Judd Apatow’s The Bubble might be one of the most meta filmmaking experiences of all time, as the film about making a movie during the pandemic was of course shot during the pandemic. And as the veteran writer/director/producer tells Consequence, he didn’t miss the surreality of the fact that “we were mocking the thing that we’re actually doing.”
The Bubble stars an eclectic ensemble of well-known comedy stars as well as a variety of new faces, playing the cast and crew of Cliff Beasts 6, a (fake) big-budget blockbuster sequel that’s trying to finish up production despite the (very real) threat of COVID. While a spoof, the film does mirror real productions that were finished up during lockdown, something which Apatow used while working on the film.
He also brought together not just a cast including Karen Gillan, Fred Armisen, Maria Bakalova, David Duchovny, Keegan-Michael Key, Leslie Mann, Kate McKinnon, Pedro Pascal, Peter Serafinowicz, and Guz Khan for the project, but unexpected collaborators from elsewhere: Amongst other well-known folks, Beck, Euphoria choreographer Ryan Heffington, former Red Hot Chili Peppers member Josh Klinghoffer, and Adam Levine all contributed to the making of the film.
In this interview with Apatow, which you can watch above or read below, transcribed and edited for clarity, he explains the original inspiration for the film, how he assembled this cast, why there’s so much dancing in the film, and what it was really like to take on a comedy project like this in deeply unfunny times.
I wanted to start off by asking what was the kickoff for this? What got you excited about the idea of doing it?
I was promoting The King of Staten Island in June , as the pandemic was starting. And it was all just on my couch. Normally we would travel around the country and around the world, but then everything was just sitting on the couch, and then that ended and suddenly I had nothing to do and I could just sit around and do nothing.
So I started taking long walks and then one day on the walk, this idea occurred to me, oh, there’s something about these bubbles. First I thought about the NBA bubble. I was like, what’s going on in there? That sounds tense. Maybe there’s a story in a fake NBA bubble, a movie. And then I started hearing about all these different productions, Mission: Impossible and Jurassic World. And The White Lotus was getting started. And James Bond and everything was just beginning to fire back up.
And I thought, oh, this must be really hard on everybody. Maybe that’s a funny scenario for almost like a Christopher Guest movie, of a bunch of actors stuck in a hotel having a nervous breakdown. And I wanted it to be a two-set movie. So it’s the hotel and the green screen studio set where they’re making some sort of fantasy film.
And then we thought, well, maybe flying dinosaurs. Because we were just trying to think about what can you do with green screens? It has to be a monster at some point. So maybe it’s a flying Tyrannosaurus Rex, because we didn’t wanna just do dinosaurs. We were like, what is a way to do this weirder? I always think about movies like Orca, where there would be Jaws and then they would make the rip off version about whales. So this became a little bit like that.
So in the universe of The Bubble, Cliff Beasts is like a competitor to Jurassic Park?
Well, in the movie it’s described as, I think, the 28th most successful action movie franchise. Like there’s Jaws and, well, what’s the name of that movie with the giant shark?
[Crosstalk ensues, as we attempt to remember the name of the film Apatow is thinking about.]
The Meg! We’re The Meg.
That’s perfect. When you were conceiving all these aspects, how deep into the mythology did you get? Do you have a full Cliff Beasts mythology bible written up?
We did have to think through, you know, what happened in the other movies. Like there’s one movie called Beijing Beast — clearly they made a movie just to get good distribution in China. At one point there’s one that’s in space, there’s one that’s underwater. So it’s all about just trying to figure out new ways to keep the franchise alive. And then we had to think about what were the relationships between all the actors — who likes each other, who hates each other.