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The Transformation Of Paul Rudd From Childhood To Ant-Man

Ageless being Paul Rudd has been a fixture of movies and TV ever since he stole hearts in "Clueless." Rudd got his start in commercials before moving to heartthrob status. After a few years of career backslide, he started making friends in the alt comedy scene. That would pay off big-time, as Rudd featured in many of the 2000s' most beloved ensemble comedies. From there, it was a hop, skip, and a jump to leading one of the MCU's goofiest franchises to date.

Paul Rudd has one of the most enviable careers in Hollywood. He's done it all. He married Phoebe on "Friends," he invented the world's nastiest perfume in "Anchorman," and he's pranked Conan O'Brien with the same "Mac and Me" clip for more than a decade. Here's how Paul Rudd went from playing video games to starring in blockbusters. This article details his career transformation, but seriously, the man's face hasn't changed in decades.

A Nintendo-mad teen

Paul Rudd was born in 1969 in New Jersey, and he moved with his family to Kansas when he was 10. Rudd moved to LA to pursue acting in the '90s and made ends meet as a party DJ, something he had been doing since his teen years. "Paul Rudd is a handsome leading man," friend and director David Wain told Playboy. "But in his deepest core he's still the dorky suburban Jewish bar mitzvah DJ he was as a teenager." Doubtless, some of Rudd's party DJ experience went into creating "Party Down" with Rob Thomas, John Enbom, and Dan Etheridge.

Like many actors, Paul Rudd got his start in commercials. He joins his future "Friends" co-star Courteney Cox, his future "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" co-star Mila Kunis, and his future "Role Models" co-star Seann William Scott in that career path. One of his first onscreen appearances is in an ad for the Super Nintendo. In the commercial, Rudd appears to break into an abandoned drive-in in order to use the screen as his video game monitor. As he plays games like "Sim City" and "Zelda: A Link to the Past," he attracts like-minded "teens" in blazers, amazed with his gamer skills.

Rudd's big break in Clueless

Paul Rudd's first breakout role was in 1995's "Clueless." He played Josh, the ex-stepbrother of protagonist Cher (Alicia Silverstone). In adapting the story of "Emma" for the '90s, writer/director Amy Heckerling had to explain why the Mr. Knightley character (Josh) is always at Emma/Cher's house. The explanation chosen lets Rudd have free reign in the Horowitz household while still making it not illegal or yucky for the two to get together in the end.

"Clueless" was a sea change for teen culture of the '90s. It was the death knell for grunge culture, putting forward a much more polished (and bougie) style. It launched the careers of Rudd, Alicia Silverstone, Donald Faison, Breckin Meyer, Brittany Murphy, and Jeremy Sisto.

After "Clueless," Rudd's leading man career should have taken off. He starred in films like "The Object of My Affection" and Baz Luhrman's "Romeo + Juliet," but nothing was hitting like "Clueless." Rudd would have to get a lot weirder to become a superstar.

Wet Hot alternative comedy

Paul Rudd moved to New York in the mid-'90s. He told Jimmy Kimmel in 2019 that he moved in order to pursue theater, but hanging in NYC helped him get movie roles, too. While being a working theater actor, Rudd met the comedy boys of the Stella comedy troupe. David Wain, Michael Showalter, and Michael Ian Black had worked together for years as part of another comedy troupe, The State, and after that group separated, the trio started a comedy night at a club called Fez. The three would produce video shorts, one of which starred Rudd. From there, Rudd got his part in the cult classic "Wet Hot American Summer."

"Wet Hot American Summer" is a surreal take on summer camp movies like "Meatballs." Rudd plays the hot jerk jock Andy, the unsympathetic romantic rival to protagonist Coop (Michael Showalter). The two vie for the affections of Katie (Marguerite Moreau), but Andy also has a crucial scene with Janeane Garofalo where he picks up a cup. A tour de force performance.

Rudd continued working with the Stella boys in films like "The Ten," "The Baxter," "Reno 911: Miami," "Role Models," "Wanderlust," and "They Came Together."

Paul Rudd joins Team Apatow

Before Paul Rudd ever met Judd Apatow, the two were email buddies. ”A friend of mine told me that Judd's e-mail address was Gern Blanston,” Rudd told Entertainment Weekly. Gern Blanston is what Steve Martin has joked his real name is, a fact Rudd knew well. He emailed Apatow (whose Gern Blanston address is now defunct), and the two got chummy. They finally met in auditions for "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy."

Rudd obviously nailed the audition, since he won the role of hypermasculine Brian Fantana. From there, Rudd would work with Apatow on "The 40-Year Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up." His "Knocked Up" character was spun off into the more depressing "This Is 40," where Rudd starred opposite Apatow's real-life wife and children — Leslie Mann, "Euphoria" star Maude Apatow, and littlest Apatow Iris. Rudd even appears in Apatow-adjacent work like Jason Segel's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "Walk Hard," in which he plays John Lennon.

A Marvel-helming movie star

Paul Rudd's work with folks like David Wain and Judd Apatow launched him into legit movie stardom. He became such a regular fixture on Conan O'Brien's various talk shows that he developed a running bit. Every time he came, he said he'd brought a clip from his movie. Only, every time, it was actually a scene from the abysmally awful (and "MST3K"-riffed) "Mac and Me." He also co-owns a candy shop with "Walking Dead" star Jeffrey Dean Morgan. If that doesn't say "showbiz success," what does?

In 2013, Rudd was listed by Variety as being one of two contenders to play Ant-Man in the Phase 3 MCU film. "Ant-Man" had been in development since 2006, with Edgar Wright attached to write and direct. Wright left the project when Marvel wanted to do a rewrite on his script without his input, and eventually Peyton Reed took over directing. The script wound up being the bones of what Wright wrote, with new dialogue concocted by Adam McKay and Rudd himself. "I've always known Paul Rudd's a really good writer from improvising with him on set, but I had no idea he was that good," McKay told Collider, "he's really great with dialogue." From party DJing to writing his own MCU role, Paul Rudd has always excelled at maintaining the vibe.