Judd Apatow, in a Dallas Hotel, Talking This is 40, Long Movies and the Value of Aimlessness

Categories: Film and TV

Universal Pictures
Apatow with Paul Rudd, who reprises the role of Pete from Knocked Up.
People have a certain expectation, though. They see the previews and it's pot jokes and the comedians they love. It's a bit of a bait and switch.

It's always a little deeper than you expect it to be. It was like that with The 40-Year-Old Virgin. It seems like it's just going to be a big, stupid movie but it ultimately it becomes about a guy who falls in love with a woman who's a grandmother, who's a very complicated person. It becomes a relationship film.

Even Freaks and Geeks sounds like it's going to be some dumbass TV show, but it's a really intimate exploration of young people and rejection.

That's always the dance when you do marketing: How can we let people know it's funny but there's more to it? It is difficult sometimes.

There's one scene that made me stop and say: Wow, they went there. About the allure of being the widower and the fantasy of your wife dying.

It was Paul Rudd's idea, so I feel better about it. Paul Rudd said to me, "You know you have to do the scene where they talk about how sometimes they wished their wives were dead." And he said it with such confidence as if every man in the world thinks that all the time. I can't say I've never thought of it.

It's a place that your brain just goes before you know it's there.

I think it's because when you're in a lifelong commitment, there is a tiny part of your brain, even if you're very happy, that wonders what life would be like if you didn't have to be home a certain time every day, if there wasn't a person calling you on everything you do wrong or someone who relies on you. You do have that dream of freedom.

There was really a long version of that scene we shot that's so dark and hilarious that went into great detail. He says, "The key to having your wife die is they have to find the body. You can't have a situation where they don't find the body because then you have to spend the rest of your life looking for the body." Everyone says, "He's not allowed to play golf. He should be looking for his wife."

Sometimes the funniest things are things that people think but no one ever says out loud.

If someone pitched you this -- a movie about American families or about that pressure to fix things, whatever it is -- your reaction would be, "That's a really cool theme to explore but it's not really a story." It's pretty low on concept.

It's meant to be a slice of life. In life, often, there isn't a giant story. You're just trying to get through the day. The day has enough problems to make for an entertaining movie. A lot happens in the movie. There's not a clear goal. There's a subtle goal, which is, "Let's make a list of everything that we're not doing well and try to do better." But then life intrudes and all sorts of crazy things start happening to them.

I like that. I like when movies meander around and you have no idea where it's going. I love Punch Drunk Love because you couldn't predict what was going to happen. For me, that's the key thing in my movies. I don't want you to able to predict what's going to happen. I like when things move in an odd way.

I'm a big fan of John Cassavetes' movies, and that's a very extreme example of it. I like the randomness of life. I'm doing this dance between being entertaining and really funny and emotional and not try to fall into any structure that you've seen before.

But you're dealing with studios and studio money and budgets. They're sort of big on structure, aren't they?

Universal Studios has been very supportive of what I try to do. Part of that is because we've had enough successful movies that they realize that when the risk pays off, people really appreciate an original movie. It is scary because if you fail, you're going to fail big, but if you succeed, you can succeed big.

The audience wants to see something they've never seen before. But as a result of that, the whole time you're making it, you're thinking, I don't know if this is going to work, there's no precedent for it.

You don't have those fence posts that you know they will respond to.

But we can tell when we're testing the movie and editing whether or not it's playing, and the audience always responded to this in a big way.

Now you're done, it's in the can, it's coming out in two weeks, but it's not out. You don't have anything like hard evidence that it's being successful, but you're getting a ton of feedback. That seems like it would suck.

I finished the movie at the end of May. It's seven months from the time I finished the movie to its release. It is like telling a joke and waiting seven months to see if someone laughs. It's slow water torture.

We're in this funny moment now where we're showing the movie a ton and we're getting our first feedback and it's all been very positive. We have seven or eight reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and we're at 100 percent. As long we get no more reviews, we're at a hundred percent.

What you have to do is say to yourself, "Am I happy with the movie?" There are things that are very popular that people love that I hate, so I can't expect everyone to like it. If I can get two-thirds of the people to like it, it's pretty good.

That's a little bit what the Graham Parker storyline is about. [Parker, the British rocker, plays himself in the movie, peddling a comeback album that no one seems interested in.] It's a great artist who goes his own way. He's not too concerned about what other people think. He's going to sing a song to tell his story, and it's a tragedy that more people don't listen to him because he deserves to be heard. But is something more valuable if millions of people buy it or 10,000 people buy it? Does it lose its importance?

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@joeptone @JuddApatow That critic bitching about the run time before seeing the film is everything that's wrong with movie reviewers.

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