For Judd Apatow, This Is 40 could be considered an autobiographical film -- of sorts.
The Universal comedy, starring Apatow's wife Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd, follows their Knocked Up characters Debbie and Pete a few years later, as the couple deals with turning 40 and family life. Apatow's daughters, Maude and Iris, also have roles in the film.
"It's a soup of real feelings and events, things I'm noticing about my friends and the other actors who make a big contribution, and stuff I'm just making up to make it more interesting," Apatow shared during The Hollywood Reporter's writers roundtable. "Hopefully within that soup, you don't think it's all perfectly accurate but it's emotionally, 100 percent accurate. The feelings and the ideas are right on the money."
Though the script was born out of events and experiences Apatow, 44, and his family actually went through, their lives weren't entirely an open book. As Apatow revealed, there were many things that didn't make it onto paper.
"Leslie might pitch something and say, 'Well I need to talk about that,' and I'm like, 'No we're not doing that. That's too embarrassing. I can't show that side of myself to the world yet,' " he said. "We all have an open conversation about what is right and wrong, and who it will hurt if we talk about it."
Those conversations almost served as therapy sessions. "What's interesting about it is, it's almost a coded discussion about our relationship. 'Pete kind of thinks this,' and she'll say, 'I think Pete's full of crap thinking that.' We're having a debate about our issues through our 'characters,' " Apatow admitted. "It's a weird safe place to work out issues."
But he was clear to point out that what moviegoers see on the big screen may not be exact replicas of moments that took place.
"A lot of it is exaggerated and fabricated. If we show a fight between a husband and wife, it's not exactly how Leslie and I would fight," he explaned. "It's kind of the worst-case scenario of how bad it could get and hopefully the worse it gets, hopefully there's some humor there. I always feel like when people are out of control, I find it funny."
Apatow adds: "A lot of this has been inspired by the fact that I found that in a lot of movies and television, I didn't feel like couples were arguing and interacting the way we did at our hour. I don't know if we're different than everybody else, but I thought, it gets a little more heated around here and raw -- and I wanted to show that in a movie."
How Apatow came to the idea of making This Is 40, in theaters Dec. 21, was more of his "own mid-life questioning."
"I started listing actors and then it hit me: Oh, I have this couple that people are really interetsed in, that they liked a lot," he said of the project's genesis. "I never felt like I had enough time in Knocked Up to show what their issues really were. It was interesting to see them crackle and we sense there's a lot going on here. This movie, I'm going to show what happened in the middle."
THR's executive editor Stephen Galloway and news editor Matthew Belloni moderated a conversation at Hollywood's W Hotel with Apatow, Michael Haneke (Amour), Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty), Chris Terrio (Argo), David Magee (Life of Pi) and John Krasinski (Promised Land).