Judd Apatow, who was named “the smartest person in Hollywood” by Entertainment Weekly in 2007, is not very different from the average man. He has a loving spouse, two young daughters, and a slue of buddies that he clearly has many memories and inside jokes with. What makes Apatow stand out?He gets to combine his love of family and friends with his passion for filmmaking.
Apatow, who broke into the limelight with his 2005 directorial debut “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” is no stranger to the entertainment industry. Though now he is 40 himself, he got his start doing stand-up comedy when he was 17. Finding no success in establishing his own persona, he did well writing material for other comedians, such as Roseanne. Around 1992, Apatow joined the writing staff of the Emmy-award winning sketch comedy show “The Ben Stiller Show.” Cancelled after only one season, Apatow went on to co-write Stiller’s 1996 financially dismal and critically panned film “The Cable Guy” starring Jim Carrey. Apatow then returned to television and created two TV series: the high school-based “Freaks and Geeks,” followed by the college-centered “Undeclared.” Both shows, while critically acclaimed, were both cancelled after only one season.
Still, Apatow was not down and out yet. In 2004, he produced the hit movie “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy.” Following the success of this film, Apatow went on to write and direct “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and then later, in 2007, “Knocked Up.” Both films were extremely successful financially, and, along with the Apatow produced hit comedy “Superbad” the same year, led Philadelphia Weekly critic Sean Burns to deem 2007 “the year Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen saved movie comedy.”
Whether they are coming-of-age stories, laugh out loud comedies or a combination of both (which they often are), Apatow’s productions all have a sense of sentimentality and express the joys of spending time with one’s family and friends. Many scenes in these films are clearly improvised and have a genuine feeling of “hanging out” to them. Apatow also frequently recasts his friends, which include his wife, Leslie Mann, as well as Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jason Segal, Martin Starr and Jay Baruchel. In fact, in “Knocked Up,” all of these actors with the exception of Mann and Rogen retain their real first name.
Though he does not have any films to direct in the immediate horizon, Apatow is very busy producing projects featuring many of his friends that have appeared in his previous work.
“DrillBit Taylor”, a comedy starring Owen Wilson, is set to debut in theatres on March 21. The film features Wilson as a hired, low-budget bodyguard for grade school kids that are bullied. In addition to Rogen’s role as a co-writer on this film, Apatow’s wife also appears in the film.
“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” places “Knocked Up” co-star Jason Segal in the spotlight, as well as reunites him with Jonah Hill and Paul Rudd. In the film (set for an April 18 release), Segal’s character cannot get over his breakup with his TV celebrity girlfriend. As he escapes to tropical paradise to try and forget his worries, his ex-girlfriend shows up at the same hotel with her new love interest.
July 25 will see the release of “Step Brothers,” a new comedy that reunites “Talledega Nights” stars Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. Not much is known about this movie yet, other than Ferrell and Reilly’s characters’ parents get married, forcing an immediate sibling rivalry between the two middle-aged men.
Finally, to close out the summer season, Apatow will produce “Pineapple Express,” starring Apatow regular Seth Rogen and “Spider-Man” (as well as former “Freaks and Geeks”) star James Franco, is set for an Aug. 8 release. The movie follows Rogen and Franco’s pothead characters as they escape impending doom that resulted from witnessing a police officer kill someone. The film is written by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the two masterminds behind 2007’s “Superbad.”
Apatow is one of the few personalities in Hollywood to truly have a genuine feel to his work. Not since the legendary John Hughes of the eighties has someone captured the real way that modern people speak to one another. After viewing his work, one gets the feeling that he’s not in this business just for the money, but mainly to have fun with the ones he loves. Perhaps then Apatow is a true example of living the American Dream.
Chris Pierdomenico is a fourth-year student at West Chester University majoring in Secondary English Education with minors in psychology and film criticism. He can be reached at email@example.com.