The hit comedy "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," which stars Steve Carell, is being released on DVD on December 13, 2005, and I spoke with director Judd Apatow about the movie. Apatow has probably been best known in the past as a writer and director on TV series, notably "The Larry Sanders Show" and "Freaks and Geeks." But he's also been a producer on the recent feature film "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy." "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" marks Apatow's feature directorial debut, and it's been an extraordinarily successful one, both at the box office and with the critics.
IR: I noticed that the DVD for "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" comes in two different versions, the theatrical version and the unrated version that runs a bit longer. Is the unrated version of the movie more of an alternate version, or is it more of a director's cut?
JA: Well, I look at it as more of an extended cut of the movie. The director's cut usually implies that the director was forced to put out a version of the movie that he didn't like. And that he could have done it better if the studio didn't ruin it.
I liked the theatrical version of the movie. And the theatrical version of the movie is very long for a comedy. It's about an hour and fifty minutes. Which is basically the same length as the "Wedding Crashers," which is pushing the limits of people's attention spans for this kind of movie.
But we have so many scenes that fit well into the movie. And the story that we had to cut to get to that time. So we decided to put 17 minutes back into the movie. Because people watch it at home, they can have a sandwich in the middle and take a break. [Laughs.]
JA: [Continues.] Watch it over a few months if they like. And so that version of the movie will be released, and you can also buy the normal version of the movie which isn't unbearably long.
IR: The screenplay for "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" is credited to you and Steve Carell. And the movie really showcases Carell's talents. Was it designed that way? Can you talk a little bit about the collaboration and how the screenplay was developed?
JA: Well, I have always been a fan of developing movies with the people who are going to star in them. I think that's how a lot of our best comedians became successful. Jim [Carrey] was one of the credited writers on "Ace Ventura." And Adam Sandler wrote most of his movies. And I think that comedy's so delicate that you need the involvement of the star. So when a star can write, it's a best-case scenario.
IR: I would imagine so.
JA: [Continues.] So Steve had this idea. And then we got together and started fleshing it out. The summer that "Anchorman" came out, we started writing it. We were very lucky that we were on the same page. And then we started casting very early because we wanted [Steve Carell's character's] friends to be, uhm, very original, and that their characters would be tailored to the actors and not the other way around. So when we found Romany [Malco's] and Paul Rudd's voice, and Seth Rogen's voice, we rewrote to their voices.
IR: How did you achieve the right balance between raunchiness and sweetness in the movie? It looks like a delicate balance. Was it hard to pull off?
JA: It was because you never know what will offend people. So we shot a ton of stuff that was way more offensive than what was in the movie. And I was always excited to put it on the DVD. And even on the DVD I show some things that I'm horrified about.
JA: [Continues.] There's a sequence of full-frontal nudity with a porn star [Stormy] that felt like it was a little too strong for an audience in a movie theater. And it's fun to put it on the DVD so you can listen to my commentary which basically is me saying, "I'm sorry to even show this to you on the DVD. This is just so you can see how we figured out where that line was."
But I find if the characters are true to themselves and are being honest, then there can be funny, raunchy moments that are right for the movie. I find that the raunch doesn't work when you feel the writer's or director's hand in it. I mean like "Oh, these filmmakers think that they are so shocking or clever."
JA: [Continues.] If you become irritated with me, then it's not a good joke. If you are still in the story, and it feels right for the story, then it survives.
Interview Continued on the Next Page