April 6, 1969 – Paul Rudd
Everyone likes Paul Rudd. Men, women, kids, parents, straight or gay, people in showbiz, they all find him highly likable. He is so well-liked by his colleagues, he finds himself working with the same folks: director/writer/producer Judd Apatow (five films), Seth Rogen (four films), Steve Carell (four films), Jonah Hill (three films), Leslie Mann (three films), Kristen Wiig (three films), Jason Segel (three films), Elizabeth Banks (five films), Joe Lo Truglio (seven films), and director David Wain (five films).
The other day, I channel-surfed onto the charming romantic comedy The Object Of My Affection (1998), directed by openly gay Sir Nicholas Hytner. It’s 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 Rudd, who looked like a puppy.
The Object Of My Affection is a tart tale that made me laugh, and I’ll admit, had me shedding 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 even 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 just might be my favorite “gay for pay” actor.
Hytner, who also directed Rudd on stage in Twelfth Night at Lincoln Center says: “You can’t play Shakespeare without the emotional and intellectual volatility he brings to everything he does.”
The Shakespeare thing might not be that incongruous; he grew up in a suburb of Kansas City, but 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, and ended up cast as the Mr. Knightley stand-in in the now classic 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, of course, 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. He is also leading-man good-looking, but not off-putting. You know, better looking than your neighbor but not so handsome that he couldn’t play a neighbor in a film.
Rudd is a nimble comic actor, something rare in someone so pretty. 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. Rudd, in any film, makes the experience always better. He remains unafraid to take on leading roles or supporting parts, and he works on stage, television and films. A shirtless Rudd made an impossibly hot Duke Orsio when he appeared in that production of Twelfth Night 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 Netflix series based on the film: Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, 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 (The Big Short ,2015). 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 had Rudd reprise his tiny Ant-Man character in last summer’s Captain America: Civil War. It grossed over $2 billion worldwide, making it the highest-grossing film of 2016 and the 12th-highest-grossing film of all time. I like to think that Rudd had something to do with that.
Right now, you can see him in The Little Prince, with Jeff Bridges and Benicio Del Toro, streaming on Netflix. In 2017, Rudd will appear in four new films: Fun Mom Dinner, a comedy film with Toni Collette, Molly Shannon, and Adam Scott; a drama, Ideal Home; The Catcher Was A Spy, war drama with Rudd as a baseball player fighting in WW II. I am especially look forward to Mute, a sci-fi mystery film directed by David Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones, who did the superb Moon (2009). It also stars Alexander Skarsgård, and Justin Theroux. I would have liked to have worked as a dresser on that one!
Rudd and his wife of 17-years 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, but he loves Elvis Costello).
The only thing that bugs me about Rudd, he never seems to age. Google photos of him from 1997, he actually looks younger in 2017!
“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.'”