In Prince Avalanche, Paul Rudd plays Alvin, the senior partner of a two-man crew restoring a recently burned-out stretch of Texas highway. As he spars with the younger Lance (Emile Hirsch), Alvin’s authority comes unruffled, and David Gordon Green’s comedy reveals itself as a literal road movie. The yellow lines the characters are painting on the asphalt mock their own lack of direction. Rudd gives a nicely judged performance as a man whose rigorous principles belie a sense of insecurity. He spoke with The Globe and Mail about portraying a wayward protagonist, his reasons for making a movie so far off the Hollywood grid and the speculation surrounding the upcoming sequel to Anchorman.
Your character in Prince Avalanche is rather eccentric. Would you say it’s a change of pace for you to play somebody who viewers might initially find unlikeable?
I don’t think in terms of “likeable” or “unlikeable,” or comedy or drama. In the best things, all of them exist together. This character has his quirks for sure, and there are people who might find him a little bit fastidious, but I would never judge somebody who I’m playing. I try to think in terms of relatability and empathy and insecurity, and about all the struggles they might be dealing with – how he’s trying to handle it and learn about himself.
Was there something about doing such a small movie that appealed to you after working on big studio comedies like How Do You Know or This is 40?
I don’t have all of the options that people think I have. There are big, huge Hollywood movies I’d like to be in but I don’t get the parts. Or there are little indies that you can try for years to get financing for. All I can worry about is working on something that means something to me, whether it’s a play, a studio film or an indie. Hopefully [the project] speaks to me in some sort of creative way.
David Gordon Green has been all over the map with the movies he’s made. How did you get hooked up with him?
I’ve always wanted to work with him. It was the big pull for [Prince Avalanche]. It came together quickly. [David] asked me how I felt about going to the woods in Texas for a few weeks. He wanted to go do something on our own terms and not feel beholden to anyone and to just try this experiment. I didn’t know if anyone would ever even see it. It was strictly a creative endeavour, one that I thought would kind of energize us and remind us of why we loved doing this.
There are only two major characters in Prince Avalanche. Does that put pressure on you as an actor to carry the movie?
There’s a pressure in everything, because you don’t want to suck.
Can you talk about acting opposite Emile Hirsch?
I met him the day before we started shooting. One of the benefits of working on this scale was that we were on a single location for the entire time. So we were able to shoot the film in order, which is unusual, because usually you’re at the mercy of locations. As a result of that, Emile and I got to know each other in the right order. The characters in the film are learning about each other, and [the same thing] sort of us happened with us. On an unspoken and unconscious level, that comes across.
There’s a lot of secrecy about Anchorman 2. Is it funny to you that the movie has become like a matter of national security?
I don’t know how to handle it. I don’t know what it’ll be. I don’t know what the movie is, because we shot so much stuff. It is a little tricky because there are things that I can say … but they don’t want us to. It’s kind of hilarious. If you step outside all of the ridiculousness of all of it … people are going to great lengths to cover up this story of four jackasses in polyester suits.