Apatow had already written on The Larry Sanders Show (1993-1998), contributed uncredited rewrites to movies like The Cable Guy (1996), Happy Gilmore (1996), The Wedding Singer (1998) and Bruce Almighty (2003), and created and produced two shortlived yet future cult classic TV shows, Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000) and Undeclared (2001-2002).
In 2004 he was a producer on the Adam McKay-directed Will Ferrell vehicle Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, and it was on that set that the seeds would be sown for Virgin, his subsequent collaboration with Steve Carell.
“I was watching how brilliant Adam McKay and Will Ferrell were every day,” Apatow tells Yahoo Entertainment during a recent interview (watch above). “The entire cast was so funny, it was ridiculous. Dave Koechner and Paul Rudd. And then Steve was doing something that was so strange and so special when he was doing the weatherman Brick Tamland. And the whole cast would watch Steve. They all seemed to get an amazing kick out of what he was doing. I thought, ‘I wish he was the lead of the movie. It would be great to see a Steve Carell movie.’ And I don’t know if Steve had thought about it at that point.
“I said to him one day, ‘Do you have any ideas?’ And he said, ‘You know, I’ve always wanted to make a movie about a 40-year-old virgin.”
The rest would be history, with Apatow and Carell co-writing the story of Andy Stitzer, a — well, you know — egged on by his friends (Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen and Romany Malco) at the electronics outlet they all work at to finally try to seal the deal.
“We decided to make it funny but also make it emotionally very credible,” Apatow says. “This is what someone might feel like if they were in that position.”
It’s emotionally credible, sure, but it’s also riotously funny, which is why the film went on to become one of the biggest surprise hits of 2005.
Several sequences still stick out 15 years later, but none more than the chest-waxing scene, which Carell insisted on authentically capturing, and ad-libs hilarious exclamations of torment (“Kelly Clarkson!”) throughout.
(Warning: The following video contains strong language.)
“The chest-waxing scene was just an exciting moment because we knew we could only do it once,” Apatow remembers. “It was his idea to do it, so I blame him. He said he had never done it before after we shot it I thought, ‘I think he’s done it before. I think he pretended he hadn’t done it, but he knew what was coming.
“We had four cameras and we just waxed Steve. We tried to prepare him but we knew whatever would happen would happen and of course he delivered the funniest performance ever… Romany Malco ran off set because it really made him sick. And Seth and Rudd had the funniest reactions of disgust.”
Even beyond the film’s main quartet, the ensemble cast was strong in 2005. Fifteen years later, even as some of the actors in bit parts have ballooned into A-list stars in their own rights, it looks absolutely stacked: Carell, Rudd, Rogen, Malco, Catherine Keener, Elizabeth Banks, Leslie Mann, Jane Lynch, Kat Dennings, Jonah Hill, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart... Stormy Daniels.
Yeah, about that last one.
“We knew that we needed some nudity, and whenever that would happen I would get very uncomfortable and I would say, I only want someone who’s really, really comfortable doing it. I don’t want to ask someone to do it unless they like doing it. So we hired Stormy Daniels,” says Apatow of casting the adult film star who certain audiences may have been familiar with in 2005 but was propelled to infamy in 2018 when it was reported she was paid $130,000 in hush money by President Donald Trump and his surrogates for an affair they’d had in 2006.
“There’s a moment from one of her films, I think a very brief moment, and then we shot something with her,” the director recalls. “And she was hilarious and really funny and easy to work with.”
Apatow was so impressed he’d go on to cast Daniels for more nude cameos in Knocked Up (2007) and Pineapple Express (2008).
“We used her a few times in other movies because I never wanted to ask anyone to be naked,” he says. “I would always go, ‘Is Stormy available?’”
The 40-Year-Old Virgin is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
— Video produced by Jon San
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