Written by Role Mommy Contributor, Kristin Torgen Flannery.
Rolemommy sat down with the stars of UNIVERSAL PICTURES’ THIS IS 40 – PAUL RUDD AND LESLIE MANN & writer/director JUDD APATOW. Five years after Apatow introduced us to Pete and Debbie in Knocked Up, Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reprise their roles as a husband and wife both approaching a milestone meltdown in “This Is 40,” an unfiltered, comedic look inside the life of an American family. “This is 40” premiere in theaters December 21st.
Question: How do you stop your husband (Producer/Writer Judd Apatow from writing some of this stuff like the therapy stuff, or do you just go like, “Really?” At what point do you tell him that “I don’t really think we need to reveal that”?
Leslie Mann: Well, he doesn’t write anything without–I mean, it’s a conversation between us, beforehand, so, it’s not like he’s doing anything behind my back. So, we do it together, so, it’s no surprise.
Question: It’s great because it rings true for every single different aspect. We’ve been talking about it ever since we saw it last night. Like, “Oh, yes, remember this and the yelling and the this?” So, it’s amazing that audiences can relate.
Leslie Mann: I’m happy about that. I’m happy that people can leave there feeling like they’re not the only ones going through some of those things and they don’t have to feel terrible about themselves after. When you go and watch movies where couples are perfect couples, which I hate, and then I leave the movie thinking that something’s terribly wrong with me, you can leave this movie feeling like you’re okay and something’s terribly wrong with Pete and Debbie.
Question: Do you and your husband get away and reconnect like Debbie and Pete did in the movie?
Leslie Mann: Literally, it takes less than 24 hours to come back together. And we could both just be losing our minds and then go to a hotel nearby and then just rent a movie and eat dinner and then just hang out together. We’re just grounded again. And it doesn’t take much more than that. I mean, it’s nicer to have extra time.
Question: There is a scene in the movie where Debbie and Pete are going round and round with their daughters yelling “shut up” and no one has control. Does that happen to you in real life?
Paul Rudd: I had the reverse thing where my son when he was about three was going through that phase where he didn’t want my wife and I to talk to each other. And whenever we would just be at home and we were talking to each other, he would say, “Don’t talk.” And I remember saying to him, “Your mom and I are going to talk. We just are.” And he goes, “No, I don’t want you to.” And I said, “Well tough, you’re just going to have to get used to it. It’s good that mommy and daddy talk.” And so then, we would continue the conversation, and he would just at this said, “No, stop talking. Stop talking.” We kept talking. He kept saying stop talking. We kept talking. And finally, he yelled, “Action.” And we looked at him, and he said, “When I yell ‘action,’ you’re not allowed to talk.” And I realize he’s been to too many sets that I have been working on. And then I started laughing so hard at that, and then he started laughing, and then he just went, “Cut.”
Question: So, did you have the “I’m turning 40 freak-out” in real life?
Leslie Mann: Yes. No, I feel like I have lunches or get-togethers with my girlfriends who are the same age every once in a while, and sometimes those meetings are really hard, and we’re all crying, and we all hate our husbands, and we all want to run away, and we all dream about some better life. And then some days we get together, and we’re all really happy with our husbands and love our kids and are happy with everything. It’s literally like riding this wave. We’re just going with it. And I don’t know what that means or where it’s going to take me. I’ve been asking some older women when that ends, and they say it doesn’t end, that it only gets worst, to enjoy this time right now, which is weird.
Question: Well, that scene when the older lady says, “You close your eyes and you blink and you’re 90”.
Leslie Mann: “And you blink and your 90”? Yes.
Rolemommy also sat down with Judd Apatow…
Question: We are wondering how do you get inspired to write about your own life? Do you just write it and you say this will make a great screenplay or I’m going to do a screenplay?
Judd Apatow: When I start, I don’t really know what form it’s going to take, so I just started making notes, and I’ll just write out in lists of moments. And then, I’ll put them on cards and lay them out on a giant table, and then, slowly a story begins to reveal itself. So, I knew I wanted to talk about their birthday and the meltdown their having and they start doubting their marriage and doubting each other and things will just keep getting worse. I knew I wanted it to be a meltdown movie that would end with them rebonding. Some of it is also not wanting to take responsibility for what’s actually happening, so, it’s easier to blame your spouse than to think about what you’re been through in your life and what you’re bringing to the party. That was also a big theme in the movie.
Question: Judd and Leslie’s real life daughters also reprise their roles as Pete and Debbie’s daughters in the film. So, if your daughter is acting moody in the movie, does she think that’s what you think of her in real life?
Judd Apatow: I think that she knows that we’re calling ourselves out on our worst moments. And it’s not like we’re goofing on her but we’re not goofing on ourselves. I don’t know exactly how she processes it, but what I tell her is that the best thing you could do as a creative person is to share your story with people because it makes other people feel less alone and it makes them feel better. There are a lot of people having these struggles. So, for her, I’m sure on some levels she realizes, “Oh, this is sibling rivalry. This is getting very emotional when you’re a kid and your brain isn’t fully formed yet,” and we’re very open about that. I’ll sit and read the book, Yes, Your Teen Is Crazy in front of my kids. And I’ll read passages out loud, and then just go, “Your brain is not built yet. You don’t know how to self-soothe. So, I’m leaving the room for two hours while you do whatever you want to do.”
Question: You talk about writing as a form of self-exploration. And what did you learn about yourself or your marriage that you may not have already known when you did the film?
Judd Apatow: What’s helpful for me is to deeply think through Leslie’s point of view ’cause it’s so easy to just think, “I’m right. She’s annoying,” So, to have to write her point of view and show the effect of certain behaviors that I have or men have is helpful. And one thing that Leslie pointed out to me a long time ago was this idea of being shut down as a man feels like a terrible rejection. Where a guy might just want to zone out and go on the computer or read the paper, he thinks, “I’m not doing anything. Why would you be mad at me? I’m just sitting here.” But that act is hostile.
Question: And don’t have someone yelling at you or–I loved how you did the separation of the kids when you missed them. You realized they were good kids because that means a lot, as moms, really. When someone’s not constantly yelling at you or telling you to shut up.
Judd Apatow: Oh, yes. And I’m so awful sometimes with the kids. I’ve become a kid when I fight with them. I totally lose adult head. Maude always wants a ride and doesn’t tell me in advance. So at 6:00 when I’m like, “The movie just started and we’re about to just sit for two hours,” she’ll be like, “I need a ride in 15 minutes to this bowling alley.” And I’m just like, “You live in a fantasyland and this is not happening.” And I’ll fight with her like I’m 12 years old. I just go at her so hard. I’ll just be like, “There’s no way it’s happening, so just enjoy not going.”
Question: This movie really feels like a love letter to Leslie. I’m watching it, and her performance is just extraordinary. How is it for you to be able to shoot a movie starring your wife and being able to show her extraordinary range?
Judd Apatow: I’ve always thought that she was great and had the potential to do all sorts of interesting things, but Hollywood, there are very few scripts which give you those opportunities. There are very few movies just about people that don’t have gigantic action elements or superheroes. This world of the small human drama comedy is tiny. We don’t get that many of them. We get more of it on television. So, if I don’t write it, it’s a longshot that it will just suddenly appear. I was happy to be able to tailor something to what I observe about her. And that’s what I like about the movie and with the kids, which is because it’s a real family, I can show details that most people would never get into a movie, and you could tell they love each other and are angry with each other, and it just feels like life more than if I just hired some stranger kid to be in it. And Leslie’s so funny and has been the person that has inspired me to be as truthful as I am in the work. Because she doesn’t really consider herself a comedian, so, it’s more like I live with a serious actress, and I’m being influenced by her interest and honesty, and then I can keep my comedy going.
Question: Where do your stories come from?
Judd Apatow: There are so many variations of those stories, the second family. I’ve had so many friends and in my family where someone’s dad has kids. And even at our kids there are a lot of parents that are older parents. And I think a lot of people are taking care of their parents now. People live for a really long time. And then at some point the relationship flips and you have to take care of them. And especially in a bad economy, suddenly, parents can’t retire any more, and it creates a lot of stress. So, I was trying to think of the most stressful possible situations and then get really funny people to play them. And also to show that if you have a parent who’s really overbearing and engulfing, you want to hide in the bathroom. And if you have a parent that kind of disappeared, you’re constantly wanting more, and that that’s affecting how they treat each other.
Take a look at the trailer and go see “This is 40,” which hits theaters December 21st.