Judd Apatow MasterClass

Is there anyone else that you would consider doing this deep a dive about?

I was thinking about that recently. I’m not sure. Part of what makes it work is I knew Garry so well for so long that I felt like I understood enough about him to take this on. I don’t know that many people as intimately as I knew Garry.

How does it feel to reach a point where now you can make films about your mentors?

I really enjoyed making this film because I felt like there were things that Garry wanted to say to the world that he didn’t get a chance to say. I think this documentary gives him the opportunity to do that. I’m really excited for people to see this to get to know him better, and so that they can consider some of his thoughts about life and how we all can evolve in a more loving way.

While I have you, I want to ask about using your platform to speak out. Last weekend you tweeted about Terry Gilliam’s Harvey Weinstein comments, as you’ve always spoken out. Even before #MeToo, you were vocal about Bill Cosby. As more women come forward and some of the #MeToo stories involve your colleagues, has it gotten trickier and more complicated to navigate how you speak out?

I think that it’s certainly a messy time and there are aspects of this that everyone is trying to navigate. Much of it hasn’t been worked out yet. How do we get to the truth? How are people judged? What should happen to people who commit crimes vs. what happens to people who have made mistakes both small and awful? For me, what’s most important is that women speak up and that we have these conversations and that we realize that there are large changes that need to be made and we do have to deal with everything that’s happened. But, we also have to make it clear to all industries how people should be treated and what should happen when people are mistreated. What’s most important to me is that we protect each other and take care of each other.

Have you by any chance spoken to James Franco since his students came forward?

Well, I’m not going to go into all my conversations with everybody. Oddly enough, I know an enormous amount of accusers and people who are being accused. I feel like in brief articles you can’t really get into the depth that you need to in order to be thoughtful and honest about it. Everybody wants that because it’s all click bait, but these situations are very complicated and they raise an enormous amount of questions. That doesn’t mean I let anybody off the hook for anything, but they’re not simple. We have a long way to go to figure out how we want to handle all of it.

That was my only specific question, so I do have more Garry questions we can go back to. 

Let me just say one more thing about the Terry Gilliam situation. What is troubling about that is that he is basically saying that people were getting things out of their interactions with Harvey Weinstein, like it was some financial transaction for some of these people. When in fact, he doesn’t know anything about any of these situations. It’s a big leap to “this is how the business works and sometimes people get hurt but sometimes it works out for them.” That’s a bunch of nonsense.

I agree and I myself am navigating how to speak out and how to ask questions about this in my interviews, so I’m glad we spoke about it. What were some things you still had to leave out of The Zen Diaries?

I found hundreds of hours of hilarious conversation and performances. I’m such a comedy hoarder that I want to show everybody everything. Luckily I have an amazing editor, Joe Beshenkovsky who edited the Kurt Cobain documentary Montage of Heck and the Jane Goodall documentary Jane. He’s a very disciplined editor and was the perfect person to collaborate with me about what footage to use to tell this story. I’m the kind of person, it breaks my heart that I can’t just show you 20 of his sets from the Comedy and Magic Club where you could see everything he was doing because there’s so much magic in him.

You said a year of going through footage and almost another editing. Is that more than you usually spend on your comedy movies?

It really is. You usually get about six months to edit a movie. We did have the time to be very thoughtful and to do screenings for friends. I was able to get my friend, the composer Mike Andrews, who did movies like Bridesmaids, to do this beautiful score for the film. I was very lucky. There was no timetable given to me by HBO so we just worked on it until we thought it was everything we wanted it to be. We had a premiere the other night. It’s very emotional watching the film because it’s hopefully not just about comedy or Garry. It is about what we all go through in trying to figure out how to get over our wounds and how to evolve as people and decide how we want to live our lives. The best compliment I got was from a friend who said, “It felt like this movie was about me and it also felt like this movie was about everybody.” People are having a very profound reaction to it. I think it’s because Garry was trying so hard to be a better person and to heal himself from some very difficult times. Like everybody, he didn’t get all the way there but his goal always was to figure out how to be kinder, how to be more loving and just the fact that that’s what he worked so hard on is very inspiring.

Did this take you out of writing another screenplay and are you writing one now?

Well, I was working on Crashing and Love at the same time. I’m doing more film writing this year and hopefully I’ll get another movie going soon.

Has Netflix by any chance asked for another Pee-Wee Herman movie?

We haven’t talked about that but I did have the best time ever working with him, and I miss not thinking about Pee-Wee Herman every day. There’s nothing more fun than having that be what’s on your desk every day.

Did you get to interview anyone for Zen Diaries that was not in your circle or that you had not interviewed when you were in high school?

I really enjoyed talking to Bob Saget. He had a complicated relationship with Garry as a result of the Brad Grey lawsuit. He was very open about it and very emotional and I thought it was a real gift for him to talk me through all of it. Jim Carey’s interview about Garry is really insightful about what it’s like to be a comedy person and to deal with both your life and the challenges that you have when you’re trying to do great work but also trying to evolve as a person.

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