By Julie Miller, Vanity Fair
Judd Apatow with his wife Leslie Mann
In December, writer, director, producer, and Vanity Fair guest editor Judd Apatow returns to theaters with his latest comedy, This Is 40. Starring Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann (who is Apatow's real-life wife) as Pete and Debbie, the married couple introduced in 2007's Knocked Up, the film was written by Apatow with Mann's help by drawing from their at-home experiences, recalling their friends' experiences, and imagining how these familiar characters might react in new scenarios. In the end, the intimate writing process yielded a story that, while not representative of his and Mann's relationship event-wise, Apatow considers "emotionally completely true." In advance of the December 21 release, the filmmaker sat down for an intriguingly in-depth discussion with Film Comment magazine, some of the most compelling comments of which we've isolated below.
Why age 40 is a turning point:
So, I was thinking of writing about this age , this moment in your life where you take stock and try to decide how you feel about it. You get a sense that life isn't going to change that much. I'm not going to become a landscape architect at this point. These are my kids, this is my wife, this is my job, this is my extended family and how I feel in the world. What do I make of it?
That was the initial idea, and I just thought a lot of funny things were happening in my house, with how we were relating to each other. My kids were pulling out of being little kids who dress up like Cinderella and becoming these fascinating, much more challenging, tiny versions of my wife. It's like living with three ages of the same woman, and I knew that was interesting. So I started thinking about who could play these parts, and then it just occurred to me: I already have these characters. It's Pete and Debbie and Charlotte and Sadie from Knocked Up.
Why he doesn't write bad guys:
That's why there are no villains in any of my movies, because I just think that life is already so weird. The whole set-up of life doesn't make any sense to me. I'm going to live for a while, and I'll look good for a while, then I'll really look good, and then it's going to slowly fall apart. Year by year, I'm just going to cave in, then all my friends are just going to start dropping like flies, and hopefully I'm not one of them that drops first, and I'll last as long as I can last and hopefully I won't lose my mind and my memory while my kids have to take care of me. It's so tragic and bizarre and also wonderful at the same time that I don't know what to do except laugh at it.
The thing that married couples think, if not say:
In terms of the fights, they [Pete and Debbie] get very raw, and things are said in those fights that feel emotionally honest. Because when you're married for a long time, every once in a while you think, "Has this all been a mistake?" I think there's no couple in the world where the people don't say to themselves, "I could have married anyone in the world. Did I make the right choice?" And this movie is about the fact that they did make the right choice, but that doesn't stop you, in a bad moment, from doubting yourself.
For more from Apatow, check out his guest-edited issue of V.F. (our first-ever comedy issue), which will be available on newsstands on December 5 in New York and Los Angeles and December 12 in the rest of the country.
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