Writer / director / producer JUDD APATOW has built his reputation over the past two decades with a style of comedy that weaves the relatable with the hilarious - in short, his comedy is outrageous, honest and human. As an award-winning creator of television programs and theatrical films, Apatow has shown a consistent ability to take awkward situations we face in our own lives and mine them for optimal laugh-out-loud reactions from an audience.
Apatow's gift for comedic storytelling was fully realized in summer 2005 with the critically hailed and box-office blockbuster The 40-Year-Old Virgin. This film directorial debut told a heartwarming story of love, friendship and sexual curiosity, and introduced the world to the then largely unknown Steve Carell.
David Denby of The New Yorker was one of a slew of critics who fell for the comedy, calling it "truly dirty and truly romantic at the same time, a combination that's very hard to pull off." The film was nominated for and won a number of awards - including top ten ranking from the American Film Institute in 2005 and a WGA nomination for Apatow and Carell for Best Original Screenplay.
With hits on his resume that include Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy, The Cable Guy, The Ben Stiller Show, The Larry Sanders Show and cult favorites Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared, Apatow has both created a comic library and surrounded himself with up-and-coming talent who have become fixture's in today's comic community.
One of those early players from Apatow's Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared, SETH ROGEN (The 40-Year-Old Virgin), would provide the source material for his new film, quite soon after Virgin wrapped production. Rogen inspired Apatow to create Ben Stone - a directionless, ambitionless, everyday guy - who has lived the slacker fantasy and quite unexpectedly bedded the gorgeous girl of his dreams. Only, this time... she winds up Knocked Up.
In his latest comedy, the filmmaker turns his attention to the delicate questions of love and marriage, and the laughs that rise easily and sometimes wincingly when exploring the topics. In Knocked Up, KATHERINE HEIGL (Grey's Anatomy) plays Alison Scott, an ambitious and beautiful young woman on the verge of becoming an on-air reporter for a major entertainment news network. Ben (Rogen), however, lives with four friends in a twenty-something/bachelor's extended adolescence: a dilapidated house complete with a makeshift boxing ring and deluxe (read: mosquito-infested) swimming pool. The friends have a shared ambition to support their lifestyle by creating a semi-pornographic celebrity web site - one that could make them quite wealthy when (and if) it launches.
As Knocked Up begins, these two polar opposites meet in a bar, drunkenly hook up and then go their separate ways. That is supposed to be the end of their story. But Ben finds that the phone call he gets from Alison several weeks later is not a request for a second date; it's a call to tell him she's going to have his baby. Now, Ben has some life-altering questions to ask of himself - will he run the other way or stick around to help raise the kid?
Take an unexpected pregnancy between two people who would have preferred to remain strangers; toss in Alison's disapproving older sister, Debbie (LESLIE MANN, Orange County); Debbie's hen-pecked husband, Pete (PAUL RUDD, Night At The Musuem); their two young children, Sadie and Charlotte (newcomers MAUDE and IRIS APATOW); and Ben's four slacker-happy roommates (JONAH HILL, Accepted, Superbad, Evan Almighty; JASON SEGEL, How I Met Your Mother, JAY BARUCHEL, Million Dollar Baby; and MARTIN STARR, Freaks and Geeks) and you have Apatow's unique recipe for dysfunction and comedy: Knocked Up.
Joining the writer/director/producer behind the scenes is the creative team including cinematographer ERIC EDWARDS (The Break-Up); production designer JEFFERSON SAGE (The TV Set); editors BRENT WHITE (Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby) and CRAIG ALPERT (Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan); costume designer DEBRA McGUIRE (Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy); music supervisor JONATHAN KARP (The Break-Up); composers LOUDON WAINRIGHT (The Aviator) and JOE HENRY (Jesus' Son).
SHAUNA ROBERTSON (Elf,The 40-Year-Old Virgin) and CLAYTON TOWNSEND (Natural Born Killers, The 40-Year-Old Virgin,Walk Hard) produce the comedy with Apatow. Rogen and EVAN GOLDBERG (Superbad) server as the film's executive producers.
As Apatow went from stand-up comedian to award-winning television writer, creator and producer to feature filmmaker, he developed a knack for spotting and nurturing comedic talent. He first noticed Seth Rogen on a taped audition for Freaks and Geeks, the television show he was executive producing in 1999. "I saw him on this casting tape from Vancouver," Apatow recalls. "I thought, 'This guy has a funny-sounding voice, and I should see him in person.' So I went to Vancouver. Seth came in and was hilarious, so we created a part for him on the show."
In addition to being a member of the cast, Rogen had shown himself to be adept at improvisation. After the critically acclaimed program was abruptly cancelled, Apatow hired Rogen again, this time as an actor and a writer on 2001's Undeclared, a series Apatow created about a group of college freshman.
Apatow remembers, "When I started working on Undeclared, I hired Seth to be in the cast and to be a very cheap writer on the show. But then, as it turned out, he was among the best writers on the show, and he was only 18 years old. He was really good - good to the point it was embarrassing."
By the time The 40-Year-Old Virgin came along, Apatow decided that having Rogen around was advantageous to all. "I thought, 'I can throw Seth in the movie and he'll be there every day to help me make everything else funny.' I always have my eye open for the next funny guy who can carry a movie."
His instincts were correct. Rogen's tattooed, burly, deep-voiced stockroom guy was not only the perfect contrast to Andy Stitzer, Steve Carell's fastidious, buttoned-up, middle-aged virgin, but his improvisational "You know how I know you're gay?" riffs with Paul Rudd quickly became a classic."
Buoyed by The 40-Year-Old Virgin's critical and box-office success, Apatow would turn his attention to his next project and put Rogen in a leading role.
The concept for a comedy about an unlikely couple and the complications that arise from their one-night stand was inspired in part by the young actor and a conversation the two had after the success of Virgin. "We were talking about writing something for him, and all of his ideas were giant science-fiction movies," Apatow recalls. "The were very high concept. I said 'Seth you don't need a big concept to be funny. In Virgin, you're funny just standing there talking. You just need a situation that's funny because you're in it... like you get a girl pregnant - and it's funny because it's you.'
"It seemed like Seth came out of the womb with his own comic identity," continued Apatow. "He's a very viciously funny, biting, sardonic personality, but yet he is a sweet and good guy. That combination's always fun for comedy. I just thought, 'That's the kind of guy I'd like to see star in a movie.'"
The news that he would be starring in the filmmaker's next comedy came as a big surprise to the actor. "Judd was deciding what to do after Virgin, and he was very elusive about it until, one day, when we had a meeting about another movie at Universal, he just pitched it," recalls Rogen. "I was sitting there, and he said, 'We want to do this movie Knocked Up, where Seth gets a girl pregnant after a one-night stand.' I couldn't believe it."
Another source of inspiration for Knocked Up came while Apatow was directing his previous film. In the process of trying to lose his virginity, Carell's character, Andy, finds a complicated relationship with Trish, played by Catherine Keener. Says Apatow, "A few of the scenes I really liked were these scenes between Steve and Catherine trying to have a relationship and having these vicious fights. They were funny, but really painful to watch at the same time. I thought, 'Wow, we pulled those off, and maybe I can find the courage to be a little more adult and be even more truthful about relationships and marriage.'"
For his sophomore film effort, Apatow would do for relationships, marriage and family what he'd done successfully for midlife virginity. ""There have been a lot of movies, Virgin included, which are about older people who don't want to grow up," he notes. "I think that happens because as comedians get older, it's more fun to play immature people then mature ones."
The director felt that mature adults were patently not funny, so he created a movie about someone who's supposed to be immature at this age. He wanted Ben to be the kind of guy "who has no choice but to grow up, because he got someone pregnant too early and now he has to be an adult - whether he likes it or not."
It's a movie with the same evolving spirit of The 40-Year-Old Virgin - which is a filthy, dirty movie with a good heart," he continues. "Basically, I try and make these movies with the thought they're about trying hard not to be an asshole. Any story about the journey toward how to be a good person and what it takes the get there is funny to me."
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