If you’ve been wondering what David Schwimmer’s been up to since Friends ended in 2004 — besides voicing Melman in Madagascar and cameoing as annoying environmentalist superhero Greenzo on 30 Rock — here are a few highlights: He made his Broadway and London stage debuts in a revival of The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial and Neil LaBute’s Some Girl(s), respectively; he directed episodes of Matt LeBlanc’s Friends spinoff, Joey; he starred opposite Shaun of the Dead‘s Simon Pegg (whom he first met on HBO’s 2001 miniseries Band of Brothers) in the 2006 film Big Nothing; and he cast Pegg as the leading man in his feature directorial debut, Run Fat Boy Run, which hits theaters today. (Pegg plays a British bloke who leaves his pregnant fiancée, played by Crash‘s Thandie Newton, at the altar, then decides five years later to win her back by proving he can go the distance… in a London marathon.)

PopWatch caught up with Schwimmer (pictured at Monday’s Hollywood premiere of the film) earlier this week for a fun chat about Fat Boy, his future, and why today’s romantic comedies, for the most part, suck.

POPWATCH: What’s it like watching a film you directed versus one that you acted in?
DAVID SCHWIMMER: They’re both equally nerve-wracking. [Laughs] The first time you watch a movie you’re in, it’s impossible to watch the film objectively. You’re just kinda worried, Oh God, I hope I don’t suck. As a director, you’re watching and worrying about every actor’s performance. But there is a difference in terms of the feeling of fulfillment or satisfaction that first time watching [Run Fat Boy Run] with an audience, which for me was in London last September. That first laugh that they get, there’s nothing like it. It’s just realizing, Ohmygod, they’re getting it. They’re on board. And then the collective gasps or collective groans, the little things that you hear when an audience is suddenly moved by a certain moment.

Did you watch any films for inspiration?
In my consciousness were all these great sports movies like Rocky, Breaking Away, and Hoosiers, and some of the classic character-driven comedies from Billy Wilder and Preston Sturges. One film that I did go back and watch was Kramer vs. Kramer. I felt the only reason the audience would forgive Simon is that they saw how wonderful a father he was, and Dustin Hoffman and his son set the bar so high in creating a real relationship there that I was determined to create a similar kind of feeling.

What are your three favorite romantic comedies?
Oh gosh, that’s tough. That is such a hard question [laughs] and you know it, too.

I’m makin’ you work, first-time director.
Yeah… I’ve gotta pick one of the Woody Allen ones. I’m not sure, either Annie Hall or Manhattan. When Harry Met Sally… was pretty terrific. What they all have in common is that I really believed that these were real people. I have to say romantic comedies, for the most part today, don’t bother to give you backstory or earn the love that these two people are supposed to feel for each other. It’s like you’re supposed to just buy that oh, because it’s this famous actor and that famous actor and they’re on-camera together, that they’re supposed to have this great lovely history. But old, classic romantic comedies actually take the time to create a real relationship that’s flawed, but nonetheless you believe and root for.

After the jump, Schwimmer on Pegg playing with lightsabers, and why he wants to play… The Hulk.

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Here’s an easier question: What’s the geekiest conversation you’ve had with Simon?
Oh, it had to be about Star Wars. One of the things I did early on was I bought these amazing lightsabers for Simon, me, and Matthew [Fenton, Pegg’s son in the film] to play with when we weren’t shooting, when we had a lunch break or something. That, of course, got Simon more excited even than the kid. [Laughs] We were both pretty adept at the ‘saber. We destroyed that kid. No, I’m kidding.

Have you pumped Simon for any Star Trek info?
I’m trying, but he’s keeping schtum, as they say. [Check out our Q&A with Pegg, who discusses the fan reception to his casting as Scotty.]

What’s next for you? I know you star opposite Kate Beckinsale in Rod Lurie’s Nothing But the Truth, which comes out later this year.
I’ve just been reading a lot of scripts, because I’d love to direct another movie. Out of 30 scripts I read, there’ll be one that I’m like, Wow. This is good. I’ll put it down, and I’ll come back to it four days later and read it again, and I’m like, Well, this is good, but do I want to spend a year-and-a-half on it? I think I’m getting pickier. So what I’ve been doing the last few months is, I’m co-writing a dramatic thriller that I’m hoping to direct. It’s the world of sexual predators on the Internet. I’ve been on the board of the Rape Foundation for many, many years and have learned a lot firsthand with the child victims of sexual predators, and from talking and visiting with the FBI. I think it’s a public health issue, and I have been thinking of this movie for the last three years, and finally started writing it…. I don’t really have a game plan other than to keep acting and directing.

In 2006, you said you’d love to star in an action movie. Is that still a goal?
I would love to do that. Like Simon, I feel like I’m a physical actor, and I’ve never really been given the opportunity to do something like that.

Are we talkin’ superhero or normal guy who just gets to kick a little ass?
I don’t even know, really. There wasn’t a particular genre I was thinking of. It’s funny though, I just saw the trailer for Ed Norton in The Incredible Hulk, and I was like, You know, I could have — that would’ve been fun. [Laughs]

I could see that.
Yeah, right? The scientist who turns into a monster. It’s too late for the Hulk… probably.

Well, this is the second remake, so…
The third…