As for Franco, Apatow was bent on rescuing his "Freaks and Geeks" slacker from being forever typecast as the dour Harry Osborne in the "Spider-Man" blockbusters.
When filmmaker and star ran into each other at the 2005 Austin Film Festival, "He told me, 'I miss the funny Franco,' " the actor recalls. "I told him I would love to do something with him. I did a lot of movies I was not proud of after Freaks. In hindsight, the show was such a special time. I didn't know how unique it was until later."
Apatow turned to producing only in self-defense. "I am primarily a writer," he says. "I produce to help ensure that things get made well. Earlier in my career, I wasn't a producer, and I could not control the way things would turn out. To protect what I envisioned, I had to be a producer. And if I am the producer, I don't have to fight with the producer."
Accordingly, he seems psyched about the writing credit he shares with former roommate Adam Sandler and Robert Smigel of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog fame on "You Don't Mess With the Zohan," the June 6 comedy about a Mossad agent who becomes a hairdresser. Not so coincidentally, Apatow just snared Sandler to star in his yet-untitled third directorial project.
The only drawback of being a member of the Judd club is that his involvement often overshadows the contributions of others. The Drillbit Taylor trailer declares, "From the guys who brought you 'Knocked Up' and 'Superbad,'" meaning Apatow and Rogen, a co-writer. But director Steven Brill had nothing to do with those films.
Brill doesn't bristle over the billing. "It's a marketing thing." It's also a case of turnabout is fair play.
"When Judd and I did Heavy Weights in 1995, we were partners 100%," he says of their co-written fat-camp comedy. "But the ads said, 'From the creator of ''The Mighty Ducks,'' " referring to Brill.
How the mighty Hollywood heavyweights have shifted.