Judd Apatow (‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin’ and ‘Knocked Up’) is back with ‘The Big Sick’, a true tale about a couple dealing with racial differences and illness.
This is a very funny film, starring Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan, but its core themes – death and racial tension – could easily be depressing. What made you think “this is comedy gold”?
“It’s such an awkward circumstance that there had to be a way for it to be funny. It took a long time to make it funny. The script took three years to get the right tone. It was when we hired Ray Romano and Holly Hunter as the parents [of the woman in the coma] that we got it. They’re people trying to distract themselves from the sadness by making jokes.”
You were once a plucky young man trying to get movies made and fighting against The Man. Now you’re a very powerful guy. Are you now The Man?
“No, because I still have to ask people for money to make the films. The Man is the guy with the money.”
You made this before Donald Trump was president, but your central character is an American Muslim who faces racism. How did you feel about the film accidentally becoming a political statement?
“Our premiere at Sundance was the day of Trump’s inauguration, so in a strange way we’ve run parallel with him. I think when he’s calling for a travel ban it’s an important moment to humanise [Muslims] and show these characters who love the United States… I’m really happy about that.”
Speaking of Trump, you’re very outspoken against him on Twitter…
“My family and I discussed if I should stop, but it feels morally wrong not to stand up and say something about all the horrible things he’s trying to do. I’m just a little pebble in the ocean, but there are millions of people like me. It adds up.”
Trump is a very unstable man. Anyone who supports him puts our country in real danger. That is a high price to pay for a man with no ideas.
— Judd Apatow (@JuddApatow) October 11, 2016
The people for him are generally not nice on social media. How do you deal with them?
“The passion’s gone out of them. Trump breaks all his promises. He’s doing everything in the interests of corporations and I think that’s very dispiriting to his supporters. There are way fewer of them now.”