When Judd Apatow announced that his fourth feature film, eventually called This Is 40, would star Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann in the same roles they played in Knocked Up, it created more questions than it answered. If this film is set in that universe, would Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl return? What about the rest of Apatow’s players, actors like Jason Segel, Martin Starr and Jay Baruchel? And if they didn’t, would those characters be referenced in the movie?

The answer to most of those questions is “no.” In This is 40, while Segel returns (along with Charlyne Yi), neither character acknowledges their previous relationships to Pete, Debbie and their daughters in Knocked Up. No one else from Knocked Up cameos and outside of one throwaway line of dialogue, the existance of that movie is largely ignored.

In a new interview, Apatow admitted he filmed more references to his previous film, but eventually cut them out. Read his quotes and more after the jump.

Just to recap, in Knocked Up Ben and Allison (Rogen and Heigl) get together and have a baby. Debbie (Mann) is Allison’s sister and her husband, Pete (Rudd) hits it off with Ben. In This Is 40, Pete says he got a pot cookie from Ben but that’s the only reference to the couple’s existence.

Thanks to Film Comment (via The Playlist) for this quote:

I shot some stuff, in case the audience demanded to know. I shot a version where Pete talks about how Ben and Alison live in Atlanta where she works for CNN. I covered my ass quite well. But when I was conceiving the movie, my interest wasn’t in what happened to Ben and Alison, because Pete and Debbie in a way are Ben and Alison. They were always meant to be the future for them, and in a lot of ways in ‘Knocked Up,’ Ben and Alison and Pete and Debbie are meant to be the same couple. They’re a fabricated, exaggerated version of Leslie and myself at two different ages.

In my review of the film, I mentioned that Ben and Allison’s absence was noticible but likely omitted because inserting either or both of those recognizable actors for even a moment could take the audience out of the movie. From a director’s standpoint, I understand that. Plus, you don’t need to know Knocked Up to enjoy This is 40. They’re independent yet complimentary stories.

On other other hand, This is 40 is about a specific family unit and Rogen and Heigl’s characters are part of the family. Even if they live out of state, to not mention them feels weird. Wouldn’t they try and fly in for this momentous occasion, the dual 40th birthday’s of the sister and brother-in-law?

Either way, it was definitely a difficult decision for Apatow. Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t. So why did he back himself into that corner? He explained the decision to use the same characters:

Part of it is also that I wish more people made movies like this. I like characters in certain movies and I wish they had their own, stand-alone movies. ‘Pineapple Express’ came out of an idea I had when I was watching ‘True Romance.’ I just thought the Brad Pitt character was so funny; he’s a mess, he’s on drugs and suddenly people are trying to kill him, and I thought, ‘I want to watch a whole movie where this guy’s trying to get away from killers but it’s really hard because he’s high. And after Nick Stoller and Jason Segel made ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall,’ I thought it was a fantastic idea to do a movie about Russell Brand’s character, which became ‘Get Him to the Greek.’ I thought, ‘Yes, you can do a legitimate movie that’s about someone you met in a different film,’ and when I told Universal, they didn’t think I was insane for thinking this would be an interesting exploration, just like ‘Rhoda’ was an interesting exploration after ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show.’

When This Is 40 opens on December 21, we’ll see if audiences are upset this “sort of sequel” to Knocked Up doesn’t really reference that movie. Are you slightly disappointed about the omission?

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