A dozen years ago, when Paul Rudd was sweeping Alicia Silverstone’s Cher off her feet at the end of “Clueless,” you might not have guessed he’d end up as the comedic secret weapon he is today, thanks to a trio of scene-stealing supporting roles in “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and this summer’s “Knocked Up.”
Currently starring in the ensemble comedy “The Ten” (alongside Jessica Alba, Winona Ryder and Gretchen Mol — see “Winona Ryder Explains How Puppet, Sex Fit Into Bible Comedy ’The Ten’ “ ), Rudd clearly has the comedic chops off-camera as well. Keep that subversive deadpan humor in mind as you read our chat about his new movie, his days as a bar mitzvah DJ and his love of fantasy baseball.
MTV: You act as the narrator in “The Ten.” How do you prepare for such a weighty task?
Paul Rudd: I tried to do as much narration [as I could] before the film started.
MTV: Did you consult “The Shawshank Redemption”?
Rudd: It’s funny that you brought that one up. That’s the one I worked with. I’d stand in my room in front of a mirror and do all of Morgan Freeman’s lines. Thankfully I didn’t have to use any of that because the whole thing is ridiculous.
MTV: “The Ten” is a pretty absurd film.
Rudd: It’s absurd, yeah. And to do anything but play it seriously, you’re just going to get into trouble.
MTV: In the film, you have a couple of high-profile women to play against. How do you casually mention to the wife that today is the day you’re going to make out with Jessica Alba?
Rudd: I just didn’t say anything. It’s best not to say anything, and then when she sees the film we’ll have a long discussion. She’s also seen me make out with Oliver Platt.
MTV: Was this for the film?
Rudd: No. Chew on that. That was the wrong turn of phrase.
MTV: Let’s talk about your background. What was a Paul Rudd DJ-ed bar mitzvah like? Set the scene for me.
Rudd: OK. It was the early ’90s. I had long hair, kind of inspired by INXS and “The Lost Boys.” I would wear Doc Marten boots and shorts, kind of very Red Hot Chili Peppers. The kids loved it, or so I thought. It was just me going out on the dance floor with a bunch of 13-year-old kids singing “Whoomp! (There It Is),” which, funnily enough, I would do even when I wasn’t working.
MTV: Back when you were in “Clueless,” it seemed like you were on a different career path.
Rudd: The roles I was offered after “Clueless” weren’t so inspired, just generic boy-next-door, all-American guys. It was stuff that was never that clever or unique, and I kind of shunned that a little bit. “Wet Hot American Summer” was the first movie that I was super-proud of. I thought it was really funny. And “Anchorman” I was able to do largely because of “Wet Hot.”
MTV: Tell me the pluses and minuses of being known for the line “Do you know how I know you’re gay?” Do people come up and say that to you?
Rudd: They do. Sometimes they’ll ask me to sign something, and a lot of times I write, “You know how I know you’re gay? You asked for my autograph.” That’s one they’ll treasure forever.
MTV: What are you obsessed with?
Rudd: There are few things I’m obsessed with. It’s really English comedy shows.
MTV: What about fantasy baseball?
Rudd: You know what, you’re right. You just totally called me out on another obsession. I do fantasy sports, which is so lame.
MTV: Only if you lose.
Rudd: No, if you win, it’s even lamer because then you’re really, really trying. I went through a real dilemma yesterday: Am I going to drop [Orioles outfielder] Corey Patterson to pick up [Dodgers reliever] Jonathan Broxton? Loser!
MTV: Are you doing well in your leagues?
Rudd: I’m doing really well. I’m in first place in both.
MTV: Do you talk to your wife about it?
Rudd: She won’t talk to me about it. She just says she’s sick of looking at my back because I’m at the computer all day. I’m not proud of it. It’s like [with] a junkie: I don’t feel good about what I’m doing, but I can’t help it.
MTV: Do you have any phobias?
Rudd: I’ve got a bunch. The mack daddy of them all would be death. I think all of my other fears stem from that fear. I don’t think I’m unique in that way. Fear of death, and somehow you can trace that all the way down to fear of mustard on my sandwich.
MTV: Any kind of mustard?
Rudd: God, I hate mustard. I don’t like condiments. Condiments in general I find unsettling. I don’t like ketchup. I don’t like mayonnaise. I didn’t have salad dressing until I was in college, I swear to God.
MTV: You weren’t ready?
Rudd: I wasn’t ready. When I was a little kid I wouldn’t eat cucumbers unless my mother cut out the seeds. That behavior should not be tolerated, first of all. My mother did a horrible, horrible job. Thankfully I can now eat a whole cucumber.
MTV: Have you ever thought about putting out an album? You sing in “The Ten.”
Rudd: I wouldn’t mind putting out a “Rod Stewart sings the classics” type of record. I would like to do Paul Rudd Sings Rod Stewart, which would just equal a couple of songs because he just sings everyone else’s songs.
MTV: I understand you have a cameo in another Judd Apatow-produced project, “Walk Hard,” as …
Rudd: … John Lennon. Thankfully most people don’t know who John Lennon is, so the pressure wasn’t on. It is a ridiculous portrayal and a silly scene. Jack Black plays Paul McCartney. So you look at both of us and say, “Oh, I get it.”
MTV: Do you know what you’re going to shoot next?
Rudd: There are some irons in the fire. That’s an expression I just made up, and I like that because it means I have many things on the horizon. “Indiana Jones 4.” That’s what I’m doing next. I’m playing Shia. I am Shia LaBeouf. Who would I play in “Indiana Jones 4”? I think I’d like to play Indy’s rival, Illinois Smith.
MTV: Is he a seeker of rare antiquities as well?
Rudd: No, I don’t think I would be an archaeologist. I think the thing with Illinois Smith is he’s always in search of the perfect sandwich.
MTV: No condiments, though.
Rudd: Well, Illinois probably likes the condiments. You see, it’s a role.
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