It’s a Warning: Judd Apatow on This is 40 and Anchorman 2

Why Seth Rogen or Katherine Heigl don't get cameos in the Knocked Up spin-off, and an update on the new Pee-wee Herman movie.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

We met Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) in Knocked Up. Now they get their own Billy Jack, U.S. Marshals or Scorpion King. Debbie has just turned 40 but that’s just one of many factors aggravating their marriage. Pete’s record label is in trouble and his money-leaching father (Albert Brooks) is only a little better than Debbie’s absentee dad (John Lithgow). It’s a comedy, folks. Writer/director Judd Apatow finds the humor in uncomfortable situations, including parenting when your daughter (Maude Apatow) becomes obsessed with “Lost” on her iPad. We got to chat with Apatow about his latest movie, the state of comedy and his upcoming producorial projects, Anchorman 2, the new Pee-Wee Herman movie and the second season of “Girls.”

CraveOnline: So do you love “Lost” or hate it?

Judd Apatow: It’s not really about my feelings about it, although I enjoy it. My daughter watched the entire series in six weeks and she spent so much time excited and crying and going through all these emotions. Leslie and I kept trying to slow her down. It’s like you can’t watch six episodes a day. But I knew it was funny and would be interesting in a movie because it does show how parents don’t know how to handle how quickly technology is changing.

You did spoil the last episode, so should there be a spoiler warning for people who may see This is 40 in ten years and haven’t seen all of “Lost” yet?

Mmm, I don’t think we did spoil it. I think that it’s been in the media enough, it’s like me saying “The Sopranos” ended in a diner. It doesn’t change the effect of it. J.J. [Abrams] approved all of the clips. I don’t get to use those clips without them seeing the movie. J.J. came to the previews and he loved what we did with it.

It could be easy to make jokes about problems people have in relationships, but how do you explore the resolution of those issues, and how people learn to communicate, in cinematic terms?

Well, I like to show people at their worst so that when it happens to you in real life, you might think, “Oh, I’m doing that thing that Pete did in This is 40. Maybe that’s not the way to handle this situation.” It’s a warning.

Was it important that they had parental issues they explored so it’s not just complaining about marriage?

Well, I think that most people have some sort of wound that they’re recreating in their relationships, and if you’re not aware of that, it’s very difficult. If you don’t understand it and if you don’t understand your partner’s issues, you’re going to have a problem because sometimes they might be especially needy in a certain situation and the root of that has nothing to do with you, but you do have to have compassion for it and understand.

I noticed a picture of Katherine Heigl on the wall. Was that just a screen grab from Knocked Up?

That was a photograph from Knocked Up. There was a bunch on the walls. It’s just in that particular shot you see her clearly.

Was there ever a point you considered having Seth Rogen make a cameo?

Well, Seth and Katherine both said they would be happy to do something in the movie, but I felt like they’re so charismatic and funny that you couldn’t just cross them through for a minute or two because then the audience would say, “Well, what else are they up to?” I wanted people to stay focused on this relationship. When I was previewing the movie, I said, “If the audience demands it, if the movie doesn’t work because there’s this giant question mark, I could shoot something and find a way to do it but I hope I don’t have to.” It’s like the series “Frasier.” It needs to work without Sam Malone doing a cameo every week.

Katherine was open to it even after her famous comments about the movie?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, she communicated to us that she was willing to do something if we had a fun idea.

What do you think it would take for a really full on comedy to get serious Oscar consideration?

You know, every once in a while it happens. It’s sad that it’s so rare. I think that when comedies work, they seem effortless. Where when other kinds of movies work, they feel like it took an enormous amount of effort to make them. The whole idea of awards is very silly. We live in a town where people are spending millions of dollars like it’s a presidential campaign to get awards. So I think it’s fun and we’re certainly a part of it, but it’s like when you see the Grammys and they have two kinds of music in the same category. It’s kind of like the Emmys, “Miniseries or Special.” Well, a miniseries is very different than special, and Lincoln is very different from The Artist. So nothing is really better than anything else. It’s all subjective. It’s just this is the subjective point of view of about 5,000 people for the Oscars. So it’s like a little game everybody plays for fun but it’s actually all ridiculous when you get down to it. That’s why I like the AFI awards because they just say, “Here’s what we think are the top 10 movies.” And that makes a lot more sense to me than further defining them.

The comedy issue, if you make a comedy with some serious parts in it then you have a chance, like if it’s Life is Beautiful, a comedy about the Holocaust.

I think so. I think that people think that pain is more difficult to accomplish on screen but the truth is it’s much easier to show people suffering. To have a dramatic situation and to find humor in it and to be able to walk that tightrope is very difficult, and when people accomplish it like James Brooks with Terms of Endearment, or [Woody Allen with] Annie Hall, it’s a miracle. But I also think Zach Galifianakis in The Campaign is as difficult to accomplish and masterful as Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln. It’s a different part of that art.

With Anchorman 2, was the Ron Burgundy custody battle a dummy story to throw people off the real plot?

I didn’t even know there was a custody battle. I didn’t know there was anything out there. They’re still writing so we’ll see. When we started working on the first Anchorman, it was all about a plane crash that was kind of a parody of the movie Alive, so until we get to the set, I don’t know what it’s about.

Is it still moving up to the ‘80s?

I don’t know exactly. They always keep it vague. They never pick a year. It’s not connected, like Anchorman wasn’t connected to a specific event, so I don’t know if you could define it that way. Until they decide what the suits look like, that’s almost a costume design question.

What is the latest on the Pee-Wee Herman movie?

Well, the Pee-Wee movie, we have a great script on it and we’re actively talking to people about funding it. So I hope we get that together this year because he’s ready to go and it’s a very good script.

Would you also produce the famed “dark” Pee-Wee movie he’s also written?

I’m not attached to that script. I’ve never read it but I’ve heard about it.

You like to shoot on film and do lots of takes. What are your thoughts on new technologies?

I don’t know if it means I wouldn’t shoot on film again. I actually do want to go back and try to figure out how much time was saved? How much money was saved? But I love the look of it, especially for this movie which I wanted to feel very immediate and almost like a documentary so it applied to this. I don’t think it necessarily applies to Lincoln. There are movies that need the look that only film can give you.

What can we expect from “Girls” season two?

Season two, I really feel like she upped the ante on the whole endeavor. I’m really excited about it. It’ll be like last season. People will debate every episode, what it means and how they feel about it, but that’s the point of the show. It’s supposed to be provocative but she made some very strong choices and I think people will get deeply emotionally involved in it.

Fred Topel is a staff writer at CraveOnline. Follow him on Twitter at @FredTopel