'Knocked Up' Player Hits Homer

Writer-director Judd Apatow gets personal

"It is based on how Seth lives," Apatow notes of the frat-house-like residence inhabited by Rogen's character Ben Stone and his coterie of porn-obsessed, film-geek roommates. "Some people who see the film say, 'People don't live like that. People don't talk like that.' And I always say, 'Go to Seth's house. It's happening right now.'"

That extends to the film's laissez-faire depiction of drug use and alcohol consumption—a subject about which Apatow has mixed feelings. He is himself strongly anti-drug, he says, "but at the same time, as a filmmaker, I just need to show things exactly as they are. I hope, on some level, I'm indicating to the audience: You probably shouldn't do this, that you can't be the high guy when the earthquake happens and you have to figure out how to shut off the gas."

Apatow's yen for reality even led him to cast some of Rogen's real-life friends—up-and-coming comics all—as Ben's onscreen cohorts. He then allowed them to riff off one another, as in the film's soon-to-be-immortal discussion of the coolness value of Steven Spielberg's Munich.

Fully loaded: Writer-director Judd Apatow on the set of 'Knocked Up'
Universal Pictures
Fully loaded: Writer-director Judd Apatow on the set of 'Knocked Up'

Collectively, they are anything but conventional movie stars: short and fat or tall and skinny, with bad hair, skin, and fashion sense, and a terminal awkwardness around women. They are the kind of actors who usually appear in movies as the goofy sideshow rather than the main attraction, and who rarely get the girl. But in Apatow land, it's the suave, perfectly coifed matinee idol who would seem out of his element.

"When we were making Knocked Up," Apatow says, "there were all sorts of debates about whether or not it's believable that Seth could get this woman, which I always thought were funny debates, because I believe that if you're funny and reasonably intelligent, there's no one really out of your range. But certain people are like, 'This could not happen!' They project their own issues onto it."

Talk to Apatow for a while and you begin to see how this self-described "typical Long Island nerdy kid"—who still very much looks the part in scruffy beard, baggy pants, and dirty sneakers—has moved through life with the outsider's confidence that what goes around comes around.

"When I was a kid," he tells me, "I thought that so much of school was unfair. I thought, 'How come every day they line us up against the fence and everyone tells me that I suck? And no matter how hard I try, I can't prove to them that I'm good at sports, because I'm playing deep right field and the ball never comes to me. And because the ball never comes to me, I'm not getting better.'"

It was Apatow's early love of comedy and standup comedians, he says, that "empowered me and it made me feel better about my situation. I thought, 'Someday, people will appreciate the fact that I'm different.' We put a lot of that into Freaks and Geeks—the idea that even though these kids were under the thumb of these bullies, they knew they were actually the people who would do well. It's almost like, subconsciously, they knew they would create Microsoft."

For the record, Apatow did not create Microsoft. But he does have a production deal at Sony, which will release Superbad. He remains committed to a feverish pace of work, provided it keeps him close to home. About Knocked Up, which was shot entirely on location in Los Angeles, he says, "I thought, 'How close can I get to my house every day? Can I make the set literally down the street?'"

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