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INT: Judd Apatow

Once dismissed with the backhanded compliment known as “cult favorite,” Judd Apatow is now firmly entrenched in the mainstream. Apatow, who has been associated in some capacity with "The Ben Stiller Show", "Freaks and Geeks" and "Undeclared" – series that, despite critical adoration, failed to attract a large enough audience to sustain them – finally hit the jackpot last year with ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY. His latest project, THE 40-YEAR OLD VIRGIN (which he directed and co-wrote with Steve Carell), is enjoying some phenomenal buzz and could challenge WEDDING CRASHERS for this summer’s R-rated comedy throne.

The folks at Universal hosted a press conference featuring Apatow, along with Seth Rogan and Romany Malco, to promote THE 40-YEAR OLD VIRGIN. Here are some excerpts:

Judd Apatow

The character isn’t the stereotypical guy who can’t get laid – the guy who lives with his parents and reads comic books all day. Can you talk a little bit about the decision to make him a normal guy?

Apatow: When Steve and I had our initial conversations about writing this, we talked about how broad the movie would be and my favorite experiences have been when you can be really funny and broad with a grounded character. Like some of the sequences on Freaks and Geeks. So, I thought of it as Freaks and Geeks 20 years later, if one of them never had sex. And that was my secret thought as I made the movie. And there was some concern it could become a Pee Wee Herman type character and we always had our eye on the ball. And our executive at Universal, Mary Perrin, was really smart about making sure we didn’t do that. Make him a real guy and people will care about him.

And we had this joke early on that he worked out a lot because he had a lot of extra energy because he didn’t have a lot of sex. Steve took it very seriously and lost 30 pounds and started working out and he was ripped and I thought, “Oh my God, I’m working with Joe Piscopo.” And I was nervous about it, because I don’t think comedians wanting to look good is ever good for comedy. But it actually makes it work better, because there is no reason he’s not a virgin other than the fact he’s shy and nervous and let it get past him. And I think we learned from our research when we read a lot of blogs on the internet from virgins that they are all just nice, shy people and they weren’t odd. There wasn’t any big joke to it. And we wanted to respect that about the topic.

Rogan: It’s funny if he’s just a guy you don’t notice really. And if he was too extreme in a way you’d notice him, but I think part of the idea is he’s one of these guys who could be in a room with you alone and not know he’s there.

Apatow: That I think is a tribute to Steve’s performance. He’s underplaying this part and tearing down the house at the same time. And he’s able to be a real person not like a comic character. It’s not as though he’s doing Inspector Clouseau. He really created a character that’s really reactive. But when you give him a scene to go broad or he’s drunk, he kills in a completely different way. I’m really amazed at what he accomplished in this part, because he’s never done anything like this or been the lead in a movie. In the past he’s played obnoxious guys and really dumb guys and he’s really great at it, but there is no real precedence for his work here. And I think it’s really exciting and it’s the emergence of a major comic star who can do all of it. It’s really quite remarkable from someone who is a really journeyman actor who never even thought this would happen to him. So, I’m really excited for him.

Were there challenges involved with keeping this as a hard R-rated comedy?

Apatow: Well, when you do a movie about a guy trying to have sex you immediately realize it has to be R, because you can’t talk about any of this or show anything if it’s not R. But in order to do an R-rated movie for a studio you really have to make it an R because…the phrase they use is: “You have to earn your R.” I mean, why are we an R if we don’t go for it a little bit? For many years Seth Rogan and I have worked together and he always said, “When someone finally does a movie where people speak the way they actually speak…”

Rogan: The way I actually speak...

Apatow: …that people will really like it. and he was a big influence on this style of conversation. So, we just let it fly and didn’t censor ourselves. We always shot options, because I knew people might say, “You can’t say that. You can’t talk about that. Blankety blank on a pedestal and all that.” We shot it all and I’m really happy with how it came out. I’d never done anything R-rated before. I’d worked on The Larry Sanders Show for many years and we had a lot of fun with our f-curses there, so it was fun to try and come up with creative ways to do things that were kind of dirty. But, I just saw Wedding Crashers the other day – which I really enjoyed – but I did walk out thinking, “Oh my God, we’re like 100 times dirtier than that!? (Laughs) People are like, “Wow, it’s an R-rated comedy.” And people have no idea what’s coming. It’s a different level of dirty. And Romany just talks that way.

Malco: That’s not true. It’s my mother that talks like that. (Laughs)

Apatow: It was a lot of fun. There was a lot of improvisation in the movie, but to let Romany go, because I can’t write the way Romany and Seth talk. So, these weird phrases – just the color in the language I just can’t do it and I would be embarrassed to try. So, it was just fun to let people say it the way they would say it and then pick out the funny stuff.

Malco: That’s the first time I’ve ever heard you say that, about what Seth was saying about how people really speak and I’ve always had a desire for that. I always felt very misrepresented when I watched television. And even – and I don’t want to say too much – but, even some of the people we’ve considered self-appointed leaders at least in the communities I’ve come from have always found – I’ve always been misrepresented in one extreme or another. And given the opportunity to actually have that realistic banter and the thought that go on and the soliloquies said out loud is kind of like a luxury.

Apatow: You can be dirty and a nice guy. I mean, the character can be a good guy that talks in a filthy way. That was the fun of it. His character is a good guy, but he has problems with women and you like him the whole time no matter how horrifying the things about women are that he says.

How challenging was this to put together in the editing room with all the improv that takes place?

Apatow: It’s not that challenging. It’s actually really fun. We started this process of improving on film a long time ago with The Ben Stiller Show and Ben really showed me how to do it. We would do these sketches where been would be an agent and he’d be the agent for Howie Mandel and we’d have Howie there and he’d be pitching bad career moves to Howie Mandel. But then Howie would leave and we’d do Ben’s close ups and for two hours Ben would riff even more offensive pitches that you couldn’t even say to Howie Mandel, but if Ben’s in a clean shot and you have a clean shot of Howie Mandel and Howie looks annoyed you can really cut to anything from Ben. If you’re aware of how it’s going to cut.

So, we did that on Freaks and Geeks a fair amount with the kids, because they were really good at it especially Seth. And then I brought Seth on as a writer and actor on Undeclared because of how funny his improves were. And then on Undeclared – which is coming out this week on DVD – we did a ton of improv and Will Ferrell did an episode where he played a methamphetamine addict who will write your term paper for 50 bucks. So, I worked really hard on Anchorman as a producer to have that kind of production where we were really set up for Will to go.

And what was different about this was that we were trying to do these improvs, but with a grounded story. And I would literally put one camera on Jay and one camera on Steve and shoot their conversation. Most times I’d shoot one side that the other – I would shoot them both and just let them go for two hours and the crew seemed really annoyed. No one knew this could cut together. But, if you pay attention what they are saying and say, “Dude you forgot – say this line without them stepping on you.” I mean if you’re listening and cutting in your head, it’s not t0o hard and then things come out that you’d never have thought of in a million years. Especially all the things that Romany says.

Is it a total coincidence that (Freaks and Geeks creator) Paul Feig has his virgin book out and you have your virgin movie out?

Apatow: That just explains why we work well together and like each other. (Laughs) The greatest thing about Paul Feig’s book, “Superstud,” is that Paul and I with the writers of Freaks and Geeks sat in a room for a year and a half telling these humiliating stories from high school and afterwards and then six years later Paul comes out with a book with 200 more stories that he never told us. And the fact he has that many stories and remembers them is really the most incredible thing that I’ve ever seen. Yeah, it’s a kind of funny co-incidence.

Romany, can you talk a little about the Circuit City-esque store and ode to M. C. Hammer at the end?

Apatow: You played M.C. Hammer in the VH1 movie didn’t you?

Malco: Yeah, it was a good – how can I explain that? It’s one of those experiences where it’s career changing, believe it or not. Somehow or another I was in every scene in the movie and any time I could get away I was dancing between six and 14 hours a day just to learn the routines. Hammer’s there at the same time. You think you just nailed the routine and he comes up on the stage and says, “Ok, this time just let it go. Don’t be afraid.” That kind of stuff.

Apatow: You know, we liked the idea of setting it in a store that is one of those Circuit City stores… what I actually like about the movie is that nobody ever sells anything. There is no discussion of selling anything. They aren’t trying to rip anyone off, there is just no interest in getting any work accomplished at any moment.

Malco: But, I have to interject. When we started the project we got together to do a workshop to help everyone develop the characters. I thought I would roll over to one of these Circuit Cities. And dude, I’m not trying to like pat us on the back or anything, but we nailed it! I’m like, “Dude why do you work here?” “Well, I’m into electronics, cuz.” It’s like if you going to sell cars, you need to be sellin’ somethin’ like sellin’ Mercedes. Otherwise, don’t be in the business. You know wha I’m sayin’? So, I’m here at the top of the line, I’m doin’ 60-inch plasmas.” (Laughs) So, that’s what I would get. Dude would have cornrows and he’d have his pants saggin’ like Jay, you’ know? So, I got all that from them so I’m given’ props to all y’all at Circuit City.

Do you have specific plans for the DVD?

Apatow: Well literally you have to finish the DVD the same time you finish the movie, so that’s all I’ve been doing for the past month. And I’m a big fan of comedy so I just want everything. I’m such a nerd that I sit at home and wonder, “When are they going to put the Mike Douglas Show on DVD?” There are so many funny things. We have Seth and Rudd and all their improvs on “how do I know you’re gay?” We have a six minute thing called “line-o-rama” and it’s literally a montage of one line jokes from every scene in the movie that were cut out. And I like to put raw footage on so you can just see how it worked and we put an eight minute version of speed dating on that’s so dirty you can’t believe it. We are also putting out an extended version of the movie.

Rogan: It's seven hours now.

Apatow: It’s like Berlin Alexanderplotz. But, we added 16-17 minutes to the movie for the DVD. We debated it: “Does it ruin the movie to make it unbearably long?” But we figured it was more value for your dollar and put it in.

Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at [email protected].

Source: JoBlo.com

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