Why Paul Rudd is the most versatile actor in Hollywood right now
If you watched Comedy Central’s celebrity auction Night of Too Many Stars, then you know Paul Rudd was the break-out ‘star’ of the evening. In what Entertainment Weekly called the most “transcendently funny part of the entire special,” Rudd took to the stage and allowed random audience members feed him like a baby bird (among other things) all in the name of charity. OK, so now we all know that Paul Rudd is pretty brave when he’s playing his charming self. But you know what else? He’s also really brave as an actor—he’s the kind of performer who can, and will, play just about any character to perfection.
Get this: On July 17, not only is he reviving his role as the too-cool-for-camp counselor, Andy, in the Netflix series prequel, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, he’ll also gear up to play big-screen superhero Ant-Man. While the WHAS series is right in his comedy wheelhouse, I was, at first, skeptical about his role in Ant-Man. Then, I watched the (full-sized) trailer and became suddenly fascinated by Marvel’s casting choice, not because it was bad but because it was so so good.
For most people, Paul Rudd’s name brings to mind the dozens of rom-coms he’s appeared in, from Clueless and The 40-Year-Old Virgin to Knocked Up and I Love You, Man to. . .the list goes on. But as I began to think about his acting career, it suddenly occurred to me that Paul Rudd is amazingly versatile and has a lot more experience playing a wide variety of roles than he’s given credit for. Here’s some proof of his acting wingspan and his ability to dip into every film genre known to man.
Tommy Doyle, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
Before he was wooing women with his boyish charm and dry sarcasm, Paul Rudd spent his days running from a seemingly immortal masked killer named Michael Myers. In this 1995 reboot, which earned a whopping one star on Rotten Tomatoes, Paul Rudd stars as a high school student who attempts to rescue his friends and a baby from Michael’s murderous rampage. Despite the film’s less-than-stellar plot, Rudd played a convincing hero, eventually saving the baby from being sacrificed (ugh) and knocking out the killer with a pipe.
Dave Paris, Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Just a year later, Rudd decided to flex his poetic muscles by taking on the role of Paris in Baz Luhrmann’s eccentric Romeo and Juliet remake. Now, there are guys that “clean up” well (example, Chris Pratt) and there are guys that clean up too well, to the point where they start to look like a prince pulled out of a Disney movie. Paris is that guy. Paul Rudd pulls off this “obnoxiously rich suitor” so well, I question whether or not he went through a phase in real life where he realized how rich and attractive he was and began to embody this personality.
Mike Hannigan, Friends (2002-2004)
Mike “Crap Bag” Hannigan is the boyfriend every girl wishes she had. (Or maybe I’m thinking of Josh Lucas from Clueless. Oh wait, Rudd plays him too.) He’s smart, he’s cute, he plays along with ridiculous charades, and he can do a mean air piano. Rudd’s role as Phoebe’s blind-date-turned-husband proved, not only that can he play the classic “nice guy” role but also that he could hold his own as a sitcom character.
Brian Fantana, Anchorman (2004)
I have a question. When did the whole “clueless yet lovable” character become a thing? Michael Scott. Andy Dwyer. Joey Tribbiani. Michael Kelso. Bobby Newport. Any early Adam Sandler character. What is Hollywood’s obsession with well-meaning but slightly goofy guys? Brian Fantana is another prime example. His weird yet charming approach to love (“I think I was in love once…I met her in the bathroom of a K-Mart and we made out for hours”) combined with his abysmal math skills (“60% of the time, it works every time”) come together to form the perfect, blissfully ignorant guy, one which Paul Rudd has come to master.
Wally Worthington, The Cider House Rules (1999)
It’s hard to resist a man in uniform, especially if Paul Rudd is in that uniform. In The Cider House Rules (1999), Rudd plays Wally Worthington, a soldier who heads off to WWII at the start of the film, leaving his wife behind with Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire). Rudd’s character returns from the battle a different person, which is all I can say without spoiling the movie, thus adding “soldier” to his ever-growing list of roles.
Adam Sorenson, The Shape of Things (2003)
The word that best describes Paul Rudd in The Shape of Things is “flustered.” Or maybe “adorkable.” Or perhaps “woefully misguided.” Actually, I can’t decide. He pulls them all off so well, it’s hard to just choose one. In The Shape of Things (2003), Rudd portrays a quiet, likable nerd (Adam) that falls in love with a strong-minded artist named Evelyn that turns out to be a bit too assertive. (This is not a 50 Shades reference. I repeat, this is not a 50 Shades reference.) Evelyn begins pressuring Adam to change himself, turning him into a walking piece of art and making everyone uncomfortable. Imagine Emily from Friends but creepier.
Ned Rochlin, Our Idiot Brother (2011)
Paul Rudd with a beard. I feel like that’s all I need to say, but because I know some of you will be unsatisfied with that, I’ll continue. Paul Rudd as a clueless, pseudo-hippie with a beard. Better?
Scott Lang, Ant Man (2015)
Bringing it back to where I started, Paul Rudd’s performance in Ant Man really takes the cake. Never in my life did I think that I would see Paul Rudd in a superhero costume, sporting a six pack, and trying to save humanity by pulling off an elaborate heist. But that’s what I get for saying “never,” I guess.
Paul Rudd is not just the rom-com guy that you see alongside Tina Fey or Jennifer Aniston every once in awhile. I mean, he is, but he’s also so much more than that. He’s a camp counselor, a pipe-wielding horror star, a harmless goofball, a soldier, a nerd and a superhero, all in one. He can also eat like a baby bird, let’s not forget that.
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