When we first heard that Tina Fey and Paul Rudd were starring in a movie together, our mind exploded. Two of the funniest, most damn likable people vibin' on-screen in a romantic comedy? Nothing could be better, except maybe world peace. The best part about all this, though? We weren't disappointed!
Directed by About A Boy screenwriter Paul Weitz, Admission (out Friday) stars Fey as a Princeton admissions officer who, through the encouragement of a hippie-like alternative high school principal, played by Rudd, discovers that one of her applicants might be the son she gave up for adoption. As expected, Fey and Rudd have palpable chemistry that takes this rom-com a step above the rest of the pile of blah in its genre that've been released recently.
We got a chance to sit down with the comedians during the New York press day of the film, where they talked about everything from getting into character to the enviable bromance of the comedy community.
As told to Tara Aquino (@t_akino)
On relating to their characters:
Tina Fey: It was a world of not only college admissions, but of people who lived their whole lives in a college environment and how insular and weird that can become. And I also really like the story and I thought there’s really nice, warm heart to it.
I remember failing my own Princeton interview. My mom wanted me to apply since I was a kid. I remember it was kind of like the scene with Nat in the movie where he goes to the alumni interview and just from the minute you get there you're like, “Nah, this isn’t gonna...” I had a long plaid skirt on and a suit jacket, and I just wasn’t bringing it. Unlike now, when I am dazzling.
Paul Rudd: A lot of what Tina just said. I liked that the character I was playing was an adult and I was interested mainly in the fact that he traveled the world and did all of these things that from maybe an outside perspective can seem to be humanitarian gestures, magnanimous gestures, endless gestures. You really wouldn’t think there was a selfish side to him. That [relationship] with his son was also interesting to me.
On their own college experiences:
Fey: I went to the University of Virginia and I came from suburban Philadelphia. It was ‘88 to ‘92 that I was there. UVA was a great school and, for me, it was culturally different. I came from a suburb where everyone was half Italian and half Irish, Greek, whatever, and it was really the most white people I have ever seen. It’s the most beautiful blonde girls with long ponytails and hoop earrings and, like, they rode horses and stuff. It was entertaining to me though. I felt as though I have gone to Sweden or something. But I got involved with the drama department there and that's where I found all the more oddly shaped people and we sort of stuck together.
Rudd: I never applied to any colleges. My parents are European, I don’t think they follow the same process.
On getting starstuck and working with Lily Tomlin:
Rudd: I am still surprised that I get to be in the same room as half the people that I am working with. In particular, in the last year, I was able to work with people who have lived in very rarified air, in my opinion—Albert Brooks, Lily Tomlin, Jack Nicholson. But it is always exciting. It is exciting for me not only as an actor—the process and all that stuff, that just sounds so boring to talk about anyway—but just as a fan of people to see them doing things in front of our faces. It’s amazing.
Fey: With Lily, we [improvised] a tiny bit. And it’s certainly not that you're always improvising to try to find jokes. In this case, it makes you ready to react if someone does something different. You can definitely tell Lily is not only an expert at it, but kind of thrilled by any change in a take. She definitely notices and responds, like that one scene with our two moms meeting each other. That was probably the most improvisation.
On the tight-knit comedy community in Hollywood:
Fey: So many STDs. I’m kidding! Anytime you can use someone you know for a long time, or comes sort of recommended by someone you know—like I emailed Amy when I found out [Paul and I are] doing the movie together and I was like, “Is Paul going to be nice to me, or is he a cool guy?” And she was like, “You guys are going to be so nice together.”
Rudd: I emailed Amy too saying that. [Laughs.]
Fey: And she really said that I would not be very nice.
Paul: I mean, you have to take that up with Amy. I am not getting in the middle of this.
On their unaired VH1 pilot Soundtracks Live:
Fey: It was a really cool thing where Amy Poehler and Amy Miles ran it. It was this thing where they take a movie like Sixteen Candles and act out the movie on a stage and a band would play the soundtrack live and people would sing the song.
Rudd: It may have been around 9 years ago? It started in UCB, where it was a live show. I had a few different parts. I sang a song in the end with The Vapors called, "Turning Japanese."
Fey: And I played one of the grandmothers.
Rudd: You and Will Arnett were two of the grandparents. Amy Miles was Molly Ringwald. John Glaser was Anthony Michael Hall.
Fey: It exists in Amy Poehler’s living room, on VHS.