From Freaks And Geeks to his upcoming This Is 40, which features Paul Rudd as the founder of an indie record label, Hollywood auteur Judd Apatow has made music a central part of his oeuvre. On Thursday afternoon, Apatow led a panel on music in his work as part of the Billboard/Hollywood Reporter Film & TV Music Conference. "Career Study with Judd Apatow" featured the director, musicians Graham Parker (who plays himself in This Is 40) and Michael Penn, as well as composer Mike Andrews and music supervisor Manish Raval, a longtime Apatow collaborator.
Most of the 45-minute conversation focused on Apatow's current work, This Is 40, and the HBO series Girls, which features music composed by Penn. But the conversation did steer all the way back to Freaks and Geeks, which includes Apatow's one musical regret. He cleared Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" for use in the show, but when the series was canceled and NBC wouldn't pay the $30,000 licensing fee, Apatow chose to substitute a Dean Martin song rather than pay the fee himself.
"There's not a day I don't regret it," Apatow admitted.
Now one of the most successful writer-directors in Hollywood, he has no such concerns anymore. "The budget for This Is 40 is enormous," he said, adding that there's wall-to-wall music, from Nicki Minaj to the Pixies, and of course Parker.
In the movie, Rudd starts a fledgling indie label and signs Parker, who doesn't exactly bolster the label's sales. In looking for a veteran artist who might have a "good sense of humor and a good screen presence," Apatow said he considered the members of XTC and Joe Jackson. But an industry friend directed Apatow to a humorous blog by Parker lamenting his difficulties in getting his music heard in films. In the blog, he wrote, "Are you listening, Judd Apatow?"
Apatow took the veteran tunesmith to lunch and felt him out for the role before eventually offering him the part. Apatow said he wanted to handle the role respectfully, because he is a Parker fan and he is reverent of artists regardless of sales. "In my head, Loudon Wainwright is Bono," he said.
Parker showed the same wit he displayed in the blog, saying of his character's failures, "It's Paul Rudd's crappy label – it's not my fault!"
Penn and Raval discussed much of the approach to Girls, with Penn summing up the musical philosophy of the show: "Just get it right." After the show's first-season success, Season Two features original music, including new material from Cat Power, fun., Santigold, Tegan and Sara and more. No release plans were revealed.
With Freaks And Geeks regularly showing up on lists of shows canceled too early, Apatow got good laughs talking about the renewal of Girls. "I've never had a Season Two before," he quipped. "We're even talking about a Season Three."