Ten years ago, the world became truly aware of the comedy genius of Steve Carell with the release of the amazingly hilarious sex comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Not only did the film make out like a bandit at the box office but it also made Carell a household name. But no matter how many times you’ve watched it or how well you think you know the movie, there are plenty of things that are probably unbeknownst to even the biggest Virgin fans. In honor of the film’s tenth anniversary, here are some fun facts about the best film ever made about a middle-aged sexual novice.
They Did Their Homework
While most people probably don’t consider sex comedies the kinds of movies for which continuity and accuracy are of the utmost importance, the factual exactness of being a 40 year-old virgin was a bigger part of the writing and shooting of the film than one might initially think. Apparently, the films backing production company Universal Studios made sure that writer and director Judd Apatow and co-writer and star Steve Carell had plenty of reference materials to give them a greater understanding while writing the script.
In an interview, Carell revealed that the studio collected a number of case studies on middle-aged virginity. While unsure of what the cases would reveal at first, Apatow and Carell found that, just like the film’s adorably weird eponymous hero Andy, most of the people they read about were shy and awkward people who at some point in their lives decided that the frustration was not worth the effort.
Weight Was an Issue
Hollywood is notorious for trying to control the physicality of actors, but Universal had a lot of difficulty deciding how they wanted the 40-Year-Old Virgin to look. For Andy, Carell envisioned the character as fit and slightly muscular instead of the classically flabby frame belonging to male comedic actors, the reasoning being that Andy worked out a lot to release all of his built up energy from not having sex. Apatow was nervous about how buff his star had become but eventually came around to thinking it was a fantastic angle for the character, making Andy’s only obstacle to having sex being his awkwardness.
Co-Star Paul Rudd on the other hand, was encouraged to gain weight by Apatow because the director believe the actor to be more humorous when he is heavier. Universal Studios, however, didn’t think a fatter Paul Rudd was a good idea at all. The studio demanded the actor go on a diet and Rudd, at one point, ended up starving himself.
The Waxing Scene…
When you mention The 40-Year-Old Virgin to someone, there is a huge chance that the first thing they will think of is the legendary chest-waxing scene. While everyone has their own favorite bits or lines from the scene, the reason everyone really likes it is because how unabashed it is – that is because it really is real.
Since it was easily determined that the scene could only be accomplished in a single take, five cameras were set up in the room to film simultaneously as to not miss a second of the comedic gold mine. Aside from a general idea of how the scene should progress, the scene was entirely unscripted; in fact, you can tell by how none of the supporting actors are able to keep composure during the entire length of the scene. Although it was at Carell’s urging that the scene be completely real, he admits regretting it as soon as the pain set it and everything started to bleed.
…And That Ending
With all of the comedic energy and improvisational genius surging through the production of 40-Year-Old Virgin, not every part of the film was smooth sailing. The second most famous scene in the film had quite a bit of trouble coming to fruition, but eventually came about with the encouragement of Apatow’s former “The Larry Sanders Show” script collaborator Garry Shandling.
On a number of occasions, Shandling told Apatow and Carell that they had to end the film by showing that Andy’s sex is more fulfilling than that of his promiscuous friends because he is in love with his partner. The conversations inspired Carell to suggest simply singing a song and Apatow hit the ground running with the famous number from the musical Hair. While in the end test-screening audiences met the film’s conclusion with a roar of applause, the scene wasn’t entirely without its bumps – the then virtually unknown Jonah Hill was hospitalized with heatstroke during the filming of the end sequence.
With all of the fame he has received from the hit TV show “How I Met Your Mother” and his leading roles in films like Sex Tape and The Muppets, it’s hard to image anyone turning down Jason Segel for any kind of role in any modern comedy. But before he became a recognizable name and face, Judd Apatow wanted Segel for a big supporting role in 40-Year-Old Virgin, but Universal Studios rejected the idea full out.
After working with Segel on the cult TV show “Freaks and Geeks,” Apatow was eager to get involved with him on more projects. After a failed attempt to get the 6’ 4” actor on another show called “Undeclared,” Apatow decided to write a part specifically for him in Virgin. He was supposed to play Andy’s best friend, but the studio rejected the casting because he wasn’t famous enough. (LINK 9) While Segel has admitted that losing the role for that reason hurt a lot, Apatow encouraged him to write something for himself –the result was the script for the now beloved comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Lynch’s Love Song
Sure, most of us took Spanish for a few semesters back in high school, but chances are that most people don’t remember enough vocabulary to understand an average everyday conversation en español. That also probably means that the lyrics song Jane Lynch sings to Steve Carell in 40-Year-Old Virgin are lost on you… which is a hilarious crying shame.
Lynch’s role as Andy’s Smart Tech boss Paula was originally written as a man, but Apatow cast Lynch in the role at the urging of Carell’s wife Nancy (who plays the health counselor) .
Lynch made up the lyrics to her fake Guatemalan tune from practice lines from her Spanish textbook from high school, including translations of “Where are you going with such haste? To the football game.” Before shooting the scene, Lynch only told Carell that she would be singing him a song and nothing else – that look of dumbfounded confusion is absolutely genuine.
Killing With Comedy
When production for 40-Year-Old Virgin first got going, Universal Studios had a lot to complain about. Aside from the aforementioned issues with Paul Rudd’s weight gain, executives also disapproved of the “indie” lighting style Apatow was using as well as the serial killer vibe that Carell’s Andy was giving off.
While the character of Andy was originally a lot more severe, Apatow and Carell were both urged to reconsider the approach to the character. Taking some ideas form the comic style of the legendary Buster Keaton, Andy ended up being the strange albeit droll little center of the wild and raucous storm of friends that whirled around him. The most ironic part about the whole snafu is that the power-at-be were focused on the wrong killer. Actor Shelley Malil was arrested and sentenced to life in prison only a few years after Virgin was released after he stabbed his girlfriend twenty times with a knife.
Partner in Crime
Considering how many of Judd Apatow’s movies Leslie Mann has appeared in, such as Funny People, most people could probably guess that she has come connection with the popular director. What most people probably don’t know is that the two are husband and wife (their daughters Maude and Iris appeared in Knocked Up and This Is 40). As Mann happens to be an extraordinary comedienne in her own right, it would make sense that her writer/director husband would take her advice, especially when it came to making her 40-Year-Old Virgin character Nicky as funny as possible.
For instance, the scene where Andy fears for his life during Nicky’s drunken drive home was supposed to end with a run in with the cops and Nicky being found with a concealed gun. Mann urged Apatow to end the scene with Nicky puking on Andy, which ended up being a bigger draw for laughs – so Mann got a mouthful of kefir and strawberry yogurt and let Carell have it in the face.
Acceptance Is Key
Since the terms “sex comedy” and “raunchy” are practically synonymous these days, 40-Year-Old Virgin was of course met with as much disapproval as approval. As such, all of that creative energy following through and around all of its brilliant collaborators led to some understandable excess that had to eventually paired down. For example, trimming down the scene where Andy watches Dave’s porn tapes and cutting out a scene where Andy listens to his neighbors having sex made test audiences very happy. Unfortunately not everyone was accepting of the final film product.
If you ever spent the time and watched Virgin’s credits, you’d probably notice that the common stamp “No animals were harmed during the making of this film” is missing. That’s because a little bit of oversight killed some fish. Apparently, after filming had finished, an area of the set that contained a tropical fish tank was left without power. Without proper oxygenation, the fish died. As such, the American Human Association classifies the movie as “unacceptable.”
While Judd Apatow had admitted that some of the humor in 40-Year-Old Virgin was based on his own embarrassing sexual misadventures as a younger man, the film’s script is in no way autobiographical, especially considering co-writers Apatow and Carell were both married with children when filming began. In actual fact, the film’s concept was born from Carell’s mind, inspired from his days doing sketch comedy with Second City.
With the success of Anchorman, Carell left his job as a correspondent on “The Daily Show” and started working on the pilot for “The Office” in 2005. The same year he pitched Apatow the film’s poker scene, a skit he had come up with while performing with the famous Chicago sketch group, as the gist of the story. Apatow ran with the idea, had it approved by executives at Universal Studios, and the project hit the ground running from there. And now, ten years later, all the rest is history.