Paul Rudd is the rare sort of person whose laser wit will make you snort-laugh. Admit it, you want this unassuming funny guy in your life – snorting can be curiously liberating.
An excellent comic actor and a man who roots for the underdog, Rudd is famous for masterfully realising slightly tortured, yet ultimately loveable, misfits on-screen (see Clueless, Friends, Anchorman). Off screen, he harbours a fondness for insects and supports the Kansas City Chiefs (an American football team from his home town who haven’t won a game in decades). His latest role is as a superhero ant in Ant-Man (the most unlikely of superheroes, naturally). The genre is a departure for Rudd – he’s doing dangerous for a change, albeit fingernail-size threatening. ELLE telephoned Rudd at his New York home.
If you were a superhero in real life, who would you want as your sidekick?
Honestly, the first person that popped into my mind was Keith Richards. He just seems like he would be fun and that he could survive anything.
Ant-Man is a criminal. Have you ever broken the law?
I have, but nothing too extreme. When I was in college I was standing outside a bar and I had an open beer. I also got in trouble for shooting a water pistol out of a car.
Those are pretty tame crimes
I have also driven over the speed limit.
What do you think is your most attractive feature?
I’d say my wife.
That’s nice, but it doesn't really qualify
Oh boy. Then I it would probably be a tie between my 6ft 4in frame and my luxurious long blonde hair.
I think your actual facial and head hair is very versatile and impressive
When I was in my early twenties I used to grow all sorts of very weird beards. All of them awful in retrospect. I had Civil War beards for a while, then Mennonite beards. But I used to think what a great thing it is that we get to grow hair on our face. My hair has been all different lengths – most of the time I don't shave or cut [my hair] between jobs. Usually it’s pretty easy to tell when I’m not working.
Because you’re extremely hairy?
Yes. I look like I’m in the band Boston.
It’s Clueless’ twentieth anniversary this year, do you consider that to be your breakout role?
Yeah, it was a big deal, a big change in my career for sure. When I auditioned after Clueless came out, I got to meet the directors right away [laughs].
The superhero genre is new for you. Did it feel very different working on a big Marvel production?
At the most basic level as an actor you're trying to develop fictional characters and fictional relationships; I don't differentiate the acting experience (whether I'm working on Anchorman or Ant-Man) as much as the viewer might. But there are certainly things about this that were new and different, like motion capture and special effects. In preparation for the role I also got to the point where health and fitness was the focus of my day – and I enjoyed it! Thankfully, I don't have to go full Jackman: I’m an ant, I shouldn’t be too big.
When you were first getting into the business, what kind of actor did you want to be?
Growing up, I was certainly drawn to comedy, but my goal was just to be as well rounded an actor as possible. I really liked Daniel Day-Lewis and I thought, 'Oh he’s a good guy to try and emulate.'
How would you describe your humour?
I treasure laughs more than anything; they’ve helped me in life the most. And I’m a fan of many types of humour, both ends of the spectrum: from the the most clever, verbal, esoteric, intellectual humour to just complete low-brow silliness.
Do you laugh a lot?
No. Just on the phone right now. Once we hang up I’m going to slip back into a quiet funk.
Jack Nicholson played your on-screen dad in How Do You Know. Who would be your ultimate on-screen mum?
Helen Mirren. She’s awesome. I mean, Diane Keaton too. There’s a lot of people I would be more than a little overwhelmed by and thrilled to work with.
Both your real parents are from the UK – what’s your favourite thing to do in London?
I load up on candy. Your chocolate is out of sight! It also seems like I always go to a Wagamama.
Previously, you’ve said you ‘live to dance’ – is this still true?
Did I say that?
Yes. There’s evidence on YouTube
Don’t believe anything I say. I was probably being facetious. But I do think sometimes it’s the only way you can really express yourself. When words are just not going to cut it, you’ve gotta feel it and let your body move.
What is your favourite word?
Ointment. I can’t decide if it’s my favourite word or my least favourite word. It’s something about the ‘oint’. Bulb is a weird one too, think about it. Think about bulb. Think about bulb for thirty seconds. Just focus on bulb: the way it’s spelled, the way it sounds and then get back to me as to whether or not you like it.
Ant-Man is in cinemas 17 July
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