Paul Rudd interrupted his work on the untitled Judd Apatow project a few weeks ago (don't let anyone tell you it's called This Is 40; Universal says it's not), to jet from Los Angeles to New York to drop in on Harvey Weinstein.
The Weinstein Co. is distributing Our Idiot Brother, the new comedy in which Rudd, 42, has the title role, and the actor thought he'd pitch a few marketing ideas to the famously feisty mogul.
"I flew to New York for about half of a day, and I was able to stop off in his office and defile most of the things in it," Rudd reports, deadpan.
OK, the Rudd-Weinstein encounter is a sketch comedy piece there for the viewing on Funnyordie.com. It's pretty priceless.
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Pulling sheets of marker-scrawled toilet paper from his pocket, Rudd rattles off some ideas, like running the Our Idiot Brother trailer in the middle of a movie, instead of before it starts.
And "how about a billboard with my face on it?" Rudd suggests. "Not pictures of my face. My actual face. Live. You figure it out."
Things quickly go downhill from there, with Weinstein demanding that Rudd leave his office — "now!" Before he does, the actor picks up one of Weinstein's Oscars and hurls it across the room.
"There were other things, too, that just didn't make the cut," Rudd says of his three-minute video. "Probably a good thing. Some people might argue that it's too long already."
Our Idiot Brother, acquired by the Weinsteins at Sundance, directed by Jesse Peretz (late of the 1990s alt-rock band the Lemonheads), and co-starring Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer, opens in theaters Friday. The actresses play sisters who have had to contend with their maddening sibling since childhood. He's not dim at all, really, just impossibly trusting and naive — traits that constantly get him into trouble and cause no shortage of aggravation and embarrassment for the people around him.
"It was important to have something in the movie where he explains that he lives his life according to a principle," Rudd says about Ned, his not-a-numbskull alter ego. "It's a struggle. He tries to live his life a certain way — he gives people the benefit of the doubt, expects the best from them. It's a definite ethos.
"And by acknowledging that, then the character is self-aware, ... and that makes him three-dimensional. That makes him not an idiot, and instead just a kind of idealist.
"I always thought of the character as being pretty noble. While some of his decisions might be described as idiotic, they come from a very good place."
Rudd and Peretz have known each other for years. In their 2001 collaboration, The Chateau, Rudd's character discovers that he has inherited a French estate, and comic cultural clashes ensue. In interviews, Peretz has told people that from the get-go, he and his screenwriters envisioned Rudd as the lead in Our Idiot Brother.
Rudd isn't so sure.
"In the decade between The Chateau and Idiot Brother, we had many false starts as far as other projects," Rudd says. "We've wanted to work together, we'd develop ideas and work on scripts, and inevitably they would be abandoned halfway through, whether it was because we lost interest, or he had to go off to work, or I had to go off to work, and so nothing ever really came to fruition.
"He claims that this was written with me in mind, and he didn't tell me just because he didn't want to follow that same kind of course that we seemed to have set for each other. But I also wonder whether maybe he's just being nice. ...
"And I wouldn't put it past him to say that to be nice, because he really is super-nice. There are many qualities within the character that I'm playing that I see in Jesse. ... He's just a very considerate person. I think he's genuinely interested in people, and if he isn't, he's certainly fooled me into thinking that he is. He's very smart. He has a fascinating family and a really interesting upbringing, none of which he will ever flaunt. Like, I knew him for years and never knew that he was actually in the Lemonheads, that he ever even played music or anything.
"And when I found out and asked him, he seemed kind of sheepish. He's very modest. I think he's just very, very kind — to the point where, even if he has to give direction, I feel like he's doing it with an apology. ... It's almost like he feels bad because he's implying you're not doing something right."