Judd Apatow on Jim Carrey, the 'Knocked Up' sequel and loving 'The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills'
Nearly a decade before he became Hollywood’s go-to producer and director for comedies such as “Knocked Up” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” Judd Apatow cut his teeth as a producer on the dark Jim Carrey vehicle “The Cable Guy,” which is out on Blu-ray this week with 20 minutes of deleted scenes restored. Apatow talked with 24 Frames writer Rebecca Keegan about Carrey's sinister turn, why he's revisiting “Knocked Up” and what his kids learn from reality TV.
"The Cable Guy" took a drubbing from critics when it came out, but it’s gotten a cult status over the years. Were you surprised by the reaction to it at the time?
I thought people would be so excited to see Jim break new ground. I thought the critical response would be really positive and encouraging. It was an odd time, and the movie was stranger and darker and weirder than anyone expected. Some people were thrown that it wasn’t something they were used to. One of the issues has always been, when you see the movie for the first time, you actually think Jim Carrey is going to kill somebody. The second time you get all the jokes, and you’re no longer too nervous to laugh.
Didn’t you meet your wife on the "Cable Guy" set?
I met Leslie [Mann] for the first time at her audition. On the Blu-ray, we have the audition. It’s actually the first time we ever spoke, but I am speaking in the character of the Cable Guy because I’m reading with her. You can feel her lack of interest. I don’t think she walked out of that room feeling what I felt.
You're writing a “Knocked Up” spinoff based on Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd's characters from that film. Why are you revisiting them?
You’re also producing the Pee-wee Herman movie, a David Wain film and the Kristen Wiig vehicle “Bridesmaids.” So do you write in the morning and take meetings in the afternoon, or how exactly does that work?
It starts out with me thinking I’m going to write. And then the phone starts ringing. And then I have meetings. And then at 5 o’clock I cry because I didn’t get to write. I know I have to shoot this summer, so I know at some point I’ll get it done. I’m going to shoot in July, and then it’ll come out next summer. I’m trying to get it in the head to direct again. I’m considering eating smoothies made out of vegetables now. I need to figure out how not to sugar crash every 15 minutes for a 12-hour day.
At what point do you have to show the studio a script?
I have a different theory, which is, I just show them pages from the beginning. I show them the worst possible vomit pass from Day One. My whole process is wide open. I show them a really bad draft and then I keep saying for months, “It’s going to get better.” The script never really locks. I always assume the actors will come up with something better than what I’ve been polishing, so I have to leave space for that.
You tweeted recently about “The Bachelor.” Do you watch a lot of reality TV?
I can’t get enough of it. I’m happy if all entertainment turned into reality TV and put me out of business permanently. I like it that much. That guy on "The Bachelor" is one of the greatest comedy characters ever created. I watch "The Bachelor" this year like I’m watching a W.C. Fields movie. You couldn’t invent a guy that strange. The fact that all those women are crying and in love with him and he literally has no sense of humor. There’s not a cell in his body that understands what a joke is. He’s so sincere in the strangest way. I could watch it forever. I wish they’d send me the outtakes. I enjoyed “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” this year too. I watched it with my children, and I use it as a teaching tool.
What could your children possibly be learning from "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills"?
When my daughter gets upset, I’ll say, "Now how should you handle this situation? Should you handle it like Kim or like Adrienne?" I’m a big fan of the "show your kids awful things and tell them don’t do that" strategy of parenting. It’s all teaching moments. It’s all conflict resolution. How do people interact and communicate? When are they too hard on each other? When are they not listening? I can find all sorts of bogus reasons to pretend it’s healthy to show my kids. I do a lot of Gordon Ramsay. I’m watching a lot of “Kitchen Confidential.” I’ll watch the BBC version with the children. There’s a lot of cursing, and then you know what I say? "Don’t talk like Gordon!"
— Rebecca Keegan
Photo: Judd Apatow. Photo credit: Universal Pictures