08 October 2019
Feature: Paul Rudd for the New York Times
Like many other moviegoers, Paul Rudd emerged from “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” thinking a lot about Brad Pitt. Having spent a couple of hours this summer in a darkened theater, where he watched the effortlessly self-assured Pitt spar with Bruce Lee, pal around with Leonardo DiCaprio and strip off his shirt to fix a television antenna, Rudd left feeling slightly bedazzled and slightly intimidated, but also feeling that his own place in the cultural hierarchy had been clarified.
“I thought, my God, what a movie star, just so cool,” Rudd said a few weeks ago, still sounding awe-struck. His voice rose to an ironic timbre — “Leo’s no slouch either!” — before it returned to its usual, gentler register as he described how the Brad-gazing experience reminded him that audiences were never going to see him in quite the same way.
“I came to terms pretty early on,” he said, “that I was not going to be the guy up there that people would watch, going, ‘Yes! That’s who I want to be!’”
Rudd has been a film and TV star in his own right for more than 25 years now, from his earliest appearances in movies like “Clueless” to his first Netflix series, “Living With Yourself,” which debuts Oct. 18. Though some of us may feel that we’ve known him forever, he is, at age 50, just reaching a new peak of fame, thanks in part to mammoth Marvel blockbusters like “Avengers: Endgame,” in which he plays the wisecracking superhero Ant-Man. He’s been filming a lead role in a new “Ghostbusters” movie that is planned to open next summer, and which could elevate him even higher.
But his costumed adventuring is an outlier; Rudd has carved out his particular piece of pop-cultural turf by playing people who don’t necessarily get to swagger triumphantly, save the day or induce swooning.
O.K., maybe just a little swooning. But the tough, quiet Brad Pitt roles are “not coming my way, and I’m not fighting for them,” Rudd said. “Because the truth is, I don’t quite relate to them in the same way that I relate to a guy who is mildly depressed or put-upon, and trying to fight his way out of this common situation.”
His wheelhouse, as Rudd understands it, is a certain sort of Everyman who, despite the good looks and charisma, is an avatar of averageness. In his most successful performances, he is besieged by quotidian problems; he is blessed with impeccable comic timing but at his funniest when he’s flailing and frustrated. Sometimes he can seem like two people at once.
It’s a dichotomy Rudd uses to full advantage in “Living With Yourself,” a comedy-drama with a science-fiction twist. In the series, he plays Miles, a dejected brand executive who has lost his passion for his work and his marriage. On a tip from a co-worker, he tries a mysterious spa treatment that he hopes will make him a new and better man — and which instead results in the creation of a clone (also played by Rudd) who is seemingly superior to Miles in every way. [More at Source]