To some Paul Rudd is most well-known for portraying two sides in the industry. There’s the neurotic, sometimes kooky character that borders on quirkiness in I Love You, Man, and then there’s the sensible straight man, who usually has the voice of reason, as seen in performances like 40 Year Old Virgin, Wanderlust, and Dinner For Schmucks. Either way Rudd has learned to characterize two opposite ends of the spectrum very well. So well that some of his more complex roles have fallen to the wayside as far as popular perception is concerned.
If given a highlight reel, most would feature Rudd’s performances in cult hits like Clueless, Wet Hot American Summer, and 200 Cigarettes, but it’s his most compelling work in the theater that has prepared him for his latest pared down role in David Gordon Green’s Prince Avalanche. Set in the 1980s after the wild fires have brutally destroyed Texas, Alvin (Paul Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch) get to work in the Texas woods as an unlikely road repair crew.
For Rudd, this performance could have easily been a minimalistic two-man play. He once again finds himself playing against the goofball role. In this performance he’s tightly wound in a way that cautiously simmers just below the surface, and at times threatens to bubble in an explosive way. Alvin, who thinks he has control of everything from his relationship, to the mentoring of his girlfriend’s flighty brother, slowly crumbles as the “sensible man,” and loses control of everything he’s come to know about himself and his surroundings.
The Inquisitr’s Niki Cruz participated in a discussion with Paul Rudd to discuss his cult films, Prince Avalanche, and his upcoming film Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.
THE INQUISITR: When you get into a role, do you ever have difficulty getting out of it?
PAUL RUDD: I’m not a method actor. That just sounds kind of exhausting, but I do find that something happens innately where something ends, it’s kind of tough to shake. The character seems to seep into your skin a little bit. For this role I didn’t shave my mustache right away, even though I didn’t want a mustache. It seemed weird not having a mustache after having it. I don’t flip the switch. There is a slow turning of the faucet until finally it just all stops. I don’t think it’s ever a conscious thing.
THE INQUISITR: This character was very alienated and isolated. How was that afterwards?
RUDD: I did feel lonely. In some ways it does just happen. I wonder if it’s an inevitable thing. I did Long Days Journey Into Night which is the saddest play ever written, and I did it for five months. I wanted to slit my wrists, and I went into it being completely naive thinking, “This is going to be a blast!” and it was fulfilling but it did affect my mood. On the other hand, in My Idiot Brother, I was playing a character that just saw the positive in everything, and I loved it. After it ended I just wanted to wear hippy dippy clothes. I didn’t want to shake it.
THE INQUISITR: You’ve played a lot with different hairstyle and facial hair for most of your roles.
RUDD: [LAUGHS] Yep!
THE INQUISITR: Does that help you get into character?
RUDD: Yeah it does kind of inform a little bit to work externally. You just feel different. With Alvin I felt a mustache seemed right. It’s 1988 so you get a little bit of freedom to not look totally period, even though I still don’t think of it as a period film because I remember 1988. [LAUGHS] I was very self-conscious about the mustache and didn’t want to make it hipster. I wanted to get big, round Sally Jesse Raphael glasses too.
THE INQUISITR: But they weren’t red!
RUDD: They weren’t red! [LAUGHS] I wanted a little more Roger Ebert for this film. It wasn’t a crazy look, but it made me feel different. You move differently. The shoes I was wearing, the glasses, and the mustache changed in subtle ways the way I just feel. That starts to inform the character.
THE INQUISITR: You have the Anchorman sequel coming up.
RUDD: We just finished filming, and that comes out in September.
THE INQUISITR: That must have been fantastic to shoot.
RUDD: It was fan-TANA-astic. I’ve never said that before. But yeah, it was a blast!
THE INQUISITR: Getting into the suit again.
RUDD: Yeah it was surreal because it had been nine years.
THE INQUISITR: Did you think at the time that you would do a sequel?
RUDD: I don’t know. There were times where I thought maybe that was going to happen, and times where I didn’t. I never would have guessed it when we were shooting the original. Nobody was paying us any attention at all, nor should they have been, but I was very aware of the interest and the fan base that it was developing over the years that followed. The number of questions I would get asked during press junkets too, so I knew that it was discussed, and then we all talked about it, but it never seemed to work out. When it finally did work out it was kind of surprising.
THE INQUISITR: You seem to be a key member in a lot of cult movies.
RUDD: Well better to be a key member in cult movies, than to be a key member in a lot of cults! [LAUGHS]
THE INQUISITR: [LAUGHS] You’re so funny. Who makes you laugh in your life and in films?
RUDD: George Carlin, Albert Brooks movies, Louis CK, Patton Oswalt, Will Ferrell, Damon Waynes, Don Rickles, 2000 Year Old Man, David Letterman, Richard Pryor, Steve Martin is a major person for me in my life.
THE INQUISITR: Is there a role that’s the most memorable to you?
RUDD: I did a film called Wet Hot American Summer, that was a really fun one to do. Anchorman was really fun to play. I loved playing Peter Klaven in I Love You, Man. I have a strong connection to all the parts I played because they all mean something to me.
THE INQUISITR: What did Clueless mean to you?
RUDD: It meant a lot. It was exciting because it was one of the first things I ever did. I remember saying, “Oh my God, this is the Paramount lot. Those gates! This is a movie!” And then I said, “Look, there’s the girl from the Aerosmith video!” The whole thing was exciting, and I had no barometer to compare it to anything. I had worked as an actor before that, but in some television stuff. I had done one other movie but it hadn’t come out. That’s another strange one. Someone just said, “Oh it’s the 18-year anniversary of Clueless.” It was a movie that I know meant a lot to a specific generation.
THE INQUISITR: I introduced that film to my little cousins. It’s taking on a new life with the different generations.
RUDD: And that’s so cool! I had no idea when I was shooting that, that it would mean that much to people.
THE INQUISITR: As opposed to shooting a big studio comedy. What was your experience shooting something smaller like Prince Avalanche?
RUDD: It was great because it was one hundred percent creative. There’s always certain kinds of pressure, but this one there wasn’t pressure. We didn’t even know if this was going to be released. It kind of felt like an experiment. If something seemed interesting to us regardless of how it might fit into the narrative, we said “Well let’s do it.” It was bare bones. It was a small crew. I really key in to David Gordon’s Green’s sensibility. I liked his aesthetic, and the way he works. It was a real charge. There wasn’t any rebellion towards working, like how some people have that towards studio movies. I’ve been very lucky in that I haven’t had that either way.
THE INQUISITR: Was the old woman a ghost in the movie?
RUDD: It was so cryptic. I’ll tell you one thing that was really interesting about her, is that she wasn’t an actress, and that was really her house. It’s an interesting thing in the movie because I also take some pills, and then it’s like, “Does he see her in the truck? Does he not?” In a way I almost thought that it’s not necessary for me to answer that question even for myself. In that moment she’s there, and she’s real to me, and she might be real in the movie too. They were location scouting, and they found this woman looking through her house, that was decimated and she was amazing. We filmed it and she was a lovely lady. Nothing was scripted for her. I just went in as the character, and started asking her questions, and trying to get her to talk and maybe give me a tour of her house, or talk about her feelings. She was so vulnerable, and it seemed as if every single word she said she was ready to cry. It was profoundly moving and amazing. That would never happen on something else.
THE INQUISITR: Your character talks a lot about the difference of being alone and being lonely. Do you think your character ever figured out where he fell on that slope?
RUDD: I think Alvin has a little bit more of a self-awareness by the end of it. I wonder if he knows exactly who he is, and why he does what he does. I think his eyes are opened to it a little bit.
THE INQUISITR: What’s the differences to you?
RUDD: There’s a difference for sure. They’re two completely different things. I love being alone, and I hate being lonely [LAUGHS].
THE INQUISITR: What do you like to do when you’re alone?
RUDD: There are a lot of answers for that question too [LAUGHS]. I love to listen to music when I’m alone. I love to just sit and listen to stuff, and I don’t do it as much as I used to. Sometimes I like to sit and think and try to meditate on things. It’s hard to do but if you get into the routine it gets a little easier.
PRINCE AVALANCHE HITS THEATERS ON AUGUST 9.