‘Ant-Man’ to Amy to ‘Minions’: How the Judd Apatow Effect just hit a $140M … | News Entertainment

‘Ant-Man’ to Amy to ‘Minions’: How the Judd Apatow Effect just hit a $140M …

21 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

From ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin’ to ‘Trainwreck,’ the 9 Best Judd Apatow Movie Cameos.

YOU TEND to swap personal stories while in the newsroom trenches, and a few summers back, a friend and fellow arts journalist was offering one of his. Before he was a TV and movie writer-director-producer, Judd Apatow was a slightly crazed fan of comedy who, working on a high school radio station on Long Island, managed to snag interviews with stars such as Jerry Seinfeld, Paul Reiser and Harold Ramis. Only 15 at the time, Apatow fibbed slightly by not letting PR people know where WKWZ was located, or that the signal “barely made it out of the parking lot” of his school.

Back in the ’70s, David was in high school and loved rock music, so he started an underground paper called Common Sense with another aspiring music reporter, who was just 15. Beginning with his big-screen directorial debut The 40-Year-Old Virgin in 2005, Apatow has always taken opportunities to feature up-and-coming comedic talent — or to show off established stars (like Eminem) in an unexpected light.

He managed to interview more than 40 of his heroes over the next two years and “every single one was gracious and generous with their time” (with the sole exception of the unnamed performer who made a pass at the boy). Through his rise to fame with cult TV series (“The Ben Stiller Show” and “Freaks & Geeks,” among them), and then films such as “Superbad” and “Knocked Up,” Apatow never lost his fascination with the creative process and he has continued to do interviews and moderate public appearances with most of the top names in the field. And weigh that much.” The enthusiasm for Wiig’s Knocked Up cameo led directly to her collaboration with Judd Apatow on Bridesmaids, but we should note that she didn’t steal this scene alone: The reliably funny Alan Tudyk (playing, literally, the Jack to her Jill) is a perfect comic foil.

How lucky we are that Apatow was able to take enough time out from his Hollywood schedule to pull together a terrific book “Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy” that was recently published by Random House. “Sick in the Head” includes some of those early Apatow includes early interviews — Jay Leno and Martin Short in 1984, Michael O’Donoghue in 1983 — but the core consists of fabulous recent talk with giants like Mel Brooks and Steve Martin as well as the late great Mike Nichols and Larry Gelbart. SNL actress Leslie Jones is credited only as Angry Subway Patron in Trainwreck, but she puts some of the movie’s bigger-name cameos to shame. (Matthew Broderick, we’re looking at you.) In Jones’ short but memorable scene, Amy (Amy Schumer) asks the future Ghostbusters star why their subway train has stopped. Some pieces that might sound self indulgent from a distance, such as a chat with Apatow’s wife Leslie Mann and the transcript of the DVD commentary for “The Cable Guy” (below), turn out to be highlights. The range of the author’s comic interests is impressive, and we dig deeply into “Tootsie” and “The Graduate,” among other films before Apatow’s time in Hollywood. Three decades later, I asked David to interview his old friend timed to the release of a new movie, which was set in roughly that time in their lives.

Some readers might be made a tad queasy by the mutual admiration Apatow includes in his interviews with culture heroes like Mike Nichols (who takes the time to praise Apatow’s “This is 40” in extravagant terms) but I think the absence of false modesty (i.e. any pretense that the author isn’t one of the major comedy figures of the current era) is rather refreshing. McCarthy’s turn as Catherine, the mother of a boy who has been harassing Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann’s teenage daughter, is the funniest thing in the movie. Like Apatow, Nichols spent several years in front of audiences and was glad to move on. “You saved yourself, you know,” Nichols tells Apatow. “Because the one thing I understood the minute we were all comedians in this (Chicago) group — and I saw what happened to some people and less to others — is that it’s very, very corrupting to the spirit, doing comedy…There’s very little work where the work and the reward are simultaneous, and comedy is that.

I relay all that because today there is another Hollywood talent who, when he was still a teenager, would approach the stars of his future industry and boldly ask for interviews, using his humble media outlet — his high-school radio station in Syosset, Long Island — as a forum and a fulcrum for landing big names. In a principal’s office scene partially improvised by McCarthy (watch it below), Catherine becomes increasingly incensed at Rudd and Mann, calling them a “bulls— bank commercial couple” and threatening to chew through them like a rat. As a 16-year-old fan-turned-interviewer, he was taking the East Coast approach to comedy that Crowe had taken on the West Coast to the music industry. In a final coup de grace, she turns her ire on the mild-mannered principal. (“This is why everybody hates you, Jill!”) The scene is such a show-stopper that Apatow elected to play the blooper reel — in which Mann and Rudd literally cry with laughter, but McCarthy never breaks — over the end credits. That may seem like a gaping range of disparate films, but Apatow’s influence is largely a product of sharing certain core traits with Crowe — from fearless fandom and journalistic curiosity and chutzpah, to a gift for great and sometimes prescient casting, often by spotting the true potential in untapped talent.

And despite their differing personae within Hollywood and without — and variations in their career arcs — both are drawn to producing writing that often aims to inspire through the truth of emotion. In her five minutes onscreen, Nicky transitions from cute drunk to full-on hot mess, bashing her car into passersby while singing along to Missy Elliott and growling “Let’s get some f—ing French toast!” before vomiting daiquiris all over poor Andy. As Crowe has said of his “I Bought a Zoo”: “It definitely wears its heart on its sleeve.” (And if Apatow once had more of a rep as a “bro-median” than Crowe does, that take can overlook the degree to which Sean Penn’s Jeff Spicoli in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” or Matt Dillon’s baked Cliff in “Singles” would fit right into, say, “Pineapple Express.”) Now, speaking of wearing honesty on our sleeves, I should fully acknowledge that I, as a cartoonist and like countless others, have many of the same entertainment-industry writing influences as Apatow does, from MAD magazine to classic TV comedies like “Taxi” and “All in the Family” — and so it has been a profound pleasure to communicate warmly with James L. Both stars play themselves, as attendees at a party thrown by George (Adam Sandler) to celebrate his cancer-free status. (Watch the scene below.) The rapper begins to deliver a morose monologue about how much he hates fame (“I can’t go to f—ing Chuck E. Kuni wasn’t written for Ken Jeong, but it might as well have been: Apatow was looking for “an Asian actor with medical experience,” and the doctor-turned-comedian fit the bill.

Jeong made his film debut as the short-fused OB-GYN who scoffs at Katherine Heigl’s “all natural” birth plan, advising her, “If you want a ‘special experience,’ go to a Jimmy Buffet concert.” Continuing his tradition of giving lesser-known comedians a big-screen break, Apatow gives stand-up comic Keith Robinson a choice film debut in Trainwreck. Robinson plays a movie theater patron who gets into an argument with Amy’s musclebound boyfriend (John Cena), only to become confused when Cena’s threats seem oddly sexual in nature.

The top film in the nation is “Ant-Man,” which, by grossing $58 million, becomes the 12th straight Marvel Cinematic Universe movie to open at No. 1. And several years back, director Neil LaBute acknowledged to me how crucial Rudd’s ability to play earnest/vulnerable on stage and screen was to his “The Shape of Things.” But it was Apatow’s productions — including “Knocked Up” and “This is 40″ — that opened up Rudd’s film career to the point that not only does he have the star wattage to even be considered to headline a Marvel movie; he also has enough of a screen persona to draw viewers who aren’t really superhero-story fans. Carell, of course, cut his teeth a quarter-century ago on the Second City main stage opposite Stephen Colbert, and gained national attention as a “Daily Show” correspondent. The film from this week that Apatow can take direct credit for, natch, is third-place “Trainwreck” ($30.2 million), which he directed and produced as a star vehicle after its writer, Amy Schumer, impressed him on the Howard Stern show. “Trainwreck” follows a traditional narrative arc true to many Apatow films: A character who’s feeling incomplete, unfulfilled or lost battles their personal conflicts — as the film derives laughs from those obstacles to love, and blind spots en route to self-realization — before love is redeemed as the big, sticky adhesive of a better life. But then, neither is Mel Brooks (a national treasure), or John Cassavetes, or another Apatow performing hero, Steve Martin. “Trainwreck” co-star Bill Hader (“Superbad,” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) told me last month that he welcomes working with Apatow again because the director knows so clearly what he wants.

And so, Apatow’s influence continues to provide good roles and great exposure for a gifted troupe of actors, until, like this past weekend, you can trace nearly $140 million in domestic box office, in ways great and lesser alike, to the Apatow effect. If you’ve caught the comedy bug as a performer or producer, it can be highly contagious, passing not only person to person, but also across genre and approach and form.

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