Whether it be The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Bridesmaids or Anchorman, Judd Apatow has had a hand in some of the biggest comedies of the 21st century, and his influence on the genre cannot be underestimated.
The writer, director and producer has proven himself as one of the most influential voices in comedy over the past 15 years, and he’s helped discover a host of acting talent in that time too.
Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, James Franco and plenty more have flourished under his guidance, and there are many who actors working today who got their big breaks in Apatow productions.
In celebration of his work, loaded rounds up15 actors who owe their careers to Judd Apatow below:
Years before her career-defining performance in Bridesmaids, Kristen Wiig made the first of five Apatow collaborations in Knocked Up. The film helped establish the actress’s film career, and Wiig hasn’t looked back since. She later went on to become a regular face on Saturday Night Live, before this year’s high-profile Ghostbusters reboot made her a household name.
He might be a Hollywood bigshot now, but Jonah Hill’s first film role came as dorky, porn-obsessed Seth in the brilliant Superbad. He’s since gone on to star in Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wolf Street alongside Leonardo Di Caprio, as well as 21 Jump Street and Moneyball.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse has starred in such films as Kick-Ass, How To Train Your Dragon and Role Models, but be honest, you know him best for playing one character – McLovin. The actor made his first ever screen appearance in Superbad, and it turned out to be the role of a lifetime.
One of the many stars who first made their name in Apatow’s influential 1999 series Freaks and Geeks, James Franco has gone on to star in Pineapple Express, 127 Hours and Spider-Man. He’s also turned his hand to directing, established himself as one of the most idiosyncratic filmmaking talents in Hollywood over recent years.
Before making her name on Parks and Recreation, Aubrey Plaza starred as deadpan comedian April Ludgate in 2009’s Funny People, appearing alongside the likes of Seth Rogen and Adam Sandler.
Not only is Leslie Mann one of Apatow’s most frequent collaborators (she’s appeared in five of his movies), but she’s also his wife and mother to his two children. The couple met on the set of The Cable Guy back in 1996, and they were wed just a year later. They have two girls together, Iris and Maude, who actually starred as Mann’s on-screen children in Knocked Up.
Another name from the Freaks & Geeks cast list, Cardellini played Lindsay Weir in the acclaimed series, before carving out a successful TV career for herself. She went on to take roles in ER and Avengers: Age Of Ultron, and it’s thanks to her debut TV appearance on Apatow’s Freaks & Geeks.
Few could have known in the late 90s just how influential Freaks & Geeks would be. The series was short-lived, but it did give us the first major performance from a fresh-faced Seth Rogen, who’d go on to collaborate with Apatow many times down the years and become an influential hollywood player in his own right.
How I Met Your Mother star Jason Segel also made his breakthrough performance in Freaks & Geeks, and would go on to star in future Apatow projects Undeclared, Knocked Up, This Is 40 and This Is The End.
Years before Charlie Hunnam starred as football hooligan Pete Dunham in Green Street and Jackson ‘Jax’ Teller in Sons Of Anarchy, Charlie was cast as Lloyd Haythe in Apatow’s college comedy Undeclared back in 2001. He’d already made appearances in Queer As Folk and Byker Grove, but Undelcared helped take his career to the next level and introduced him to US audiences.
John Francis Daley
You may know for his role as Lance Sweets on Bones, but John Francis Daley is another of the stars to make their first major roles in Apatow’s Freaks & Geeks.
Jay Baruchel was also handed his first major role in Apatow’s Undeclared. The actor has been busy in the business ever since, writing ice hockey enforcer comedy Goon and starring in films like 2010 animated effort How To Train Your Dragon.
Yet another Freaks & Geeks star, Ben Foster landed his breakthrough role in the series back in 1999. He’s gone on to pop up in all sorts down the years, including X-Men: The Last Stand, Alpha Boy, 3:10 To Yuma and video game adaptation Warcraft.
Another of the Freaks & Geeks cast to go on to bigger and better things, Busy Philipps has enjoyed a successful career in US appearingin Malcolm In The Middle, Undeclared, Dawson’s Creek, ER and Cougar Town, as well as cult-favorite comedy White Chicks
Years before Ride Along, Get Hard and the soon to be released Jumanji, Kevin made only his fifth screen appearance when he starred in Undeclared. Although the series only lasted one series, he is one of the many names whose careers were launched by the show.