"This is 40" marks the third time Judd Apatow has directed his wife, Leslie Mann, and their two daughters, Maude and Iris, following "Knocked Up" and "Funny People." But with the girls getting older, the writer-director is giving them more to do onscreen -- something he admits can backfire while filming. We sat down with Apatow to discuss the family working dynamic, plus the absence of "Knocked Up" star Katherine Heigl and criticisms that his comedies shouldn't be breaking the two-hour mark in length.
When you're directing your own children, is there a sort of loophole around the usual Hollywood laws for child labor?
There isn't, really. In fact, it works the other way because I look like a jerk in front of the crew if I do anything that seems like pushing with my kids. I have to be very polite -- a kiss-ass, really -- so there isn't a revolt on the set. I was always afraid that they would just get bored or tired and want to go home, and I would be stuck in this position of saying, "You're not allowed to go home, you're at work." So I worked very hard to make it fun for them so they wanted to stay on the set. And they did. In real life at that time they had a lot of sibling rivalry, and as a result of having to play out all these scenes together where they fight really hard I think they've seen it from another angle -- and ever since we shot the movie, they've gotten along really well.
Are they at all worried that they'll be the subject of more of your movies?
They're at that age where every six months they're completely different people, so there's not that much long-range thinking going on. They had a really good time making the movie. They're proud of it. They're having their first real experience of what it's like putting a movie out into the world that they're proud of, but they don't have any plans about acting. They have enough trouble with math and biology.
This is billed as "a sort of sequel to 'Knocked Up,'" but it's more of a spin-off, isn't it?
Yes, this is our "Frasier" to "Cheers."
Was there any effort to get Katherine Heigl involved for at least a cameo?
I just thought honestly about where everybody would be five years later. It would make sense to me that [Heigl's character] Allison got a job somewhere else working at a TV station. They're probably in Atlanta or something like that, Seth and Katherine. I didn't want to bring a lot of people back because I wanted this to be its own world. I said to Katherine, you know, "Look, Seth said he would be happy to do something in the movie," but I felt like this is its own story -- and if I had to force them into it, it would just be a sign that this story wasn't working. It's like, "Frasier" doesn't need Sam Malone to do a cameo every week for it to work.
How do you respond to critics who say your movies are too long?
“There’s only so much you can do in 90 minutes. And I don’t know why people are in such a rush to get home. It’s so expensive to go to the movies, it’s such a pain in the ass to get out of the house. You have to give people a reason to not just watch Netflix all day long. Every-body’s attention spans are getting shorter because they want to watch the ‘Gangnam Style’ video 150 times, and then movies have now become the length of funny YouTube videos.”