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PLAYBOY: You seriously have to gain weight for a movie role?
RUDD: I know, it’s weird. It’s the opposite of what the studios normally want or what other directors want. But it’s different with Judd. He always says, every time we work together, that he wants me to gain weight. He says, “I like a fat Rudd.”
PLAYBOY: Is that because it makes you look more human?
RUDD: I don’t know. Maybe. I just like the excuse to eat bacon. I don’t have far to go anyway. My gut just needs that little extra bit.
PLAYBOY: And this is a typical request from Apatow?
RUDD: Oh absolutely. There’s a line in The 40-Year-Old Virgin when my character tells Steve Carell what it’s like to have your heart broken and how you’re constantly gaining and losing weight. I improvised that line because, before we started shooting the movie, I took Judd’s request to put on weight maybe a little too far. And the studio said, “You’re a fat ass. Lose some weight.” So during the course of the movie I tried to drop a few pounds.
PLAYBOY: That could cause a continuity problem.
RUDD: A huge problem. And I figured my weight is going to fluctuate anyway. If I mention it in a scene, maybe that’ll cover my bases and justify why I’m 10 pounds heavier in some scenes and 10 pounds lighter in others.
PLAYBOY: Is the new film you’re doing with Apatow, currently called This Is Forty, a sequel to Knocked Up?
RUDD: It’s not really a sequel. It’s more like a spin-off. It’s about Pete and Debbie, the couple Leslie Mann and I play in the first movie, with the same kids. We’ve been in rehearsals for about six months, reading through scenes and improvising some ideas.
PLAYBOY: Does it ever feel as though you’re doing therapy for Apatow?
RUDD: How do you mean?
PLAYBOY: Your fictional wife is played by Judd’s actual wife, Leslie Mann, and your fictional kids are played by his actual daughters, Iris and Maude. It’s as though he’s making these movies to examine his own marriage under a microscope.
RUDD: There’s a reason it seems as though he’s doing that. And that’s because he absolutely is. We’re both doing it. It was the same thing in Knocked Up. A lot of stuff in that movie was right out of my life and right out of Judd’s life. Judd asked me to write down things from my marriage, and we’d use that in improvisations.
PLAYBOY: Such as?
RUDD: Well, when my wife was pregnant, she got upset with me because I didn’t read the baby books. She looked at that, understandably, as a hostile gesture. But I had an argument in my defense. What did the cavemen do without What to Expect When You’re Expecting? You know what I mean? It’s all bullshit. I was like, “It’ll be fine. We don’t need to go to birthing classes or any of that nonsense.” What’s the worst that can happen? It’s not as though if I didn’t read the books and go to the classes our son wouldn’t have been born.
PLAYBOY: Is it true you became friends with Apatow because of a mutual love of Steve Martin?
RUDD: Here’s what happened: I was at a dinner party with a group of people, and we were talking about fake names—you know, how it’s difficult to come up with a really great fake name. It’s a specific type of gift. You don’t want to go too far into the silly, and you don’t want to go too far into the banal. I always thought one of the funniest names ever was Gern Blanston, which came from a Steve Martin routine on one of his early records.
PLAYBOY: Comedy Is Not Pretty!
RUDD: Yeah, that’s the one. So I brought up Gern Blanston, and a woman at the table said, “Oh my God, that’s what Judd Apatow’s e-mail address means.” It turned out his address was GernBlanston@aol .com. I thought, Wow, that’s a very cool, arcane reference.
PLAYBOY: Before you finish that story, a quick side question: Why do so many comics have AOL addresses? Steve Carell has an AOL address, as do Tina Fey and Sarah Silverman. What about you?
RUDD: I’m AOL.
PLAYBOY: Why is that? Is it a coincidence that almost everybody in comedy is still on AOL?
RUDD: That’s a good question. I never thought about it. I finally got a Gmail account, but I never use it. I like AOL because it’s so embarrassing. People look at you as if you’re a fossil. Which you are. But I enjoy that embarrassment. I like being on the outside. Having an AOL address is like wearing Ocean Pacific shorts. It’s so uncool that it’s cool.
PLAYBOY: Anyway, sorry—you were saying about Apatow?
RUDD: So I have his e-mail address, and I don’t know him, but I’m a fan of Freaks and Geeks. When I got home from the dinner party that night, I wrote him a short note congratulating him on a great choice in e-mail names. And he wrote back right away because he was impressed I knew who Gern Blanston was. Actually, the first thing he said to me was “Cool, now maybe I can get some free tickets to Neil LaBute plays.” Because at the time that was the main thing I’d been doing.
PLAYBOY: How long did it take before you met him in person?
RUDD: About a year. We e-mailed each other for a long time. I wasn’t actually in the same room with him until I auditioned for Anchorman. And walking in there and seeing him was weird. It felt as though I was meeting my Asian pen pal. I really wanted to make a great first impression.
PLAYBOY: It probably didn’t help that you’d grown some muttonchops and a mustache.
RUDD: [Laughs] Yeah, that was pretty great. I wanted to do something special for the role. I was working on Friends that week, so I was able to raid the show’s wardrobe department. I don’t normally dress up for an audition to try to impress the director unless it’s something I really want and I think dressing up might help. The wardrobe supervisor on Friends helped me find this horrible polyester suit, and I had enough time before the audition to grow a mustache and the chops. It wasn’t fully grown in, but it was enough to give them the general idea.