Judd Apatow gave a nice long interview to Film Comment today in advance of his new movie This is 40, which is being billed as a "sort of sequel" to Knocked Up, following Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann's characters Pete and Debbie. Apatow explains in the interview, though, that the new movie contains no references to the previous one. Rudd, Mann, and the kids play the same characters, and Jason Segel and Charlyne Yi also reprise their roles from Knocked Up, but they don't make any references to their relationships with Rudd and Mann's characters and there's only one quick line referring to Knocked Up. Apatow explains:
"I shot some stuff, in case the audience demanded to know. I shot a version where Pete talks about how Ben and Allison live in Atlanta where she works for CNN. I covered my ass quite well. But when I was conceiving the movie, my interest wasn’t in what happened to Ben and Allison, because Pete and Debbie in a way are Ben and Allison. They were always meant to be the future for them, and in a lot of ways in Knocked Up, Ben and Allison and Pete and Debbie are meant to be the same couple. They’re a fabricated, exaggerated version of Leslie and myself at two different ages."
Hit the jump for more highlights from Film Comment's Apatow interview.
This isn't the first time Apatow has made a spin-off movie (his last was Get Him to the Greek off of Forgetting Sarah Marshall). He tells the story of how he came up with the idea:
"I wish more people made movies like this. I like characters in certain movies and I wish they had their own, stand-alone movies. Pineapple Express came out of an idea I had when I was watching True Romance. I just thought the Brad Pitt character was so funny; he’s a mess, he’s on drugs and suddenly people are trying to kill him, and I thought, “I want to watch a whole movie where this guy’s trying to get away from killers but it’s really hard because he’s high.” And after Nick Stoller and Jason Segel made Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I thought it was a fantastic idea to do a movie about Russell Brand’s character, which became Get Him to the Greek. I thought, “Yes, you can do a legitimate movie that’s about someone you met in a different film,” and when I told Universal, they didn’t think I was insane for thinking this would be an interesting exploration, just like Rhoda was an interesting exploration after The Mary Tyler Moore Show…
I remember when I was a kid, there would always be spinoffs of sitcoms, and I loved it. For years, I watched Lou Grant and thought, 'Oh my god, there was a sitcom [The Mary Tyler Moore Show] and now there’s an hour-long drama about the newspaper business starring Lou Grant from the sitcom. What a daring, fantastic thing to do!' So those types of leaps were something I always enjoyed, because I fall in love with characters and I don’t want them to go away. I want to know what is happening with them. I’m a big fan of the Michael Apted Up series. So, maybe we’ll do this every seven years."
Apatow also discusses the filmmakers who influenced him to discover his improvisation-filled, realistic style:
"when I started paying attention to movies, I discovered Barry Levinson. I loved his use of loose performance and some improvisation. Diner might have been one of the most influential movies on me when I was young, because I thought, “Oh, I know those guys. I’m kind of like Paul Reiser.” I could see how my life could fit into that kind of a movie. Later, Clerks and Swingers made me realize that people I knew could be in movies—our lives could be represented truthfully. Seth Rogen was a big proponent of that when I first met him; he wanted people to talk in our movies the way they talk in life, no matter how rough that got.
Garry Shandling, when I worked on The Larry Sanders Show, taught me more than anybody about how all stories are about obstacles to love. He always said that The Larry Sanders Show was about people who love each other but show business got in the way, and I’d never thought about my work in those terms before."
For those wondering how involved busy guy Judd Apatow is with Lena Dunham's HBO series Girls, which he produces:
"I don’t go to the set of Girls. I work on the scripts and I work on the edit, but when everything is coming together on set, I’m available for them to call me to ask questions, or they may email me a scene if they think something’s going weird, but it’s better because I stay home, and I have fresh eyes when they need them. I only stay focused on the scripts. I don’t have to worry about where the trucks are parked."