BRIGHT WEITZ With his brother, Chris, 38-year-old Paul Weitz has co-directed or co-written such Hollywood blockbusters as American Pie, Antz, and About a Boy. The two will be panelists at the Austin Film Festival, which runs October 9-12.
You have an extensive filmography for your age. Are you a workaholic or is everybody else just lazy?
I think I used to motivate myself through fear mostly. I started out as a playwright and struggled as a writer for a few years, so I definitely don't take it for granted that I can make a living in a creative pursuit.
What were the plays like?
They were dark comedies. I had a few staged in New York, and I had a series of the worst reviews I've ever read.
What did they say?
I was called puerile. I'd have to look up the derogatory words the critics were using. I quit because I realized I couldn't bum off my father for the rest of my life and I had to make a living. That sort of made me a little bit of a workaholic.
Did you have to lobby hard to do American Pie ?
Yeah, well, we had written Antz, which got us in the door, but we were pretty shocked that we were getting the opportunity to pitch ourselves as the directors.
How did you pitch it?
What we told them was that we wanted to aim it toward girls. This was right after Titanic came out and girls were going to see Titanic six or seven times. Prior to that, people assumed that only boys were stupid enough to see a movie that many times, but we went in and had that angle with the mostly female top brass at Universal.
You've written and directed a wide variety of comedy; what type of films are you and your brother pursuing right now?
I don't think we want to do the exact same thing, but we'd probably like to do something more like About a Boy. Our next film is called Synergy. We're not going to be shooting it until next year.
Do you listen to your friends and family more than to what the critics or box-office numbers tell you?
Friends and family can really inhibit you. Especially family. You don't want to be doing stuff just to make your parents—be they dead or alive—happy. (See Austin: Other Events.)