Frat Pack Tribute Exclusive: Paul Rudd Interview
Without going into details, this interview was months in the making. We’re very pleased to present this interview with Paul Rudd, who has appeared in numerous comedy classics and in late 2009 was named Frat Pack Man of the Year here at The Tribute. At that time we officially placed him “in” the Frat Pack, as his career accomplishments are every bit as accomplished as the traditional set of actors. In 2010, he costarred in two movies opposite Frat Pack members, Dinner for Schmucks with Steve Carell and How Do You Know with Owen Wilson.
And let’s just say that everything you’ve heard about Paul Rudd being a really nice guy is totally an understatement.
Frat Pack Tribute: You’re unique in that you are closely associated with three separate comedy groups (the Frat Pack, Team Apatow, and Stella). There usually isn’t much overlap between comedy cliques, so how did you come to be in this unusual role? Of course this grouping and our website is all just for fun, but we’d love to hear your perspective on the “Frat Pack” concept.
Paul Rudd: In the late 90’s I was in the Baz Luhrmann movie of Romeo and Juliet and I became friends with Zak Orth who played…Gregory. (Full disclosure: I just had to look on imdb to see who Zak played. Gregory?) We both lived in NY, and when we wrapped that movie I went with him to see a play called Sex: A.K.A. Weiners and Boobs. It was written by and starred several members of The State. I always liked that show and thought those guys were hilarious. The play was really funny too. As you can imagine, it was totally absurdist - I remember at one point in the middle of the show they broke into a full on, very dramatic scene from Glengarry Glen Ross. After the show, I met David Wain, Michael Showalter, and Joe Lotruglio. We all hit it off and became friendly. About a week later, David gave me the script of WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER and I loved it. At that point, I’d really only been in CLUELESS and a few TV things and I felt that WHAS was the first thing I’d ever read that captured a lot of what I found funny. It wasn’t financed, and I figured that most studio executives would be confused by it or just hate it. That proved to be the case. It took years, but eventually we got about a million dollars and were able to make it. During that shoot, we all became very good friends. Everyone on that movie did - it felt really special. As a result, we keep working together because we like to and work well together.
The movie played in theaters for about seven minutes. But, over the years it developed a cult following. Several years after it came out, I met Adam McKay who had the script ANCHORMAN that he’d written with Will Ferrell. Like WHAS, I read it and freaked out. They were the only two scripts I’ve ever read that I just kept around and would reread out of pleasure. And like WHAS, it couldn’t get made. Studios hated it and Will Ferrell wasn’t a star at that point. Adam was a fan of WHAS and I’m sure that helped me get the part in ANCHORMAN. At that point I wasn’t really known for comedy and my background wasn’t Second City or anything like that. Eventually, OLD SCHOOL came out and a studio took a chance on it. About a year after meeting Adam, when ANCHORMAN was set actually set up at a studio, I auditioned for the part of Brian Fantana and got the job.
“In that audition room
I met Judd Apatow”
In that audition room I met Judd Apatow. I knew who Judd was and was a fan of his. About a year before I met him, I was at a dinner talking about fake names and how coming up with a good fake name is a very specific talent. I said Gern Blanston (a bit from a Steve Martin comedy record) was an amazing fake name and started boring everyone at the table by deconstructing how funny it was - how it should be spelled, etc. to achieve maximum hilarity, i.e. Blanston and not Blansten, etc. One person at that table, an agent, said “Ah! That explains Judd Apatow’s email address! I always wondered what the hell that meant!” At the time, his email was something like Gernblanston@aol.com or something (not anymore) I went home and emailed Judd giving props for the reference and he emailed me back. We became pen pals in a way for about a year, but that Anchorman audition was the first time I’d ever met him. I got to know him during the shoot and when he started casting 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN he asked me to be in it.
“As far as the Frat Pack concept goes,
I’m happy to be included.”
I think that while they might all be considered different camps, most people in those comedy circles are friends and like and encourage each other. I do feel like I’m involved with all of them though, and I really like it. As far as the Frat Pack concept goes, I’m happy to be included. I think the elder statesmen in it are really talented, and I’m a fan of all of them. When I first saw your site and saw that I was in such a close orbit to those guys in the “friends of” diagram I was psyched! I’ve also read stuff on your site that I didn’t know about and it’s been really informative.
Longest. Answer. Ever.
Frat Pack Tribute: In the past couple years you’ve moved from supporting player to headliner. Was this progression something that you strategically planned? Looking back, were there career choices that in retrospect really paid off?
You can only plan so much. My “plan” has always been to try to do as many things that I’d like to see. For about 90% of the things I’ve done, I did for artistic reasons. (I’ll let you guess the 10% that I did for “other” reasons) You also never know how something is gonna turn out. I always want to improve, so I try to do a lot of theater, which I think is the best way to do that. I don’t sweat a lead part, supporting part, or any of that stuff. I could really care less. I just want them to be good parts and I want to work with good people. I also think it should be fun. If I were to talk about choices that really paid off then Anchorman could be considered the tidal shift. That started this current run on comedies that I’ve done with Judd over the last several years and has given me many more opportunities than I ever had before. That said, I would like to do some more dramatic roles too.
Frat Pack Tribute: When you meet fans on the street are there any past characters (such as Brian Fantana or Mike from Friends) that you appreciate fans referencing? Any past roles that are perhaps less welcome. I’m sure you’re sick by now of “You know how I know you’re gay…”
I appreciate anyone saying they liked anything I did.
Frat Pack Tribute: Speaking of which, you’re famous for many catch-phrases (”You sound like you’re from London” being a favorite of the Tribute editorial staff). Is it ever clear when shooting that a particular line might catch people’s attention?
Sometimes I have a feeling that I think it’d be funny, but you’ll never know what they’re gonna use. I never go into anything thinking catchphrase! but I use my own barometer and to me if it’s funny I’ll try it out. Sometimes, because there’s so much improv on these movies, you just say stuff. “You sound like your from London” was just one of the things that I said. That’s one where I never would’ve guessed it. I did think that “Slappa da Bass” might be something people would be yelling at me for years. Turns out, I was right!
Frat Pack Tribute: You’ve have a number of memorable cameo appearances in films in such as Walk Hard, Year One, and (our favorite) The Ex. Do you approach the work differently when it’s just a scene or two? We’re still kind of sad you never got to squeeze in a Party Down cameo.
I don’t, really. You have a shorter amount of time to make any kind of impact, which can be both good and bad, so I just hope it’s funny. With Walk Hard I remember thinking that because it was just a scene, I didn’t really have to nail a John Lennon accent. I don’t think I’d have that luxury if I had to do it over an entire movie.
Frat Pack Tribute: Over the years you’ve worked multiple times with Elizabeth Banks, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Rashida Jones, and Leslie Mann. Besides the obvious (talent, beauty, comedic chops), why does this keep happening? Who lost the bet, you or the ladies?
It keeps happening because I’m incredibly lucky. With Banks, we go back to WHAS so for ROLE MODELS we just asked her. Her role was underdeveloped and we knew that she’d make it better than it was. It also shows you what a pal she is. It was the same with Jane Lynch. We wrote ROLE MODELS and PARTY DOWN with her in mind. Although, I did PARTY DOWN with Rob Thomas, Dan Etheridge, and John Enbom (another camp! Those guys are good friends of mine and the creative team behind VERONICA MARS.) I’m bummed I never got to do anything on PARTY DOWN. I certainly planned to, but we shot it in a short time and I was working on other things both seasons. I definitely would have done something in Season 3 but unfortunately, it was canceled.
Frat Pack Tribute: You have Our Idiot Brother and Wanderlust coming out this year, both with themes of idealism. Do you share any world-views or experiences in common with the characters?
In OUR IDIOT BROTHER, the guy I play - Ned - has this ethic he lives by; give people the benefit of the doubt and appeal to their higher angels, then they’ll want to live up to it. He’s an idealist and he’s unflappable. I loved the character, and while I’d like to think that I could do that, I’m not so sure. As for WANDERLUST, I’ve never dropped out to join a commune, but it sounds like Ned’s outlook - kind of great in theory. In reality, probably a nightmare.
Frat Pack Tribute: We’d be remiss without closing by saying that we’re looking forward to your next film with Judd Apatow, revisiting Pete and Debbie from Knocked Up, filming later this year. And we’re still praying for the Anchorman sequel.
“I’ve been rehearsing with Judd
and Leslie for the next one.”
I’ve been rehearsing with Judd and Leslie for the next one. I’m really excited about it. We’re still shaping it a bit but I like it a lot. We start shooting in about six weeks. As for the ANCHORMAN sequel, I know Will, Steve, Dave, and I are all on board. We’d love to do it! It’s really in the studios hands, though.
Thanks to Paul Rudd for taking a few minutes to answer our questions.