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KNOCKED UP – interviews with Judd Apatow & Seth Rogan

Writer/director Judd Apatow and star Seth Rogen visited Sydney to promote their latest comedy, Knocked Up, which has notched up a healthy opening box office in the US, and some rave reviews. They talk to Andrew L. Urban about the film (not too seriously) and how it was born.

Comedy is obstacles … the failures and struggles of ordinary people trying to do something, go somewhere … and terrible things standing in their way, says Judd Apatow, replying to a silly question to begin our interview; I asked “where does comedy come from?” and instead of getting out of his comfy hotel chair and socking me in the eye with an apple from the complimentary fruit tray, he tried to define it. He soon gave up in resignation. “I’m not very good talking about it…I wish I were…I saw John Cleese do an interview with Alan Alda and he knew everything about the psychology of comedy . . . ”

The film’s remarkably observant, honest and pain-filled script elevates Knocked Up from being just another gross out comedy to high grossing entertainment, popular as well as cutting. Cutting because Judd Apatow’s dialogue is so often devastatingly real as to draw blood; but that’s also what makes it so funny. That, plus Seth Rogan’s ugly duckling Ben, flabby and insecure, vulgar yet suddenly sweet as a puppy; these elements take the film into a broader market than its surface credentials would suggest.

"a loud serrated laugh that shudders like a tractor"

Seth Rogan, looking exactly as he does in the film, bursts out laughing, a loud serrated laugh that shudders like a tractor going from first to second gear without a clutch. They are seated in front of a poster for Knocked Up, in case visiting media forget the film they’re supposed to write about. Behind me, a Manly ferry farts as it edges into Circular Quay.

Soon we’re talking about the process of making comedy. It’s harder than drama, isn’t it? Well, no. Judd seems unsure about that. “I haven’t really done any drama …” He did The 40 Year Old Virgin, and he didn’t find it hard. Nor Knocked Up.

Seth laughs again and my Sony MiniDisc jumps. “I don’t know … “ He is also a natural comedian. The idea for Knocked Up began with a conversation between Judd and Seth, and had its seed in the moment that Judd’s wife announced she was pregnant. “I felt amazing – and I wondered how it would feel it I had only known her for one day!”

Jealously guarding his turf, Judd went off to write a draft, without his filmmaking collaborators. They came in later. “I wanted to keep it personal,” he says, “not a communal effort.” Judd had a choice at the time: he could have accepted a gig to direct a big budget movie, or to make another $40-odd million comedy (like 40 Year Old Virgin). He was expected to make the bigger film, but chose to see if lightning would strike twice in his cinematic career. As it happens, Knocked Up is not only a better film, but more surprisingly, a bigger hit. (Surprising only because creative quality and box office success are not always glued together.)

"it’s better to stick to your strengths"

The two laugh. “If you make a $40 million movie and it takes $60 million, you’re OK. It helps your career. But if you make a $80 million movie and it takes $40 million …” Seth interrupts: “Then I’m f***ed!” So it’s better to stick to your strengths.

Seth says Judd’s directing style varies from suggesting different lines, to suggesting new ways of saying them. But in the end, Judd is boss. The terms of working with him are that he shoots what he wants, then he shoots what the actors wants (if it’s different) and then Judd goes into the edit and decides which to use. He’s the dictator.

Published July 5, 2007

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Judd Apatow & Seth Rogan


Directed by Judd Apatow

Unemployed bum Ben Stone (Seth Rogan) shares a shambolic house with some friends, smoking dope and wasting time, cracking rude jokes. On a night out, Ben gets lucky when he bumps into Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) who is getting very drunk celebrating her promotion to an on-camera presenting gig at E!. Their intoxicated, impromptu and unlikely one night stand results in Alison getting knocked up, which throws a spanner in their respective lives.

The mismatched duo try to work things out with the of best intentions, amidst not always helpful help from their family - Alison’s stressful older sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) and her quietly desperate husband Pete (Paul Rudd) – and Ben’s lazy yet well meaning and loopy friends (Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel and Martin Starr). As the time for the baby gets closer, tensions lead to quarrels, a trip to Las Vegas and confrontations between Ben and Alison. It just can’t last ...

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