This weekend, Paul Rudd and Tina Fey take a trip through the college experience in the new film Admission. More of a dramady than a strict comedy, the film was directed by Paul Weitz who may have become famous for making the raunchy, original American Pie, but soon became more well known for light hearted comedy/dramas like About a Boy. We recently sat down with the stars of the film to chat about working together, their own college experiences, and cows; enjoy.
How did you both get involved in the project?
Tina- Well I started talking to Paul Weitz about it a few years ago, and actually had met Jean Korelitz, the author of the book at a New Years Eve party.
Paul- Really? [Laughter] I don’t know anything about these things.
Tina-…and she says, “I have this book that someone’s going to call you about,” and I’m like, “Really? Well, happy new year to me!” [Laughter] Which was appropriate, because it was a New Years Eve party. How about you?
Paul- How did I find out about it? My agent sent the script to me and I met Paul Weitz and we had some conversations; Tina was already attached at that point. I read it, and I liked the story, and I like Tina a lot. Paul [Weitz], I really didn’t know. I knew who he was, but I really didn’t know him. I enjoyed talking to him about the story and about the character, and about things we wanted to do with it. It all happened fairly quickly for me.
What do each of you like about your characters?
Tina- Well I really liked that it was sort of a story about adult people. It was a world that I thought was kind of interesting; this world of, not just college admissions, but I was always interested in people who live their whole life in a college environment, and how weird that can become. Also, I really liked the story; I really liked the warm heart of the story.
Paul- A lot of what Tina just said, actually. I liked that the character was kind of an adult. I was interested mainly in the fact that he traveled the world, and he did all of these things that maybe from an outside perspective, would seem to be some humanitarian gestures/magnanimous gestures, when really there was a selfish side to him. That aspect and everything with his son, that was interesting to me.
Do you have any good College admissions memories, or even nightmares?
Tina- I remember tanking my own, well I guess tanking means I did it on purpose, I remember failing at my Princeton interview. My mom wanted me to apply to Princeton since I was a kid, she just had this dream that I would apply to Princeton and get in, and it was not happening. I remember, it was kind of like the scene of Nat [Wolff] in the movie where he goes for his alumni interview. I had this long plaid skirt on, and a huge jacket, and I just wasn’t bringing it; unlike now, where I’m dazzling [laughter].
Paul- Princeton’s loss, I suppose. I never applied to any colleges, my parents are European I don’t think they understood the process [laughter].
Paul, there’s a quote from you in the press notes where you express your amazement at see Lily Tomlin’s process or working. Are you surprised after all this time that you can still be shocked by the people you work with?
P- I’m [should be italicized] not amazed, I think I’m still surprised. I’m surprised that I get to be in the same room with half the people that I’m working with. In particular, in the last year I’ve been able to work with people that live in very rarified air, in my opinion; Albert Brooks, Lily Tomlin, Jack Nicholson. It’s always exciting for me, not even as an actor or as a 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 is amazing, I’m star struck, completely. It’s cool, I mean, how can you not be impressed.
How do you think your background in improve helped you prepare to be on set?
Tina- There were definitely moments with Lily [Tomlin] where we did improvise a tiny bit, but between Paul and I, we might have done the tiniest bit..
Paul- Not that much, yeah. I don’t remember, though.
Tina- Certainly you’re not always improvising to try and find jokes, but hopefully it helps to make sure you’re ready to react if someone else does something different. You can tell that Lily is not only an expert at it, but she’s sort of thrilled by it. When something changes without expectations, she definitely notices it and responds. In that one scene though, where it was the two moms meeting each other, that was probably the most improve in any scene.
Paul- Yeah, every time she’d see my mother she’d have some different reaction.
Tina- You can see in Lily that it really thrilled her. You’d see her be like, “Ok, are we doing this? Are we changing stuff a little bit? Ok, let’s go.”
Do either of you have horror scene of your own in-laws meeting?
Tina- No, my parents are very well behaved. If anything, if my mother were here right now, she would hug and kiss every one of you hello, and then she would feed you, if you were hungry.
Paul- [Laughing] My mom, too. Yeah, I don’t really have any horror stories of when my parents met my in-laws.
Tina, we know you so much as a writer as well as an actor, when you walk into a project like this is it difficult to leave the writer side of you home?
Tina- No, I would guess that I’m less likely to change things than other actors, only because I know how mad it makes me when actors want to change things. The thing about the book and Karen Croner’s screenplay; it was all so well done, we didn’t have the impulse of, “Ok, how are we going to fix this?” It was all really thoughtfully written, so it was nice. It’s nice to have something you can go into and really trust that everyone involved has thought about it more than you have, even. That’s just a gift.
What was your own college experience like?
Tina- I went to the University of Virginia and I grew up in suburban Philadelphia, it was between, ’88 to ’92 that I was there. So, the University of Virginia is a great school and for me, it was very culturally different, I came from a suburb where everyone was half Italian, half Irish, part Greek; and the school was mostly full of the whitest people I had ever seen. Everyone had blonde hair in ponytails, hoop earrings, and they all owned horses and stuff. It was entertaining for me; it felt like I had gone to Sweden or something. I got involved in the drama department there, and that’s where I found all the oddly shaped people, and we sort of stuck together.
Did you have this kind of experience with your own daughter; did you try to get her into any of the NY private schools?
Tina- I decided not to send her to school at all. [Laughter-Paul applauds] We keep her in what technically is our building’s bike room. [Laughter] No, of course she goes to school.
Paul- Wait a minute, you have a bike room?
Tina- I’m not allowed to keep a bike, on the waiting list to keep a bike. A lot of people do it; I don’t know what to tell you.
Paul- You’d think by this point you’d have your bike in there.
Can you tell us a little about that cow birthing scene?
Tina-Yeah, there was some improve. I think when they had me in the front talking to the cow I had to improvise some things. While I was at the front of the cow, did you have to stand at the back of the cow?
Paul- Yeah, I had to stand behind the cow. We shot that over a couple of days, acting’s hard.
Was that the first time you had to work with a cow?
Tina- I haven’t before.
Paul- Well most of the time I spend with cows has been on the other side. [Laughter] I used to live next door to a farm, so everyday for awhile I used to walk over and fed the cows, when I was in school. This was weird because I lived in sort of a subdivision, but this one holdout in our neighborhood in Kansas, still had a farm. I’ve spent time with cows but I’ve never spent that kind of quality time with one [laugher].
How does that work, because obviously the cow is not giving birth at that moment, so what exactly are you seeing back there?
Tina- There was a guy named Phil, a special effects guy; he made some fake calf legs that had a handle on one end, and he would squat under the camera, and I guess there was a tail…
Paul- Yeah there was another tail, that’s right. Nat had to hold, well Nat actually held the tail, and there was another fake tail.
Tina- Phil was underneath the cow for most of it, wasn’t he?
Paul- Yeah, and there was a bucket of goop.
Tina- Yeah, there was goop. Eventually I had to pull on the fake cow legs and Phil would pull back until he was given the cue to push.
How did Michael Sheen get involved and what about him do you think brings out the funny in you?
Tina- This role seemed sort of perfect for him. I think you should actually ask Paul Weitz, about it, because I think he was a little worried since Michael had been on 30 Rock as a sort of love interest of mine. I was all for it from the beginning because he’s just so funny and he plays such a wonderful weasel. In my mind, he was perfect for it.
Can you guys talk a little about the comedy community that you work with? We’ve both worked with a lot of the same people, is it as collaborative as it seems?
Tina- So many STDs. [Laughter] It is nice to use anyone you’ve known for a long time or that has come recommended by someone you know. I know I emailed Amy [Poehler] when I found out I was going to be working with you to ask, “Is he going to be nice to me, and is he a cool guy?”
Paul- Really? I emailed Amy too.
But you knew each other before, didn’t you?
Paul- We met each other before, but we really didn’t know each other very well.
Paul- I’m trying to think, did we meet during the Soundtracks thing?
Tina- Yeah, I think we met during the, well would you call it a pilot? It was a special that never aired on VH1.
Paul- Yeah, it was this live thing.
Tina- It was this really cool think where Amy Poehler and A.D. Miles ran it where it was just doing a soundtrack live, where they would take a movie like 16 Candles…
Paul- Yeah, we did 16 Candles…
Tina- We would act out the movie on stage and perform the soundtrack live, and people would sing the songs.
Paul- They started at UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade) as a live show.
Tina- It became this thing, the show came out great, but they just couldn’t clear any of it.
Paul- We shot it, we did everything, it was amazing and John Hughes just said, no.
How long ago was this?
Tina- 15 years ago? 10?
Paul- It might have been about 9.
Who did you play in it?
Paul- I had a few different parts,
Tina- [Inaudible-mentions the character Paul plays]
Paul- Yeah, that’s right, and then I sing a song at the end, with The Vapors, Turning Japanese.
Tina- And I was the smoking Grandmother.
Paul- Yeah, you were the mother, it was you and Will…
Tina- Arnett, yeah, Will and I.
Paul- John Glaser was Molly Ringwald, no, A.D. Miles was Molly Ringwald, Glaser was Anthony Michael Hall.
Does this exist somewhere?
Tina- Amy Poehler has it in her living room on VHS.
Paul- She told me she watched it recently.
Tina- Yeah, she sent me a screen grab of it.
Do you discuss how you’re going to work out your characters with each other, either before hand or on set?
Tina- We had rehearsal for a bit with this movie, and I think so much of it for me, because you’ve made a thousand more movies than I have, I’m still learning how other people behave.
Paul- My main thing is that I just want to Tina to like me, honestly. I want Paul to be happy that he hired me, it never changes. We’re at the table read and then it just gets down to, “Alright, does this make sense? How do you feel about this?” We just start talking about our characters, it just starts to happen, then you just kind of hope for the best in a way. I always felt with Tina, even though we had never worked together, there were certain things we really wouldn’t need to get into. I just somehow had a feeling, maybe because we have so many mutual friends, and being a fan of Tina’s and knowing that she’s funny and smart, that when it came to certain aspects of the characters and the story we would just approach it from the same place; which I think was kind of true.
Tina- I think so, yeah. Once you get in the room we realize we all have the same understanding of what the story is about, and what’s happening here. I think going back to talking about the improve background, some of it, you don’t want to talk it to death before hand, you just want to save some of it, for when you’re actually doing it. So it was nice to have that little bit of time to break the ice, and the rest of it was just seeing each other on the day.
It’s only been a week, but is it too early to ask for a 30 rock reunion?
Tina- [Laughing] Yeah, it’s too early. It’s too soon, I don’t think I’d even lift the lid long enough to think about it.