This is 40 offers – as its title suggests – a harsh look at the reality of turning the big 4-0 in a dysfunctional (but oddly relatable) family. Writer/director Judd Apatow creates another barrier pushing comedy in the long awaited semi-sequel to his 2007 hit comedy, Knocked Up.
Returning cast members include Paul Rudd, who reprises his role as Pete, Leslie Mann, as Debbie, and Jason Segal as Jason, Debbie’s oversexed fitness trainer. The Apatow girls play Pete and Debbie’s pubescent daughters in the film; Maude, as Sadie, (who proves to be a bit of scene stealer) and Iris who captured our hearts as Charlotte.
This is 40 marks Apatow’s fourth feature-length directorial outing and he best describes this deeply honest and warts-and-all meltdown movie as “Falling Down for the family.” The all-star cast are joined by new comedy players Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) as Ronnie, who works at Pete’s declining record label; Lena Dunham (Girls) as Cat, Pete’s assistant; an off the charts hilarious appearance by Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) as Catherine, who is one of the foul-mouthed mothers at the kids’ school; Megan Fox (Transformers) as Desi, who runs Debbie’s clothing boutique; John Lithgow, (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) as Debbie’s mostly absentee father, Oliver, and legendary comedian, Albert Brooks (Broadcast News) as Larry, Pete’s needy dad.
Sceen Rant caught up with Leslie Mann (LM), Judd Apatow (JA), Albert Brooks (AB), Paul Rudd (PR) and Megan Fox (MF) at Beverly Hills’ Four Seasons Hotel, where the movie related discussion kinda went off topic a little…
SR: What was the toughest thing about turning forty and how did you overcome it?
JA: I overcame it by making two movies with the number forty in the title (The 40 Year Old Virgin being the other). I claim that I haven’t had a nervous breakdown from turning forty and that it was more thirty, but the evidence of the two movies seems to prove this.
LM: I think he’s lying…
LM: 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 have just turned forty and some of those lunches we were crying and we were screaming about our husbands saying we want to leave them and run away and at other lunches, we were fine and we love our husbands and we are happy with our lives.
JA: I’m not going to let you go out to lunch anymore.
SR: Anyone else have a theory about handling turning forty?
AB: I have a different secret. When I was very young, I started to make friends with much, much older people. So when I was twenty, my friends were fifty, and I never really went through forty because I would watch them die and I would feel younger. So you make friends with older people and you will always feel young no matter what. On my fortieth birthday I was in a hospice with a 92-year old buddy…
(Everyone including the cast let out an…”ahhhh”)
AB: Okay, that’s a lie.
SR: How did you feel turning forty Paul?
PR: As a kid my dad would always say, growing older beats the alternative… Although my dad is actually now the alternative.
AB: The alternative being….
PR: Oh he’s dead. That just livened everything up, didn’t it?
MF: I married my husband who is thirteen years older, so I will always be a trophy wife for him.
SR: Paul, like your character you’re married with kids, can you relate to Pete’s frustration about life?
PR: Oh yeah. Obviously the situations are different but there are certain aspects of marriage, parenthood that seem relatable. We’ve spent years talking about all of this stuff. We’ve all gotten together, my wife, Leslie and Judd have all had dinners and we’ve talked about it. This is going back to Knocked Up too. There many aspects of the character which is very much like me.
SR: This was a very funny movie, I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie Hitchcock and the whole husband and wife relationship there…
JA: It’s very similar. I did watch it with Iris the other night. Iris is ten. We had to cover her eyes during the Ed Gein sequences. Was that a bad piece of parenting? Leslie wasn’t home. (Laughs) I tried to show her Psycho. I was like: “I don’t want you to see the bad part, I just want you to get the feel for it.” I cover her eyes and she screams: “What are you doing?!”
AB: I have kids too, ages twelve and fourteen and a half, and you try and keep them from going to the actual movies at the theater but then you let them watch the screeners. So we all gathered around and watched Flight… it prompted a discussion of cocaine that I never wanted to have. “What is that dad?” That is what pilots do… it’s a pilot type Aspirin. It was pretty graphic. And that wasn’t even the flight part!
SR: Judd, how much did you know about a woman’s perspective of turning forty? Did you bounce ideas off one another?
JA: We talked about the movie for years together and that’s where the ideas come from and it’s a little bit of a coded conversation where we are really debating our own problems with each other, so Leslie can complain about Pete but not about me. So I will say; “Don’t you think we should have a scene where we point out how really controlling Debbie is?” And she’ll say: “Yeah, but maybe we should include a bit where Pete admits he’s a dick.” And then we go back and forth like that, kind of subtlety talking to each other for a long time. And at the end, it mutates into this other weird thing which is a combo of me and Paul’s worst traits into one ‘monster husband’ that Debbie has to deal with.
LM: I agree, that’s how it works. It’s like what I would fantasize about saying to Judd. Like Debbie can say these things to Pete, but Leslie can’t say these things to Judd so it’s fun to be able to do that. And also yelling at the school kid’s mother, Melissa McCarthy. I wouldn’t ever do that… but that’s what I fantasize about doing. So it’s fun to have this character to live through.
SR: I enjoyed the references to Lost, is there some inside joke you have with J.J. Abrams?
JA: No, our daughter watched Lost in about six weeks and was crying a lot. We thought are we bad parents for allowing this? But then we’re too lazy to keep up with her to know what the next episode is and if it’s in appropriate, so we just kind of let it happen and then we realized there was some bad parenting happening. It was out of control and I thought: “I really don’t know what to do here but it does make for a good couple of jokes in the movie.” That’s what I usually do when I should make a strong parenting decision. I kind of let it play out to see if a joke results from it. It’s probably not a good idea. But then JJ read the script and came to previews to make sure that he was happy. But he is a geek who has ruined our lives.
SR: Mr. Brooks in your scenes with John Lithgow, were you improvising a lot?
AB: In rehearsal we got a chance to improvise a bit, that’s sort of the way it works. The idea that you get there and at the actual moment you’re making it up is sort of a fallacy, but 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 a lot of things were said in rehearsal.
JA: I watched the dailies recently and the best line which Albert came up with on the fly is the fun part of loosening it up at the end after getting it scripted and then starting to play. We knew we wanted Albert’s character to be excited about how much money John makes. So I was watching the dailies and it’s my favorite wording of the joke in the movie because John plays an orthopedic surgeon and Albert says: “Every time I don’t see a hunchback, you make money.”
AB: Did I make that up when we were filming?
JA: Yes. You did.
AB: Then yes, is the answer to your question.
JA: Albert would actually email me jokes the night before which would top many of my jokes so I was very happy about that.
SR: How difficult is it keeping a straight face during shooting? What was the hardest scene to shoot without corpsing?
LM: The scene with Melissa McCarthy was the hardest scene to shoot without laughter. That was impossible.
PR: Yes, that was really hard.
LM: It was the weirdest thing, I had never experienced that. Usually it would be one time I would crack up and I would hold it together. But with her it was hours, we could not keep a straight face. And finally we just gave up and Judd said that he was using more than one camera so we could laugh because we couldn’t keep a straight face. And the crew was all laughing. It was ridiculous. She is the funniest person ever.
SR: After watching the outtakes of you both cracking up with Melissa during a scene, I coincidentally interviewed her husband (Ben Falcone) the next day on the set of Bad Words (Jason Bateman’s new film), and he told me Melissa would come home from shooting and say: “I think I went too far… I think they might not want me back…”
LM: Oh really! (Laughs) Because she said she wanted to slit me open…
PR: I’ve seen people in tears before that was something otherworldly. The crew had to leave the room. It was impossible. She just kept her composure through all of it.
MF: Was it her own stuff or did you throw jokes at her?
JD: It was a combination. Our executive producer, Paula Pell is from Saturday Night Live and she’s been there for sixteen years. She’s one of the funniest people ever. She had some really funny ones like you look like a bank commercial couple. But what happens with scenes like that, we know the scenes should be four minutes but by the end of the script, there is about eight minutes, we can kind of tell how we could compress it but we’re not sure, so we let it be a big scene. And Melissa is one of the best improvisers out there. The trick is to stop bursting into laughter is to stare at their foreheads.
LM: I tried that. Nothing worked.
SR: Your kids do a lot of cursing in the movie. Did you explain the difference that it’s okay if you’re in character?
LM: For Maude we don’t allow her to curse at home, I know she does at school so it was fun for her to do that at work. Which by the way, I didn’t think was a great idea but Judd thinks it’s funny.
LM: So that’s fun for her but then she gets home from work and she tries to use the F word or whatever and we have to shut her down.
Judd turns to Albert: Do you let your kids curse? If they did would you stop them?
AB: We don’t curse that much. I’m from another school of comedy.
(Judd bursts out laughing.)
LM: Do they do it at school? How old are your kids?
AB: My son is fourteen and my daughter will be thirteen next March. They don’t curse a lot, but they hear it a lot on YouTube unfortunately. We don’t do it in the house. We’re not a big Fu*k household.
MF: Do you monitor their Facebook account?
AB: My wife ensures there are no Facebook accounts.
JA: That you know of…
LM: But she never curses like that in front of us.
JA: She will try it. She’s like: “But everybody curses in Superbad.” She’s finally using it as revenge against me. I knew it would happen one day. “You make your whole living off of cursing. How can you not like cursing?”
SR: It’s brave to have a film called ‘This is 40’ because Hollywood tries to direct films towards the 18-24 demographic. Do you feel like your audience is growing up along with your movies so they are getting to the point where they are facing some of these issues now?
JA: We are about to find out!
AB: This is 40 is only the title for a few theaters. This is 18 is for a lot of theaters.
PR: I say we call it This is Zero Dark Forty.
SR: Paul, Judd has you in a few uncompromising positions… in one scene you are naked with your legs over head with a magnifying mirror blocking the point of entry shall we say… asking your wife to look at your hemorrhoid. Did you feel uncomfortable shooting that in front of a crew? Is there a time when you have refused to do that?
PR: (Laughs) That’s an interesting phrasing of the question! Someone asked me this once before and I’m sure there has been.
LM: You wouldn’t take off your shirt when you were sitting on the toilet.
JA: That’s right. We asked him if he would do the scene also without his shirt and he refused. That is the only time you’ve ever drawn the line.
PR: Here’s the thing… I’m not excited about any of it. I thought it would be funny but it’s embarrassing and horrifying but in the context of the movie and this is what we are all trying to go for, then I’ll do it. Certainly if it’s funny, there is no room for vanity. I was laughing as I was dying on the inside. I think the only way you can prepare for a scene like that is with a bottle of Gin!
SR: It’s the same question for you Leslie, is there anything that embarrasses you and where do you would draw a line?
LM: I’m pretty much game for anything.
JA: The ones you think I made her do, she thought of usually. We did try and get across the mystery disappearing in a relationship and people being totally open in a way that after many years, becomes disgusting and not sexy. We were trying to think of two examples, one was “will you look at this” (between my butt cheeks) and the other one was being on an iPad in the bathroom.
SR: What about the farting scene?
JA: Well, that was a Paul Rudd improvisation.
AB: And you don’t want to discover a horrible thing during a scene like a nurse coming over and saying: “We need to talk to you…” That’s not the place to discover that you are terminal. That was a funny scene but come to the monitor sir.
JA: We actually found something! With high def you can see all sorts of things now.
(Paul Rudd is cracking up).
AB: I ask for scenes like that because it kills two birds with one stone. Why do I need to make an appointment for a colonoscopy when I can have one in a movie?
PR: There’s a great line Michael Caine says: “Everytime I need a haircut, I just take a movie.”
This is 40 opens in theaters on December 21, 2012.