The untold truth of Paul Rudd

Paul Rudd rates pretty high on the list of incredibly likable Hollywood actors. While he's most synonymous with his leading role in Marvel's Ant-Man franchise these days, this movie star's career has spanned several decades and genres. From his breakthrough role in 1995's Clueless as Cher's love interest and step-brother, Josh, to his career-making comedic turn in 2004's Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Rudd has continually proven his range as a performer. Plus, it's likely no one's forgotten his portrayal of Mike Hannigan — a.k.a. Phoebe Buffay's husband — on a little show called Friends. In addition to never appearing to age, his undeniable talents as an actor, writer, and producer have made him a force to be reckoned with in Tinseltown … so much so that Hank Azaria, who famously portrayed Phoebe's former love interest David, once told The Independent that "[Rudd's] like the Tom Brady of comedy."

While his brilliant performance as the titular Ant-Man put him in front of a global audience, there's so much more to Rudd than his popular role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Let's take a look at some of the lesser known facts about the man himself in the untold truth of Paul Rudd.

Paul Rudd or Paul Rudnitsky?

Paul Rudd's appearance on PBS' Finding Your Roots in 2017 shared an illuminating look at the actor's heritage and the origins of his family's surname, which his grandfather had changed from Rudnitsky to Rudd in order to secure work in England. During the episode, Rudd explained to host Henry Louis Gates Jr., "I think the way I heard it was, 'They all decided to change their name to Rudd. They couldn't get work cause no one was hiring Jews in London.'" Indeed, Gates Jr. revealed that Rudd's grandfather had moved his family to London, before serving for five years in the British military during World War II. However, anti-Semitism was ripe when he returned to the city post-war. 

Of the actor's grandfather, Gates Jr. said, "He had served in World War II to fight fascism and he comes home to fascism. Can you imagine?" Rudd replied, "I mean, it must have been awful." Having reflected on the anti-Semitism he's faced throughout his own life, Rudd explained that he's an Ashkenazi Jew, telling Gates Jr., "I certainly feel as if being Jewish is in the marrow of my bones." For his part, the host said, "I love doing Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry because it's so difficult to do." After Gates Jr. revealed that Rudd's parents are actually second cousins, the movie star joked, "Which explains why I have six nipples."

He has an affinity for England ... and the Titanic

While Rudd was born and raised in the United States, his parents — mother Gloria and father Michael — originally hailed from England. Due to the family's close ties across the pond, The Guardian notes, "[Rudd] was often in Britain as a kid to visit relatives in London's less glamorous suburbs and Basingstoke." In 2015, the actor told the publication, "I've always felt genuinely at home here, just from the little things. As a kid, I was elated I could get all the chocolates I never could get back in the States."

According to CBS News, Rudd's father "was an airline exec who moved the family around a lot, settling in Kansas City when Paul was 10." While he sadly passed away following a battle with cancer in 2008, the patriarch's fascination with the British cultural icon, the Titanic, led his famous son to audition for Leonardo DiCaprio's role in the 1997 movie of the same name. "That was the one part I really, really wanted, for my dad," Rudd told GQ in 2009. According to the magazine, "Rudd's father was a member of the Titanic Historical Society, and the basement was full of Titanic stuff." Looking back on his audition, Rudd believed he relied on his father's knowledge and began discussing shipbuilders Harland & Wolff, but admitted, "Nobody was impressed."

His idol was Adam Ant

While speaking with Grantland in 2011, Rudd revealed a surprising secret about himself — he used to model himself after Adam Ant. According to the V&A Blog, the English singer was as known for his new wave tunes as he was for his eclectic style, especially in '80s, when he wore romantic pirate-inspired looks, along with face paint and tousled hair. 

"Puberty hit me like a Mack truck, and my hair went from straight to curly overnight," Rudd told Grantland, explaining why the musician's appearance served as fitting inspiration at the time. "But it was an easier pill to swallow because Adam Ant had curly hair. I used to ask my mom to try and shave my head on the sides to give me a receding hairline because Adam Ant had one. I didn't know what a receding hairline was. I just thought he looked cool." While Rudd's so-called "Adam Ant phase" was seemingly short-lived, it's clear that the actor's natural flair for the theatrical has served him well.

Was Jon Hamm his arch nemesis?

One Hollywood star who's shared a longtime connection with Paul Rudd is none other than Mad Men's Jon Hamm. Back when Rudd was just 18, the duo pined for the same woman. However, the actor who'd one day portray Don Draper was too much competition for him. "He seemed like a good-looking, athletic guy who possessed qualities I did not possess," Rudd told Vanity Fair in 2014, before explaining that things came to a head when they were pitched against one another in a game of Trivial Pursuit. "Jon would want to go right to Yellow, which was History, and I was like, 'Oh, great, this guy is smart, too. They would ask a question like 'What is the largest lake in Africa?,' and Jon immediately went, 'Lake Victoria,'" he continued. "I felt so emasculated in the game that, as a result, I started reading atlases." 

Of course, Rudd and Hamm eventually got over their love triangle debacle and would go on to become good friends. In an interview with TVLine in 2011, Hamm even revealed that he avidly followed Rudd's work, saying, "I think that Paul's career has been really fun for me to watch because he's been able to do stuff on Broadway and he's been able to do big movies and big comedies and produce stuff, and really kind of be the architect of his own future, and it's been really successful for him."

Yes, there's a Mrs. Rudd

Some fans may not realize that the ever youthful Rudd has been married since 2003 — and met his now-wife on his very first day in New York City after moving to the Big Apple to pursue work in the theater. According to Nylon Guys, "When he arrived in the city, he went straight to his publicist's office with his luggage. As he was late for an audition, a girl working there offered to drop off his bags at his friend's apartment. A few days later, hardly knowing anyone in the city, Rudd asked the girl, Julie Yaeger, if she would like to get lunch." 

And the rest, as they say, is history. Good Housekeeping reports that the married couple welcomed a son named Jack Sullivan in 2004 and daughter Darby five years later. When the actor received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2015, he was accompanied by his wife and their two children. Yaeger, who's since moved from working in publicity to becoming a screenwriter, wrote the 2017 movie Fun Mom Dinner, which her husband produced and starred in. "I don't think I'm going to sell a lot of tabloids," Rudd said of the private pair to Elle in 2011. "My wife and I have been together for 16 years." He later told Marie Claire in 2018, "I identify myself as a parent and a husband way more than somebody who rides around on the back of an ant."

He was clueless about Clueless

While Rudd's performance as Josh — the step-brother and eventual love interest of Alicia Silverstone's Cher — in Clueless catapulted him into the spotlight, he wasn't so sure he should take the job. "When I first read the script, it took me a while to get it," he told Entertainment Weekly in 2012. "I remember thinking, 'Ugh!' Because I'd been reading so many pilots and bad versions of teen movies. It wasn't until I got many pages into it that I thought, 'This is actually smart.'" 

Basically, Rudd could've easily passed up the opportunity to star in one of the most beloved flicks of the '90s, which would've been a total tragedy. But that's not all. While it's hard to imagine anyone other than Rudd playing dreamy, plaid shirt wearing Josh, the Role Models actor instead hoped to nab the role of Christian — the James Dean-esque heartthrob that Cher initially develops a crush on. "I thought Justin Walker's character, Christian, was a really good part," he continued. "It was a cool idea, something I'd never seen in a movie before — the cool gay kid." As for whether Cher and Josh are still together, Rudd said, "No, I don't think they're still together. I would be surprised. But what the hell do I know?" We hope he's wrong!

He was mugged while filming Clueless

Working on Clueless in the mid-'90s wasn't all fun and games for Paul Rudd, who found himself in a terrifying mugging situation after grabbing dinner with a friend one night. According to GQ, "Back out at his car, a guy grabbed him and told him to give him his money." Apparently, the mugger iterated, "This is a real gun. Watch out, because I'll f**king kill you." Despite saying that he believed him, Rudd was shot at. Per GQ, "The bullet went through Rudd's hair."

"I just remember the sound of it," Rudd told the media outlet in 2009. "I remember people in the parking lot being really freaked out. But I just got very calm. Then I had to go to work the next day. It was a scene at a club. I was dancing. And I had just been shot at the night before." As for how he got away, GQ revealed, "Rudd told [the mugger] he had no cash but that he could take whatever he wanted. He offered his backpack and the gunman ran off." It's hard to believe that Rudd found himself being held at gunpoint just as his fortunes were being made — but luckily, no harm came to the actor.

He actually tried his hand at horror first

While Clueless came out in July 1995, Rudd's first move was actually Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. However, the sixth installment of the popular horror franchise wasn't released until that September, by which time the actor had already made an impression on audiences in the coming of age comedy. "That was the very first movie I'd ever done, and I'm really thrilled that I was able to do it," Rudd said of the Halloween sequel while speaking to Ain't It Cool News in 2007. "There was something trippy about working on a Halloween movie and seeing Michael Myers and seeing that face that I'd seen in movies and meet George Wilbur, who played him."

However, scoring a role in the famously campy horror franchise was nerve-wracking for the young actor, who admitted, "When I first saw Halloween 6, I remember thinking, 'Oh God, this movie's not good,' and I was really kind of bummed out." While he initially worried about getting future work or whether people would think he was a joke, Rudd has since gotten over any embarrassment. "I'm honored to be part of a franchise that has lasted that long, that has that many devotees," he said. "And I couldn't be happier that I can say that my first movie is a Halloween movie."

His Shakespeare reviews weren't great

A few years into his acting career, Rudd gave Shakespeare a try. While he, of course, appeared as Juliet's betrothed Dave Paris in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet in 1996, the actor went on to play Duke Orsino in the Lincoln Center Theatre's production of Twelfth Night two years later. "That was certainly the biggest, most visible Shakespeare play I'd ever done." Rudd told Ain't It Cool News. "I did a program that was all kind of Elizabethan theatre, Jacobean drama and stuff. And that was Nicholas Hytner who directed Twelfth Night that also directed me in Object of my Affection [opposite Jennifer Aniston], so I'd worked with him before."

While his experience as a Shakespearean actor had a major impact on the star, Rudd's performance unfortunately received a pretty brutal review from The New York Times, which noted, "[Rudd] has a good time posing as an eternally bare-chested poseur. But it's a one-note, if exuberantly realized, performance that doesn't let Orsino grow from false love into the real thing." However, Rudd's director Hytner was much more impressed with his abilities, telling Elle in 2011, "You can't play Shakespeare without the emotional and intellectual volatility he brings to everything he does."

He co-created a cult TV sitcom

In addition to being a prolific performer, Paul Rudd co-created the cult TV sitcom, Party Down. Starring a number of comedic actors, such as Adam Scott, Jane Lynch, and Lizzie Caplan, the show followed a group of caterers who were attempting to pursue their (probably has-been) Hollywood dreams. According to IndieWire, Rudd "starred in the original pilot before dropping out due to film projects." Despite its all-star cast and crew, the Starz series was sadly short-lived and ran for two seasons before being canceled in 2010. While speaking with the Miami New Times that year, Rudd said he was "disappointed" about the cancellation, saying, "It's frustrating, in that I feel like people were kind of starting to discover that show. At the same time, so many of my favorite shows had 12 episodes. So it's not that bad."

As for his other behind-the-scenes endeavors, Rudd produced the 2012 movie Wanderlust, in which he starred opposite Jennifer Aniston, and has also worked on multiple scripts. He co-wrote the 2008 comedy Role Models, in which he co-starred with Seann William Scott and Elizabeth Banks, and earned screenwriting credits on 2015's Ant-Man and 2018's Ant-Man and the Wasp — proving the impressive influence he's had on his MCU character. Basically, there's no end to Rudd's talents.

He can't stop pranking Conan O'Brien

There's a certain tradition Rudd performs whenever he goes on Conan that he just can't seem to quit: Under the ruse of sharing a sneak-peek at whatever movie he's promoting at the time with Conan O'Brien, the actor has instead shown a clip from 1988 movie Mac and Me. For those who don't know, the movie follows MAC (a Mysterious Alien Creature) and a boy named Eric, who befriends him and just so happens to use a wheelchair. The clip in question involves Eric's wheelchair accidentally rolling off of a cliff while searching for MAC.

"I set up a clip — you know, they cut to a clip — so I set up the clip, and then I just showed the clip with the kid going off the cliff," Rudd explained on BBC 5 Live's Kermode and Mayo Show in 2017 (via indy100). "And then I went back again to promote something else — like the last episode of Friends and I said I actually have some footage from the show, and they set it up very seriously, and then just showed that Mac and Me clip." At the time of this writing, Rudd's ongoing prank — which he even worked into an Ant-Man clip — is nothing short of legendary and has even inspired other guests to play the same joke on the titular host.

He used to be a Bat Mitzvah DJ

Prior to making millions as a beloved A-lister, Paul Rudd worked a number of odd jobs, such as a ham glazer and a Bat Mitzvah DJ — not to be confused with the English house music scene's DJ Paul Rudd. While the actor has mentioned the former gig in a number of interviews over the years, writer Gabrielle Birkner revealed his latter early '90s job in an enlightening op-ed for Forward in 2010. 

"The soft-spoken aspiring actor whom my mom and I met on the hunt for bat mitzvah DJs — I took an immediate liking to Rudd — turned out to be the perfect choice for the event," Birkner recalled, before noting the actor's striking outfit choice for the event. "Rudd, donning a yellow tuxedo jacket, a ruffled shirt, shorts and Doc Martens, ably and energetically led us through all of the bat mitzvah staples: candle-lighting, Coke & Pepsi, toasts, limbo, 'Hands Up,' challah-cutting and 'YMCA.'" Rudd apparently finished the event in the perfect way: "As the Today show-themed bat mitzvah party came to a close, he invited my friends onto the dance floor to sing a moving rendition of 'That's What Friends Are For.'" 

As showcased in this video evidence of Birkner's recollection, it's clear that Rudd has always had that upbeat attitude, easy likability, and penchant for performing.