JUDD APATOW on 'KNOCKED UP' Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for Radio Free Entertainment
May 18, 2007
In the comedy Knocked Up, a couple that is seemingly mismatched on every level (Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl) try to make the best of things after a drunken one-night stand results in an unexpected pregnancy. The film reunites many of the creative forces behind The 40-Year-Old Virgin and TV's Freaks and Geeks, including writer/director Judd Apatow and several actors who have worked with him on previous projects, such as Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Jason Segel, and Jonah Hill.
Like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up blends a decidedly R-rated brand of humor with a few heartwarming, sentimental moments. Seth Rogen steps up into a lead role and carries the movie well, and the supporting cast is as strong as fans would expect.
In this interview, Judd Apatow talks about the making of the movie, and also gives a lengthy preview of some of the hilarious special features to be found on the DVD.
MEDIA: The birth scene had a few brief, graphic moments. Why did you guys decide to go that route with it?
JUDD: I just wanted it to feel real. So the reason why I show a crowning shot is if I don't show it, I just look like an episode of Friends. And I'm trying to make you feel the pain of that experience, because it is the most intense moment in people's lives, and I had to do something that hadn't been done before. My original goal was to find a woman who would allow me to shoot the baby coming out and then match it in to Katherine--get the same sheets and the same bed. And we got close to getting it shot. But here's why we weren't allowed to (and this is interesting): the State of California said, "You can't do that because the unborn child would need a worker's permit." And I can't get it till he's born. There's a Kurt Vonnegut problem right there. So we weren't able to do it, so it became a prosthetic.
How did the MPAA feel about that shot?
[jokes] They called me and said, "We love it!" [laughs] No, I think it's fine. I think you're allowed to show that. They show it on the Discovery Channel five times a day on A Baby Story, which every time I see my wife watching, I know it means she wants to get pregnant.
What was your impression of Seth's talent as a comedian when you first met him?
Well, I met Seth when he was 16 years old and he was in Vancouver. Someone gave me a tape of actors reading generic scenes for Freaks and Geeks, and Seth was really funny and he seemed real. I was looking for kids who seemed authentic. And we wrote this scene where a kid is explaining how he's going to grow pot underground and then if the cops come, he's going to blow the entrance and then they'll just see the corn at ground level and he'll just say he's a corn farmer. But Seth [spoke in a very deep voice] and said the whole scene really pissed off. And it made me laugh so hard. And there was no part for him, and we just created a part in the show. And then he moves down to do the show and he brings his parents, and I realize I've completely altered his entire life because now his whole family lives in America because we find him humorous. But he was so funny when we did the show. You could just see that the light was on him, and when we would improvise, he would say things that only a great comic mind would think of. Even though he was 16 years old, it was like he was born as a fully-formed comedic personality.
What special features can fans expect from the DVD?
We just have so many extras that it's ridiculous. It's taken so much time to watch them. They've literally handed me DVDs of 6 hours of footage that I have to go through. One thing we did that I think is really funny is we shot a fake documentary during the making of the movie, and the documentary is about how Seth Rogen was the tenth choice to play the lead. So during our shoot, we would have actors come and perform a scene, and then I would fire them. And so we had James Franco do it, Justin Long, David Krumholtz, Allen Covert. I did it--there was a moment where I think I should be the lead as an actor/director. Orlando Bloom did it. And it's really funny. It's this whole documentary about how hard it was to find Seth. And then we also did a very funny fake documentary about how I was having fights with the studio, so they sent in Bennett Miller, the director of Capote, to oversee the shoot. And so Bennett came to the set and we would shoot all this footage of him changing my angles and my coverage and debating me, and it's very funny. I keep talking about how I don't like moving the camera because it's bad for the comedy, and he says, "Do you think it's funnier because it looks like sh*t?" And ultimately it comes to blows between me and Bennett Miller. So we really went out of our way to make a DVD that takes a lot of comedic chances. There's a very funny documentary about the roller coaster sequence, because Jay Baruchel didn't want to do it because he says he gets panic attacks on roller coasters. And the documentary is about me manipulating him into doing it, and you see me basically lying to him saying, "It's not that bad" and then him having a panic attack on the roller coaster. [laughs] And then he won't do it again and we have to keep doing it all day. And then you see--because most people want to see this--most of our actors vomiting over and over. It's a little funny 5-minute documentary, in addition to deleted scenes. There's a ton of deleted scenes and raw footage. I like to put the raw takes on the DVD because I think it's fun to see our process.
In one scene, Seth's character is in a waiting room getting freaked out by a bunch of babies. What kind of casting process is involved in something like that?
I just filled a room with babies and started positioning them in the room. Some of them are the babies of crew members, and some are babies that are baby actors. There's a whole world of baby actors that you don't know about, but if I needed a baby this afternoon, I could get a baby, if I had the money! There are some very nice people who have twins, and then if one's crying, you bring in the other one. And we're always very careful with them, because on some level, it's just odd that there's a baby there, and it feels wrong. [laughs] So we try to shoot them very quickly, and then have them leave. Especially [in the scene] when the baby's born, it's difficult because you want a baby that's teeny, because it would look weird if a baby came out and was talking. And then you're scared to even have to hold a baby, it's so precious. And the guy who delivers the baby, Ken Jeong, is actually a doctor in real life, and he was terrified holding this little baby even though he knows how to do it. [laughs] So we're always very careful.
Another scene shows Cirque du Soleil via a mushroom-induced trip. How did you get them involved in the movie?
I've written Cirque du Soleil into movies before, and for one reason or another, it never seemed to survive the re-writes. And I always knew that there was a great comedy sequence to be done with Cirque du Soleil, and I was frankly very surprised that it hadn't already been done. There's very few things that are fresh that are that popular. So when we sent them the pages, they were very, very receptive and they got the joke, and were very comfortable with it...We went to all the shows and tried to figure out which show would look right for the sequence. And then when we went there, for an entire day, they performed the show just for our cameras and about 900 extras, and it really couldn't have been easier. It's the kind of thing you think would be incredibly difficult to accomplish, but it's just such a well-run operation that they made it all easy, and I'm really proud of the sequence. It gets really big laughs, and I've been to all of those shows a billion times, and we all went to the Love show the weekend that we shot that sequence. I've since been back. So I'm very thankful to them. Then later, I found out that the woman who was in charge of approving everything babysat me when I was 8 years old. Isn't that odd? She was my babysitter, now she's like the head of public relations for Cirque du Soleil.
Did she remember you?
She did. She did due to my childhood antics. I'm sure I created a lot of problems for her then.