In Paul Rudd’s second film directed by his good friend Jesse Peretz (they collaborated on the 2001 comedy “The Chateau”), Rudd plays the nicest guy since Forrest Gump opened up his box of chocolates. Ned is a dim if well-meaning idealist who gets into some trouble when he sells pot to a cop. Once back in society, the ever-positive Ned is forced to shack up with his three sisters (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer), who each have their own baggage and don’t respond well to Ned’s sunny disposition.
Rudd, who next appears opposite Jennifer Aniston in “Wanderlust” (Oct. 7), caught up with indieWIRE to discuss how Ned’s positive vibes rubbed off on him, his love of Crocs and how long it took to grow out the impressive beard he sports in the movie.
So I think it’s pretty fair to say that you’ve played a fair share of likable, affable guys. This one takes the cake in many ways. What was the experience of playing a guy with such a sunny disposition?
I loved it. You know, I’m not really a method actor or anything. That’s not the way I tend to operate.
It is true, that if I work on something, the experience of being the character everything does start to permeate into your everyday life. As a result, I was very happy during the shooting of the movie. It’s not often that you get to play somebody that has absolutely no cynicism, or is not judgmental in any way. And on top of it all I got to wear short shorts and Crocs.
Having no cynicism in our day and age seems like an impossible notion to most. How did you wrap your head around Ned’s outlook on life?
I think that everybody has facets of this. There are times when I feel I’m not cynical… Feeling a little bit more like when you were a little kid or something. When I took Ned on, I thought, “All right, I’m going to explore that part of my personality and you know, ignore the rest.”
That’s the total drum that he’s drumming. This is a choice that he’s made and it’s a conscious decision. It’s isn’t like, oh, he’s just like this. I don’t think he’s an idiot. It’s very clear that he made this decision to give the benefit of the doubt to everybody.
The results from doing that… They don’t work out all the time. It’s an ethic. It’s a principle. It’s a way of living. By kind of saying that, it makes the character enlightened. It makes him noble. It makes him multidimensional. Being an idealist, I think that everybody tries to do that as much as we can. We just do it in a world not really built for it.
“Our Idiot Brother” isn’t just a broad family comedy, it has a lot of heart. How was adding that dramatic edge to the framework of a pretty mainstream comedy?
Whenever I’m working on things I don’t try to differentiate between those things. Unless it’s like “Anchorman,” which is a cartoon. I don’t find the characters I’ve played funny. The characters are actually taking their situations very seriously. So it doesn’t seem that different.
But I knew that this was tiptoeing that line. I tend to like that kind of thing the most. I knew it wasn’t a broad comedy. It’s also the kind of thing that Jesse and I like. We’ve worked for the past 10 years trying to get movies made together. We made a movie called “Le Chateau” that had a little bit of that too. You know, it’s like life. It’s funny and it’s dramatic and it’s real. And it’s engaging because you’re relating to the characters and what their struggles are.
It was great. I love attempting to play real people. I like to try and have dramatic moments as well as comedic moments and my favorite thing is when those two lines are blurred.
What did you learn about yourself in taking on this character?
Whenever I’m playing a part in something, you’re living as the character. That line can get fuzzy and you start to behave in weird ways… Like my intonations will change. With this, because the character had no cynicism and was unburdened by certain things, I found myself to be very happy during the shooting of it. I mean I loved playing the part, but I really liked the experience of making the movie.
I thought when we were starting, “It’s 120 degrees here in New York City and I can’t wait to see when it’s done because it’s so hot with the beard.” But then when we finished, I didn’t shave right away and I wore some of the shirts from the movie. I think living in that skin for a while, as a cornball as that sounds, was kind of nice and I didn’t want it to go away.
About that impressive beard you sport in the film. How long did it take you to grow it out?
Well, I kept it for about two weeks after we wrapped. I don’t really know exactly how long it took to grow. Probably a couple of months. I had to maintain it during shooting, otherwise it would have gotten really big. But yeah, I can grow a big, sizable beard quickly. But then it gets to the point where it starts looking less civil war and more “Fiddler on the Roof.”
What can you tell me about the comedy you shot right after wrapping “Our Idiot Brother,” “Wanderlust”?
Jennifer Aniston and I play this couple that gets priced out of New York City. Our world is falling apart and we have to move out. So we plan to move out with my brother in Atlanta. On our way there we stop by a bed and breakfast that’s run by this commune and we have this amazing night. We start thinking maybe we can completely change who we are and how we live, because what’s really important is what these people are talking about.
How was reuniting with your “Friends” and “The Object of My Affection” co-star Aniston?
Great. I’ve been friends with her for so long. She’s the greatest girl. It’s always nice when you get to work with people you like, because you spend months together. So it was great. She’s just so cool. She’s really talented and funny.
From the sounds of it, you’re playing a nice guy in “Wanderlust.” You played a jerk so well in “Wet Hot American Summer,” something you don’t do often. Are you inkling to play another guy in the same vein?
Yeah, I kind of am. For the last several years, I know a lot of the characters haven’t been so different from one to the next. I’ve loved working on everything, really, for the most part. But it would be fun to try something different.
It has never been anything that I sought out. That just seems manipulative. Doing something for the sake of doing something different has never been thing. But yeah, I am kind of jonesing to do something a little bit different.
“Our Idiot Brother” opens this Friday, August 26 through the Weinstein Company.