So do you find yourself waiting for those bits of inspiration to hit you and then you just start developing them?

Usually what happens is, like right now a movie comes out – December 21st – I’m not going away during the Christmas break, and I’ll just be hanging out with the family and my brain will just start regenerating and hopefully something will just pop into my head [laughs]. That’s how it’s happened before. If you force it you get too anxious about it. And if it doesn’t it’s fine because I’m working hard on Girls and I’m producing Anchorman 2, so I don’t need to have it for a while.

So you’re waiting for the project to find you.

Yeah. I mean, I’ll take time to gaze at a notepad and see what my hand writes down. But I’ll know it when it happens.

And just knowing how much you like to work with the same group of actors, how much influence does that have on the projects you develop?

Sometimes. Sometimes I’m thinking about what I should do next, and part of it is, “Who would it be fun to hang out with for two years? Oh, I haven’t worked with him in a while, I wonder…” And sometimes I think about them, sometimes an idea just pops in your head, “Oh, that would be fun.” I didn’t plan on making Knocked Up with Seth [Rogen]. We were just talking, and I did think Seth could carry a movie, but we were working on Superbad and then one day he said he wanted to do this science-fiction comedy, and I said, “Well, you don’t really need to do that. You’re kind of funny just standing there, you don’t need science-fiction. You be funny just getting a girl pregnant. Just how that would go down would be funny.” And then I thought, “that would be a good idea!” And that was it! [laughs]

To talk a bit more specifically about This is 40, I wanted to ask about casting Albert Brooks and John Lithgow as Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann’s parents. In Knocked Up you cast Harold Ramis to play Seth Rogen’s dad, which I thought was an ingenious bit of family casting – I don’t think you could have done any better with that. And the same goes for this movie with Brooks and Lithgow, who are both fantastic. I’m curious how you picked them for their parts and how you went to them about the movie.

I wrote Albert’s part for Albert. I spent a long time in a room alone trying to think of, conceive of a way to use him well, and then I had lunch with him and told him about it and left him the script and he liked it. I had met him in the early 90s and had dinner with him a couple times with Garry Shandling and knew he was a great guy. So that was simple.

It was more difficult with John Lithgow because the character as written in the script doesn’t have a lot of dialogue, but he has a strong presence. And the whole movie is driven by his ghost in a lot of ways. We end up seeing why Debbie acts the way that she acts – because she has this dad who started a new family when she was a kid and didn’t pay much attention to her. So it makes her needier with her husband and more controlling of their world. But it was hard for actors to understand what the part was going to be like in the movie.

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