Magazine Feature

'Popstar' Producer Judd Apatow on What Makes Him Laugh Out Loud (Despite Being 'Dead Inside')

Judd Apatow
Douglas Gorenstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Judd Apatow

Popstar producer Judd Apatow talks to Billboard about helping find the movie's emotional core -- and what makes him laugh out loud (despite being "dead inside").

The band said you encouraged them to focus the story on the relationship between the three guys, for an "emotional core."

I always feel bad for the members when any band breaks up. I’ll still wonder how Andrew Ridgeley [of Wham!] is doing. [Laughs] I’m a child of divorce, so I always want groups to stay together. I saw Lionel Richie on this interview show and he was saying he had done all these wonderful things, but how sad it is that The Commodores ended -- that he paid a price to have a solo career. So to me it seemed like a ripe area for the story. Because we see it with Destiny’s Child and '*NSYNC and The Police -- all these bands that break up when someone breaks out.

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They don’t seem resentful about it, but The Lonely Island did have the experience of one of them becoming much more of a public figure than the other two.

Yeah, I think there’s a personal aspect to the movie. Akiva [Schaffer] and Jorma [Taccone] are both really great performers that have also become these fantastic comedy forces and comedy directors. And there’s all sorts of levels of connection and complications that come when someone starts getting a lot of attention in front of the camera.

Who has talents that The Lonely Island has? Weird Al?

They do so many different things, so it’s hard to compare them to anyone. The closest comparisons are with great comedy groups [and comedians] like Bob [Odenkirk] and David [Cross] or The State.

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Do you have any favorite Lonely Island bits?

"Shy Ronnie" makes me laugh out loud, and I’m somewhat dead inside. It’s hard to make me really lose my shit laughing. And every time Andy sang the next section I lost it.

Let's talk about Andy Samberg. The transition from Saturday Night Live to Brooklyn Nine-Nine is hard enough; the transition to a big movie is harder.

He really does seem like your hilarious, kind best friend who just happens to be ridiculously talented in many areas. Some people are funny but you’re kind of scared of them -- they seem dark or miserable. You enjoy them but you don’t really want to be around them. Andy is someone that people seem close to.

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All three of The Lonely Island members says that each guy has the full set of talents that the group needs.

I think that’s true. I would have thought at some point one of them would run with the ball for a certain section of the movie, but they all jump in deep on every part of it, every decision. If they’re mixing songs, all three of them are there in a room.

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The sheer number of star music cameos in Popstar is incredible. Were musicians excited to be a part of this?

People were excited because they know how good all the musicians have looked in the videos they’ve done over the years. So they have credibility with everybody. These people would show up and we couldn’t believe it. Ringo Starr was there one day and it was really emotional. After we finished the interview with him people from the crew would come up and just be in tears, because he meant so much to them. Someone with that kind of history being on the set was very moving to everybody. And that happened [repeatedly] -- it would be Nas and the next day it’s Usher. They were all willing to be silly and put themselves in the guys’ hands.

A version of this article originally appeared in the June 4 issue of Billboard.