He’s been the object of our affection since his breakthrough role in Clueless. Now, as the Friend-in-law and 40-Year-Old Virgin veteran takes the lead in two high-profile romantic comedies, Paul Rudd proves he’s still a total Baldwin.
By Brandon Voss
The Advocate: This may be your gayest interview ever. Ready?
Paul Rudd: Bring on the gayness!
Do you think your relationship with Jennifer Aniston’s character in The Object of My Affection may have given gay men’s straight girlfriends a bit too much false hope?
[Laughs] Yeah, so many people said, “It was so sad. I wanted you guys to get together at the end.” I’m like, “Well, yeah, but that’s kind of the point.” We actually reshot the ending because the studio felt it was too sad. It probably does give false hope, right?
The Clueless DVD extras reveal that you were considered for a number of other roles besides Cher’s stepbrother, including Christian, the “friend of Dorothy.”
That was actually the one role that I asked if I could really audition for, but I think I was too old. That was my favorite part in the movie, because I thought it was so cool that there was this really cool character who was completely into all the Rat Pack–type stuff and is gay, but it wasn’t really a big thing. At that point that was something you didn’t really see.
Have you played gay besides Object of My Affection?
I did a Neil LaBute play Off-Broadway, Bash, where I played a Mormon who gay-bashes a man. I thought that character might have been gay and deeply closeted himself.
You’re often referred to as a “secondary member of the Frat Pack,” but could your role in Judd Apatow’s upcoming Knocked Up elevate you to primary status?
Maybe I’m a pledge, but I haven’t been initiated yet into the brotherhood. It’s been pretty great working with Judd and a lot of the same people in the last few movies. I really lucked out getting in with that group.
How much of the “You know how I know you’re gay?” exchange between you and Seth Rogen in The 40-Year-Old Virgin was improvised?
The whole thing! “You know how I know you’re gay?” wasn’t even in the script. We were sitting there waiting to start the scene, and it just started happening because the scene was about how I was thinking about being celibate. Judd said, “Keep going with it!”
Was anyone offended?
I know for a fact that Coldplay was offended. [Laughs] Yeah, I don’t think Chris Martin found the humor in that scene. And I felt really bad about it after the fact, actually. It was too easy to go for something like Blink 182 — you had to use a band that was actually kind of good, and Coldplay just came out because they were so huge at the time. But yeah, somebody told me that they were very offended by it and even put me in the category of Pat Robertson.
You know how I know you’re gay? You were in The OH in Ohio with Parker Posey and Liza Minnelli.
That makes me supergay. I didn’t get to work with her, but I met Liza Minnelli, and she was kick-ass. It was just one of those people you meet and you go, “I get it. I get why this person really is iconic.”
You starred on Broadway in Three Days of Rain with Julia Roberts — one of the most panned performances of 2006. How did you survive all that negative buzz?
It was a stressful time. It was a little surreal to be working in such close proximity to someone as famous as Julia Roberts and have the flashbulbs and reporters show up at our first preview. So there was a kind of pressure. Unfortunately, they review these shows early on. Hopefully, you’ve ironed out the kinks in previews, but oftentimes it starts to really click after you open, and I think that show improved. But they were needlessly tough on her. The theater community [in New York City] — while much of it is very accepting, a lot of it isn’t.
You’re happily married, and you’ll soon be seen opposite Michelle Pfeiffer in I Could Never Be Your Woman and Eva Longoria in How I Met My Boyfriend’s Dead Fiancée. Your character in Anchorman relied on Sex Panther cologne to attract women, so what’s your secret?
I really just have no secret. If I have any, maybe it’s in my lack of effort in pretty much every category.
You hooked up with Courtney Love in 200 Cigarettes. What’s your best Courtney story?
We had only worked together for a few weeks, and six months later — we didn’t really keep in touch or anything — all of a sudden this really beautiful plant shows up at my house. She had sent me a plant for Christmas. She also knew that I liked Radiohead, and they were playing at Madison Square Garden, so she gave me tickets. It was really a nice thing to do. I liked her. She’s pretty fascinating.
Your character Mike married Phoebe in the final season of Friends. What happened to them?
Oh, I think they went the way of Angelina and Brad. They probably have adopted five children of different races and nationalities. And they probably live in a fairly small apartment.
Who’s your favorite gay celebrity?
Boy… I don’t want to go with the obvious, with like Ian McKellen or anything. I want to try to, um…
While you’re thinking, I’ll ask you an Inside the Actors Studio question à la James Lipton: The most terrifying thing about Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers is that your performance in it was not nominated for an Academy Award.
I was a little upset about that, James. Halloween was actually my very first [feature] movie but came out after Clueless. I remember Scott Rudin, the producer of Clueless, saying to me, “Wow, that’s just the actor’s nightmare.” I was really upset about it. I mean, I was just starting out, and I wanted to be taken seriously. Oh, I thought of my favorite gay actor — I went back! I think he’s openly gay: Tom Hulce? He played [the lead in the film] Amadeus, and I just saw him in Stranger Than Fiction.
Do you have any man-crushes?
I have so many! Like Zach Galifianakis. In fact, my wife always says that I have the biggest crush on him. He’s a comic who usually has this big beard, but he’s so freakin’ funny.
Is he good-looking?
Not really. I like depth. Anyone can just jump in the sack with Colin Farrell, but you spend your life with Zach Galifianakis.
The Advocate, February 2007; extended online version.