'll think, "If I could have done everything I did in this but somehow it was an hour and a half, that would've been a great thing." I actually can't do it. The things that people like about the movies are results of the length. Bridesmaids is two hours and five minutes. None of our movies are 89-minute comedies.
And movies honestly are expensive. It's a pain in the ass to get to the movie theater. That's why people are watching Netflix at home. As long as you've left the house, why are you in such a rush to get home?