Meredith Jenks/Trunk Archive
Way back in 1995, Clueless made Paul Rudd the thinking woman’s crush, and while he basically hasn’t aged since, his characters have grown up. He was the Everyman (Everyhusband?) in Knocked Up and This Is 40. He’s also Marvel’s charming oddball, Ant-Man, a character grounded in his love for his daughter, who’s back this summer for a sequel. Rudd comes by his humanity naturally; he and his wife of 15 years, Julie, live in New York with their two kids. You can ask him anything. Just don’t call him nice.
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You got into superhero shape for Ant-Man and the Wasp. How did you feel with six-pack abs?
Paul Rudd: Like an impostor.
Nothing gets in the way of humor like muscles do. It’s the enemy of comedy. Thankfully, I didn’t have to go full Hemsworth. Nor would I have been able to. My workout regimen my whole life—like most people’s—has been to go in with the best intentions. [Laughs] And then a couple of weeks later, quit.
People always call you nice. Do you ever find that emasculating?
It’s passive-aggressive! There’s nothing sexy about nice; there’s nothing alluring or intriguing. And yet, I really love it when people are nice. Because honestly, I just think life is so hard. There are so many things that can get you down—that are so frustrating and so maddening. As cornball as it sounds, kindness is a thing that can defuse it a little bit. Kindness and laughs.
So are you that nice?
In This Is 40, I was doing a scene with Leslie Mann. It was a lot of improvisation. And I said, “Everybody thinks I’m so nice, but I’m really such a dick.” I said that knowing my wife would find particular pleasure in it. Everybody is complex. I’m not a very public person. I think people should be generally nice to each other. But I’m probably not as nice as everybody might think.
You went to the March for Our Lives in DC earlier this year. Is gun control an important issue for you?
I went with my kids. It’s something I believe in. And I wanted my kids to be a part of that. Because this is their reality. I thought this would be a great lesson for
them. I have very strong opinions politically. I’m not somebody who is checked out.
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I don’t think of politics as being part of your public persona.
Well, I have no social media.
I don’t need things in my life to distract me from my life. As my world gets bigger, I
try to keep it smaller. [Laughs] I don’t really want to talk to the people I know. Let alone
people I don’t.
You grew up in the Midwest—a Jewish kid with British parents. That’s an unusual combination. What were you like?
I think all kids are strange in their own way. And I embraced eccentricity at an early
age. I didn’t feel cool. I had really rough skin; I dressed like the height of ’80s fashion—but the bad version of it. When Pretty in Pink came out, so many kids in high school saw
it and said, “You remind me so much of this guy Duckie.” I was so psyched about that.
Tell me something you learned from your mother.
My mother always told me, from a very young age, that I could be anything I wanted
to be. She is an optimistic person; she’ll do anything for anybody. She also is a don’t-fuck-with-me kind of person.
When I was in first grade, I went to a birthday party in this big park. I was off
doing my own thing, then I started looking around. Someone had picked up the other
kids. But they forgot me. It was traumatic. I had a nightmare that night. My mom
called that mother and said, “My son woke up from a nightmare that he was left at a
park. And I want you to know that every time he wakes up in the middle of the night,
I’m going to call you so you don’t forget what you did.” [Laughs] My mom is there for me. It gives you a confidence and a strength.
This article originally appeared in the July 2018 issue of ELLE.