April 6, 1969 – Paul Rudd
The other day, I channel-surfed onto the charming romantic comedy The Object Of My Affection (1998), directed by openly gay stage and film director Nicholas Hytner, a film I had admired when it had a first run in the theatre and after having read the fine novel by openly gay novelist Stephen McCauley that was the basis for Wendy Wasserstein’s sweet, funny screenplay. I was pleasantly surprised that the film stood up so well, and I watched agog at how young the actors, now so familiar to all of us, seemed: Jennifer Aniston, Allison Janney, cutie pie Tim Daly, Alan Alda, and especially adorable Paul Rudd, who looks like a puppy.
The Object Of My Affection is a tart tale that made me laugh, and I’ll admit, shed a tear also. Rudd plays a gay school teacher, who moves in with his brand new friend, played by a wry Aniston, after his boyfriend dumps him, as if you can imagine anyone getting rid of Rudd. When the new roomie discovers that she is pregnant, she decides that she wants Rudd to be the father figure for the kid, which is not what her own boyfriend wants. The film is delicately done, the characters are wonderfully lovable/loathsome, plus the revelations are never too spontaneous. The tone seems rather brave for the time, with a major gay character that is not a martyr, a sissy or a saint, a rare occurrence. Rudd is just my favorite gay for pay actor.
He grew up in a suburb of Kansas City to British born parents. Rudd:
“I wasn’t one of those kids who was like, ‘I want to be an actor. It wasn’t in my wheelhouse at all. I wasn’t from a family that did this or in a place where people did this.’’
He did theatre in college, moved to Los Angeles, ended up cast as the Mr. Knightley stand-in in Clueless (1995), loosely based on Jane Austen‘s 1815 novel Emma. He took the acting thing rather seriously, studying Jacobean Drama at the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, England. His time in Britain, along with his parents, left a mark on his speaking manner, which is an underrated Rudd asset. He doesn’t so much pronounce his T’s as circumnavigate them. Rudd moved to NYC and alternated theater work with film work. He remains a New Yorker.
Rudd is a nimble comic actor, something rare in someone so good-looking. He gravitates toward roles that look askance at themselves. If he plays a straight man, it’s a riff on a straight man; when he plays a dreamboat, it’s a dreamboat in quotes. He lets you in on the joke. The junction of handsomeness and humor are rare in Hollywood. Cast Rudd in any film, and the result will always taste better. He remains unafraid to take on leading roles or supporting parts, and he works on stage, television & films. A shirtless Rudd made an impossibly hot Prospero in Twelfth Night at Lincoln Center in 1998.
Other Rudd performances that I totally dig: Romeo + Juliet (1996), 200 Cigarettes (1999), The Cider House Rules (2000), The Shape Of Things (2003), Dinner For Schmucks (2010), and The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012). I especially appreciated his work as the same sad sack character, Pete, in Knocked Up (2007) and This Is 40 (2012).
One of my very favorite Rudd performances is in the demented Wet Hot American Summer (2001). I was overjoyed to have the original cast back for the Netfix series based on the film: Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Michael Showalter, Molly Shannon, Christopher Meloni, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Ian Black, Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, and our birthday boy.
I don’t really go for comic book movies, but I almost want to see the Marvel film Ant-Man. (2015). That’s how much I love the Rudd. He also co-wrote the screenplay with Adam McKay. In a side note, I am so far away from these Marvel franchise flicks, that when I first heard about it, I thought the title was Aunt-Man and it was a Mrs. Doubtfire homage. Marvel Studios has announced that Rudd will reprise his tiny Ant-Man character in next month’s Captain America: Civil War.
Rudd will next be seen in this summer’s comedy-drama The Revised Fundamentals Of Caregiving, opposite Selena Gomez, and his voice will be heard in the animated films Sausage Party, starring Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill, and The Little Prince, with Jeff Bridges and Benicio Del Toro.
Rudd and his wife of 16 years, Publicist Julie Yaeger, live with their two kids in Greenwich Village and also have a farm house in upstate New York. Rudd says he spends most of his free time playing Words With Friends on his iPhone, listening to music (his tastes are varied, he loves Elvis Costello and Neil Sedaka) and watching sports. He gives good Tweets.
“I’m sure that my wanting to be an actor had to do with a need for approval. People say, `Oh yeah, I do it for the art.’ It’s like, `No, you do it so people will tell you that you’re worthy.'”