In “This is 40,” Leslie Mann reprises her role as Debbie from 2007’s “Knocked Up.” In the film, Debbie’s marriage to Paul Rudd’s Pete is tested by financial troubles, moody teenage children, and the resentful rut all long-term relationships seem to fall into. I spoke with Leslie about her marriage to the film’s director Judd Apatow, how improvisation is handled on the set, and how she’s coping with her daughters’ budding acting careers.
Your husband, Judd Apatow, wrote and directed the film. How much of what is onscreen is drawn from your actual marriage?
Well, I think that it’s emotionally truthful. I feel like it’s emotionally truthful to a lot of people, struggling with marriage and raising kids and just how hectic life is. Those are pretty universal feelings and ideas. But it’s not really, you know, it is fictional. It’s not plucked right out of our lives.
Everyone seems to assume that Judd’s films are filled with improvisation. Is that the case, or do you stick pretty close to the script?
We do stick close to the script. You know, Judd is a really generous director and very supportive. He started as a stand-up comic. So sometimes when we’re shooting we’ll roll and he doesn’t cut. He lets it roll until it rolls out so we’ll shoot for sometimes – like 10 minutes straight. And sometimes he will yell out lines as we’re rolling, so he’ll kind of rewrite while we’re shooting the scene. And then the actors will shoot a bunch of takes like that. We’ll have like a “free take” where we kind of do whatever we want. But it usually winds up being what’s on the page. Pretty close to it.
Your daughters, Maude and Iris, play your daughters for the third time [after “Knocked Up” and “Funny People”] onscreen.
Do they have any aspirations to maybe play someone else’s daughters someday?
(Laughs) Well…I keep saying that I want them to stay in school and just, you know, have a normal childhood because there’s plenty of time for them to be working when they grow up. But then I talked to Tom Cruise last night—Judd was doing Jimmy Fallon, and Tom Cruise was there. And Tom Cruise kind of disagreed with me and thought that I should let them become actors if they want to. If they’re good and they’re interested in it [he said] I should let them do that. And my daughter Maude was there, who does want to act, and she’s like, “See Mom? I don’t need to stay in school! Tom Cruise said that I should go out and become an actress!” So now I’m not sure what I’m gonna to do.