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August 2005
The 40 Year Old Virgin: An Interview with Director Judd Apatow and cast members Romany Malco and Seth Rogen

The 40 Year Old Virgin: An Interview with Director Judd Apatow and cast members Romany Malco and Seth Rogen

By Wilson Morales

Is it funny to be a virgin at a later stage in life? For some folks, losing your virginity is like a getting a driver's license; you want to get done early so that there's plenty of time to gain more experience. For others, the opportunity is too great of a deal to focus on so time just goes on and the challenge to have sex becomes harder because the fear of rejection could be too much for one to handle. Judd Apatow knows how to deal with the insecurities of the adolescence having directed the teenage comedy drama "Freaks and Geeks" for television and most recently executive produced the Will Ferrell film, Kicking and Screaming and produced hit comedy, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. For his film debut, Apatow is directing "The 40 Year Old Virgin", in which Steve Carell plays a store clerk who's been riducled for not having sex all his life and his friends help overcome his fear of rejection. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Apatow, along with cast members Romany Malco and Seth Rogen talked about the film and their experiences with women.

Can you talk about your choice of music in the film?

JA: Well, I always enjoy that process of selecting music, and it was a big part of Freaks and Geeks and all the things I've done. I was trying to think what his sound would be and we thought there would be two types of music in the movie. One would be really disgusting rap, and terrifying sexualized world music with titles I can't say. And then where it's his life, the idea is that his musical tastes never change. That if he had sex, maybe his musical taste might have grown up. So none of the music for him, comes after 1984. I made this huge tape of what was called Bad Eighties Music, none of the good stuff from The Wedding Singer.

What were the challenges for you to do a hard R-rated comedy, for you to keep true to that and how were you successfully able to get it off the page?

JA: When you do a movie about a guy trying to have sex, immediately you realize it needs to be R or else you can't talk about any of this or can't show any of this. But in order to do an R-rated movie for a studio, you really have to make it an R. The phrase is you have to earn your R. Like why are we an R is we don't go for it a bit. And so for the many years that Seth Rogen and I have worked together he's said, "We've go to do a movie where people speak the way they actually speak."

SR: The way I actually speak.

JA: That people would really like it. And he was a great influence on that style of conversation and we just let it fly. And we shot options, because I knew people would say, "You can't talk about pussy on a pedestal." But we shot it all, and I was really happy with the way it came out. I never shot anything R before. I worked on The Larry Sanders Show for many years and we had a lot of fun with our F curses there, but it was fun to try to come up with creative ways to do something kinda dirty. But I just saw The Wedding Crashers the other day, but I did walk out thinking, "We're like 100 times dirtier than that." Like if that's an R-rated comedy, then no one has any idea of what's coming. And Romany just talks that way. And there was a lot of improvisation in the movie, but to just let Romany go. I can't write the way Romany and Seth talk. These weird phrases, just the color and language I can't do it and I'd be embarrassed to try. So it's fun to let everyone say it the way they would say it.

RM: And I've always felt very misrepresented when I watch television. Given the opportunity to have that realistic banter and the thoughts that go on and the soliloquies said out loud, it's kind of a luxury.

JA: The character can be a good guy who talks in a dirty way and that's what's fun about it. Romany's character is a good guy, he has problems with women and you like him the whole time no matter what he says.

How's your game with women?

SR: I come to press junkets. That's a 5 hour long answer for Romany. Women come to Romany's home.

RM: I'll admit actually that I'm still a virgin. You know dude, straight up and down. That character you just saw, for the record is nothing like me. If I'm attracted to a woman I have the hardest time saying my name.

JA: I'm married. I have 2 kids. But it is sad that I understand this world so well.

Can you talk about how you went about showing the normalcy in a character who is a 40 year old virgin?

JA: In our first conversations about writing this we talked about how broad the movie would be. And my favorite experiences have been when you can be really funny and broad but with a grounded character like with Freaks and Geeks. So I thought of it as Freaks and Geeks many years later if one of them never had sex. And that was my secret thought as I made the movie. And there was some concern that it would become a Peewee Herman type character and we always had our eye on the ball. And our Executive at Universal, Mary Perry, was very smart about making sure we didn't do that. She was always concerned about making him a real guy and people care about him. Then we had this joke early on that he worked out a lot because he had a lot of extra energy from not having sex. And Steve took it really seriously and lost 30 pounds and started working out and was really ripped. And I was like, "Oh my god, I'm working with Joe Piscopo." And I was nervous about it, because I don't think comedians ever wanting to look good is good for the comedy. But it actually makes it work much better, because there's no other reason why he's a virgin other than the fact that he's shy and got nervous and let it get past him.

SR: It's funny because he's just kind of the guy you just don't notice really. And if he's too extreme in any way, then you would notice him. But I think part of the idea is that he's one of the guys that could be in a room with you alone and you would never really pay that close attention to him.

JA: And I think that's tribute to Steve's performance. He's underplaying this part and tearing down the house at the same time. He's able to be a real person. Not like a comic character like Inspector Clouseau, he really created a character that's very reactive but when you give him a scene to go broad or if he's drunk, I am really amazed at what he accomplished with this part because he's never played the lead. He's played obnoxious guys and dumb guys and he's really brilliant at it, but there's no precedent for his work here. And I think it's really exciting and it's the emergence of a major comedy star who can do all of it. It's really quite remarkable especially for someone who's a really journeyman actor who never thought this would happen to him.

With all the improv that takes place, how challenging is it to work with it during edit?

JA: It's not that challenging, it's actually really fun. We started this process of improving on film a long time ago when we did The Ben Stiller Show, and Ben showed me how to do it. We would do these sketches and Ben would play an agent for Howie Mandel. And Howie would be there, and Ben would pitch bad career moves to Howie. But then Howie would leave and we'd do Ben's close-up. And for like 2 hours Ben would rip even more offensive pitches that you couldn't even say to Howie Mandel. Ben's in his clean shot and you've got a clean shot of Howie and he looks annoyed and you can really cut to anything from that if you're aware of how it's going to cut. And so we did that on Freaks and Geeks a fair amount with the kids because they were really good at it especially Seth [Rogen]. And I brought Seth on as a writer on Undeclared because of how funny his improvs were. And then on Undeclared, which comes out this week on DVD (laughs), we did a ton of improv. And Will Ferrell did an episode where he was an amphetamine addict who will write your term paper for 50 bucks. So I pushed really hard with Anchorman as a producer to have that type of production where we were really set up for Will to go. But what was different for this was that we were trying to these improvs but it was more of a grounded story. And I would literally put one camera on Jane [Lynch] and one camera on Steve and shoot their conversation and let them go for 2 hours. And the crew seemed really annoyed, because no one knew that this could cut together but if you're paying attention to what they're saying and you keep going, "Say that line without having him step on you," and cut it in your head it's not too hard. I mean, some of the stuff I would have never thought in a million years especially everything that Romany says.

What about this being your first feature film directing experience and how it helped to have people you've worked with before there with you?

JA: I've waited a long time to direct because I wanted it to be a situation that I felt comfortable in and I felt I could express myself. And I wanted to work with people that I understood what they do comedically and I was also scared to death of doing a bad job and never being able to do it again. But the first thing I did was to hire Seth as a co-producer, and he was invaluable just coming to Seth every day when he wasn't performing and pitching jokes to everybody. Carla Gallo is hilarious, Anyone who will come and suck on Steve's toe for two hours and be hilarious is a genius. So I like to have all these people. Loudon Wainwright III is one of my biggest influences. As a kid, I started listening to him and he always had these really bitter, funny, truthful, beautiful songs about breakups and I realized he had inspired me more than anyone that you can be funny and dark and sweet at the same time so it was to have him play the priest at the end of the movie.

What do you like better, TV or film?

JA: Well, they can't cancel you in movies. What I always do, if you look at the arc of my career: The Ben Stiller Show, cancelled after 12 episodes; I remake the movie, the movie doesn't do well; I run back to TV, so I'm just a scared dog. I like TV better because I like having a writing staff, I like having the actors there and it's been very sad that these shows have been cancelled after the first season because everybody bonds and we figure out what we're doing and right when we know what we're doing they tell you to stop. So I miss that experience, and I'm sure one day I'll go back and do something for HBO or someplace like that. But this is heartbreaking to stop. This has been the greatest TV cast of all time, and that's kind of sad. But I'm a bit lazy in that I keep trying to use some of the same people in all the projects so as soon as it ends I start thinking of what else I can do with these people in movies or TV.

So what can we expect from the DVD?

JA: I literally have to finish the DVD when I finish the movie, so I've been doing it for the last month. I'm a big fan of comedy so I always want everything. And I'm a big nerd, so I sit at home and think, "When are they going to put The Mike Douglas Show on DVD?" So there's so many funny things. When you have Seth and Paul, all their improv on "How I know you're gay", there will be a 6-minute version of it. There's a thing called Wine-o-rama, and it's just a montage of just one line jokes from every scene in the movie that were just cut out. And I like to put raw footage from the movie, just uncut that you can see how it works. So we put an 8-minute version of speed dating on that's so dirty. We also shot an extended version of the movie. We added like 15-17 minutes to the movie for the extended DVD. We debated it, if it makes the movie unbearably long but then we thought it's more value for your dollar.

RM: I think the DVD will give the movie a run for its money.

How hard was it to find all the collectible action figures and dolls like Aquaman that filled Andy (Steve Carell's) apartment?

JA: K.C (Fox) our set dresser looked for months. But how we did it, is our production designer and set dresser, I said, "Go to a real store that sells comic books and ask them who the biggest comic fans are, and go to their houses or apartments and take pictures of them." And then we looked at the pictures and made the apartment look like these people's apartments. And it was especially hard to clear everything, especially when you're doing a movie called The 40-Year Old Virgin. They wonder where you're going to stick their action figures.

What other projects are you working on?

JA: Seth and I wrote another script for Universal that we're hoping to do next year about a high school couple trying to survive going to two different colleges which is another R-rated comedy that we're excited about. I'm also leaving for North Carolina in 2 weeks, to produce the follow-up to Anchorman called High, Wide and Handsome. And it's about NASCAR with Will Ferrell and directed by Adam McKay.

THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN opens on August 19th, 2005


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