Judd Apatow On The Rockin’ Shows That Inspired ‘Walk Hard’

Writer/director recalls Queen, Styx, Doobie Brothers concerts that formed him.

Judd Apatow is the producer and co-writer of “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” and writer/director of “Knocked Up” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” The following is the latest in a series of guest columns by Apatow for MTV News.

I am very excited about the new film I co-wrote, “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” (coming out Friday, if you were wondering). I have always been a giant music fan, and it was a great experience working with my co-writer and director Jake Kasdan, who directed the pilots of “Freaks and Geeks” and “Undeclared” back in the day.

In order to write this film, we needed a star in mind to play the lead role, and we immediately knew that John C. Reilly was the only guy who could do it. John is a brilliant actor, but he is also ridiculously funny and, strangely enough, has this gorgeous Roy Orbison-type singing voice. One of the biggest issues we have had with some of our marketing is that when you take a photo of John playing Dewey, it does not look like a comedy. He looks so real and badass that it just seems like one of those over-the-top music biopics. That also may be because John is the type of actor who would get that role. Who knows, maybe if we hadn’t made this film he would have one day made a film where he played the lead singer of T. Rex or Gram Parsons or Miles Davis. (He could do it. He’s that good.)

Jake and I wrote much of the movie over the phone. We would stay up till all hours talking about the many music biopics we had seen. In the morning my wife would say, “Did you have fun giggling with your girlfriend last night?” We also did a few biopic film festivals. In addition to musicals, we also watched non-musical biopics of people like Marilyn Monroe, Gia, Howard Hughes. Anything mythic was fun to try to dissect.

We also talked a lot about the mythology of rock and roll. Many hours were spent kicking around all the legends: Keith Richards supposedly having all his blood replaced, Elvis being high when speaking to Nixon, etc. But equally as important was the inspiration we took from our personal rock and roll experiences. So below I am going to list mine.

· First concert: the Doobie Brothers. I was in eighth grade. I could not have loved it more. The Minute by Minute tour hit the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, New York. I had such a good time that I went to see another concert just a few months later. It was the Doobie Brothers returning to the Nassau Coliseum.

· I went to a lot of shows in junior high school. I saw Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, Fleetwood Mac (the Tusk tour), Foreigner with Billy Squier opening up. Or was it Michael Bolton? I am not sure. But I definitely saw Michael Bolton when he was a young rocker.

· The best show I have ever seen was Queen at Madison Square Garden. It was The Game tour. “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” was the big hit. They were peaking. I was in heaven. When I got home, my parents were very disturbed because on the news they showed some cops bashing unruly concertgoers over the head with batons till they were bloody. We didn’t see any of this at the show, but concerts at Madison Square Garden were immediately off-limits.

· I got so into buying concert tickets that I bought two in one week. Monday was going to be Jethro Tull, and Friday was going to be Styx. This was in the early ’80s, so these shows were a huge deal. I had no idea at the time that it might be cooler to love Led Zeppelin or the Grateful Dead. I loved my Styx, still do. On Monday morning my stomach was killing me. I cried in bed for hours because I knew that if I told my parents I was sick, I would not be able to see Tull. After three hours of agony I relented, and then the vomiting started. Five times. Twice at home, once at the doctor’s, once on the way to the hospital and once more at the hospital. My appendix was about to burst. I was rushed into surgery.

As soon as I woke up, I only had one thought: “Will I be better in time to see Styx on Friday?” That was all that mattered. I immediately pretended I was feeling much better, but my parents were not convinced. My friends Ron Garner and Kevin Weltmann had to go without me.

And the worst part of it was the reports after about how awesome the shows were. I was so mad.

· Later in life I enjoyed the Lou Reed New York tour. It was a show I will never forget because my ears rang so loudly that night. And they never stopped ringing. Thanks a lot for the tinnitus, Lou. Great concert, but maybe bring it down from 11 to 10 next time.

Check out Judd Apatow’s other guest columns for MTV News right here:

· “Judd Apatow Says Critics Are Always Right — Even If They’re Not”

· “Judd Apatow On Creating A Fake Musical Biopic”

· “Judd Apatow’s Year In Comedy: Raunchy Borat Brought People Together”

Check out everything we’ve got on “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.”

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