The Stunning Transformation Of Paul Rudd

While he might have been named People's 2021 pick for Sexiest Man Alive, actor Paul Rudd has endured ups and downs throughout his decades-long career in Hollywood, and those ups and downs have helped him become a multi-faceted father, husband, actor, and writer. From getting his big start on the TV sitcom "Sisters" (which also co-starred George Clooney and Ashley Judd) to earning writer credits for "Ant-Man" and "Ant-Man and Wasp," Paul Rudd has accomplished a lot.

His breakthrough role was in the 1995 teen film "Clueless," when he charmed audiences as the somewhat arrogant, frustratingly intellectual former step-brother of the movie's focus, Cher (played by Alicia Silverstone). Since then, Rudd has made one excellent turn after another, including roles in films such as "Anchorman," "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," and, of course, several movies in the MCU (via IMDb).

Here's a look at the life and times of one of our favorite actors, from from his childhood to his present-day life.

Paul Rudd grew up in Kansas with British parents

For someone who has been happily proud of his Midwestern roots (he once told The Guardian, "There is something about growing up in the midwest that gives a different kind of sensibility"), it might surprise you to learn that Paul Rudd is the child of two British expats. Rudd's father was employed by Trans World Airlines while he was growing up, and the actor told The Guardian that his family moved around a bit before eventually settling in Kansas. 

Rudd also explained that, even though he is fond of the region, he sometimes felt out of place in Kansas for a couple of reasons, including the birth country of his parents and his religious and cultural identity. He said, "I was always in new schools and had British parents, which was not the norm ... I'm not particularly religious, but I was born Jewish and I always felt like the outsider because I wasn't Christian or Catholic."

Interestingly, two other notable actors and comedians are from the same town where Rudd grew up. As shared by Elle, both Rob Riggle and Jason Sudeikis are from Overland Park, Kansas, too.

As a kid, he had a 'traumatic' experience with the Steelers

Paul Rudd has been open about his passion for the football team the Kansas City Chiefs, but it turns out that, when he was young, he was also a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. In fact, he once told Conan O'Brien that he and his dad had the opportunity to meet the Steelers in the 1970s, so they leapt at the chance. Unfortunately, he went on to describe the whole experience as less than pleasant, but in a funny way.

Rudd explained that a friend of his father's knew Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, which is how they got their shot. As he and his dad walked into the locker room, they were greeted with an unexpected sight. Rudd said, "And it was the most incredible thing, because I walked in, and they were all just naked." He continued, "I'm about 9 years old, and just Mean Joe Greene's d*** and balls [go] right past my face, which is just traumatic."

Rudd continued the story by adding that he also ended up learning what a jockstrap was during the then-traumatizing but now super hilarious experience.

He's described his high school years as awkward

Despite the fact that Paul Rudd has been celebrated as People's Sexiest Man Alive, he's been up front about the fact that, like most of us, he endured an awkward phase a teenager. After joking that he was probably the sexiest baby alive, Rudd admitted that he's sure there's photo evidence from his youth that would run contradictory to the title bestowed on him by the magazine. 

Rudd insisted that puberty did a number on him by explaining to People, "Oh my God, puberty hit me like a Mack Truck. All of a sudden my hair got really curly, my skin would break out, I was self-conscious like anybody. I took medicine and it made my lips dry out."

Happily for Rudd, many people all over the world clearly agree that he's grown out of his awkward phase, despite his insistence that he's still experiencing it.

Paul Rudd worked a series of odd jobs before becoming an actor

Like a lot of stars, Paul Rudd didn't just wake up and decide to be an actor one day and start securing parts. He had to work a series of odd and truly random jobs on his way up the ladder in the acting world. In 2015, he told IMDb that he had a lot of pretty standard odd jobs for years, including delivering newspapers and working at a grocery store. He's also previously owned up to working as a Bat Mitzvah DJ (per People), but the job that just might be the weirdest was one he took while still living in Kansas.

In 2015, while appearing on "Live! With Kelly and Michael" (via People), Rudd admitted that he once worked as a ham glazer, detailing how he often used a propane torch to melt sugar onto the ham. He said the act was "like a rhythm," before adding, "It was one of the weirder jobs I've ever had." According to CNBC Make It, Rudd, who attended the University of Kansas after high school, did this job to save money so he could move to Los Angeles for his acting career.

Paul Rudd got his first recurring TV role with Sisters

Long before he became known around the world as teeny tiny superhero Ant-Man, Paul Rudd got his start on a television showed called "Sisters." Rudd wasn't the only future big name on the show; his co-stars included Ashley Judd, who was Rudd's girlfriend on the series, and George Clooney, who played Detective James Falconer (per Today). Rudd joined the show in Season 3, and he played Kirby Philby, who eloped with Judd's Reed Halsey. The pair had a baby together and eventually endured a pretty nasty divorce (per TVLine). 

But "Sisters" wasn't the only TV show that Rudd had a run on. In 1994, he joined the cast of the sitcom "Wild Oats," though the show was canceled very quickly, after only four episodes (via TV Guide).

Rudd hasn't said much about his time on either show, and that could be because another gig soon overshadowed his early work.

Clueless put Paul Rudd on the map in 1995

If people didn't know Paul Rudd was before 1995, the release of teen film "Clueless" put him on the map. Rudd played Josh, the former step-brother of the film's protagonist, Cher. The pair end up falling for one another by the end of the movie, an act that isn't as strange as it might seem because their parents are no longer together.

Rudd later told The Guardian that he feels happy and proud to have been part of a movie that continues to strike a chord with audiences to this day. He recalled that the cast even discussed the possibility of it finding major success, but there was no way to know how big the movie would become. He said, "I remember after we'd done the first table read and the whole cast went out to get something to eat and someone said: 'How cool would it be if this movie is to kids now what those John Hughes movies had been to us?' So that it turned out to be that way was just a fluke."

While Rudd's feelings about "Clueless" are more positive than not, he did joke in 2019 that there's one scene he just can't stand. While speaking on a panel at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (via Us Weekly), Rudd answered a question about advice he'd give his younger self by saying, "When I go to the kitchen and I make the sandwich, I would put the mayonnaise on the bread, and not directly onto the turkey itself."

Paul Rudd's career took off

After starring in "Clueless," Paul Rudd experienced a rise in Hollywood that was pretty meteoric. In 1996, he was a member of the cast of Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo + Juliet," playing Juliet's fiancé, Paris. Apart from starring in the film, Rudd has shared that it's possible he played a role in convincing co-star Leonardo DiCaprio to take his "Titanic" role as Jack Dawson. While being interviewed on "The Graham Norton Show," Rudd, whose father worked as an expert on the Titanic (via TheWrap), told his host that he and DiCaprio were riding together when the latter mentioned he had been offered a role in a major film.

Rudd explained, "I said, 'That's incredible!' And I knew a lot about Titanic because my dad just talked about it ... And we had a conversation about it and [DiCaprio] was saying, 'Oh, like I don't know what I'll do.' I remember saying, 'You should do it!'"

Rudd continued to appear in successful films and TV shows. He co-starred in 2001's "Wet Hot American Summer" and then joined the cast of "Friends" during the show's last two seasons. While he is remembered fondly by audiences for his role as Mike, Phoebe's husband, Rudd later said that his role wasn't that big of a deal. While speaking to actor Chris Evans for Variety, he explained, "I felt ...  'I'm like a prop on this show. It's not about Mike Hannigan.'"

The actor married his wife, Julie Yaeger, in 2003

Paul Rudd said "I do" to his wife Julie Yaeger all the way back in 2003, and the two have enjoyed one of Hollywood's most-enduring love stories ever since. Their "how we met" story is pretty cute. As shared by writer Luke Crisell, Rudd and Yaeger met when the actor moved to New York after wrapping "Clueless" and was looking for a publicist. Yaeger worked in the office he eventually signed on with, one thing led to another, and the two ended up going out for lunch. Long story short: it was just simply meant to be.

Rudd later told Marie Claire that he knew Yaeger was special from the beginning. He told the publication, "She was the first person I met in New York. We started talking and there was a maturity with her — she had experienced some tragedy in her life, I had too, and the impression I got was, wow, this is a woman. This isn't a girl."

The couple dated for several years before they got married in 2003. While she's no longer working in that publicist's office, Yaeger has maintained her own career. She served as a producer for "The Suite with Dave Karger" in 2005 and wrote 2017's "Fun Mom Dinner" (via The U.S. Sun).

He became a father

Paul Rudd and his wife, Julie Yaeger, welcomed their first child together, son Jack, in 2004 (via Heavy). The pair's daughter, Darby, was born five years later. Rudd has been incredibly open about how his wife and children are first and foremost in his mind, telling People that the roles of husband and father are everything to him. He said, "When I think about myself, I think of myself as a husband and a father, like I'm that. I just hang out with my family when I'm not working."

It sounds like Rudd has a great relationship with both of his kids ... and a relationship that is pretty honest. He told ET that when he explained to Jack that he'd be playing the superhero Ant-Man, his son had a pretty dark reply. Rudd shared, "What he actually said was, 'Well, I can't wait to see how stupid that'll be.'"

Rudd has also shared that his daughter, Darby, had a big impact on "Ant-Man," even if she didn't know it. While speaking at an event for the film, Rudd said about his daughter (via JaMonkey), "I think she really loves it, because I tell her, you know, you're the real Cassie. ... I do little things in the movie that are little things for her."

Paul Rudd continued to find great work on television

"Friends" isn't the only beloved TV show that Paul Rudd has starred on! In 2006, Rudd came on board the cast of "Reno 911!" as Guy Gerricault. Creator and star Robert Ben Garant later told MTV News that when it comes to a star like Rudd, the show liked to give freedom so he could really enjoy himself. Gerricault explained, "Like Paul Rudd's a really weird, silly, silly man. He gets on 'Friends' and he gets to show, like, one tiny little window of how truly berserk he can be. They come onto our set and we just sorta give them the freedom to do whatever they want."

In 2012, he joined the cast of yet another celebrated series, "Parks and Recreation." As reported by Vulture, Rudd joined the show as political opponent Bobby Newport for Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler). The two actually co-starred in "Wet Hot American Summer" before they were both mega stars, so the reunion had to be pretty fun for them!

He and his family live in Rhinebeck, New York

In 2012, Paul Rudd gave an interview with GQ in which he revealed a few personal details about his home life. For starters, it turns out that he and his family have a home in upstate New York that is pretty unique — there is a completely functioning Irish pub in the basement! He explained to the publication that he even has a plaque in the basement that is a Certificate of Irishness from editor Paddy McKenna. He added, "I have a pub in my house in upstate New York. It's totally free! That's the great thing about having your own pub" (via Heavy).

That's not the only investment Rudd has made in the area. Heavy noted that he also co-owns a nearby candy shop called Samuel's Sweet Shop with fellow actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan. The pair pitched in to buy the shop after its owner, Ira Gutner, died suddenly. Morgan later explained to Stephen Colbert that Gutner was the first person he met in the area, and that, after his death, he and Rudd just decided to dive in and buy it.

Paul Rudd joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2015

When Paul Rudd came on board the MCU as Ant-Man in 2015, he knew that his might not be the first name that sprang to people's minds when they imagined a Marvel superhero. He told The Guardian as much, explaining, "I knew being in this would make people say: 'What? Really?'" Luckily, audiences enjoyed Rudd's portrayal of the hero, and he later returned for 2016's "Captain America: Civil War," 2018's "Ant-Man and Wasp," and more MCU films.

While speaking to Chris Evans, who played Captain America, for Variety, Rudd later admitted that he was pretty nervous when he joined the entire Avengers team for "Civil War." He added that seeing the superhero suits is what sealed the deal for him, saying, "We're all kind of changing into things, and I saw all the suits on the racks. ... It felt like being in a locker room of a Super Bowl-winning football team."

He contributed to the script for Ant-Man and Wasp

Working on the "Ant-Man" films didn't only expand Paul Rudd's acting resume; he also contributed to the script for both the original "Ant-Man" and the sequel "Ant-Man and Wasp" and received writer credits for his work. Rudd told /Film that the process of writing a film for Marvel can take quite some time, especially when the film is part of such a giant series since things can keep changing. He explained, "It's been going on for a while, but it's also this behemoth of a thing that's always changing and incorporating new ideas, and they're also always developing one movie along with many others, so different ideas are kind of changing."

According to his IMDb page, those aren't the only two writer credits that Rudd has to his name. He wrote the screenplay for 2008's "Role Models," and starred in the film as well. He told CNN that working on the film was a rewarding experience, saying, "'Role Models' is the one that's coming out that was really, really enriching and fun and personal in many ways, because it's the first movie I co-wrote."

Rudd is also credited as the creator of and a writer for the 2009 TV series "Party Down." Though the show was canceled after two seasons, it amassed a kind of cult following. Still, Rudd told the Miami New Times that he wasn't completely surprised that Starz took the series off the air, even if the move was a disappointment.

In 2021, Paul Rudd was crowned People's Sexiest Man Alive

Fans of Paul Rudd were delighted when the actor was named People's Sexiest Man Alive in 2021, but it seems Paul Rudd himself was a bit surprised. He told People that he believes there are plenty if people who should have earned the honor before he did, saying, "This is not false humility. There are so many people that should get this before me."

Rudd added that he's not the only one bemused by the award, and that his wife, Julie, was "stupefied" when she first heard the news, but then she collected herself well. He explained to the publication that, in the end, she had a great response, adding, "But you know she was very sweet about it. After some giggling and shock, she said 'Oh, they got it right.' And that was very sweet."

Rudd also joked that he has plans to create business cards that boast his new title, and he hopes he gets invited to "sexy dinners" alongside past winners of the award like Michael B. Jordan and George Clooney.