From “The 40 Year-Old Virgin” to “Knocked Up”, “Superbad” and this Christmas’s “This is Forty”, Judd Apatow has emerged as one of today’s most reliable, reputable and divinely entertaining filmmakers and producers. Apatow’s most recent feature, “The Five-Year Engagement”, which he produced, is hitting DVD and Blu-ray. We spoke to Apatow about what attracted him to the altar-bound comedy.
This movie revolves around the idea of a long engagement and all the pitfalls that can occur and that can come along with that, so why did you want to get involved with this story in particular?
I didn’t really understand the concept, because I tried to get my wife to marry me as quickly as possible before she realised what a terrible mistake it would be, so I did not have a five-year engagement. Just to work with Jason Segel (writer/actor) and Nick Stoller (director) again was a pleasure and they are so funny, and I thought that I did know a lot of people who had taken a long time over it.
So were you engaged for any time at all, or were you just married immediately?
No, I was engaged. I got married on the beach with no family there.
That sounds genius! But why did you do that?
Because weddings are so complicated. You’re just putting on a show for your family, and you don’t have any fun, you just have to say hello to people all night long, and I thought, “Why? Maybe you can enjoy your wedding and make your family mad at the same time.” So that’s always a good combo.
Do you hear about that from your parents to this day?
They still don’t care. I thought there would be a lot of blow-back, but actually no-one minded.
But you’re Jewish.
Yes, but I’m a very specific kind of Jewish. With all the pain and none of the support. “Why won’t you be overbearing? Engulf me!”
This movie successfully diverges from the usual clichés of the typical rom-com. It makes a refreshing change, because this is a man following a career woman. Could you have imagined that scenario before? Or is this more accepted now, that the man might follow a woman and leave everything behind, and become the housewife, so to speak?
Yeah, it’s 2012. Now they are talking about how women in the United States are very quickly overtaking men in how educated they are. There is a natural change happening there. People are realising how dumb men are and how they should not be in charge of anything, and that is naturally going to go that way and we will just end up chasing women around and eat sandwiches.
But I don’t think the guy realises what he is letting himself in for, in agreeing to move. This rings very true because modern relationships can be tricky to navigate.
The choices are so giant, because you marry someone, then three years in, they’ll say, “I don’t like living here,” and then you think, “Oh my God. I never anticipated we would have this moment where we would be debating this giant choice that I thought was resolved already.” Sometimes those things, just getting a job somewhere else is enough to change everything and fracture everything. What I liked about what Jason and Nick wrote is that there is something very passive-aggressive with Jason agreeing to move to Michigan because he thinks he’s got one on her now and she has to be nice to him because he agreed to do it – so he didn’t really agree to do it for purely unselfish reasons. All kindness comes with a string attached.
Can you talk about the casting of Emily Blunt (Violet Barnes), who is possibly more known for being a dramatic actress these days. Did you go for her to perhaps make the relationship feel more real?
Well, Emily and Jason are friends, they have a natural chemistry that pre-dates the movie, so it’s fun to tap into that, when people really like each other and it’s not two people who just met the week before shooting starts.
Does that help with the improv too?
Yeah, they make [stuff up] and play, and they have a way where they tease each other in life, and you can put that into the movie.
There seems to be a few chef-and kitchen-based movies at the moment, so how good are you in the kitchen? Can you cook? And what is your best dish?
I have kids and I make them cook for me. I say, “It’s important for you to learn how to cook and experiment on cooking for me.” The first date I had with Leslie (Mann, Judd’s wife), I brought her back home and I cooked her what I like to call Chicken Parmesan, with white bread and Fleischmann’s margarine, and I’ve never lived it down, and have stopped cooking since that episode in 1995.
It sounds quite good.
It was good. But it didn’t live up to expectations. I can’t cook at all, but I’m trying to eat better, and so I should be able to cook to help me eat better – it’s easy to just chuck some pre-made hamburger in the microwave, but how do you cook quinoa? I don’t know.
And what exactly is quinoa?
It’s a healthy grain.
What would you say is the message of this film, regarding waiting to get married?
Don’t over think it. If Emily Blunt wants to marry you, shut up and do it. Nothing’s perfect. And if you are waiting for every aspect of it to be perfect, you’ll never get married.
What are you working on next?
I’m mixing This Is Forty (2012), which comes out at Christmastime. And Girls (2012) airs this Sunday on HBO, and we are starting the second season of that in a few weeks.
You had such success with Bridesmaids (2011) and it got some Oscar recognition, so are you proud that you have finally managed to get comedy some Academy recognition?
I think it’s great any time they acknowledge comedies. It seems silly for there to be this unspoken belief that they are easier to do than making people cry. Seth Rogen is really funny on this subject, about how it’s – no, his joke is way too inappropriate, I can’t even repeat it. I also think this thing is happening where all the studios want to make gigantic action movies, and they are not spending much money on movies like Out Of Africa (1985) any more, so that is opening up a few slots for us now. What I am saying is that they are not making good movies anymore, so we can slip in a little bit.
And now there are 10 movies nominated.
Yeah, there are so many movies nominated now. And we feel like we always make the 13th best movie of the year, but we have to come in the top 10, but we’re getting close.
One of the best cinema comediennes was Marilyn Monroe, and it’s coming up to the 50th anniversary of her death.
Why do we celebrate her death day? “It’s a wonderful celebration of her barbiturate overdose!”
What do you think of Marilyn Monroe? Her mystique and her iconic life?
I don’t know if I’m the best person to comment on that. There are certain people who, for magical reasons, resonate through the decades and decades.
What about her as a comedian?
She was very funny and vulnerable, and I think that’s what people like in a lot of their film actors and actresses, people who feel like they are giving a part of themselves to the audience. Then there is the magic of charisma and mystery that certain people have whether it’s her or Jim Morrison, unknowable people who you never run out of energy trying to figure them out.
”The Five-Year Engagement” is on DVD and Blu-ray September 16