Writer/Director Judd Apatow captures the fights that make families functional in his latest film, This is 40. Touted as a “sort-of sequel” to Knocked Up, the film takes us back into the home (and bathrooms) of Pete (Paul Rudd), Debbie (Leslie Mann) and their daughters Sadie and Charlotte (played by Apatow’s own girls Maude and Iris).
But we couldn’t help seeing elements of our own family dynamics up on the screen!
Whether frustrations are brought on by outside pressures from work (Pete’s record label and Debbie’s clothing store are both having financial troubles) or internal changes (Sadie’s hit puberty), frustrations lead to fights and often those fights are the things we laugh most about later. Watching them play out on screen had us laughing throughout the movie. What shows us that Apatow is aware that the messy bits of family life are also the good stuff is that, for as many funny squabbles between spouses, siblings and kids and their parents come up, there are just as many tender moments of showing and telling each other how much they are loved in This is 40. That’s why this is what love looks like, at any age.
We recently sat down with Judd Apatow, Leslie Mann, Paul Rudd, Albert Brooks (Pete’s dad) and Megan Fox (Debbie’s employee at the clothing store), who shared some of their favorite moments from making the movie and being with their on and off screen families.
PPLA: I loved how you captured these real family moments that make us laugh, including all the times you’re singing with the girls at home or in the car. What music is in heavy rotation with your families this time of year?
Judd Apatow: We’ve been watching the Jimmy Fallon and Mariah Carey music video…
Leslie Mann: …and “Elvis Christmas” and “Charlie Brown Christmas”.
Albert Brooks: I listen to songs by older people.
Paul Rudd: I’ve been listening to a lot of Rodriguez
Megan Fox: I like Michael Buble’s Christmas album. It’s so smooth. I know that’s cheesy.
PPLA: What was the toughest thing about turning 40 and how did you overcome it?
Judd: I overcame it by making two movies with 40 in the title (the other being The 40-Year-Old Virgin). I claim that I haven’t had a nervous breakdown from turning 40 and that it was more 30, but the evidence of the two movies seems to prove I’m full of it.
Leslie Mann: I think he’s lying! (laughs) I think every day is different. Some days I feel fine and other days I feel like crying all day. I have lunches with my girlfriends who just turned 40, and some of those lunches we’re crying and screaming about our husbands… saying we want to leave them and run away. Other lunches we’re fine, love our husbands, and are happy with our lives… so I’m not sure. I don’t have any of the answers.
Judd Apatow: I’m not gonna let you go to lunch anymore. (laughs)
Albert Brooks: I have a different secret. When I was very young, I started to make friends with much, much older people. So, when I was 20 my friends were 50 and I never really went through 40 because I would watch them die and I’d always feel younger. So you make friends with older people and you’ll always feel young, no matter what. On my 40th birthday, I was in hospice with a 92-year old buddy…
PPLA: (And the mood in the room turns somber as he pauses to reflect…)
Albert Brooks: That’s a lie! (laughs)
Paul Rudd: I remember as a kid my dad always told me, “You know, getting older beats the alternative.” Although now my father actually is the alternative, so I don’t know what he would say.
Albert Brooks: The alternative being?
Paul Rudd: Oh, he’s dead (laughs).
Megan Fox: Well, I haven’t reached that age yet, but I kind of did what Albert did in the sense that my husband is 13 years older, so I’ll always be a trophy wife for him. (laughs)
PPLA: Judd, how much did you know about a woman’s perspective turning 40? Leslie, is that where you came in? Did you bounce ideas off of each other?
Judd Apatow: We talked about the movie for years together and that’s where a lot of the scene ideas came from. It’s a little bit of a coded conversation, where we’re really debating our own problems with each other. So Leslie can complain about Pete, but not about me. I’ll say, “Don’t you think we should have a scene where we really point out how controlling Debbie is?” And then she’ll say, “Yeah, but maybe there should be a moment where Pete admits he knows he’s a dick.” We go back and forth like that, subtly talking to each other for a long time, and in the end, it mutates into this other thing, which is a weird combo of me and Paul’s worst traits into one monster husband that Debbie has to deal with.
Leslie Mann: I agree! That’s how it works. It’s like, what I would fantasize about saying to Judd? Debbie can say these things to Pete, but Leslie really can’t say these things to Judd. Also, yelling at the mother (Melissa McCarthy as a PTA mom), I wouldn’t ever do that, but that’s what I fantasize about. I would love to do that! So, it’s nice to have this character to live through.
PPLA: Megan, you fit into this Apatow family so well here. Were you nervous about that or did it just come really naturally for you when you were on set?
Megan Fox: Was I nervous about coming to set with like a close knit group of people? No because from the first audition that I went in for, it was Judd, Leslie and Paul. I went in with my sides and we did that once I think, and then Judd was like “okay so Paul you come into the store and you guys have an awkward conversation.” And so then we had to do all of this improv which I am not familiar with at all so I was so scared shitless then. I got over it after that point except there was that one day on set where we did that scene in the car after the club, and that was one of those days where I memorized the wrong scene. So I didn’t know my dialogue and I was so scared that I didn’t know it that I started doing all these crazy things in the scene which I think maybe worked. I was so scared that day.
PPLA: Albert, did you improvise a lot of the scenes you had with John Lithgow?
Albert Brooks: In rehearsal we got a chance to add and improvise a bit. That’s sort of the way it works. The idea that you get there and at that actual moment you’re making it up is sort of a fallacy. You get a script and then you have time to throw that to the wind and see what comes back and then you can set things you really like, so it’s that period.
Judd Apatow: We knew we wanted Albert’s character to be excited by how much money John makes, and so I was watching the dailies and my favorite wording of a joke Albert did was, “So every time I don’t see a hunchback, you make money!” Albert would actually email me jokes the night before, which would top many of my jokes, so I was very happy about that.
PPLA: What was the hardest scene to shoot where you had to keep a straight face but couldn’t?
Leslie Mann: Melissa McCarthy was the hardest one. That was the weirdest thing because I’ve never experienced that. Maybe one time I’d crack up and then I can hold it together from then on, but with her it was just hours and we could not keep a straight face and finally we just gave up. Judd said he was using more than one camera so we could just laugh because we couldn’t keep a straight face.
Paul Rudd: I’ve seen people in tears before, but this was otherworldly! People were leaving the room, the crew had to leave, and she just kept her composure throughout all of it.
PPLA: Hollywood is always trying to make movies geared towards the 18 to 24 crowds. With This Is 40, do you feel like your audience is growing up along with your movies and are they getting up to the point where they are facing these issues?
Judd Apatow: We’re about to find out. (laughs) We don’t know.
Albert Brooks: Well, This Is 40 is only the title for a few theaters. This is 18 is what’s being called in all the others.
Paul Rudd: I say we call it Zero Dark Forty!
PPLA: Leslie, is there anything you say “I can’t do this” to, or are you pretty much game for anything?
Leslie Mann: I’m pretty much game for anything.
Judd Apatow: She pushes me. The ones you think I made her do, she thought of usually.
PPLA: Paul, like your character, you’re married and have kids. Can you relate to Pete’s frustration about life?
Paul Rudd: Oh, yeah. Obviously the situations are different, but there are certain aspects of marriage, parenthood and all of that stuff that seems relatable. We spent years talking about all of this stuff. My wife and I have had many dinners with Judd and Leslie, and we did this going back to Knocked Up, so there are aspects that are very much a part of me.
PPLA: Paul, how do you look back on some of the earlier films that stood the test of time, like Clueless, which kids may still be watching today for the first time?
Megan Fox: Oh my god you were in Clueless! That’s crazy!
Paul Rudd: Megan was two when it came out. (laughs) It’s nice to be in anything that anybody sees or likes. People still do mention Clueless to me, so it’s great. I’m happy that I was in it.
Judd Apatow: My kids watch Clueless, but they’re very thrown by you being the heartthrob. It’s like you’re dad being the heartthrob, so they’re as disgusted as if it was me. They’re like “Paul? What? Oh, I’m confused!”
Paul Rudd: They watched it for the first time and thought I was Dan Hedaya (Cher’s dad in Clueless).
This is 40 opens nationwide December 21st. Watch the trailer.