Younger fans may know Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, a small but mighty member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, the actor has been a Hollywood mainstay for half his life.
Rudd’s breakout role came in 1995’s Clueless, where he played Josh, Alicia Silverstone’s charming love interest in Amy Heckerling’s beloved spin on Jane Austen’s Emma. In the 2000s, Rudd became better known for his comedic work when he starred in movies like Wet Hot American Summer (2001), Anchorman (2004), The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005), Knocked Up (2007), and I Love You, Man (2009).
It wasn’t until 2015 that Rudd stepped into the ever-growing world of superhero movies when he was cast as Scott Lang, a.k.a. Ant-Man, and became part of the MCU.
Rudd has proven he can take on any part, serious or goofy. Here are some things you might not have known about the star.
1. Paul Rudd is technically Paul Rudnitzky.
Though Paul Rudd was born in Passaic, New Jersey, both of his parents hail from London—his father was from Edgware and his mother from Surbiton. Both of his parents were descendants of Jewish immigrants who moved to England from from Russia and Poland. Rudd’s last name was actually Rudnitzky, but it was changed by his grandfather.
2. Paul Rudd’s parents are second cousins.
In a 2017 episode of Finding Your Roots, Rudd learned that his parents were actually second cousins. Rudd responded to the discovery in typical comedic fashion: “Which explains why I have six nipples.” He also wondered what that meant for his own family. “Does this make my son also my uncle?,” he asked.
3. Paul Rudd loved comic books as a kid.
While Rudd did read Marvel Comics as a kid, he preferred Archie Comics and other funny stories. His English cousins would send him British comics, too, like Beano and Dandy, which he loved.
4. Paul Rudd wanted to play Christian in Clueless. And Murray.
Clueless would have been a completely different movie if Rudd had been cast as the suave Christian instead of the cute older stepbrother-turned-love-interest Josh. But before he was cast as Cher’s beau, he initially wanted the role of the “ringa ding kid” Christian.
“I thought Justin Walker’s character, Christian, was a really good part,” Rudd told Entertainment Weekly in 2012. “It was a cool idea, something I’d never seen in a movie before—the cool gay kid. And then I asked to read for Donald Faison’s part, because I thought he was kind of a funny hip-hop wannabe. I didn’t realize that the character was African-American.”
5. Paul Rudd idolizes Paul Newman.
In a 2008 interview for Role Models, which he co-wrote and starred in, Rudd was asked about his real-life role model. He answered Paul Newman, saying he admired the legendary actor because he gave a lot to the world before leaving it.
6. Before Paul Rudd was Ant-Man, he wanted to be Adam Ant.
In a 2011 interview with Grantland, Rudd talked about his teenage obsession with ’80s English rocker Adam Ant. “Puberty hit me like a Mack truck, and my hair went from straight to curly overnight,” Rudd explained. “But it was an easier pill to swallow because Adam Ant had curly hair. I used to ask my mom to try and shave my head on the sides to give me a receding hairline because Adam Ant had one. I didn’t know what a receding hairline was. I just thought he looked cool. She said, ‘Absolutely not,’ but I was used to that.”
Ant wasn’t the only musician Rudd tried to emulate. “[My mom] also shot me down when I asked if I could bleach just the top of my head like Howard Jones. Any other kid would’ve been like, ‘F*** you, mom! I’m bleaching my hair.’ I was too nice,” he said.
7. Romeo + Juliet wasn’t Paul Rudd’s first go as a Shakespearean actor.
Yet another one of Rudd’s iconic ’90s roles was in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, but it was far from the actor’s first brush with Shakespeare. Rudd spent three years studying Jacobean theater in Oxford, England, and starred in a production of Twelfth Night. He was described by his director, Sir Nicholas Hytner, as having “emotional and intellectual volatility.” Hytner’s praise was a big deal, considering he was the director of London’s National Theatre from 2003 until 2015.
8. Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man will launch Phase Five of the MCU.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania kicks off the next phase of the MCU. Rudd’s character will be more than just comic relief this time. As Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige told Empire, “We wanted to kick off phase five with Ant-Man because he’d earned that position. To not simply be the back-up or the comic relief, but to take his position at the front of the podium of the MCU.” The movie, which opens in theaters on February 17, 2023, will see Rudd face off against Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror, the MCU’s next big villain.
A version of this story originally ran in 2019; it has been updated for 2023.