Paul Rudd explains how he’s prepared himself to play so many stoners on the silver screen, including a new herb-fueled role opposite Jennifer Aniston in Wanderlust.
By David Bienenstock
Since his breakout performance as young, idealistic pre-law student Josh Lucas in 1995’s Clueless, Paul Rudd has played a super-stony surf instructor (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), a cigar- chomping drug kingpin (Reno 911), a ganja-toking sidekick (multiple films), a naïve pot prisoner (Our Idiot Brother), a washed-up rock star (Veronica Mars), an uptight businessman (Dinner for Schmucks), Phoebe’s husband (Friends) and the coolest kid at summer camp (Wet Hot American Summer) - all with an affable “low-frequency” charm that’s won him fans among the bros and their better halves.
Perhaps most memorable to HIGH TIMES readers have been his multiple collaborations with the “Frat Pack,” a loose-knit group of writers and performers best known for their work on Judd Apatow films like Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin - both of which featured Rudd to great acclaim. And now he can be found starring opposite Jennifer Aniston in Wanderlust, a new film about a close-knit cannabis couple who decide to ditch their conventional lifestyle in favor of a move toward the counterculture.
We caught up with Rudd during some rare downtime to discuss his own favorite stoner movies, the occasional need to stay clearheaded, and the hardest (maybe) he ever laughed while getting stoned.
In last year’s Our Idiot Brother, you played Ned, a wonderfully likable guy who goes to jail for selling pot to a cop and then keeps smoking weed even after he gets out. Was there an element of Method acting involved in portraying such an obvious cannabis enthusiast?
Honestly, one of the things we didn’t want to focus on in that film was the whole weed angle of it, because that’s not really what the story is about. We didn’t want to turn Ned into a caricature - but at the same time, you’re supposed to say, “Yeah, that guy totally smokes pot.”
Now, if you’re asking me if I did any Method acting, I will say that in several different incarnations, I’ve tried to prepare for this role for many years. That’s the answer you’re looking for, I believe [laughs].
As long as you’re prepared. Meanwhile, what can you say about a society that takes a guy like Ned and locks him up behind bars?
My own personal view on that is that it’s totally ridiculous.
So we can put you down for legalizing marijuana?
One thousand percent!
As a New Yorker, have you been following the recent progress in passing a medical marijuana law in the state? Gov. Andrew Cuomo was previously opposed, but now says he’s reconsidering that position.
If that bill were to be presented on a ballot so the citizens of New York could vote for it, all I can say is that I hope my glaucoma allows me to see the part of the punch card that says ‘Yes.’
So do you have any favorite stoner comedies?
It’s weird - they fall into different categories. You take something like The Big Lebowski, and it’s just incredible...I also remember as a kid, when we first got HBO and Cheech & Chong’s Up in Smoke came on - I was psyched because I got to watch an R-rated movie. My dad was a history fanatic, to the point where the only things that had ever been on TV in my house were either a documentary about the Holocaust or some nature show; it was always these documentaries, usually in black-and-white. And then I remember vividly watching Up in Smoke, and my father was just crack ing up - and I just thought that was hilarious. I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I saw any kind of stoner comedy...
But my favorite stoner comedies aren’t even what you’d call “stoner comedies.” They’re usually just some horrible comedies, terrible movies - or, better yet, YouTube clips.
You’ll have to send me some links. In the meantime, you’ve been in a lot of movies that have portrayed marijuana use...
Well, that’s bound to happen when you work with Seth Rogen.
That gets to my question: Among that whole crew of people who work together regularly - which you’re certainly a part of - is there a kind of stoner mentality that you think makes those films work?
Well, I know with Seth, who I’ve worked with several times, he’s very vocal about the fact that he smokes pot - and there’s an ease, kind of a mellow vibration, that gets kicked out. I think that’s apparent in a lot of the characters that are in those films, and it makes for good reference points and jokes and stuff like that. Plus, if you’ve got a bunch of guys living together in a house and you see them casually passing a bong around, a lot of the people who are watching the movie will think: “Yeah, that’s not so unlike me and my friends.”
Plus we’re all kind of pudgy, so it looks like we’ve been snacking. The craft service [catered food] table on these films is always crowded.
As a writer or actor, have you ever used marijuana as part of your own creative process?
Mine? Actually, no - if I’m working or writing, I need to stay clearheaded. I just don’t have that kind of capability.
You have a new film coming out, called Wanderlust, that sounds like it also might be of interest to our readers. How was that experience?
It was great. Wanderlust is about this couple that get priced out of New York City and have to look for a new place to live. They stop at a bed and breakfast that’s run by a commune and have an amazing night. Eventually, they decide to change the way they live their lives because they were so affected by these insane, amazing people. So it’s about this couple deciding to just move into the commune, and all the craziness - good and bad - that comes about because of that decision.
Wanderlust was directed by David Wain, and I think part of the idea for the film goes back to how he and I always talked about how great it would be if we could do another movie where everyone was hanging out together in nature, to try to recapture some of the feeling we had when we were filming Wet Hot American Summer. That was certainly part of the impetus for this new movie - along with the fact that the subject matter is just a great story waiting to happen.
Last question: Do you have a favorite strain or variety of marijuana, or do you remember the best joint you ever smoked?
God...umm...I don’t really know...
Okay, how about the best laugh you ever had?
I can’t say for sure - but I know that a really good one involved watching South Park in German with Seth Rogen.
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