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Q&A: 'This is 40' star Leslie Mann and writer/director Judd Apatow

(Lenny Gilmore / RedEye )
December 17, 2012|Matt Pais, @mattpais | RedEye movie critic

 Ridiculously, unjustly, few Oscar prognosticators include “This is 40” star Leslie Mann or her husband, writer-director Judd Apatow, on lists of likely nominees. Thing is, Apatow’s a member of the Academy—will he vote for himself?

“I’ve always voted for myself,” says Apatow (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Funny People”). “That’s when you know it’s all so silly. Because you vote for yourself and you’re like, ‘My vote would count more if I didn’t even vote for anyone else. Should I just vote for something that has no shot? [Laughs.] I’ll vote for that movie everyone hated. And my vote is 10 times more powerful.’”

It shouldn’t be necessary; Apatow’s script and Mann’s performance both are fantastic in this hilarious, insightful, sort-of-sequel to “Knocked Up,” which stands on its own and opens Friday. As in “Knocked Up,” Debbie (Mann) and her husband, Pete (Paul Rudd), struggle to keep a happy home with their two daughters (played by Apatow and Mann’s daughters Maude and Iris) while facing financial concerns and the troubles of getting older.

At the Peninsula Hotel, 45-year-old Apatow and 40-year-old Mann—who pulled the hotel bed’s comforter onto the couch to stay warm—talked about each other’s musical taste, resolving conflict through screenwriting and the sexual abilities of David Schwimmer vs. Prince.

As someone who also has a wife with very different musical tastes, I responded to Pete and Debbie’s difference of opinion. Can you think of a concert you’ve each gone to for the other’s benefit to be a good sport?
Leslie Mann: We recently went to, was it John Williams? What’s his name? No, it’s not John Williams. Where did I get that name? The conductor that …
Judd Apatow: Yeah, yeah, we went to see John Williams at the Hollywood Bowl.
LM: It wound up being amazing, but I didn’t want to go. I didn’t think that would be fun to listen to scenes of movies.
JA: Then you were transported.
LM: Then I was transported. It was amazing.
JA: They played the last 13 minutes of “E.T.” with the video up on big screens.
LM: And everyone brought their light sabers. The “Star Wars” things. So that was pretty cool, but I didn’t want to go. But I’m glad I did. And then what have you done for me? Nothing.
JA: I don’t know, I spent some time …
LM: Nothing.
JA: … at a concert which I enjoyed a great deal. It was a band called One Direction.
LM: That wasn’t for me. That was for Maude. What have you done for me?
JA: I thought that was partially for you. [Laughs.]
LM: No.
JA: One Direction was like one big slumber party. I’ve never seen happier people. I’ve never been around that much joy in my entire life. What concert have you forced me to go to that I didn’t want to? Well, I enjoy all music so …
LM: No, you don’t. You don’t like my music.
JA: I love your music! You don’t like my music. [Laughs.]

What do you think of a tour they could call “The Spouse Tour”?
LM: [Laughs.] That’s a good idea.

That way if Arctic Monkeys toured with Britney Spears, my wife and I would both get something.
JA: [Laughs.] We both do like Arctic Monkeys.
LM: Yeah, we do. That’s a good idea; I like that idea.
JA: Leslie could fall asleep during any concert, no matter how loud. She has a gift. [Laughs.]

A lot of “This is 40” came from conversations between you. Was there a time when, either as something was happening or right after, you said, “That would be a good thing for the movie”?
LM: All the time. It happened a lot. Another thing that we did is if we’re upset about something we can have these conversations--what we’re upset about, what we might be afraid to say to each other, we can say through the characters.

For example?
LM: Like, “Wouldn’t it be funny if Pete just admitted he was a dick?” [Laughs.]

“Pete.”
LM: Yeah, so we do that sometimes. We’ll take things that are happening to us or are happening with our best friends and then make them crazier, more extreme, and then it winds up being amusing. The longer you stay in something that’s uncomfortable, the funnier it becomes.

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