It’s certainly not a bad time to be Paul Rudd right now. (Although it never seems like a bad time to be Paul Rudd.) The multi-faceted actor is promoting his latest Ant-Man film – Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania – he no longer has to worry about the pressures and responsibilities of being the sexiest man alive, and his favorite team is back in the Super Bowl.
Rudd, who has made a career out of leaving space for whatever comes his way, has seen his career twist and turn a bunch over the years. Take a random sample and you might get a bit confused. Wait, this guy was in Romeo + Juliet? Oh yeah, he was on Friends. Hold on, Brian Fantana from Anchorman is Ant-Man? But for Rudd it’s perfectly simple; each project made sense at the time, within the context of when he took it, and saying yes to things is what got him here in the first place. While not a classically trained comedian, Rudd has all the tenets of a good improv scene partner. He listens, he lets life take him where it’s naturally going (whether the camera is rolling or not), and he goes all in, all the time, with a classic facial expression or witty aside at the ready.
Uproxx Sports caught up with Rudd in the midst of a whirlwind week that saw the Quantumania premiere, the debut of a new Super Bowl ad with Heineken 0.0, and his beloved Chiefs set to take on the Eagles in Super Bowl LVII.
I’ll start off by asking, you’ve done a lot of interviews the last few days especially, what do you want to talk about with our time today?
Oh boy. What do I want to talk about? I leave it to you. I’m an open book, Martin. Whatever you want to know.
I appreciate that. Well, one thing I’m been fascinated by in following your career, and I have for the entire time you’ve been an actor, is just the sustainability and consistency that you’ve had, really from the jump, in taking roles. If you look at the diversity of projects that you’ve had, even from the nineties with Romeo + Juliet and Clueless and Friends and everything else there into the comedy work that you’ve done into some of the television work that you’ve done, and joining the MCU, what do you ascribe some of that to? Was that part of the plan, or is it just by nature of just riding the wave more so than anything else?
No, I don’t think you can have too much of a plan because nothing will ever play out the way you think it would. If I had any kind of hope, really, it was that I would get to work on things that I was interested in and that I liked. And so if I was lucky enough to get the job and it met that criteria, I was happy.
And over the course of many years, sometimes it has turned out to be something unique in pop culture or something that resonated even after the fact. As far as, I think, maybe with some of the comedy stuff, stuff like Wet Hot American Summer or Anchorman, I think I made a real attempt … I mean, I remember really wanting to work on those movies because those two comedies, that kind of stuff really spoke to me. I was such a comedy fan and still am. And it had a unique sensibility, and you didn’t really get to see that kind of stuff in big movies or really any movies, that kind of tone.
Those were instrumental, I think, in allowing me to work in comedies for many years. And then that turned out to be a bit of a wave. And I just went with that and got to work with a lot of the same actors. So I was really fortunate there.
But other things lead to other things. And sometimes there is just this Forrest Gump quality that I’ve experienced at different times. Like, “Oh my God, how is it that I am now working on some episodes of Friends? How did I wind up here? This is an amazing experience, but I can’t believe that I’m standing in the room.” And over time I’ve looked back and found myself in different kinds of groups or on different kinds of things that do resonate with the public. And obviously Marvel is the biggest. It’s so huge and global that, to be a part of this is … it still feels all a bit surreal.
I’m glad you mentioned Wet Hot American Summer. The comedians associated with that. And Role Models is maybe my favorite comedy ever. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched that movie and noticed something different in that one. I know you’ve talked about the role that improv has played in some of the projects that you’ve done and the fun that you’ve had along the way. And I’m just curious, who taught you to basically leave room for that improvisation, and is that something that you carry into your life as well? You’ve said you don’t have a plan. If you leave room for those moments and that grace, there will be gifts given to you, and I think that’s probably shown in some of the projects that you’ve been fortunate to work on.
Oh. Well, hey man, thanks a lot for that. That was nice to hear. Yeah, I don’t know, as far as the improv, I’ve always liked doing improv comedy. I did it in high school, but I was in speech class. I don’t have any kind of background in it. I just thought it was fun to do, but it’s not really my background. I didn’t go through Second City or Groundlings or any of that kind of thing. I’m sure there’s rules of improvisation. I know there are, and I don’t think that I know what they are.
But I studied theater, and I do know the importance of listening when you’re in a scene with somebody, whether you’re reciting memorized lines or improvising. And if you’re improvising, you have to listen. And I think it’s just learning to be perhaps relaxed enough that you can just go off of what somebody’s saying or at least … I’ve been really lucky to work with some really, super funny people, and I was able to thankfully have the ability to know where maybe they were going with a joke, and I could just stand back and hopefully set them up with a setup, and they can spike it because they’re hilarious. So, you learn that kind of back and forth, I guess, over time, how to do it or improve in that way of working.
Sometimes magic will happen, and you can, in the moment, think of something, and it’s funny, or it’s moving, or it’s whatever it is. But it’s a really incredible work. And I think on Anchorman, I experienced it on a movie for the first time. I had done other little smaller things, but I couldn’t believe it. And then it really had this effect on me that I loved doing that, certainly on comedies. And I have stayed with certain things. Even in the Marvel stuff, there’s always some takes or some times where it’s just spontaneous.
I think listening is such a big component of that, and it’s something we all need to get better about, or at least we can work to.
Sorry, what was that? I wasn’t paying attention. What did you just say?
See, that’s it. I love it, Paul. Thank you.
That one was a gimme. Sorry.
I know! That’s a layup. I do want to ask about the Super Bowl. Seeing the Chiefs back in the Super Bowl is obviously special, but also the big thing for me is being able to share those moments with your kids. What does that mean to you, not just to have your favorite team, but to have your kids be along for the ride? What else have you shared with them, whether that’s some of your favorite bands that you grew up with that you’re surprised that they like, or maybe favorite films or anything like that?
Well, it’s the best part of this. And I watch every game with my son who, since he was a little kid, this kid’s born and raised in New York, but he’s a diehard Chiefs fan. Has been since he was about six or seven years old. So to be able to watch sports with your kid and share in the victories and share in the miseries is a very special, specific kind of thing. And when the Chiefs won the Super Bowl, it was really one of the most magical things.
It would’ve been amazing if it wasn’t for my kid. But because we experienced that together; it was so much more profound. And yeah, it’s just the best. It really is just the best. As far as music and stuff, he’s always found his own thing. Both my kids, they have really great taste of music, and it’s really a wonderful surprise. Same thing with movies. They’ll discover something on their own and I think, wow, that’s really cool that they like that.
But most of the time, like if I ever go to either of my kids, say, “You got to hear this song, check this out,” they’ll be like, “I don’t care, dad.” Or “You got to see this. Hey, look at this.” They’re like, “No. No. We’re not interested.” They’re kids, and I’m their dad. And ultimately, they have their own opinions, and their own lives. And so maybe on a good day they’ll listen to me and check it out, but they have their own stuff that they’re into.
What’ll happen is they’ll find something they told you about years later. They won’t say it out loud that it was you who introduced them to it, but they’ll know.
I’ll tell you the coolest thing is actually, now when your kids get older, they get into something, and then they play it for you, and you’re like, “Whoa, that is really interesting.” My son is obsessed and has been for many years with a composer named Ryuichi Sakamoto. And yeah, he’s scored several films, but he’s an amazing, amazing composer. And I got turned on him because of my son.
So the reverse thing happens, and that’s super cool when it does.
When your kids develop that taste, it’s really, really incredible. I want to make sure I ask you about Heineken 0.0. I participated in dry January this year. I didn’t even mean to, but I’ve been trying to be a lot more mindful about really everything. And I know you’ve had some times where you’ve taken a break, or pressed pause. You’ve been under intense scrutiny to take care of your body, especially for the Marvel Universe, which it’s almost another full-time job you have to worry about. How do you feel about the rise of the sober-curious movement, and what does it mean to have just, I guess, more options in the NA space as you continue to focus on yourself and focus on mindfulness and your health?
Yeah. Well, I think it’s awesome. It’s gotten so good. The beers taste great. They really do taste pretty great. And you almost can’t really tell. I felt that way when I had this one. And I don’t know, it was the kind of thing I didn’t think about that much. I have a pub in my house, and I have my buddies come over. But when I first set this up, one guy, a friend of mine didn’t drink. He drank non-alcoholic beer. And he was sober. And so I got some, just thinking, oh, he might want a beer in this setting. And he was so touched that I had done that.
And I realized, oh yeah, there should be more options here. This is a real thing. And by the way, sometimes you just want to have a beer, but you just don’t want the alcohol. Sometimes you’re driving. Or I want to be clear-headed. And so, to be able to have something like this and that it’s becoming much more of a common thing, I think, is terrific.
I do have one very quick thing I’d love for you to answer if you have a moment.
Sure, yeah, what is it?
What is your favorite Mac and Me drop that you had with Conan over the years?
It’s such a silly bit that I had no idea it was going to last as long as it did. And it was never the intention. It was really, the first time, I was talking about this a while ago. The first time was just because I just didn’t want to … I felt like such a hack, just having to promote my own movie. “Here’s a clip from my own movie.” I said, “Why did I have to do that? Why can’t you show a clip from another movie?” [Laughs.]
But this last time I did it on the podcast was particularly gratifying because he really did not see that coming. There was such a banal, dumb buildup to it that I almost put him to sleep with the explanation of what this thing that I’d been writing was, that when it played and he just heard it … I think the joy was sitting across from Conan, and as soon as he heard the strings, and then he could hear the sound of the wheelchair. I’ll never forget, sitting across from him and seeing the look on his face as the realization of what I was just playing kicked in. And so that one was special.
You could almost hear his face on the audio. That was an amazing moment.
Yeah, that was legit. He goes, “No, it doesn’t work. It’s a visual medium.”