How a Young Judd Apatow Extorted an Autograph From Steve Martin (Guest Blog)

And other secrets of the recent San Diego Film Festival

The San Diego Film Festival concluded its 12th year with screenings of powerful films like “12 Years a Slave”‘ “August: Osage County” with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, and “About Time” with Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy. The expanded festival featured independent and studio movies shown at two film villages: Arclight Cinemas La Jolla and Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.

During the festival’s  principal event, the successful careers of notable filmmakers were honored at the annual Filmmakers Tribute.  Film director, writer and producer Judd Apatow received  the San Diego Film Festival’s Visionary Filmmaker Award, and Justin Nappi received the Emerging Producer Award.

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“Anchorman” star David Koechner delivered a humorous speech summing up Apatow’s thriving career as: “the man under 50 who has his own genre.”

Koechner was referring to Apatow’s prolific career  over a relatively short time at the cusp of the entertainment industry’s comedy field.

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Apatow has had a hand in successful films like “Superbad,” “Anchorman,” “Pineapple Express,” “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” “This Is 40,” “Knocked Up” and “Bridesmaids,” as well as television shows like the current HBO hit “Girls.” His singular brand of funny has dominated the Hollywood landscape more than most working in the industry.

Film critic Jeffery Lyons, host of this year’s film festival, sat down with Apatow for a Directors’ Studio-style conversation and Q & A during the hour-long tribute to his career.

The honored screenwriter used this opportunity to share a few personal stories and quick wit with a captivated audience at the beautiful Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla.

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A comedian at heart, Apatow acknowledged that Steve Martin had an impact on him as a young boy — but not solely for his comedy. When he was a mere teenager, Apatow didn’t laugh off the fact that Martin refused to sign an autograph for him after he brazenly approached the Wild and Crazy Guy in his private home’s front yard.

A disappointed Apatow fired back with a letter threatening to reveal Martin’s address to Hollywood tourist bus companies if he didn’t comply with an additional request. The cheeky 13 year old asked Martin to mail him a signed copy of one his books.

Martin eventually complied.

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Apatow then quipped with the veteran film critic that he would not participate in his tête-à-tête unless Lyons promised to give him only good reviews from this day forward. Lyons replied with a non-committal grin.

Actor Michael B. Jordan read his tribute to Justin Nappi from a cell phone written speech. A graduate of New York University’s 2010 Tisch School of the Arts Kanbar Institute of Film and Television program, Nappi is the founder and president of Treehouse Pictures.  At only 25 years old, Nappi received the Emerging Producer Award for his work on films like “Arbitrage” starring Richard Geer, “All is Lost” starring Robert Redford and an official selection at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and “Adult World” with John Cusack and Emma Roberts.

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Several video tributes, including Will Ferrell and Richard Geer, rounded out the evening’s ceremony.

Apatow won the audience over by keeping true to his character throughout the evening. During the stand-up-comedy-like banter between Lyons and Apatow, he was asked if he would ever venture away from his brand of comedy and make a drama.

“I think life is already really hard; it’s the villain in my films,” Apatow swiftly replied.

Not even the formality of the San Diego Film Festival’s Visionary Award ceremony could rein in Apatow’s unique sense of humor. However, the Hitchcock of comedy (as Lyons referred to Apatow) made one thing perfectly clear: He is not giving up his humorous storytelling reign anytime soon.