This Is 40
After years of marriage, Pete lives in a house of all females: wife Debbie and their two daughters, eight-year-old Charlotte and 13-year-old Sadie. As he struggles to keep his record label afloat, he and Debbie must figure out how to forgive, forget and enjoy the rest of their lives… before they kill each other. In his fourth directorial outing, Judd Apatow’s new comedy captures what it takes for one family to flourish in the middle of a lifetime together. We follow one couple’s three-week navigation of sex and romance, career triumphs and financial hardships, aging parents and maturing children.
Production designer Jefferson Sage, who has worked with Apatow since FREAKS AND GEEKS, shares a shorthand with his director. He sums their design inspiration for this comedy: “In KNOCKED UP, we had the guys live in the Valley to contrast with Pete and Debbie’s family in Brentwood. There was a divide there, and the city played in between those places. This story is more centered in the home and in the neighborhood where they shop and go for coffee and where Pete rides his bike. We kept our location scouting close to those addresses so it would feel right.”
For continuity, Apatow was committed to returning to the same house in Brentwood that was used for exteriors in KNOCKED UP. “We knew that we were going to go back to the location,” says the designer. “For that movie, we built a set on stage that was the upstairs. That allowed us to shoot on location, shoot onstage and then the two sets would look like the same house. That was the plan for this movie.”
In the last film, the family had the perfect home. But a lot has changed in five years, as stress has fractured Pete and Debbie’s marriage. Sage says: “When we came back to the house, we found that it had grown in a lot. The trees were fuller; the hedges were overgrown. It lent this sense of the place being less managed than the last time we were there. It made the place look like it was receding a bit. That worked for us because this family is at the edge of their finances and they’ve secretly put it on the market. So that was a perfect, subtle shift for this movie.”
The two men discussed what worked well before and how they would change the sets for THIS IS 40. When it came to rebuilding, Sage wasn’t worried. “Designwise, I knew the house quite well,” he explains. “I dug out my research from KNOCKED UP to refresh my memory. It was easy to quickly move to the stage set and think about how to tweak it. But a number of the rooms were quite close to what we filmed last time. For example, we knew the master bedroom worked. Since five years have gone by, however, that left us open to make decorating changes. But the architecture, particularly of that room, virtually stayed the same. I fixed a couple of problems that got built into the set the first time. That’s the benefit of experience and realizing I put columns in the wrong place.”
To underscore the sense that the family was growing apart, Apatow told Sage that he wanted the house to feel bigger and emptier, which would make it harder for the family to connect. One of his directives was that the rooms should be far from one another, so in order to get to the kids’ rooms, one would have to walk down a long, serpentine path. For the girls’ spaces, Sage’s team created two large rooms that were joined through a common bathroom. This way, when the girls had a conflict, there was a way for them to fight privately without going into the rest of the house.
Now that Pete is an entrepreneur who’s started his own small record label, the home office he shares with Debbie reflects more of his personal interests. The design team found great rock memorabilia that Pete would have collected over the years, and they photoshopped pictures of celebrities with whom Pete would have rubbed elbows. Because Rudd is heavily involved with music, he had in his collection pictures of himself with Mick Jagger, as well as shots with other musicians that were used in the film.
Pete’s 40th birthday party was held in the backyard. By covering the area with an overscaled pergola, removing a fence that cut off the pool from the rest of the yard, and building an inground trampoline, the crew made the area feel like one massive space. Discussing the barbecue, Apatow says: “I watched it cut together, and it was intense and funny. We have this serious argument happening, and then we intercut it with Jason and Chris hitting on Megan, and Chris hitting on Charlyne, then Charlyne trying to get drugs from Graham. I thought if I could mix up the soup a bit, it would be fun to cut around and not seem like one giant scene.” Debbie opened Lulu’s as a side business, but it now provides stable income. Unfortunately, her success – until she realizes someone is stealing – is another strain on her marriage. For the set, the production chose an Apatow family friend’s store, Denise Carolyn, to double as the clothing boutique. Sage says: “We looked at Denise Carolyn as a research project, and that turned into ‘Let’s take Phedon [the cinematographer] and scout it and see if we could film here.’ It worked perfectly.”
Pete has immersed himself in the world of music production and scouting new talent. The filmmakers found the perfect location for his label in Venice. The beautiful loft space was designed – with its exposed concrete and brick, inexpensive furniture and scrappy look – to be a place Pete can barely afford but has fixed up while he struggles to hit it big time.
Because Pete would be scouting music groups for Unfiltered Records, the team found gritty clubs around Los Angeles to serve as entry-level venues where young bands perform. They also discovered a beautiful club where established artists could be showcased. The main concert with Graham Parker & The Rumour was staged at the Belasco Theater in downtown L.A. Sage shares: “It’s a beautifully restored old theater that has been turned into a club that honors the roots of the theater. The architecture’s intact, but they have changed things to make it a very hip club. I was thrilled to find that place, and we’re one of the first companies to get in there and shoot it. It’s a beautiful look.”
This Is 40
Directed by: Judd Apatow
Starring: Megan Fox, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Leslie Mann, Melissa McCarthy, Lena Dunham, Iris Apatow, Maude Apatow
Screenplay by: Judd Apatow
Production Design by: Jefferson Sage
Cinematography by: Phedon Papamichael
Film Editing by: David L. Bertman, Jay Deuby, Brent White
Costume Design by: Leesa Evans
Set Decoration by: Leslie A. Pope
Music by: Josh Brion
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, crude humor, pervasive language and some drug material.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Release Date: December 21, 2012