If you’ve seen the DVD of 40-Year-Old Virgin, you know that the guys just improvise so many different takes, there are tons of different alternates and extensions with which director Judd Apatow crafts the final product. Next summer’s Knocked Up, will feature the same magic.
Knocked Up Improvisation
“We know each other better so there’s already a familiarity with each other’s sense of humor, sensibility,” said actor Paul Rudd. “But, it can change on any given day. Sometimes, it’s really just snappy and you come up with a lot of different things, and other days it could be after lunch or a night shoot. It could be lots of different factors. It doesn’t always work at the time, but it is kind of nice and maybe a little easier because we know each other.”
Part of the comedy comes from each actor trying to stump their costars. “We generally go dirtier than we think they’re going to use or than they actually use,” said Seth Rogen. “No matter what the scene, it will result in Paul and me making gay jokes at one another. We’ve slightly re-structured the set-up.”
It all comes from the character though. “I play a guy in the music business and I was saying that a band like Steely Dan could never get signed today and they’d never get any radio play,” said Rudd. “He says, ‘That’s because Steely Dan sucks.’ And we get into this whole thing like, ‘No, Steely Dan is amazing, the early Steely Dan,’ and [Rogen] said something like, ‘I don’t think you’d get into a Steely Dan concert without wine and cheese. If you ever catch me listening to Steely Dan, you could cut my head off with a Spiro Gyra record.’”
As children of the ‘80s, Rudd and Rogen mine their well of knowledge for comedy. “I liked that Back to the Future run,” said Rogen. “Me and Rudd are amused by very similar obscure referential types of things. We will degenerate any scene to us arguing about Back to the Future. We were just talking about how many people in the theater would get a Danny Pintauro reference. We don’t think a lot. Judd was like ‘Jesus Christ, guys!’ Ten people would laugh very hard and no one else would laugh at all. Sometimes those ten need to be considered.”
Apatow has ways of keeping the guys on message. He’ll run multiple takes without cutting and keep resetting them back to the beginning. Or he’ll let them go on a long tangent and then ask them to focus on one of their earlier jokes in the next take.
“The people from Virgin worked together very well,” Apatow said. “So there’s a shorthand there and everyone understand the process. And then for the new people who join us like Katy [Heigl], they easily fall into what we’re doing because everybody is so in sync. So in that sense it’s been fun. We’re just trying to take advantage of the real relationships people have. So when Seth has four friends in the movie, they are actually played by his four best friends in real life. And when they start talking it just feels very genuine and funny, in the way that they’re funny if you hangout with them.”
Katherine Heigl joins the Knocked Up cast, on her hiatus from Grey’s Anatomy. “This is all very, very new for me,” she said. “I had never done improv. I was not comfortable with it at all. I was really terrified, because you're putting so much more of yourself out there and if it's not funny, it's on you. It's not because the lines weren't funny, it's because you weren't funny. So that's a little intimidating. I've tried, as we've sort of gotten into the flow of things, to be more risky and to take more chances with it and just to get into the fray and I definitely feel more confident about it than in the beginning, but I don't know. We'll have to see how it turns out. Maybe they'll edit it really well.”
The boys actually spoke very highly of Heigl. “She’s awesome,” said Rogen. “She’s really, really, really funny. I’m blown away and terrified by her at the same time. We spend half the movie screaming at each other, and she screams a lot better than I do. She could tear me a new one. Her fiancé’s always on set and I say, ‘You get this sh*t at home?’ ‘Sometimes.’”
The atmosphere on set may make Heigl more comfortable than she realizes. “They have a really interesting dynamic, because they are all so kind of creative with one another,” she said. “They toss a lot of ideas out and they're always running jokes through each other and seeing what will work and what doesn't work. It's like hanging out with a bunch of friends, because they know each other so well and Seth has worked with Judd since he was 16 and Paul since Anchorman. So they all have a very close relationship. They get each other really well and they get each other's humor and so I think it just makes the jokes that much funnier. And they're all very sort of good at finding the right jokes for the right person, because everybody's sort of got their own style.”
Apatow remains Kodak’s most valuable client for filming so much footage of his cast’s improvisational tangents. “I don’t know how much we’ve rolled but it’s a lot,” he said. “I’s a lot of film. It doesn’t seem like it’s more than Virgin to me, but maybe the first few days were just madness. Because Seth lives with four roommates, so then in those scenes everyone gets their shot to really ramble. We’re burning some film on those days.”
Knocked Up will open to theatres summer 2007.
For more film info, synopsis and added details, go to the Knocked Up Movie Page.
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