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Working with Paul Rudd...again

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I’ve directed four feature films, and in each of them Paul Rudd has played a leading role. And I’d be happy to do 40 more with him. Why does a director like me keep returning to an actor like Paul every time? I’ll tell you why!

1. Shorthand
Several years ago, Ken Marino and I sent Paul the screenplay for our indie movie The Ten, which we were trying to raise money for. The first page starts like this:

In an otherwise empty wide-open space, a 20-foot-high set of STONE TABLETS with the TEN COMMANDMENTS carved onto the surface.
JEFF, 30s, in khakis and a sweater, emerges from behind the tablets:
JEFF (to camera): Hi. I’m Jeff Reigert.

For many potential financiers, this was unfunny enough to inspire a quick ”pass” with no further reading. I’m sure many audience members had a similar reaction. But Paul understood the quiet joke at play here, and he knew that it was crucial that Jeff’s last name was Reigert, but that it would not be mentioned again. None of this had to be discussed, and that’s why he was the perfect actor to play Jeff Reigert.

2. Snaps
Paul taught us this great time-killing game on the set of Wet Hot American Summer. Basically anyone can whisper a celebrity’s name into Paul’s ear (e.g., Queen Latifah). Then he does a series of Snaps, and anyone else who knows the secret to the game knows the person’s name — again, like Queen Latifah. (You can go and Google the official rules yourself and join in the fun!) Long lighting setups go by in a flash when you’re playing Snaps.

3. The Triple Take
Most comedy actors worth their salt have perfected a decent double take. But no one does a triple take like Rudd. For evidence, see the talent-show scene in Wet Hot American Summer.

4. Jeans Size
In Wanderlust, Paul’s character, George, wears a $300 pair of Simon Miller jeans (it was crucial to communicate his hip urban lifestyle). I’m fatter than Paul, but his stunt double needed a slightly larger pair of Simon Millers due to all the padding. These fit me perfectly and look terrific, so naturally I stole them.

5. Laughing at the Same Stupid Stuff
Paul and I have a deep affection for various strains of purposely unfunny comedy (all probably sourced from Steve Martin) as well as the unintentionally funny, like the movie The Room or NYC public-access host Keith Faison. This passion can get annoying around others, like when we’ll stop a shoot day in its tracks in order to indulge in a purposely banal, boring conversation:

DAVID: Honestly, I think half of these big corporations are in it for the profit.
PAUL: Forget it, David. Don’t get me started.
DAVID: I know, seriously.
PAUL: I mean, right?

6. The Billy Joel Factor
Paul’s son, Jack, is a musical prodigy and likes to play Billy Joel songs on the piano whenever I stop by. This alone is reason to keep a guy in one’s life.

7. Shared Priorities
When we were losing light one day shooting Role Models, we almost had to cut a scene that most thought wasn’t important. But Paul and I were united in fighting for the moment when he and Christopher Mintz-Plasse are both dressed in Kiss makeup in a live-action role-play fake medieval battle:

DANNY (Paul): Davith is gone!
AUGIE (Chris): Nice work! Where’s Spaceman?
Danny shakes his head, communicating without words that ”Spaceman” (Seann William Scott) didn’t make it.

8. Easy on the Eyes
I mean, look at the guy.

9. Really Good at Acting
Not a requirement for a movie star, but you’d be surprised how often this comes in handy.

So it’s for all of the above reasons that I’m thrilled to announce that Paul and I will be collaborating on movie No. 5 together, when he’ll be playing the title role in the biopic From ”Jerry” to ”Jones” — The Renée Zellweger Story.

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