You wouldn’t think R-rated comedies would be family affairs, but Judd Apatow makes them that way. In Knocked Up, a comedy about trying to start a family off of a one night stand, Apatow cast his own kids. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann play the married couple that our young lovers see as both an inspiration and a warning. Mann is the real Mrs. Apatow so he just let his real kids play theirs.
Knocked Up Family
“It was definitely my choice,” said Apatow. “I just thought that, whenever you see kids in movies they always feel scripted and stiff. And if I had my kids there with us, they would act like normal children and do things that kids don’t do because my kids do all sorts of weird things. They’re really funny and then they’re pissed off, and then they’re suddenly happy again. There’s violent mood swings all day long, and there’s a potential for violence and then they just kiss you hard. I thought if I could capture any bit of that it would show people what being a parent is actually about. And I was nervous about it because I thought if this doesn’t go well it could be a disaster. I’ve already ended their acting careers. I said, ‘Your acting career ends Friday at six o’clock.’ But you know I thought it could really be a disaster if they refused to do it. They could show up at work and say, ‘I want to go home…’ and then I’m a lunatic if I don’t let them.”
Having kids from ages three to six on the set doesn’t stop the boys from making their dirty jokes. “We say ‘em,” said Seth Rogen. “We definitely say ‘em, and I feel guilty for about two seconds afterwards.”
Paul Rudd thinks kids on set are the lesser of two evils. “It’s better than agents,” Rudd said. “You feel a little more conscious, but it’s great.”
It helps the kids that their real mom is playing their movie mom. They don’t even have to think about acting. “If her mom goes, ‘What do you want for breakfast?’ she just answers and forgets the cameras are there,” Apatow said. “You really see the kind of conversations that they have, and it’s funny and sweet and very weird at times. And they’ve gotten good at improvising which is somewhat shocking. Or I can feed them lines and they will repeat them. I said to Iris, it’s true, I said, ‘After Seth walks away, turn to Paul Rudd and say, “He looks like Winnie the Pooh.”’ She just turned and went, ‘He looks like Winnie the Pooh’ without missing a beat.”
For Katherine Heigl, new to the whole atmosphere of improvising, having a real family on set helped her join the club. “I think you can see him reeling his director frustration if the kids aren't doing what they're supposed to be doing in the scene,” she said. “And they're not actors. They're just kids. And that's what's so kind of brilliant about it, because it's so natural and so hilarious the two of them and their interaction with one another, it's just priceless. But Iris, who's three, when she's had enough, she's had enough. She just gets up and leaves the scene. That's it. You're not going to get her back. It's over. I think that they're definitely practicing patience and this is [like] you're working, but not. Your kids are here, but they're not people you're working with. They're your kids and you've coerced them into doing this, so you've got to be gentle with them and he is. He's really wonderful with them and I think he's getting some really, really funny stuff because he saw and knew how funny they are and it's just a great idea.”
Apatow also has a secret for keeping the three-year-old on set. “I tend to shoot my three-year-old daughter, Iris, in chairs where she’s strapped in,” he said. “That seems to have helped.”
Shooting a scene at a child’s birthday party, the kids often steal the scene, which is fine with Rogen. “I know those kids and I know what they’re capable of,” he said. “They upstage me on a daily basis.”
Of course, when Apatow gets into the editing room, a whole different family issue comes into play. “That’s the trouble,” he worried. “Anything can happen. They can turn on me if I pick the wrong take.”
Meanwhile, the girls have left the boys to fend for themselves. “I think my favorite person on set is Leslie [Mann], who is my new best friend,” said Heigl. “It's been such a dream, because she is, one, unbelievably funny and charming and wonderful and two, because we play sisters, there's a dynamic there that you kind of want to be able to create on screen, a chemistry or whatever and it's been sort of effortless. She's one of those people that you immediately connect to and feel great with and have a good time and I think can talk about anything with. So we've had a lot of fun sort of upping the ante on our sister roles and hanging out constantly. We just call it 'We're working. We're preparing. You need us? We're hanging out and smoking, but we're preparing.'”
Knocked Up will open to theatres summer 2007.
For more film info, more interviews, synopsis and added details, go to the Knocked Up Movie Page.
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