In Disney’s “Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” which hit theaters July 14, Jay Baruchel’s young magician studies under a wizened vet to become a world-class conjurer. In his real-life career, Baruchel also studied under a mentor who showed the young thesp how to expand his skill set.
Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel and Aziz Ansari are parlaying their success as regular actors in Judd Apatow films by branching out into new roles as writers and directors.
Segel is penning “The Greatest Muppet Movie Ever Made,” Hill is rebooting the “21 Jump Street” TV series as a feature (writing producing and starring), while Baruchel and Ansari are each writing original projects.
But it’s not just those guys; Apatow helped produce such pics as Seth Rogen’s first two big writing gigs, “Pineapple Express” and “Superbad,” as well as Segel’s first writing job, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”
While an actor in a hit film gets other thesping offers, it’s rarer to get writing-directing offers. And rarer still when the multihyphenate careers can be traced back to one person. (Back in the 1970s, Mel Brooks’ stable of actors, including Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman and Dom DeLuise, gained writing-directing gigs, but their thesping careers ultimately won out.)
After working with Ansari on “Funny People,” Apatow brainstormed with Ansari and his writing partner Jason Woliner on some ideas they’d been tossing around, including a spinoff of Ansari’s character in the film, Randy.
“I wouldn’t say Judd influenced me to start writing, because I’ve always wanted to, but when I did eventually bring my story ideas to the table, he was the one who said that we should start writing all three,” Ansari explains. “His logic was, ‘Look at Seth (Rogen) and how he started getting his work out there for people to see,’ so it only made sense to get to work on all of them right away.”
Apatow is producing all three pics Ansari is writing, including the “Randy” spinoff.
“It really helps having Judd support your project when you are pitching it to other people, especially when it is so hard to get somebody to listen to your original idea in the first place,” Ansari says.
Acting in an Apatow film can get you attention, but having Apatow work with you on an idea will get studio execs to look at your script.
While Ansari enjoys having control over characters, deciding whether he will continue with his writing is still up in the air.
“You can wake me up at any time of day and tell me to pretend to be someone, and I’ll be like, ‘OK,’?” Ansari says. “Now wake me up and ask me to write a script, and it’s not as easy.”