After foregoing stand-up to focus on his true talents behind the camera, Judd Apatow wrote for The Ben Stiller Show and The Larry Sanders Show before creating Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared, two critically acclaimed shows that never managed to find commercial success. In 2004, Apatow finally found his groove when he wrote and directed The 40-Year-Old-Virgin, a raunchy return to the unapologetic R-Rated feature comedies of the ‘80s. Apatow never looked back, casting Freaks alumni Seth Rogen as the lead in his hit sophomore effort, Knocked Up and producing a string of comedy hits that included Superbad, The Pineapple Express and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Funny People re-teams Apatow with longtime pal and former roommate Adam Sandler.
By Jeff Otto
Who could have known how fortuitous the relationship between Apatow and Rogen would be when the 17-year-old actor was cast as Ken Miller in Freaks and Geeks? After that show was cancelled, Apatow brought Rogen back to write and star on Undeclared which also, sadly, did not make it. Rogen then wrote for Sacha Baron Cohen on Da Ali G Show before re-teaming with Apatow for a small part in 40-Year-Old Virgin. Rogen’s career really took flight in 2007 starring as not-so-proud papa to be Ben Stone in Apatow’s Knocked Up and co-wroting the hysterically raunchy high school comedy Superbad with pal Evan Goldberg. Perhaps the most astute and successful student of Team Apatow, Rogen’s career has been in high gear ever since. As aspiring comedian Ira Wright in Apatow’s Funny People, Rogen takes on what is arguably his most challenging performance to date. For an encore, he’ll next tackle the action genre with The Green Hornet.
Although it’s been two decades since he shared an apartment and a friendly rivalry with Apatow in Los Angeles, the longtime pals have remained close over the years and never strayed far from the same circles. Apatow’s future wife, Leslie Mann, starred alongside Sandler in 1999’s Big Daddy and the Sandman even dropped by for a cameo on Undeclared in 2001. Funny People finally brings Apatow and Sandler together at the height of their strengths.
This Apatow regular has popped up in all three of Apatow’s features and also collaborated with the king of comedy on daughters Iris and Maude. Leslie and Judd met in 1996 and married a year later. Their daughters have also recently joined the family trade to play the daughters of Mann’s characters in Knocked Up and Funny People. Mommy plays the long lost love of George Simmons (Sandler) in Funny People, the weightiest part the actress has landed so far in an Apatow production.
When Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg brought Apatow Superbad, he loved the script and promised he’d produce it when the time was right. When it came time to push the project forward, the team felt Rogen looked too old to pull off the semi-autobiographical high school role of Seth. On came newbie Jonah Hill, who impressed Apatow enough to land a small role in 40 Year-Old Virgin as the kid who doesn’t grasp the “eBay store” concept. Hill knocked it out of the part in Superbad, re-teaming with Team Apatow on Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the forthcoming spin-off sequel Get Him to the Greek and as Ira Wright’s (Rogen) housemate Leo in Funny People.
A standout in Freaks and Geeks as drummer and Rush obsessive Nick Andopolis, Segel also played a memorable recurring role in Undeclared as the pathetic, obsessive beau of Lizzie (Carla Gallo). After portraying the insensitive idiot pal of dad-to-be Ben Stone (Rogen) in Knocked Up, Segel broke out on his own and braved the big screen in the buff in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. He’s currently writing the sequel Get Him to the Greek for Apatow, and also signed on to write the as-yet-untitled new Muppet Movie.
True to the Apatow mantra, Rogen used his breakout success to bring his longtime pal aboard. After co-writing with Rogen on Da Ali G Show, Goldberg and Rogen penned Superbad, a semi-autobiographical tale of their tumultuous high school adventures featuring lead characters named, not surprisingly, Seth and Evan. The writing team followed with the stoner action flick Pineapple Express and will next team up for their most challenging project to date, The Green Hornet.
Paul Rudd may have singled-handedly brought the term “Bromance” into the English vernacular. After trading “You know why you’re gay” one-liners with Seth Rogen in 40-Year-Old Virgin, the two brought their chemistry to the next level in Knocked Up, culminating in a manly trip to Vegas where the duo trip out to Cirque Du Soleil. Rudd also played John Lennon in Walk Hard and stole scenes in Forgetting Sarah Marshall as a spacey surfing instructor who offers Peter Bretter (Segel) the unforgettable advice, “When life give you lemons, just say ‘F... the lemons’ and bail.”
You may not know the name, but you should know the face by now. Starting with Freaks and Geeks, Starr portrayed perhaps the geekiest of the geeks, Bill Haverchuck. He dropped by for a cameo in Undeclared before his biggest (and hairiest) Apatow feature role as the Martin (of course) in Knocked Up, who lives to regret his beard-growing challenge when he becomes the brunt of endless Cat Stevens and Chewbacca jokes.
Mottola first connected with Apatow on Undeclared, stepping in to direct six episodes. While the show didn’t last long, like so many of Apatow’s collaborators, Mottola wasn’t forgotten. A few years later he was brought aboard to helm Superbad, delivering just the right mix of lewd sexual innuendo and heartfelt moments of friendship to create another bonafied classic of the genre.
Californication fans may best know Gallo as porn star Daisy, but long before she was getting down with Charlie Runkle (Evan Handler), Gallo got her start on team Apatow. She was the freshman tease Lizzie Exley on Undeclared, an unsuccessful date--with a toe-sucking fetish--for Andy (Steve Carell) in 40-Year-Old Virgin and one of Peter Bretter’s breakup flings in Sarah Marshall. If you don’t remember which one, she’s the one that keeps saying “Hi” and then asks Peter, “So do you wanna gag me.”
Like Mottolla, Stoller’s initial brush with Apatow may have not seemed like a big deal. He wrote some episodes of Undeclared and moved on with his career. But unlike the Hollywood stereotypes, Apatow isn’t one to forget good talent when he spots it. When Jason Segel got the green light on Sarah Marshall, Stoller received a call. Now the two are collaborating again on Get Him to the Greek.
Brand may have already been a name in Britain as the often shocking MTV host and author of the terrifically titled autobiographical “My Booky Wook,” but it took Apatow to introduce him to American audiences. As pretentious idiot rocker and Sarah Marshall schtupper Aldous Snow in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Brand was outrageously entertaining, so much so that Segel and co. wound up giving him additional scenes. Now he’ll be re-teaming with Jonah Hill and director Nick Stoller for Get Him to the Greek.
Back in 1999, Franco’s James Dean-ish role as Daniel Desarui in Freaks and Geeks impressed Sam Raimi enough to cast Franco as Harry Osborn in Spider-Man, a coveted part that catipulted the actor to star status and kept him busy as one of the most consistently employed actors of the past decade. Franco never forgot his roots, sending up his own persona in Knocked Up and leaving his clean cut pretty boy looks in the dust to play a long-haired, idiot stoner named Saul Silver opposite Seth Rogen in Pineapple Express.
Like Gallo, Baruchel broke out with the Apatow gang in Undeclared. He’s been a frequent collaborator with the gang ever since; as a roommate named Jay (what else?) in Knocked Up and in the popular YouTube short Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse with Seth Rogen. The duo are said to be adapting the short for a forthcoming feature length film which will likely be produced by Apatow (who else?).
As the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola, cousin of Nicolas Cage and son of Talia Shire, Schwartzman already had more than a leg up when he chose to partake in the family tradition. But his brilliant breakout performance as Max Fischer in Rushmore shattered any waning thoughts of nepotism. He’s a recent addition to the Apatow family, popping in for a cameo as Ringo Starr in Walk Hard and playing Ira’s (Rogen) roommate in Funny People-the egotistical star of fictional TV show Yo Teach!, Mark Taylor Jackson. The multitalented Schwartzman also scored Funny People.