Over the past 12 years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) franchise has embedded itself into the minds of the general populous as a staple of pop culture – seriously, you’d have to be living under a rock to have never heard of The Avengers. With that level of popularity, it’s no surprise that the MCU’s stars have been subsequently been catapulted into stardom, especially among younger audiences. One of the more recent additions to that star-studded superhero hall of fame is Paul Rudd, better known as Scott Lang, who moonlights as the hilarious Ant-Man. Rudd’s outstanding performance embodies the simultaneous action hero trope and lighthearted comedic tinge that is a staple of Marvel movies. In 2 hours, you’ll have cheered, you’ll have laughed, you’ll have cried, and you’ll have loved every moment of it.
While his appearance in one of the world’s biggest movie franchises in history has garnered him a lot of special attention, Paul Rudd has had an extremely successful career well before becoming an Avenger. His extensive film and television catalog, as well as his seemingly never-ending youth (seriously this man must have made a deal with the devil or something because have you SEEN him? He has not aged a day), has made him a well known and well-respected actor. As such, we’d like to take a look back at Rudd’s delightful career beyond Ant-Man.
Ugh, as if I wouldn’t mention this one. If young Paul Rudd didn’t have you “totally buggin” as moody heartthrob Josh, where is your sense of nostalgia (and your eyes for that matter)? In this 90s coming of age film, Rudd plays Josh Lucas, the ex-step brother of the movie’s protagonist Cher Horowitz. Though Cher’s dad, Mel Horowitz, and Josh’s mom got divorced after an extremely brief marriage, Josh still spends a lot of time with Mel (you divorce wives, not children!) helping him with his lawyerly duties. Josh and Cher develop feelings for one another (which, let’s be real, is a little sketchy but gets ignored for the purpose of a feel-good movie status) as Cher goes on a quest to change the kind of person she is after an upset in the social balance of high school makes her reevaluate her life. Paul’s performance in this cult-classic served as his breakout role into stardom and immortalized him into the nostalgic 90s hall of fame as well as the hearts of many teenage girls.
The Perks of Being A Wallflower (2012)
While Paul Rudd’s part in The Perks of Being A Wallflower was actually relatively minor, it’s still quite memorable. In this heartbreaking, beautiful film adaptation of Stephen Chbosky’s book by the same name, Rudd plays Mr. Anderson, a high school English teacher who has a positive influence on the protagonist, Charlie (Logan Lerman), who is going through a rough time due to some traumatic events in his past. Mr. Anderson takes Charlie under his wing as a mentor, offering Charlie helpful advice and encourages him to be more social while nurturing him intellectually by giving him extra books to read outside of class. Rudd delivers one of the most famous quotes of the book/movie during a conversation with Charlie: “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Paul Rudd’s performance as the quietly serious yet indubitably influential teacher is a polar opposite to the more humorous types that he usually portrays, but it showcases his extreme versatility, as he is able to bring gravity to his performances as easily as he does levity.
Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Okay, confession: I’m really not a fan of this movie (I can just hear the Leo fans screaming at me) but to be fair, I’m not a fan of Romeo and Juliet in any form or fashion, so don’t crucify me. In this interesting modern interpretation of Shakespeare’s infamous tragedy, Rudd portrays Dave Paris, the governor’s son and Juliet’s unwanted suitor. Paris doesn’t play as big of a role in this version of the film as other interpretations, but at least he escapes the death at Romeo’s hand that’s written for him in the play. Coincidentally, both Leonardo DiCaprio and Paul Rudd would go on to work on two different versions of The Great Gatsby, with DiCaprio playing Jay Gatsby in the 2013 version and Paul Rudd playing Nick Carraway in the 2000 TV movie version. I’ll leave you to cry for the team-up that could’ve been.
The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)
This film kickstarted the careers of Seth Rogen and Steve Carell and gave Paul Rudd an extra boost after starring as Josh Lucas in Clueless. The film boasts a slew of modern household comedy names like Jonah Hill, Mindy Kaling, and Jane Lynch. In this popular comedy, Rudd portrays David, a coworker turned pal of Andy (Steve Carell) who embarks on the mission to get his friend laid after Andy admits he’s a virgin. Dave’s character has some ups and downs, obsessing over his ex-girlfriend which affects the way he tries to help Andy with his own romantic-life. This movie marks an important point in Rudd’s career in comedy, which he has gone on to refine and perfect as the years went on.
A lot of people will argue that Paul Rudd’s Mike Hannigan saved the final seasons of Friends from a terrible decline. Introduced in the penultimate season, Mike delivered quite a few laughable moments and shared great chemistry on screen with Lisa Kudrow. Phoebe and Mike get along so well because of the similarities in their childlike personalities (never forget Mike’s dog being groomsmen at the wedding). The two characters’ marriage in the final season was a great resolution to the relationship arc which had its ups and downs but ultimately triumphed in the end. Looks like Joey’s questionable blind date set up worked out in the end after all.
Parks and Recreation (2012, 2015, 2020)
Rudd’s recurring role as the simple-minded yet friendly and charismatic Bobby Newport on Parks and Recreation definitely showcases his comedic talent. The Senior Vice President of Sweetums who embodies the terms “daddy’s money” runs against Leslie Knope for Pawnee City Council to make his old man proud, leading to a series of hilarious encounters between the two throughout season four in the race to get elected. Despite Newport having no real platform, his charisma and clueless charm manage to keep him in the race and garner him public support. After losing to Knope by a narrow margin, the two part on peaceful terms. Newport makes a later appearance in season 7, as well as the 2020 “A Parks and Recreation Special” episode, reprising his role. While Paul’s stint on Parks and Rec was relatively short, it’s interesting to note that both Rudd and Chris Pratt would go on to work in the Avengers enterprise after starring in this comedic classic NBC production.
Y’all know I couldn’t let this article pass without mentioning the Hot Ones meme. Back in 2019, Rudd guest-starred on First We Feast’s popular YouTube web series. The show has “hot questions and even hotter wings” with a premise that revolves around celebrities being interviewed by the show’s host, Sean Evans, while eating chicken wings that get increasingly more spicy as time progresses. The show has a history of producing some pretty quality reactions, from Shaq’s pointed stare to Idris Elba’s surprised choking, spawning an endless cascade of uninhibited meme-ry on Twitter. Paul Rudd was no exception, with the sarcastic “Look at us” scene serving as the basis for many jokes on the online platform, subsequently catapulting Rudd into internet fame among young audiences.
These productions are only a drop in the ocean compared to the entirety of Paul Rudd’s phenomenal career. Wet Hot American Summer, Night at The Museum, Sausage Party, and Reno 911! are only a few of his other credentials. With Marvel entering Phase 4 and a third Ant-Man movie in the works, it’s inevitable that we’ll be seeing more of Rudd as Scott Lang in the future, but until then, we can’t wait to see what he does next in other roles. To peruse the entirety of Paul Rudd’s filmography, visit his IMDb page.