Minus the handlebar mustache, actor Paul Rudd reports on the twists and turns of his storied career…and the strategy behind being a team player
By Marshall Heyman
Photographed by Cliff Watts
Last fall, a funny thing happened to Paul Rudd. He was performing in a Broadway production of Craig Wright’s Grace, opposite Michael Shannon, and during an otherwise ordinary Wednesday evening show, an audience member lost his lunch from the balcony to the orchestra.
“That was a first,” says the 44-year-old actor, still somewhat dumbfounded by the occurrence. Can you blame him? “The hard part was knowing how to handle the situation—not knowing what had happened, hearing the commotion and wondering whether to stop the play or keep focus,” he says.
“But that’s why we do theater, right? For the pukers.” He laughs. “At least it makes for fun stories for magazine interviews.”
Sometimes it’s difficult navigating the peaks and valleys of an acting career; people just tend to throw up—metaphorically—in your general direction. But the answer, at least according to Rudd, is to go with your gut.
“I’ve always been very conscious of making decisions that felt right for me,” he explains. “You never know how anything is going to turn out. The majority of things I did in the first 10 years of my career were because I got the job. But I’d never audition for things I didn’t want to do just for the sake of work.”
That outlook has enabled Rudd to enjoy an exceedingly varied and successful CV, one that started, somewhat remarkably, with 1995’s surprise hit Clueless. Amy Heckerling’s reinvention of Emma cast him as the dreamy ex-stepbrother to Alicia Silverstone’s Cher Horowitz and cemented him as a sex symbol for all contemporary Jane Austen lovers and, in particular, their swooning Jewish mothers. Despite finding relatively rapid success after its release, Rudd, born in New Jersey and bred in Kansas City, packed up his Hollywood belongings at 24 and made his way back East to tread the New York boards.
“I knew the time was right through a series of crazy things that happened,” he says, as he dives into a vegetable omelette and a side of bacon at a low-key Mexican joint in Tribeca. “You know: car wrecks and all sorts of other cosmic messages.
“I think I had hit a point where my own happiness as to where I was living had become just as important as my desire to be in the right place for my career,” Rudd says, finishing a second cup of black coffee. “I thought I could try and make it work out here. And so I did. I knew I’d miss out on some opportunities because …
[Read more in the Fall 2013 issue of C for Men, on newsstands now!]