LOS ANGELES–The man behind two of the more outrageous film comedies of the new millennium says they have roots in a kinder, gentler place than audiences might expect. "I was pretty obsessed with [Woody Allen's] Annie Hall and Manhattan ," says Judd Apatow, writer-director of The 40 Year-Old Virgin and the upcoming Knocked Up . "They had a big influence on me in terms of romantic comedies. Then later, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Terms of Endearment were movies that I returned to that are super-funny but very real and very impactful."
Allen and Terms of Endearment 's James L. Brooks would probably scratch their heads hearing that their films influenced Knocked Up , a movie about a 23-year-old L.A.–based bong-loving former Vancouverite (real-life ex-Vancouverite Seth Rogen) whose lofty aspirations include creating a Web site that honours great moments in film nudity. The story follows him through impregnating an ambitious beauty ( Grey's Anatomy 's Katherine Heigl) and finds humour in several sacred cows, including arguably the most sacred of all, the abortion debate. The movie opens next Friday (June 1).
"Obviously, an important aspect of the movie is whether she will keep the baby," Apatow says in a Los Angeles hotel room. "From the beginning, we knew there would have to be a moment where Seth and his idiotic friends debate abortion, and we actually improvised for five hours. The majority of the debate [over what they call smishmortion] will appear on the DVD. It [the DVD debate] is really shocking. It may have killed [recently deceased televangelist] Jerry Falwell, because if he knew it was out there, he couldn't have handled it."
Once he'd decided that Heigl's character would keep the baby, Apatow was determined to find original ways to document the birth. He says that although there have been many approaches to the subject in film and television, he decided that he wouldn't put any limits on it. He was determined to show as much as the audience could bear, even if it meant he had to include a shot of the baby in the minutes before it leaves the mother.
"I just wanted to show what is real," he says. "I show a crowning shot because if I don't show that, then I am just doing an episode of Friends . I am trying to make you feel the pain of that experience because it is the most intense moment in people's lives, and I had to do something that hadn't been done before. My original goal was to find a woman who would allow me to shoot the baby coming out and match it to the real shot. I wanted to use the same sheets and the same bed. We came close to getting it done, but the State of California said, 'You can't do it because the unborn child would need a worker's permit.' Of course, I couldn't get that until it was born!"