WITH TWO RELEASES WITHIN ONE WEEK, NOVEMBER HAS BEEN A BANNER MONTH FOR THE NJ NATIVE, STARRING IN A NEW APPLE TV+ DARK COMEDY, PLUS TAKING ON THE PARANORMAL IN THE NEXT ENTRY OF THE 1984 CLASSIC, GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE OH, AND HE WAS NAMED PEOPLE MAGAZINE’S SEXIEST MAN ALIVE
BY AMANDA MCCOY
When Paul Rudd’s agent rang his phone in 2019 with an invitation to join the cast of the 21st century sequel to Ghostbusters II, the Passaic-born actor purported to have “slimed himself.” The a able, now-52-year-old (but seemingly going on 25) Rudd posted a self-shot video to the film’s social handles in front of the apparition hunting squad’s former headquarters, NYC’s Firehouse, Hook & Ladder Company 8, and with childlike glee he revealed, “When I heard that Jason Reitman was going to be doing a new version in the fall and my agent called up and said, ‘Hey, Jason, we hear there’s a part [for] a young, semi-young, strapping man that needs to be cast. Who ya gonna call? When I heard they were going to call me, well…as you can imagine I nearly slimed myself. I can’t wait to join the cast this fall for Ghostbusters…in fact, I’m sliming myself right now.”
Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which premiered in theaters on November 19, is a true sequel to the ‘80s double-header that captivated a generation, with franchise stars Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Annie Potts, Ernie Hudson, and Sigourney Weaver all back in action. “This is the next chapter in the original franchise,” director Jason Reitman the son of the original director Ivan Reitman told Entertainment Weekly. “It is not a reboot. What happened in the ‘80s happened in the ‘80s, and this is set in the present day.”
Anytime Hollywood takes on the Herculean task of resurrecting a classic, there’s unrelenting pressure. On one hand, the film has already secured a built-in audience, but it’s all but impossible to capture the magic of the original, and there’s a legion of critics armed and ready to chide the film for “ruining their childhood.” Reitman certainly appreciated this magnitude. “For a lot of people, the original was the first horror movie and most important comedy they ever saw as kids, and it was their introduction to science fiction,” he said. “It touches on so many genres and it becomes part of your language.”
The film is set in a rural Oklahoma town, where the daughter of Ghostbuster OG Egon Spengler (the late Harold Ramis), Callie (played by Carrie Coon, Avengers: Infinity War, Gone Girl), a recently evicted single mother, brings her two children to live in their late grandfather’s dilapidated farmhouse. When the kids (played by Mckenna Grace and Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard) discover Spengler’s old paranormal-hunting equipment, they bring the oddities to their new science teacher, Paul Rudd’s Chad Grooberson, who is keenly familiar with the Ghostbusters’ legacy.
In an interview with ET Canada, Rudd said he experienced several “Oh, no way!” moments while reading the script, from being chased by a Gozer dog through a Walmart to crossing a handful of sinister miniature versions of the infamous StayPuft Marshmallow Man. But throughout lming, there were many poignant moments, too.
“Working on this made me really miss [Harold Ramis],” Rudd said to Screen Rant. “We had done readings together. I got to spend a little time with him and went out to dinner with him. He was the loveliest man. Really funny, really calm and Buddhist-like.”
Ghostbusters: Afterlife wasn’t the only November premiere for the four-time SNL host, who’s currently on location in London filming the Marvel sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. He takes on a darker persona in The Shrink Next Door, an Apple TV+ dark comedy based on the cult-favorite Wondery podcast of the same name. In the limited series, Rudd portrays Dr. Isaac “Ike” Herschkopf, a seemingly warm but nefarious therapist that begins treating Marty Markowitz (played by Rudd’s Anchorman co-star Will Ferrell), a small business owner with debilitating neuroses. Spanning a 27-year period, the eight-episode series slowly unveils the calculated manipulation and mind games that Dr. Ike employs to in filtrate and control his patient’s life.
“I was riveted,” said Rudd of the first time he listened to the podcast in 2019. “Simultaneously, Will Ferrell had been doing the same thing. at was independent of one another, but when we heard that the other person was interested, we all kind of just jumped on the phone and said, ‘Should we try and do this together?’”
A predatory therapist might appear like a significant character departure for the This Is 40 star, but it’s Rudd’s reliable charisma that makes his portrayal all the more compelling. On the surface, he’s exhibiting traits that are well within his usual wheelhouse: charming, witty, likable. But as the years tick by, Dr. Ike’s contriving character becomes evident, as he slowly alienates Marty from the outside world. While he might appear to be the story’s villain, Rudd said he doesn’t think his character’s motives are that black and white.
“She [Georgia Pritchett, the series’ head writer and show runner] described it as a love story that was very right before it goes very wrong, a codependent and somewhat tragic story of two really good friends,” said Rudd. “I thought more about his feelings toward Marty, and his friendship and his love for him, which I think is genuine. He really was, in his mind, helping him, and I think in many ways he did. It’s a much more complex and nuanced relationship.”
In addition to villain, Rudd added another new title to his repertoire this November: sexiest man alive. The green-eyed comedian nabbed People Magazine’s coveted title for 2021, and it looks like no one was more baffled than he. “I do have an awareness, enough to know that when people hear that I’d be picked for this, they would say, ‘What?’” he told People. “This is not false humility. There are so many people that should get this before me.”
But expect Rudd to embrace it. “I’m going to have business cards made,” he added.