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How Amy Schumer & Judd Apatow Turned LeBron James Into A Movie Star

What should turn into the summer of Amy Schumer actually got its start in March. Universal brought a work-in-progress cut of “Trainwreck” — the new comedy Schumer wrote and stars in for director Judd Apatow — to this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, four months before its proper release. The response was rapturous: Vanity Fair called the film a “total triumph,” and we’d be hard-pressed to disagree. After the debut on Sunday night, The Huffington Post spoke to Schumer and Apatow about the film’s breakout performance from LeBron James, the state of the romantic comedy and Bill Cosby.

LeBron James is an absolute scene-stealer in this movie. Did you expect him to be such a good performer?

Apatow: You wonder if they’re going to be good, or if you’re going to spoon feed it line by line. You just don’t know. But we’ve had some amazing experiences over the years with people being funny, like when we did Eminem and James Taylor in “Funny People.” I used to work at “The Larry Sanders Show,” so I’ve seen those people walk in — and if they can be themselves, they can be riotously funny. LeBron’s a genuinely hilarious guy in a way most people don’t see that often. He was very game to do what was asked of him. He was like, “Tell me how you want to do it.” He wasn’t trying to control his image.

Schumer: We were more worried about his image!

Apatow: We had this odd idea of this bizarro version of LeBron James who was deeply concerned with Bill’s life and relationships. He thought it was funny, so he went for it fully. He was improvising. It wasn’t just us giving him jokes, a lot of best stuff in the movie was stuff he did based on his own instincts.

This is the first time Bill Hader has played a leading man like this. Amy, was he the ideal version of that character when you wrote the script?

Schumer: That was the hardest role for me to write, because I am single. And who is the guy who would be good? Bill just brought so much to that. He filled the character’s holes up with his own ideas. I wouldn’t say he was the ideal, but he surpassed anything I could possibly hope for.

Apatow: In life, he is a leading man. When I have lunch with him, I’m like, “You’re a leading man.” I always think the slightly off guys are really interesting leads, but they don’t naturally get those opportunities. People never thought of Seth Rogen as a leading man. But I like movies about people who would normally play the interesting, funny friend. Having them as the lead is fun.

You’ve succeeded in making a mainstream rom-com at a time when the genre seems to be struggling on a studio level. Where do you think the romantic comedy is at right now?

Apatow: I never think of it as a burnt-out genre. It’s just as good as the movie. I think people desperately want romantic comedies, and they don’t want ones they’ve seen before. But it should be a part of your diet. It makes you happy to see people come together and watch how they figure it out. It’s always sad when people say, “Is the rom-com dead?” No, it’s alive if the next one is good. Everything is dead when you see a bad movie.

Judd, before the premiere on Sunday night, you said you “would rather talk about Bill Cosby for 15 minutes.” What do you want to say about him?

Apatow: I always can [talk about him]. But I don’t think there is anything to say. There’s nothing to say.

Have you thought about making a documentary about him and the allegations?

Apatow: No. I’m just sad he’s not in jail. I think when people do things like that they should pay the consequences.

Schumer: Can he at least just get community service? Just pick up litter for a day? If it gets to 100 women?

This interview has been edited and condensed. “Trainwreck” is out on July 17.