After chatting about "Knocked Up" and "The Ten," appearing opposite Julia Roberts on Broadway and Lisa Kudrow on "Friends" and feeling a bit like an outsider growing up in Kansas as the son of English parents (and Jewish, to boot), actor Paul Rudd asks, "You're in Pittsburgh, right?"
He was almost off the publicity treadmill, talking on a cell phone in a car headed for a New York airport -- in rush hour, no less -- while his young son made cute-kid noises in the background.
"I used to go to Pittsburgh a lot when I was a kid. I was a diehard Steelers fan," said Rudd, who spent most of his youth in Kansas. "Huge. More than comedies or movies or anything like that, it was the main thing in my life that I cared about the most," he said.
"I would take trips to go to see games at Three Rivers Stadium. One of the reasons we were in Kansas City, my dad worked for TWA and that's where their hub was, why we moved there." Taking advantage of his father's flight benefits to see the black-and-gold on their home turf "was the most exciting thing I ever got to do."
Rudd, now 38, could hold his own with any Steelers fan grilling burgers outside Heinz Field. He recalls how Mike Kruczek stepped in for injured quarterback Terry Bradshaw, how Jack Lambert wore No. 58, how Franco Harris (32, of course) had a brother who also played at Penn State and how the Steelers practiced in Latrobe.
"I still, actually, to this day, if I have to remember a phone number or an address or something, I still will remember numbers and associate them with '70s Steelers players," Rudd said.
"To be a kid and to be a Steelers fan during those years when they were just unbeatable, that was probably more of an inspiration than anything else. It kind of made you see -- no, you can win, anything's possible. The Steelers win everything."
His favorite Steeler from that era: wide receiver John Stallworth.
"There was a team of superstars, and he seemed like a guy who just showed up and did his job and was great at it. He never needed to be in the limelight, but he caught everything, and I rarely even got to see him interviewed. I mean it was certainly a different time, but while everyone was going off about how much they loved Lynn Swann, I always thought Stallworth was the guy."
In a way, Rudd is like Stallworth.
While on Broadway, Julia Roberts was the talk of the town for "Three Days of Rain," but the play also starred Rudd and Bradley Cooper. On "Friends," his character, Mike, married Phoebe, and he was sidekick to Will Ferrell's "Anchorman" and Steve Carell's "40-Year-Old Virgin" and brother-in-law to the woman who was "Knocked Up" all the way to the blockbuster bank.
Asked if "Knocked Up" brought him more career cachet, he said, "I've noticed a difference just in the number of people who say that they've seen it. It's nice to be a part of something like that, I think it really only helps in a career, but once it's kind of out, it's out, and you hope to move on to the next one.
"If anything, it's been great to work with that group of people on several things, and hopefully, we all like working together and we're all friends and will continue to make movies together."
No Judd Apatow movie is on the table, but Rudd's open, just as he would be to a family film that his young son could see. Pixar, are you listening?
Rudd next will be seen opposite Michelle Pfeiffer in "I Could Never Be Your Woman," a movie that reunites him with Amy Heckerling ("Clueless"), and "Over My Dead Body," about a ghost, a boyfriend and a psychic.
Now, as summer winds up, Rudd is back as producer and ensemble player in "The Ten," directed by David Wain ("Wet Hot American Summer") and written by Wain with Ken Marino. It's an irreverent R-rated look at the Ten Commandments.
Rudd presents the stories and plays a man who must choose between his wife, portrayed by Famke Janssen, and his younger mistress, Jessica Alba.
"I was supposed to play another part in the film," he said, but Alba's availability was very limited and three weeks ahead of the rest of the shoot. "We hadn't cast the part that she was supposed to play opposite and kind of in the 11th hour, I wound up switching parts so we didn't lose her."
As a producer, Rudd learned, "When you're doing a movie like this, you're really at the whims of schedules."
"The Ten" is a far, funny cry from "The Ten Commandments" starring Charlton Heston. "The biggest concern with Ken and David was just to write a bunch of stories that were funny, and not so much to try and say anything necessarily about the Ten Commandments or religion," Rudd said.
"Besides, it's not a mean-spirited movie, and we're not critiquing anything, really," he added. The Commandments are a "template for telling these stories that were ridiculous, you know, just absurd."
The movie even ends with a nod to love and a song. "It adds to the whole kind of silliness of it all, and it also seems like the best way that we could end the movie the same way they end the musical 'Rent.' "
But with a woman who falls in love with a ventriloquist's puppet, a man who tumbles out of a plane and is hailed as a hero and a husband who skips church so he can get naked with his friends and listen to Roberta Flack. You won't find that in "Rent."
Post-Gazette movie editor Barbara Vancheri can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1632. First Published August 31, 2007 4:00 AM