'This Is 40': Judd Apatow Gets Real About Relationships (And 'LOST' And 'Heavyweights')
Judd Apatow knows that in casting his real life wife and children in his latest film, the seriocomic Knocked Up spin-off/sequel This Is 40, he's inadvertently invited the world to peek into his own life, marriage, issues, and neuroses. Still, despite the many parallels one might draw between Paul Rudd's Pete (now a struggling indie record label owner) and Leslie Mann's Debbie (whose own small business and marital woes are nothing compared to impending big 4-0), Apatow insists most of This is 40 is fictionalized. Okay, much of it. Well, he doesn't escape to the bathroom to play games on his iPad like Pete does. "I’m more about reading the Huffington Post," Apatow joked.
Apatow may have built his comic empire on R-rated man-child tales rife with fart and dick jokes (not to mention sweet, sweet bromance) but with This is 40 the writer-director takes a considered look inward at marriage and relationships. They're never perfect — even between Hollywood creatives like Apatow and Mann, whose daughters Maude and Iris play heightened versions of themselves in the film — but as Apatow mused in our conversation rife with relationship real talk, personal reflections, and necessary tangents about Maude's real life LOST obsession and Apatow's 1995 kids' camp movie Heavyweights: "Imagine that you had to spend every second of the rest of your life with your best friend. How often do you think they would annoy you?"
Out of all the characters you’ve created onscreen, you spun off Pete and Debbie into their own film — the two characters whose lives are closest to your own. What was the impetus for wanting to explore this particular relationship further?
I have two interests; I’m trying to make funny movies and I also want to explore the human condition, and I want to be truthful about it. And the truth is in any relationship you have good times and loving times, and sometimes it goes really dark. And sometimes out of nowhere, something just blows. People bring a lot of baggage into their relationships and I think most people are pretty neurotic. Life is pretty overwhelming for most people. If you have any concern about being a good spouse and parent and having your job work out and your health — you’re just spinning too many plates. And once in a while we snap, so I was trying to show a truthful version of what happens when that occurs — sometimes that’s really funny and sometimes it’s just sad, and people’s fears come out.
When you first began working up the seeds of This is 40, was there any hesitation knowing that people out there might watch the film and wonder, ‘So that’s how it is in their family?’ about you and Leslie?
For some reason I didn’t worry about because I thought we already did it with Knocked Up. And it is a mutated version of us. It’s very heightened — a lot of the moments, the worst moments, for dramatic and comedy purposes – but for the most part we’re pretty boring. Once in a while it does go the wrong way, but then you have to figure out how to get it back. That’s what a long-term commitment is about; sometimes you make mistakes and you have to apologize and be kind to each other again. I always say to my kids whenever they ask me, ‘Why do you guys fight?’ — I say, ‘Imagine that you had to spend every second of the rest of your life with your best friend. How often do you think they would annoy you?’ And, you know, that’s how we feel about it. We love each other but we’re complicated people — and it’s hard for me to know if part of it is this is why we’re in this business, because we’re sensitive, complicated, wounded people and we’re trying to get along with each other. [Laughs] But most of it is fabricated. Nothing in the movie feels specifically true, it didn’t happen to us, but the emotions are very truthful, the feelings and the conflicts are all based on things that we relate to.