April 6, 1969
Passaic, New Jersey, USA
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Armed with effortless charm and a disarming smile, actor Paul Rudd made his name on stage and screen in a number of notable projects, as well as cultivating an avid following as both a sensitive leading man and as a comic foil. While he became vaguely recognizable thanks to several prominent film and television roles - namely as Alicia Silverstone's know-it-all stepbrother in "Clueless" (1995), Phoebe's husband on "Friends" (NBC, 1994-2004), and Jennifer Aniston's gay best friend in the romantic comedy "The Object of My Affection" (1998) - Rudd eventually rode the Judd Apatow wave to stardom with a series of surprisingly successful comedies in which he was more often than not, the primary scene-stealer. His roles in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" (2005), "Knocked Up" (2007), "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" (2008), "Role Models" (2008) and "I Love You, Man" (2009) established the versatile actor, who oscillated easily between comedy and drama both on screen and on stage, as a bona fide box-office force and a rising star. Because of his raised profile, Rudd was able to take bigger risks in less mainstream projects, as he did for "Dinner for Schmucks" (2010) and "Our Idiot Brother" (2011). He took a step back with a leading role in James L. Brooks' critically maligned romantic comedy "How Do You Know" (2010) and stepped into a producer's role for the low-budget "Wanderlust" (2011), but regardless of his projects' success or lack thereof, moviegoers held great reserves of goodwill for the actor. No matter how big or small the project, Rudd became one of Apatow's most popular and marketable stars.
Born April 6, 1969 in Passaic, NJ, Rudd was raised by his British parents, Michael, a historical tour guide and former vice president of World Airways, and Gloria, who later became a television station manager for KSMO-TV. When he was ten, the family relocated to Overland Park, KS, where he graduated high school from Shawnee Mission West in 1987, before moving on to study theater at the University of Kansas. Though at first he was dead set on performing only comic improv and monologues, Rudd did a sudden about-face with a role in Shakespeare's Macbeth, giving him a thirst for more dramatic training. He later attended Pasadena's American Academy of Dramatic Arts on a Spencer Tracy Scholarship, followed by a semester at Oxford's British Drama Academy, where he appeared as Hamlet in scenes directed by Ben Kingsley. While in England, he also co-produced the Globe Theatre's production of Howard Brenton's "Bloody Poetry," in which he starred as writer Percy Shelley.
Returning to the United States in the early 1990s, he began his career billed as Paul Stephen Rudd to avoid confusion with stage and television actor Paul Rudd. He received great exposure with his first role as an aspiring filmmaker married to Reed Halsey (Ashley Judd, later Noelle Parker) on "Sisters" (NBC, 1991-96), a role he played from 1992-95. He also began appearing in longform television, including the CBS miniseries "The Fire Next Time" (1993), the drama "Moment of Truth: Stalking Back" (NBC, 1993) and Joe Dante's "Runaway Daughters" segment of Showtime's "Rebel Highway" (1994). Displaying his comic skills, Rudd costarred as a genial Chicago social worker opposite Tim Conlan as his raunchy photographer roommate in the short-lived twentysomething's sitcom, "Wild Oats" (Fox, 1994).
Rudd finally broke through with Amy Heckerling's hit comedy, "Clueless" (1995), playing Alicia Silverstone's college-aged, know-it-all stepbrother/would-be love interest. As the gravitas anchor amid the giggly schoolgirls, he ignited the fantasies of boy-next-door seekers everywhere. That year, he was also seen in the less impressive film, "Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers" (1995), which was actually his first screen role - the finished film debuted after audiences saw him in "Clueless." The following year, he played a jazzed-up Paris, renamed Dave Paris, in Baz Luhrmann's updated, rock 'n' roll version of "William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet" (1996). He followed with a role as a goofy aspiring filmmaker in the comedy "The Size of Watermelons" (1996), which was shown at Cannes, before landing a supporting role in the period drama "The Locusts" (1997), which reunited him with Ashley Judd. He next played a young man attempting to retrieve a Dear Jane letter sent to his beloved (Reese Witherspoon) in the little-seen comedy "Overnight Delivery" (1997).
Following his Broadway stage debut in Alfred Uhry's "The Last Night of Ballyhoo" (1997), Rudd continued turning heads when he played a gay man involved with an unwed mother (Jennifer Aniston) in Nicholas Hytner's "The Object of My Affection" (1998). Despite the vanilla aspects of a contrived romance doomed by its players' inherently different instinctual drives, Rudd's intelligent portrayal elevated his nice guy role above what playwright-screenwriter Wendy Wasserstein had provided for him. The following year saw him reunite with Hytner on Broadway as the lovesick Orsino, spouting the Bard's most poetic lines from "Twelfth Night" (1998) opposite Helen Hunt. After sporting long, pointed sideburns for his role as a recently jilted lover in "200 Cigarettes" (1999), Rudd returned to the stage opposite Calista Flockhart in "Bash," a trio of one-acts by Neil LaBute that skewered the playwright's Mormon religion. In the evening's final segment, he and Flockhart portrayed Mormon college students visiting New York City, with Rudd playing off his boyish charm and delivering a chilling description of his character's participation in a brutal attack on two gay men. He went on to reprise the role in Los Angeles and London.
Moving back to the big screen, Rudd costarred as World War II pilot Wally Worthington in Lasse Hallstrom's "The Cider House Rules" (1999), the first of John Irving's novels adapted by the writer himself. Unfortunately, the streamlined film narrative reduced the part dramatically from its prose origins and left Rudd with little to do. There was no reducing his next roles, however. Rudd starred opposite Andie MacDowell in "Reaching Normal" (Showtime, 2000), written and directed by Anne Heche, and traded on his preppy looks to embody F. Scott Fitzgerald narrator Nick Carraway in the made-for-cable adaptation of "The Great Gatsby" (A&E, 2001). A turn toward the ridiculous with the cult comedy "Wet Hot American Summer" (2001) set the stage for one of Rudd's more memorable and visible roles, when he landed the plumb part of Mike Hannigan, Phoebe Buffay's straight-laced and level-headed beau, on the hit sitcom "Friends." He had reportedly taken on the role at the behest of former co-star and friend, Aniston.
Rudd reunited with LaBute for "The Shape of Things" (2003), another of the auteur's sharp-edged, harsh looks at the battles of the sexes, in which Rudd played a young man who radically makes himself over after becoming involved with a mysterious beauty (Rachel Weisz). Mixing things up for a bit, Rudd took a role opposite Will Ferrell in the comedy, "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy" (2004), the most effective demonstration of his comedic skills to date. Rudd played a misogynist expose reporter in 1970s-era San Diego, who bolsters news anchor Burgandy's (Ferrell) attempts to freeze out their station's first female on-air reporter (Christina Applegate). Rudd's increasingly deft comic abilities caught the right attention, landing him in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" (2005). Written and directed by Apatow and starring Steve Carell, the movie costarred Rudd as one of the supportive, if sometimes misguided, co-workers trying to help their oddball friend (Carell) lose his virginity.
Jumping back on stage, Rudd appeared on Broadway with first timer Julia Roberts in her much publicized dramatic debut, "Three Days of Rain." Opening in April 2006, the show closed its doors after a mere three months following an onslaught of poor reviews and dwindling audience attendance. Meanwhile, Rudd made a small appearance in "Night at the Museum" (2006) as a stepfather to a young boy (Jake Cherry) too embarrassed to know his real dad (Ben Stiller), a down-and-out dreamer who desperately takes a night watchman's job at a history museum where the exhibits come alive at night. After starring as a clam digger with artistic aspirations in the low-budget "Diggers" (2007), Rudd played Ethan the Drug Lord in "Reno 911: Miami" (2007), the big screen treatment of Comedy Central's hit about a bumbling squad of Reno cops. Rudd had his chance to make himself a household name with "Knocked Up" (2007), an unrelenting comedy from Rudd's friend and director Apatow, about an up-and-coming entertainment journalist (Katherine Heigl) whose one-night stand with a disheveled slacker (Seth Rogen) results in an unwanted pregnancy. Rudd played Heigl's hen-pecked brother-in-law who turns out to be a lousy parental role model to predictably hilarious results.
With years of under-the-radar stardom behind him, Rudd seemed to blast off with his comic reinvention at the altar of Apatow and found himself in demand as a comedian, hosting an episode of "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ). He filmed a funny cameo as Jason Segel's surfing instructor in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" (2008), while co-writing and starring in "Role Models" (2008). Playing a burned-out energy-drink salesman, Rudd had to mentor the Dungeons-&-Dragons-dorky Christopher Mintz-Plasse, but through his selflessness, becomes a happier person. The comedy's mix of raunch and sweetness scored with critics and the box office. Rudd reunited with Segel for another comedy hit in the same vein, "I Love You, Man" (2009), and followed by voicing the arrogant fiancé of Reese Witherspoon's 50-foot-woman in the animated blockbuster "Monsters vs. Aliens" (2009). Following an uncredited cameo as the short-lived Abel, who annoys his brother with deadly results in "Year One" (2009), the actor starred opposite Steve Carell and Zach Galifianakis in "Dinner for Schmucks" (2010), a remake of the French black comedy "The Dinner Game" (1998). After that, his career slipped a bit with a co-starring role opposite Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson and Jack Nicholson in James L. Brooks' romantic comedy misfire "How Do You Know" (2010). He followed up that dud by playing the titular character in the indie comedy "Our Idiot Brother" (2011), which fared better with critics and at the box office.
Rudd starred in and served as producer of his next project, "Wanderlust" (2012), where he played an out-of-work New Yorker who moves to a hippie commune in Georgia with his documentarian wife (Jennifer Aniston), where hijinks of course ensue. The movie came and went without much fanfare, though fans were delighted to see the twosome reuniting on the big screen. Rudd's year was filled out by significant projects, including a well-received stint as a political rival of Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) on "Parks and Recreation" (NBC, 2009- ), his supporting role as an amiable English teacher in the coming-of-age film "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," and his lead turn as a flummoxed father and husband in "This Is 40." The thoughtful and biting latter film inventively brought audiences up to speed on Rudd's character from "Knocked Up," effectively making him an acting surrogate for Apatow while appearing with the director's real-wife (Leslie Mann) and daughters. After starring in the understated dramedy "Admission" (2013) with Tina Fey, he popped up with other Apatow alum in the apocalyptic comedy "This Is the End" (2013) and toned things down considerably for the meditative indie "Prince Avalanche" (2013), co-starring Emile Hirsch and directed by David Gordon Green.
Anchorman 2: The Legend ContinuesBrian Fantana
This Is The EndHimself
This Is 40Pete
The Perks of Being a WallflowerMr. Anderson
How Do You KnowGeorge
Dinner for SchmucksTim Conrad
Casino Jack & The United States of MoneyVoice of Michael Scanlon
Monsters vs. AliensDerek Dietl
I Love You, ManPeter Klaven
Role ModelsDanny Donahue
Over Her Dead BodyHenry
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox StoryJohn Lennon
The TenJeff Reigert
Reno 911: MiamiEthan the Drug Lord
The Oh in OhioJack Chase
The BaxterDan Abbot
The Cider House RulesWally Worthington
Overnight DeliveryWyatt Trips
The Object of My AffectionGeorge Hanson
Romeo + JulietDave Paris
Halloween: The Curse of Michael MyersTommy Doyle