For many of us, Paul Rudd is still the funny guy who wins Pheobe’s heart and eventually marries her in the TV series Friends. From now on, he is likely to be remembered more as Ant-Man. The latest Marvel superhero film Ant-Man with Paul Rudd in the titular role has hit the theatres in North America this weekend, and it puts Rudd in the spotlight in a way he has never seen before. A movie career which began way back in 1995, has been a tough but dauntless ride, and Rudd deserves all the attention that he has been getting ever since he was cast in the Marvel film.
Now do you know the debut feature film of Paul Rudd that released in the theatres? Clueless, eh? Oh well, it was Clueless, the comedy hit of 1995 which had Alicia Silverstone in the lead role and was a breakthrough film of sorts for Brittany Murphy. Rudd played the role of Silverstone’s ex-stepbrother, a budding lawyer, and one who constantly teases Silverstone though cares about her a lot. Eh yes, the picture below is of Rudd from Clueless.
He followed that up with a side role in Baz Luhmann’s hit film Romeo+Juliet where he is Juliet’s fiance, but of course is not meant to marry her. Paul Rudd continued to be part of light-hearted comedy / romantic films later on, like Overnight Delivery with Reese Witherspoon and The Object of My Affection with Jennifer Aniston. None of these worked though, and Rudd was fading into obscurity, or so one may have feared.
A more mature role followed in The Cider House Rules in 1999, which was an Oscar nominee in the Best Movie category. Rudd had a supporting role in the film as Lt. Wally Worthington, the boyfriend of Charlize Theron’s character. But that role did not propel him into a better category of films; instead things only got worse, as movies of the kind of Wet Hot American Summer and The Château were what followed as we took a turn into a new century. I do not know if good roles did not reach his doorstep or Paul Rudd wasn’t trying hard enough, but then the best possible thing happened for his career, the role of Mike Hannigan in Friends. Paul Rudd took it and did a pretty good job of coming across as a lovable and friendly guy, who has the knack of making you laugh without trying too hard. During this time, he also tried to do different kind of roles in Hollywood, such as the more serious toned romantic movie The Shape of Things along side Rachel Weisz, and the drama Two Days. Nothing still worked on the big screen for Rudd, but Friends had given him a lifeline.
As Friends drew to a conclusion, two bright points rejuvenated Rudd’s big screen career. First, he became part of the 2004 comedy film Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy which had a stellar star-cast. Being around the likes of Will Ferrell and Steve Carell and managing to hold his own once more elevated Rudd’s capability as a comic actor. Anchorman was of course quite a success commercially and had a sequel release ten years later in which Rudd returned as well.
The next good thing to come Paul Rudd’s way was Judd Apatow. Rudd found himself in a bit-part role in Apatow’s directorial debut which had Steve Carell in the lead role, viz. 2005’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin. This led to a bigger role to come in the next Apatow movie, 2007’s Knocked Up and then a lead role in the sequel, 2012’s This is 40. In between Rudd had a mixture of lead and supporting roles. He also started to grow as an actor, had more confidence about him, seemed to be able to handle the role of a lead actor better. He was largely part of the low-budget comedy / romantic movies (that did not change), which now started making money at the box-office. A bit-role in the commercially successful Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which had Jason Segal in the lead role, was followed by Role Models in the same year (2008), that had Rudd and Sean William Scott as lead actors. Role Models actually worked, one of the early Paul Rudd movies to be a hit where he was the lead fellow, earning about $93 million at the global box-office against its $28 million production budget. Not only that, the reviews were favorable too, and it was the first sign of people possibly coming into a theatre for Rudd alone.
Paul Rudd then came along with Jason Segal in 2009’s I Love You, Man which also earned good reviews though did so-so at the box-office, was back with Steve Carell though no more on the fringes in 2010’s Dinner for Schmucks which was a disappointment, earned strong reviews for his performance in the low-budget Our Idiot Brother. Paul Rudd was by then appearing in two to three movies each year, with varying screen time, and becoming more recognised as a regular movie actor. For 2013 in fact he had five films to his credit, including a cameo in the comedy This Is The End which had quite an ensemble cast. The fact that a Paul Rudd cameo brought something to a movie in itself is a sign of the growth trajectory this actor has been on in the past decade. Then Ant-Man happened.
This is the single biggest event in Paul Rudd’s career for sure since Friends. This role takes Rudd’s career in a different direction. It gives him recognition beyond only those who enjoy light-hearted comedies; it makes him part of cinema’s ever-expanding Marvel universe; it puts him in headlines in a way he wouldn’t have seen before. Paul Rudd’s casting was a surprising one, for he hadn’t really been part of such a big-budget adventure before. But then Marvel isn’t one to back away from a gamble. Robert Downey, Jr. was supposed to be a finished article when Iron Man resurrected his career, and no one knew about Chris Hemsworth until Thor came in our lives. Paul Rudd at least is on an upward trajectory, and bagging the role of Ant-Man is his reward for the amount of effort put and dedication shown in his career, especially in the last few years. Paul Rudd will return as Ant-Man in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War as well. His comedy films will continue, no doubt (there is one titled The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving set for a 2016 release), which would get more recognised now given Rudd’s new status as the world’s latest big-screen superhero. All in all, wonderful things happening in Rudd’s career and we wish him well!