One look at the screenwriting and directorial body of work of Judd Apatow, which expands this summer with Trainwreck starring Amy Schumer, shows a series of films which, for all their thematic differences, carry an underlying theme of characters floating in the ether of uncertainty. However, in searching for a new direction, Apatow’s upcoming script will take his raucous repertoire into drastically new territory: the Iraq War!
Sitting down for a lengthy discussion with the You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes podcast, Judd Apatow reveals that he has hit somewhat of a crossroads when it comes to his brand of comedy-conscious drama. Consequently, in a move that seems exceptionally experimental, Apatow is currently working on a screenplay based on a book called Redeployment by Phil Klay. Formatted as an episodic novel, the book focuses on the lives of soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who, forever changed, attempt to readjust to the dissimilar domesticity they once left behind seemingly a lifetime ago. As Apatow describes the endeavor:
[The original screenplay is] a comedy with drama or a drama with comedy about those people and what they’ve gone through and hopefully in an entertaining way so it’s not one of these depressing movies you don’t want to see.
For Apatow, it seems that this new project represents a potentially refreshing reinvention of his comedic-dramatic direction, embracing broader, more topical themes, beyond the myopic woes of his typical protagonists who find themselves lost in ambivalence amongst a setting of affluence. He actually refers to this project specifically as "an original screenplay," which does imply that he will exercise some liberties with the Redeployment novel to inject the story with Apatow-esque idiosyncrasies and zaniness. However, the book, for all its somber themes, is balanced with moments of levity that could mesh well stylistically with director’s signature dry-witted approach to serious subjects.
In explaining how he arrived at this juncture in his career, the writer/director revealed that his notable efforts such as Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, This is 40 and even TV’s Freaks and Geeks have systematically tackled topics relating to transformative moments in a person’s life from coming-of-age to settling into middle-age. Even his upcoming film, Trainwreck seems to delve hilariously into themes that are especially solemn, demonstrating what rabid fears of commitment will make person become; especially as they age. Essentially, Apatow has been drawing dilemmas straight from his own life, which has lent his works their apparent level of intimacy. However, that well only contains so many sips, which has lead him to this first real attempt to look towards dramatic dilemmas outwardly, beyond the realm of personal experience with Redeployed.
At this point, nothing whatsoever has been so much as penciled in for this project, seeing as Apatow just started on it quite recently. However, based on even the basic criteria that we know, this certainly has the potential to be a dramatic reinvention of his insular approach to his ensemble-based comedy dramas that managed to get away with mixing irreverence with serious themes due to their personal approach. While a film focusing on military veterans returning from war will not enjoy that safety net, it does sound like an especially intriguing prospect to witness Apatow turning over such a crucial creative leaf.