The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Judd Apatow

Last week, we took at look at the career of actor Paul Rudd. This week, we look at the multi-faceted career of the man that arguably made Rudd a star...
Judd Apatow
 judd apatow

I loved Judd Apatow before I even knew who he was. As a youngster, I was too naive about the ways of film-making to realize what exactly a writer-producer contributed to the projects they were working on, but I'm sure when I saw THE CABLE GUY for the first time, or caught an episode of The Larry Sanders Show that I liked, or later – watched Undeclared – I knew there was something special going on behind the scenes. Apatow was a big reason all of those shows/movies were great. I first really became conscious of the man's work when – prior to the release of THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN – I finally sat down and watched the entire run of Freaks & Geeks. Up to then, I had never seen a show that captured adolescence so well, or at least my kind of geeky adolescence and through this show I felt an immediate kinship with Apatow.

This feeling only grew with the release of 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, which I watched over and over. Seeing that, and then re-watching Undeclared, I started to see common elements pop up in the other movies he had a hand in, like ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY, with Apatow having a knack for reusing great actors like Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann (who he's married to – lucky guy). Once his fame as a writer-director-producer grew, I began to really respect Apatow as a man who nurtured talent, giving his old Freaks & Geeks and Undeclared actors big breaks in his movies, and making stars out of people like Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, and later – Lena Dunham.

Over the last decade, Apatow's arguably become the most influential man in American mainstream comedy, with him seemingly having a great sense of which new personalities have the potential to explode into popularity, such as Steve Carell in 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, Rogen in KNOCKED UP and Kristen Wiig in BRIDESMAIDS. Apatow's rarely – if ever – gone wrong in this regard and this week's arrival of Amy Schumer in the breakout hit TRAINWRECK (which he directed) shows he hasn't lost his touch – not by a long shot.

His Best Work
freaks and geeks cast

For me, Apatow's crowning achievement will likely always be his collaboration with Paul Feig, Freaks & Geeks. I've written at length about this show before, and while I'm still bummed that it only made it to twenty episodes, the face remains they were twenty perfect episodes. I'd still really like to see Apatow get the gang back together as I think many fans would be very curious to see what happened to Sam and Lindsey Weir as they came of age. Hopefully one day Apatow and company will revisit that world, but even if not – for what it is Freaks & Geeks is perfection.

His Most Underrated Work
jim carrey cable guy

Oh CABLE GUY. I remember what a stink this caused in 1996. At the time, star Jim Carrey was arguably the most popular actor on the planet, and this was to be his first $20 million payday. Everyone assumed this would be another ACE VENTURA, but director Ben Stiller and producer Apatow had something way more sinister in mind, turning this into a pitch-black comedy that put off so many of Carrey's young fans many thought his career would never recover (it did – with LIAR, LIAR the very next year). Next to DUMB & DUMBER this is pretty much the only Jim Carrey movie of that era that really holds up and that's because it's a sharply written satire both of Carrey's own vehicles and the TV-culture of the time. I've always thought this was Carrey's KING OF COMEDY and it's ripe for rediscovery. Also worth seeing – a little known indie comedy called THE TV SET. While Apatow was only an executive producer, rumor has it the character David Duchovny plays in this network satire is closely based on Apatow and his experience with several failed TV pilots.

His Most Overrated Work

FUNNY PEOPLE is a movie that divides Apatow fans in two. Some hate it and some think it's a neglected masterpiece. I'm in neither group. While I wasn't among those that shit on it upon its commercially underwhelming release, I can't quite bring myself to join the cult of fans who've been calling for its reappraisal. The fact is, FUNNY PEOPLE has genius in it. Adam Sandler is excellent playing a thinly disguised version of himself, and the first hour is terrific. However, once the Sandler character finds himself miraculously cured of the seemingly fatal disease he's been stricken with, the movie goes off the rails. Apatow was clearly trying to channel his hero James L. Brooks, but he wound up being far more successful in this regard with his next movie, THIS IS 40.

His Most Memorable Scene

For me, one of the scenes that really sums up Apatow's strengths is the “You know how I know you're gay?” scene from 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN. While known for his brilliant script-writing, Apatow also knows when to let his actors cut loose with some inspired lunacy of their own, and the extended riffing between Rudd and Rogen is brilliant. The scene was so great that Apatow did a reprise of it in KNOCKED UP - and the result not only speaks for the tremendous chemistry between Rogen and Rudd, but also the trust Apatow puts into his performers.  

His Five Best Films/TV (as producer/director/writer)

1. Freaks & Geeks (TV)

Up Next

As usual, Apatow has a lot of stuff in the works. In addition to producing the Netflix Pee Wee Herman movie, he's also going to be co-writing ten episodes of a new HBO series called Love, which stars Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust. That should be on the air sometime next year.

Source: JoBlo.com



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