Their spacious Pacific Palisades home has an ocean view. A new BMW and Lexus are parked in the driveway. The den is dominated by a Wurlitzer jukebox. This is the life that comedy built.
Judd Apatow is the hottest comedy writer/director/producer in Hollywood, with one major movie success under his belt (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin”) and a second (“Knocked Up”) expected to hold its own against the summer sequels.
His wife of 10 years, Leslie Mann, has been toying with a career as a comic actress (“Big Daddy,” “George of the Jungle,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”) while raising two children, 9 and 4, but her career should kick into high gear with a breakthrough role in her husband’s new film.
Although the movie stars Katherine Heigl of “Grey’s Anatomy” as a woman who must deal with an unwanted pregnancy resulting from a one-night stand with a slacker (Seth Rogen), it is Mann, 35, who steals the movie. She plays Heigl’s sister, whose marriage to Paul Rudd is going through a rough patch.
Apatow, 39, is only recently enjoying public recognition, but the Syosset, N.Y., native has been an industry favorite for years. On TV, he was executive producer of “Freaks and Geeks” and “The Ben Stiller Show,” created the series “Undeclared,” and wrote episodes of “The Larry Sanders Show.” He produced the movie comedy “The Cable Guy” and the Will Ferrell films “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights,” and has seven more films in production.
Q: Is it true that you met on the set of “The Cable Guy”?
JUDD APATOW AND LESLIE MANN (IN UNISON): Yes.
Q: So, which cliché was it? Was it the powerful writer-producer trying to seduce the hot blonde? Or was it the nerdy comedy writer trying to make waves with the hot blonde?
APATOW: I like that “hot blonde” is
in every description.
Q: Of course, there’s also the cliché of the hot blonde trying to sleep her way to the top?
APATOW: Well, I think it was more like the Jewish producer tries to work up enough nerve to talk to the beautiful, talented actress. MANN: Tell him what you said when you first saw me, honey. APATOW: Leslie came in and auditioned for a part and, afterwards, I was walking out of the building with Ben Stiller and I said: “Isn’t it weird that the future Mrs. Apatow would walk into the building like that?”
Q: What a nerd.
APATOW: I was so nervous. I had to read with all the women who came in
to audition, including Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayek and Heather Locklear. But Leslie was the one who took my heart that day.
Q: Did you ask her out immediately?
MANN: No. About two months later.
APATOW: And when we finally went out on a date, she didn’t realize that it was a date. She thought she was just hanging out with a buddy.
Q: How long did you date before you got married?
APATOW: We dated a few years.
Q: What was the first date like?
MANN: He took me to a Lakers game. First, he had me come over, and he made me pasta with Ragu sauce and Wonder bread with Fleischmann’s margarine. APATOW: I believe I made you chicken parmesan.
MANN: No, it was noodles with Ragu.
APATOW: I didn’t realize that Ragu was not cool with the ladies.
Q: What was your reaction to his lame dinner?
MANN: On our way to the basketball game, I looked at him and thought to myself: “This is the type of guy I should be with.” I was usually attracted to the bad boys. But this was different. Here was a good guy who treated me well.
Q: Which makes me wonder if “Knocked Up” is your story.
APATOW: It’s not our story, but there are things that are inspired by moments in our lives or things we’ve laughed about. But through a funhouse mirror. At the same time, I hired the actors long before I wrote the screenplay, so I knew Paul and Leslie were in it. So I tailored their roles toward them.
Q: There have been other couples who have made movies together. I was wondering how the process works. Did you tell Leslie that you were writing the role of a lifetime for her, or did you surprise her with it?
APATOW: We discussed it every step of the way. I always had it in the back of my head to write something about pregnancy. Each time we went through it, a lot of odd things happened, like doctors not showing up or having to deal with passiveaggressive doctors. It was always eventful with funny bumps.
Q: Did you ever consider Leslie for the woman who gets pregnant?
APATOW: No, I thought it would apply more pressure for these people to be in their first jobs, right out of college, when a pregnancy was not that welcome.
Q: Did he just call you an old hag?
MANN (LAUGHING): I’m not sure.
Q: Was it helpful to be discussing the movie with Leslie as you were writing it?
APATOW: Leslie was part of the collaboration, so it was helpful to be able to talk about things that had happened to us with someone who was there. Like, “Remember the time you kicked me out of the car on the way to the gynecologist’s office and I had to walk the rest of the way?” It wasn’t funny then, but it’s funny now. She was real hard on me to present a balanced view between the men and
the women, and that forced me to go deeper with all the characters.
Q: Did he write the movie for you, or were you cast because there was a good role in it for you?
MANN: No, he wrote it for me.
Q: How do you write a movie like this?
APATOW: I write a first draft real fast, and then have the actors come in to say the lines out loud. Then we improvise, and new lines of dialogue come out of that.
Q: Is it your TV background that allows you to collaborate on the script?
APATOW: I just think that the actors have so much to offer. When I worked on the Garry Shandling show (“Larry Sanders”) we’d write the script, but during rehearsals, he always let the actors make suggestions.
Read a review of "Knocked Up" at GetOutAZ.com