The day before Funny People hits theaters, Judd Apatow has inked a deal with Universal to write and direct three films.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the deal has come together over the past two months, and shows the studio's considerable faith in the filmmaker.
Universal gave Apatow considerable leeway in making Funny People, his most personal and serious film, including final cut on the nearly 2 1/2-hour, $75 million movie starring -- Adam Sandler and Jonah Hill. Reviews have been mixed, though the film is expected to open strongly. The deal allows Apatow to produce projects elsewhere. He has produced six movies at Columbia, including Superbad, Pineapple Express and the recent Year One. His producing output at Universal has consisted of Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek, which is currently shooting.
The deal came together over the past couple of months. "It was a true mutual enthusiasm to really cement a relationship," said Universal Pictures chairman David Linde. No projects, which will also be written by Apatow, have been set.
While a longtime writer and producer, Apatow has only directed three films, all of them for Universal.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin, released in 2005, helped make Steve Carell a star, grossing $177 million worldwide ($109 million domestic). The film was the first example of what has become Apatow's trademark comedic style -- male-centric, nerdy, sometimes juvenile and always heartfelt -- which has been frequently imitated by other filmmakers in the last few years.
Two years later, he gave birth to Knocked Up, which earned critical raves, turned Seth Rogen into a star and made more than $219 million worldwide ($148.7 million domestic).
Apatow has also helped bring attention to funnymen such as Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Hill and Michael Cera.
Counting 2009's Funny People, Apatow has directed a film every two years. If he maintains that pace, he'll be busy at Universal through 2015.
While comedies traditionally gross more domestically than internationally, Apatow has done quite well exporting his brand of funny.
"I'll take those international numbers any day," said Linde. "I would argue that makes him a filmmaker who speaks to a global audience."