PLAYBOY: You’ve never been afraid to use your own body for a joke, whether it’s growing a mustache or getting naked.
RUDD: I have been naked in a lot of my movies. There’s something inherently funny about the naked male body, particularly mine. Ryan Reynolds, sure, it makes sense why he’d strip down. But not me. I shouldn’t be allowed to.
PLAYBOY: But you keep your clothes on in Wanderlust.
RUDD: Is that surprising?
PLAYBOY: Well, the movie does take place at a hippie commune, and there is male nudity.
RUDD: I was actually pretty thankful I got to keep my pants on for this one. I’m a big fan of movie nudity. A male ass shot is the cheapest and best laugh ever. But it’s mortifying to do. When I showed my butt in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, all I could think was, This is going to be up on all those big screens. I was very self-conscious about doing it. But I also have a desperate and deep-seated need to be accepted and liked to make up for my massive insecurities.
PLAYBOY: Aside from worrying about the finished product, you don’t mind getting naked for a film crew?
RUDD: I don’t mind it, but I do feel bad for them. There’s that scene in Our Idiot Brother where I’m naked and getting painted from the side, and because of the angle of the shot, our soundman—who was a guest soundman, by the way, and not even our regular guy—had an unfortunate view. He was holding up the boom mike and standing right in front of me. My legs were spread, and he was pretty much staring at my hairy taint.
PLAYBOY: The poor guy.
RUDD: I felt so bad for him. I could tell by his expression that he was pretty bummed out. Afterward I was like, “Sorry about that, man.” I don’t think he forgave me.
PLAYBOY: You mentioned having massive insecurities. Are you being coy, or do you actually have insecurities?
RUDD: Are you kidding me? I’m riddled with insecurity. My entire career exists because of insecurity.
PLAYBOY: You honestly believe that?
RUDD: Of course I do. Why would anyone be an actor if he or she weren’t insecure? That’s why anybody pursues this kind of work. I remember when my sister was born and I was insecure because I wasn’t getting all the attention anymore. I think you can draw a straight line from that to my entire acting career.
PLAYBOY: Some actors claim they do it for the love of the craft.
RUDD: I hear that all the time, and it’s such horseshit. That’s such a lie. There’s nothing I find more revolting than when I’m watching American Idol and some 22-year-old singer thanks the fans and says he’s doing it for them. “I’m doing it for you guys!” Fucking liar. You’re not doing this for your fans. You’re doing this because you want to put food on the table for your family, and you want to be loved by strangers so your self-loathing isn’t as rampant.
PLAYBOY: You seem very neurotic for someone who grew up in Kansas.
RUDD: I’ve lived all over the place. My dad worked for TWA, so we were constantly moving. We moved to Kansas the first time when I was five, then left when I was six and a half or seven and moved to Anaheim. We were in California for three years and then moved back to Kansas. My parents have been there ever since.
PLAYBOY: Did Kansas feel like home?
RUDD: Not at the time. I was Jewish in a not very Jewish part of town, going to a not very Jewish school. My parents were European—my dad and mom were both born in London, and my dad grew up in New York. I always felt a little out of place. I didn’t have a lot in common with the other kids. I’d ask them, “Where are you from?” And they’d say, “Here. What do you mean? I’m from here.” [laughs] It was very much a high school football, Friday Night Lights scene, which I think it is in a lot of the country. I was not the Friday Night Lights kind of athlete, though I loved football, and I loved the Steelers.
PLAYBOY: The Pittsburgh Steelers? But you lived in Kansas.
RUDD: I started following them when I lived in California. My dad never gave a shit about sports. Once the Dodgers left Brooklyn he was like, “Fuck sports.” But he worked with a guy who was from Pittsburgh, and he loved the Steelers. He took me to a game when the Steelers played the Los Angeles Rams, and I got caught up in the excitement of it. All of a sudden rooting for the Steelers became my thing. To this day, if I need to remember a number, I’ll associate it with a 1970s Steelers player. It’s my mnemonic system.