Paul Rudd on Why ‘Likability’ Isn’t Important for a Character and Why He Keeps Doing Theater

Though Paul Rudd is likely gearing up for the release of This is Forty, his latest film with frequent collaborator writer/director Judd Apatow, audiences can see him on stage in New York in Grace.  Rudd plays a born-again businessman who moves to Florida in order to start a chain of gospel-themed hotels.  I thought he was wonderful in the play (you can check out my review here), although the play has driven at least one person to vomiting (although, to be fair, that probably had little to do with the play itself).

In an interview with The New York Times, Rudd talks about his character and why he continues to appear on stage despite being a comedy movie star.

Since his character in the play is deeply religious but, as a consequence, also very pushy about his beliefs, the character has been described as unlikable — a description that Rudd doesn’t necessarily agree with.  He explains, “I’ve never quite understood the whole thing about ‘likable’ and ‘unlikable.’  I know that sometimes when you read a script or studios are deciding about things, it’s like, ‘This character is unlikable,’ or ‘He’s unlikable; you’ve got to make him likable.’ I don’t quite get what that means. Everybody has moments of likability and unlikablity. I’m more interested in relatability.”

When asked why Rudd continues to do plays when he can easily continue in high-profile comedies — like next year’s Anchorman 2 — Rudd points out that the feeling he gets from being on stage can’t be replicated on a film set.  He says, “When you’re not thinking about lines and you’re not thinking about your laundry list and you’re just completely present in a scene and an audience is completely present in a scene, it takes flight in a way that is at least for me tough to describe. The temperature in the room changes.”

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