By Iain Blair
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Thanks to hits such as "Knocked Up," "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," Paul Rudd has become one of the most reliable comic actors in Hollywood, unafraid of embracing slightly dorky characters who make people laugh.
In his new film, "Our Idiot Brother" opening on Friday, he embraces his inner hippie and shares the screen with three high-powered actresses (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer) playing his neurotic New York sisters. His character -- the under-achieving, homeless, Croc-wearing brother Ned -- wreaks havoc in their lives.
Rudd recently sat down with Reuters to talk about portraying the easy-going Ned, the joys of tie-dyed T-shirts and why he's not shy about kissing dogs.
Q: "Our Idiot Brother" sounds like a very broad comedy, but it's not, is it.
A: "Not at all. There's lots of drama. You hear the title and see the main character with his beard and long hair, but I don't think Ned's an idiot. He's a gentle soul, and makes some idiotic decisions -- there's no getting around that. But we wanted to make it very clear he's living his life a certain way, and it's a conscious decision. He has an ethic he subscribes too, and it's not always easy for him. The cracks show in some scenes, and that's important. You don't want it to look like he's just out to lunch."
Q: After he's busted for selling pot to a cop and gets out of prison, Ned moves in with each of his sisters and chaos ensues. How much of you is in Ned? Can you relate to him?
A: "I can. It's not me, but there are parts that are. I like to think of myself as being optimistic and happy, although not as much as Ned, which is good and bad. The moment I read it, I wanted to do it, and I also felt it'd be a fun world to live in for a couple of months -- and it was. I was very happy making this movie because of Ned."
Q: So he rubbed off on you a lot?
A: "He did. I'm not a Method actor, I don't need to be called by the character's name. I don't take roles home with me. But when it ended, I actually went without shaving for a while and dressed in a similarly horrible fashion."
Q: You wore Crocs?
A: (Laughs) "No -- I drew the line at Crocs! But I wore cut-off shorts and flannel shirts. I've never owned anything tie-dyed in my life, but there was one tie-dyed shirt I wore in the movie with this hippie-dippy print that was so extreme. I still wear it. And had I seen this shirt before doing this movie, there's no way I'd have kept it."
Q: You have three sisters and an ex-girlfriend to contend with -- too many women on set, or was it fun?
A: "It was fun because I knew them all. I was already friends with just about everyone in the cast, and had been for years."
Q: Does that make it easier or harder?
A: "Much easier, especially with a movie like this -- not a long shoot. And we shot in New York where I live, so I could literally walk outside and start work some days. But it was incredibly hot and humid, so there was a lot of sweating and people getting patted down. And I got a chance to hang out with people like Steve Coogan, who plays Emily's cheating husband. I've been a major Steve Coogan fan for many years, so I was thrilled to get the chance to meet him and get to know him a bit."
Q: You have great screen chemistry with the dog, and there's a lot of kissing between you two. Sweet breath?
A: (Laughs) "Yeah, pretty sweet, in the way a golden retriever would have sweet breath. Now, I may have offended the dog, as I think I'd dipped into some hummus earlier, but I don't think the dog would judge me. I'm actually a big dog lover, and a golden retriever's particularly lovable. Growing up I always had dogs, so the dog-kissing scenes didn't gross me out."
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)