Leslie Mann and Judd Apatow Talk This is 40, available today on Blu-ray and DVD
Judd Apatow has made his directing career out of telling human stories that resonate with a lot of real emotion, while also being extremely funny comedies. He has a signature style that continues to shines through in his latest effort, This Is 40, which arrives on Blu-ray and DVD today, Friday, March 22nd.
This particular outing allowed him to once again work with his wife, Leslie Mann, and their two children Maude Apatow and Iris Apatow, in telling the continuing story of married couple Deb and Pete (Paul Rudd), whom we met in Judd Apatow's previous comedy Knocked Up. Here, the husband and wife are struggling to make ends meet while keeping their relationship afloat. Its Judd Apatow's most personal film to date, and a welcome entry in his long and storied career as both a writer and a producer.
We recently caught up with both Judd Apatow and his wife Leslie Mann to talk about the movie's reception with critics, one of whom Judd had a very public battle with, and how their kids influence some of the choices they make in their careers as artists.
Will we see Pete and Deb again in another movie somewhere down the line? Here is our conversation with one of Hollywood's most beloved and grounded couples.
I read a lot of the reviews that came out when the film was in theaters, and it seemed like reactions were all over the map. Which, to me, means the movie is really striking a cord with people. When you don't see it sway completely to the left or right. Some people hate it. Some people love it. I take that as a sign the movie was done right.
Leslie Mann: Yeah, I think that's good. I think that means we've done a good job. It seems a little strange. But good. I think we did a good job if people are able to have heated discussions about it. And care to have heated discussions about it. And disagree, and feel passionately about it, then great.
I think some of the negative reviews came from people who couldn't stomach watching it. Some of the movie is a little bit hard to sit through. Especially if you are going through tough times in your own relationship.
Leslie Mann: Oh, yeah. Uh-huh. I can see that. Those people shouldn't watch it. (Laughs) If they are going to have a hard time stomaching it, their relationship is clearly on the wrong path. (Laughs)
Maybe it'll help them out. Maybe they will squeeze their eyes shut through the beginning, but stick with it...
Leslie Mann: Maybe...Wait, what's in the beginning that's hard to stomach?
Some of the fights, and the arguments. If you are going through something with somebody, this is not a fun time. This isn't the movie to take your mind off your problems. But it helps. It's therapeutic in some ways.
Leslie Mann: I say, don't be such a puss. (Laughs) Don't be such a fucking pussy!
That's what the tagline of the movie should have been. Don't be such a fucking pussy! Just sit down and watch it!
Leslie Mann: Maybe you should just watch this fucking movie, you fucking pussy! (Laughs)
I hope you aren't talking to me. I don't have a problem stomaching the fights in the movie. I'm purely going off some of the complaints I've read about the movie.
Leslie Mann: I like the movie, so...I'm really happy with it. If I'm not happy with it, which has happened before, then I believe all of that stuff. It might get me down. But if I genuinely like something, then I really don't care. Not if somebody says something negative about it.
About all your movies, or just the ones you and Judd have made together?
Leslie Mann: No, I mean for my whole career, and if I don't like something, I tend to believe the negative things I hear about it. I will let it get me down. But if I like the movie, I don't care. I think its more a reflection on that person writing the review. Its like they are saying so much about themselves, both positive and negative. It's more interesting to look at from that point of view. Where is that interviewer in their point in life? I think it says so much about them. Usually. Unless they are really smart writers. Then they are able too...It doesn't work that way...You know what I mean?
Yes, I understand. I also think there are too many young people reviewing movies, who don't understand movies or how they work, or why they are made. Some of them can't connect with this material yet. When I saw Peggy Sue Got Married as a kid, I hated that movie. I didn't get it. I watched it again not too long ago, and I thought it was the greatest movie ever. Back when it came out, I didn't want to be in school. I wanted out of there. Now I understand where Peggy Sue was coming from. This is a movie that will grow on some people...
Leslie Mann: That is the greatest movie ever. I love that movie.
But its not going to resonate with kids at all...
Leslie Mann: I loved that movie when I was a kid. When did that movie come out?
Leslie Mann: Okay. Well, alright. I wasn't really a kid then. But I loved it!
That's the thing, I didn't love it. I didn't want to be in high school, so I couldn't understand the allure of not being in high school. I didn't care.
Leslie Mann: (Laughs) Yeah. Well, exactly.
That relates back to this movie. High school kids are going to look at it and say, "I don't care. I'm not in a relationship. I don't have kids and a wife."
Leslie Mann: For sure. Oh, yeah.
When you have the 10th Anniversary release, or the 20th Anniversary release, I'm sure some of these reviewers will react differently to the movie.
Leslie Mann: Right. Exactly.
When I talked to Judd earlier in the year, he was telling me about your two daughters, who are in the movie, and he said that what they watch does have an influence on him, especially if its something he wouldn't normally be watching. Doe that hold true for you? Are you influenced by the stuff your kids are watching in some of the choices you make?
Leslie Mann: Because of what they are into? Because of the TV shows they are watching? Yeah. I guess. When Maude was watching High School Musical, I didn't know who Zac Efron was. But when I got offered 17 Again, I knew who he was because I was watching that movie with Maude. I thought he was a really good actor. So, yeah...I guess. There is a show I am watching with Iris. It is a sketch comedy show that she is into. There are a couple of cute, good, funny kids on that show, that Judd is going to meet, because they are on the show that Iris watches. I guess in that way, yeah. If you are going to talk to Judd, ask him what the name of the show is. Its like Super, Incredible...Its like a teen sketch comedy show. Some of the kids on there are really funny. But I don't know if their stuff influences choices...Well, yeah, I guess it does, because of Zac Efron. And Maude...I didn't really want to do 17 Again, and Maude said, "You have no choice. You have to do it! Because I love Zac Efron!" So I had to do it. I actually did want to do it, too! So, I guess they do influence my work. Majorly, now that I think about it. If your kids are constantly talking about an actor or a show, you become interested in it because the family is interested in it.
Last question, and maybe it's a little dumb...But is This is 40 your favorite Judd Apatow movie?
Leslie Mann: Yes! (Laughs) Of course.
There could have been another one!
Leslie Mann: Maybe...
You know what my favorite one is?
Leslie Mann: What?
The one with Owen Wilson, where the kids hire him as a bodyguard. Drillbit Taylor. I love that movie.
Leslie Mann: Really? Huh? That is a cute movie. I think he likes it too. You should tell him that. It will make him happy.
I just talked to your wife. She says this is her favorite Judd Apatow movie. Is it yours?
Judd Apatow: Well...Your most recent movie is your most favorite. Then a few years down the line you forget the order that you made them in. And your judgment has been changed. This is a movie where I got to work so intimately with Leslie, Maude, and Iris. It means a lot to us. We are really sharing something with people. I'm so glad we got a great response to it. The movie world doesn't create an enormous amount of space for people to make movies like these, in a big environment. There is no magic here. No magical creatures, no superheroes. This is just people trying to make it through the day. I love that stuff as much as the next person, but there is a dearth in these types of comedies nowadays.
The movie is old fashioned in that sense. I think we need more of these right now. I see people wanting to get away from that fantasy world. I think people are getting tired of CGI.
Judd Apatow: I hope so. I like intimate filmmaking. More than any other genre. I think that's why people liked Silver Linings Playbook. There were a bunch of good movies this year. I feel like this was almost a reaction to the year before, where everything was trying so hard to go for the fences. And there were so many mega-expensive movies going for global domination. This was the year where there were a lot of interesting movies. And they did well financially, which I think is good for the movie business. I want more movies like Jerry Maguire. I hope that genre of film is encouraged. As well as the mega-movie.
When you have a movie that is so personal, and means so much to your entire family, is that why you were a little more vocal towards some of the critics that said they didn't like the movie?
Judd Apatow: Well...I look at these types of movies differently. I am sharing something. It's not about whether you like it or not. I am telling you something about myself. That's it. I'm trying to do a movie that is intimate and complex. I'm also trying to do a movie that is interesting. I also want to make it as funny as I can make it. But I did find with this film especially, that the mainstream, reviewers were incredibly kind to it. And we got some of the best reviews I have ever gotten from places like The LA Times, and the New York Times, and The New Yorker. Rolling Stone. But I did feel that some of the people that reviewed the movie didn't identify with the movie, because it didn't reflect their life experience. It didn't connect in the same way. While other people were fully engaged, and they understood the issues we were talking about. It was this all or nothing type of reaction. Which is ultimately good. I don't want to be in the soft middle of everyone saying, "That's fine." I'm trying to hit a deeper nerve. Over all I was happy with the reaction. Every once in a while, someone will say something that is thoughtless, or revels more about them than it does the movie. Honestly, I think the movie might scare younger viewers. The type of people in the movie are not a reflection of what everyone else is like. It's a specific family, and these are specific characters. It does pop the bubble of people's dreams, that there is a very easy road. Some people do have very painless stress-free relationships. It's rare, but it's out there. I think people don't want to learn that it gets very complicated, even when you love people deeply.
I think people who don't have problems in their relationships are scary. I don't understand those people.
Judd Apatow: That's the fun of it. A relationship helps you learn things about yourself. And face things that you don't want to face. That's what the movie is about. You are going to find people that will hold a mirror up to you, and force you to look at all your flaws and problems. You can either resent them, or you can appreciate it. But most people are resentful. We don't want to change, we want the world to change, to serve us.
Leslie said that she used her character as a way to say things to you that she couldn't say in the relationship. When the movie came out, I heard you say a couple of times that Pete and Deb aren't necessarily based on you and your wife. Did you personally use Pete to say things to Leslie that you wouldn't say in another forum?
Judd Apatow: Its not that what is in the movie is accurate, or that any of this happened. But it does reflect our point of view about things. When we debate these characters and their conduct, it is a coded conversation between the two of us. You know? We are defending Pete and Debbie, and in a way, we are defending ourselves. I think that's what makes the movie crackle. You sense that there is tension there, and that's what makes it funny. It's not an accurate portrayal of how we relate to each other in the real world. At all. When two people get along, it's not fun to watch. No one wants to watch a fun couple that have an easy time. But some of it is based on us at our worst. On our bad days.
Do you think you'll revisit Pete and Deb as a stand-alone movie? Or is there a possibility that they might appear in a third movie as secondary characters, much like they did in the first movie?
Judd Apatow: Its possible. I'm so fascinated by the whole family experience, and my family specifically. Its hard not to want to do something like this again. I don't know how up for it anyone else is. But it's a fun way to process life. I like that Richard Linklater makes movies where he follows the same people every few years. In a way, it becomes like a TV show if you make an episode every five or six years. So, you never know. It could happen.