Don’t expect Paul Rudd to be linking to humorous cat videos or urging you to ‘like’ his page any time soon. “I’m not on Twitter, I’m not on Facebook.
I’m not into any of that stuff,” says the 43-year-old actor, in between slugs of strong coffee. “I don’t need any more things that will distract me from being an active participant in life.”
It’s a viewpoint that’s entirely understandable when you consider the man’s work ethic. Since his first major exposure to cinema audiences in 1995’s Shakespeare-in-the-mall classic Clueless, he has starred in at least one film per year, more often two or three. And this workaholism shows no sign of abating. Because 2013 will see Rudd pop up in Seth Rogen’s apocalyptic actioner This Is The End, as well as returning as Sex Panther-slathered newshound Brian Fantana in arguably the most anticipated comedy of the year, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.
Before all that, though, there’s the project he has most immediately in the offing – Judd Apatow’s latest offering, This Is 40. The film sees Rudd and Leslie Mann reprising their roles as Pete and Debbie from 2007’s Knocked Up to explore middle age and marriage via the typically Apatow-esque combination of sharp dialogue and high-quality toilet humour.
As we enter the hotel room where we’re meeting Rudd, he’s wheeling a trolley full of untouched chicken salad out the door. “I was supposed to eat this,” he says cheerfully, “but I decided to have a power nap instead.”
The man’s too busy to eat; no wonder he’s got precious little time for poking and tweeting…
Was it obvious when you were filming Knocked Up that Judd Apatow wanted to explore Pete and Debbie’s relationship further?
Not at all. I think Judd came up with the idea for This Is 40 and then, as an afterthought, thought that maybe it could be about the couple from Knocked Up. So, when he asked me to do it I was kind of surprised. I guess the fact that he’d made Forgetting Sarah Marshall and then done a spin-off with Russell Brand’s character for Get Him To The Greek got him thinking that this idea could work.
You have some pretty intimate scenes with Leslie Mann, Judd’s wife in real life. Did it ever get awkward?
No, because any “intimate” scene I have with Leslie is usually funny rather than sexy. The haemorrhoid scene [in which Pete gets Debbie to examine him for haemorrhoids], for instance, isn’t exactly sexy [laughs].
The haemorrhoid scene is quite full-on. Has Judd ever asked you to do something that was a step too far? Anything you’ve refused to do?
Well, I remember thinking after we’d shot the haemorrhoid scene, “God… should I really have done that?” [Laughs] Sometimes, Judd will yell out lines for me to say during filming and I never filter anything – I just repeat what he says. There’s one scene in this movie where he yelled out this comment for me to say about David Schwimmer [an unfavourable reference to Schwimmer’s sexual prowess]. I thought it was funny, but Schwimmer is a friend of mine – and I didn’t want to say anything that would make him mad. So I laughed when I said the line because I thought that would ruin the take and it wouldn’t get used. When they asked me to do it again I said no. But then they ended up using that take in the movie.
Have you been in touch with Schwimmer to warn him?
I’ve sent him an email.
And has he responded?
[Laughs] Not yet. I sure hope he does because I’m not kidding, I will lose sleep if he’s upset about this in any way. He’s a great guy.
How much improvisation does Apatow allow on set?
Well, there’s a scene where I fart in bed and that fart wasn’t in the script. I just felt it coming and went with it. I’m someone who thinks farts are hilarious. I love it when people fart. It’s always funny. So, I remember vividly shooting that scene with Leslie in bed and thinking, “I could fart right now and it wouldn’t just be funny, it would also add to the reality of the situation.” Because that kind of intimacy is what marriage is about; you wouldn’t fart in front of someone you’re dating but you’d certainly fart in front of your wife. So, it felt real to do it in that moment.
It was ‘method’ flatulence…
Exactly. To be honest, as silly as these movies can be, I don’t consider them low-brow or gross-out. I take them really seriously and I think about what my character is going through in each situation. When magical, organic moments like that fart happen, it’s great to get them in the film [laughs].
So presumably your ultimate acting aim is to be able to fart on-cue?
That’s not an ultimate acting aim; that’s an ultimate life aim. Anyone who can do that earns my utmost respect.
Chris O’Dowd is in the film too. Having starred in Bridesmaids and Girls, does he feel like part of the Apatow ‘comedy family’ now?
Yeah, I’ve been a fan of his for many years. I’m a big fan of so many British and Irish comedies and I’m always trying to work with the guys from the shows I love. Whenever I’m on a movie and someone says, “Who shall we cast for this part?” I’m always like, “What about Matt Berry? What about Richard Ayoade or Matthew Holness?”
You have an Irish pub in the basement of your house – has O’Dowd verified its authenticity?
No, because I live in New York [state] and I never really see him when I’m there. But I’d love it if he wanted to come round. It’s an open invitation.
You must have had a few rowdy nights in this pub…
Oh yeah. It’s not a little bar – it’s a full-on Irish pub. And there’s a lot of English in it too, because my parents were British. But we’ve had several wild nights there. Because it’s so authentic and because it’s in a house that’s out in the middle of the woods, people really cut loose. I’ve had a few nights that have extended into mornings and people have just been legless.
What kind of drunk are you – melancholy or happy and lively?
I’m happy and lively. Or so I think. [Adopts slurring ‘drunk’ voice] “I think I’m happy and lively when I’m beating someone’s brains out, screaming about my failures.” For someone who has a pub in their house, I’m not a very heavy drinker. I just like having it there.
We’re ridiculously excited about Anchorman 2. Have you started shooting it yet?
In a few weeks. It’s really exciting.
What was it like for you, Will Ferrell, Steve Carell and David Koechner to get back into character for that teaser video last year?
It was really fun, but at the same time kind of sad, because it was so great to see those guys, put on those suits and start acting like those characters again that we thought, “Wait – now we’ve got to wait a year to shoot the movie?” The script wasn’t even written at that point.
Were you all emailing ideas back and forth when it was commissioned?
No, it’s weird – on other movies I’ve worked on with people like Judd, the writing becomes a collaborative thing, but with Anchorman, it’s Will Ferrell and Adam McKay who do it all. I’m sure we’ll all mess around on set and throw in lines, but those guys write it.
Can you give us any clues as to what we can expect from Anchorman 2?
I can’t. Everyone’s being very secretive.
OK. Can you give us any clues as to what we can’t expect?
[Laughs] Yeah, all right, that’s an interesting way to go. We can talk about all the things you definitely won’t see in Anchorman 2. Well, let’s see now. There definitely won’t be a scene with frogs raining from the sky like in Magnolia. There definitely won’t be a scene… hang on, I’m thinking of things but they’re all so weird that they may actually end up in the movie.
Can you at least tell us if Sex Panther will feature?
I’m not saying a word. The one thing I can tell you is that the film will deal with the concept of 24-hour news. The others aren’t saying anything more, so I don’t want to say anything either.
Fair enough. Were you aware when making the first Anchorman just how popular it would become?
I read the script thought it was the funniest script I’d read in many, many years. I fought like hell to get a part in it. When we were making it, I remember thinking that I found it funny and thought other people would too, but I didn’t know if it would be a success. And after it came out, a lot of people were confused, saying, “This isn’t a very good satire of the news industry,” and I thought, “That’s not what it’s about!” They were critiquing it on the wrong level. I knew exactly what it was and I loved it. It’s interesting how popular it’s become in the years since.
Finally, is it true you worked as a DJ before you became an actor?
Yeah, but I wasn’t a ‘cool’ DJ. When you hear ‘DJ’ nowadays, it’s a badass thing to be. I did bar mitzvahs, mainly.
What was your guaranteed floor-filling tune?
I knew that when I played Glenn Miller’s In The Mood, the grandparents would get up and dance. Then I’d clear them all off the floor by playing U Can’t Touch This for the 13-year-olds. That gives you some idea of how long ago I was doing this. I’d whip up a pin-striped frenzy with that. There’d be yarmulkes flying everywhere.
This Is 40 is at cinemas nationwide now