NEW YORK — Remember when “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” seemed to come out of nowhere to become the comedy sleeper hit of the summer? It’s all about to happen again thanks to writer/director Judd Apatow’s hilarious follow-up effort, “Knocked Up.”
The flick has been playing to enthusiastic preview audiences for months and now seems poised to do for star Seth Rogen what “Virgin” did for Carell (i.e. make him a bankable leading man: see “Steve Carell, ’Virgin’ Co-Stars Have Hot Summer Ahead” ).
“Knocked Up” is a romantic comedy about a mismatched couple (Katherine Heigl and Rogen) who decide to make the best of a one-night stand and prepare for a child. MTV News caught up with Apatow and Rogen at a place where you might find Rogen’s “Knocked Up” character Ben Stone: the Hawaiian Tropic Zone restaurant.
MTV: How did “Knocked Up” begin?
Judd Apatow: Seth was pitching me some science-fiction that he thought he could star in or write. And I was saying, “You know, Seth, you are funny just standing there. You do not need aliens or ghosts or magical powers. You’re funny in ’The 40-Year-Old Virgin’ and you barely get up. You’re sitting in the stock room.” And then I said, “Like, for example, you could just get a girl pregnant on a date.”
Seth Rogen: Ding! It was my bad ideas that spawned his good idea, much like as in “Knocked Up”: A bad idea can give birth to a good one.
MTV: Are we seeing a new breed of leading man here? With all due respect, you are not Matthew McConaughey.
Rogen: I’m very appalled by that statement.
Apatow: That’s why Seth is on the beach a lot moving his six pack in Us magazine.
Rogen: That’s why I live in a little trailer in Malibu.
Apatow: You jog with Lance Armstrong.
Rogen: I do. I brush my teeth eight hours a day too. I think he’s brushing his teeth every time he’s in a picture.
Apatow: On the beach!
Rogen: Brushing his teeth with sand.
MTV: Is this your first sex scene in a film?
Rogen: Uh, on film, yes. On tape I’ve had many.
MTV: Judd, how do you handle directing sex scenes?
Apatow: When we did “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” I had to have this woman’s nipple pop out.
Apatow: And I was so uncomfortable shooting it that I only did one take.
Rogen: I remember you tried to get me to be the guy who pulled the strings so that her nipple would come out. I refused. I thought that was illegal or something like that.
Apatow: Now I am so comfortable.
Rogen: You just do it. He knows all the terms. He’s like a porno director. “OK, we’re gonna reverse-cowgirl up into the … forward flying squirrel.”
MTV: Judd, you’ve cast your wife Leslie Mann in your last two films as a drunk floozy and now an unhappy wife. What are we to glean from this?
Apatow: Well, it just shows the range of a woman who can play so far from her delightful self. When we were doing the drunk scene, she was like, “I don’t want to play some generic drunk girl. What can we do?” And I said, “Why don’t you go get drunk with Seth. Seth will videotape it, and tomorrow we’ll look at the tape and you’ll see what you’re really like when you’re drunk.”
Rogen: I never saw that tape.
Apatow: You never will. The funny thing she said afterwards was, “All these years when I was drunk I thought I was acting cute, but I’m so obnoxious!” So she took a little bit of her own attitude there.
MTV: During Seth and Paul Rudd’s bonding trip to Vegas [in the film], you use Britney Spears’ “Toxic.”
Apatow: I tried to get “Toxic” for the scene when Leslie is drunk driving [in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”]. I couldn’t get them to do it, but I love Britney. I love “Toxic.” I came back again.
Rogen: You came back harder the second time.
Apatow: You can’t give up on Britney. You gotta show your love. I thought it was a funny song for two guys to be driving in a car to.
MTV: Tell me how you guys first met.
Rogen: I met him at the “Freaks and Geeks” audition. I had been familiar with his work for years.
Apatow: What were you familiar with?
Rogen: I liked “Happy Gilmore,” which you did some work on, and “The Cable Guy.” I was a big fan of your polishing.
MTV: And Judd, what did you make of Seth? He was pretty young at the time.
Apatow: He was 16 when I saw the tape. I remember the moment very clearly because it was such an important moment in my life.
Rogen: It was the most important moment in your life.
Apatow: I was laying in my bed when I saw it for the first time.
Rogen: I didn’t know you were laying in bed when you saw it for the first time.
Apatow: I might have been naked. I don’t know. But I was going through tapes and suddenly here’s this odd kid. He read everything funny, and he was very angry, which made me laugh.
MTV: How would you compare this collaboration? Is this a Scorsese/ De Niro thing going on?
Rogen: I like to think so.
Apatow: I think it’s more of Garry Marshall/ Julia Roberts.
Rogen: If anything, it’s more like Ed Wood/ Bela Lugosi.
MTV: Seth, this is a big leading role for you? Do you imagine a career trajectory for yourself?
Rogen: No. I don’t have any idea. I’m not a good planner. I just kind of do what Judd tells me. Ask him.
Apatow: You’re going to be on a situational comedy where Mary Tyler Moore is playing your grandmother. I’ve already worked it out.
Rogen: I don’t have any real plans. If I just kept doing this I would be happy. I mean, not eating here … well, yeah, if I lived the rest of my life at the Hawaiian Tropic …
MTV: This whole experience must feel different than “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” There are big expectations on this film.
Rogen: I didn’t know that until right now.
Apatow: People expect something?
MTV: Do you think you’re set up to fail now?
Apatow: Always. I always think about that. For me, I try to start a movie before the previous one gets released.
Rogen: We’re working on two failures ahead.
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