By all accounts, there are very few people in Hollywood nicer than Paul Rudd.
If you search "Paul Rudd nice guy" on Google, a lengthy list full of headlines with variations on the phrase pop up, reminding you that his co-stars love him (Amy Poehler has described him as "Mr. Perfect"), fans love him, the press loves him—everyone loves him. Stephen Colbert went so far as to drop character during a 2014 interview with Rudd on The Colbert Report and label him "the nicest person on the planet."
Since his breakthrough in the iconic (and soon to possibly be reimagined as a dramatic TV series) 1995 comedy Clueless through his appearances on Friends as Phoebe's eventual husband Mike, his string of Judd Apatow-produced/directed comedies, his suiting up as Ant-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to now, as he stars opposite himself in the high-concept Netflix comedy Living With Yourself, the narrative that Rudd is, without fail, the nicest guy in whatever room you find him has never fallen away. And in a town like Hollywood, that's really saying something.
Happily married since 2003 to Julie Yaeger, whom he met shortly after working on Clueless as she worked in his publicist's office, the father-of-two (son Jack Sullivan is 15 and daughter Darby is 10) has never found himself embroiled in scandal, never been the subject of scathing rumor, never been the sort of actor whose poor reputation precedes him. If you were out to prove to someone that he's actually a closet jerk, you'd truly have your work cut out for you. Maybe it's his self-deprecating humor or his affable Midwest charm. Whatever it is, he's just one of the rare celebrities who exudes nothing but good vibes.
Being known as Mr. Nice Guy, however, is not a mantle that Rudd has always been so thrilled to carry.
"It's passive-aggressive," he told Elle of the title in 2018. "There's nothing sexy about nice; there's nothing alluring or intriguing. And yet, I really love it when people are nice. Because honestly, I just think life is so hard. There are so many things that can get you down—that are so frustrating and so maddening. As cornball as it sounds, kindness is a thing that can defuse it a little bit. Kindness and laughs."
When asked about Colbert's effusive praise from a few years back, which he bestowed upon the actor because of the time he sang Britney Spears' "Oops!...I Did It Again" on a loop with his then-six-year-old daughter to keep her entertained, by Parade last year, he admitted that he didn't even think it was all that accurate. "I don't think it's true. I know it's not," he told the publication. "I try to be polite to people. I think it feels better knowing that people probably think that I'm nice versus a jerk. [But] I know there are people out there that think I'm a jerk."
And yet, you'd be hard-pressed to find one.
Rudd attributes his easy charm to the fact that his British parents moved him around a lot, jumping from the East Coast to California to Kansas, leaving him feeling like an "outsider because I was always the new kid in school," he said.
"I think that by default, I would just try and ingratiate myself. I was never a wallflower by any means, but I do remember one time when I was in fourth grade and I was new at school in Kansas, and a kid in the class—his name was Casey McCarthy—came over to me and said, 'Hi, I'm Casey. Welcome to the school.' He was just so nice to me. I'd never seen another kid introduce himself to another kid to just be nice," he revealed. "Everybody said, 'Oh, Casey is so nice.' He had a big impact on me. I remember thinking I want to be like that kid, because he made me feel really comfortable at being new in school."
So, apparently, we have Casey to thank for giving us the man who encouraged Leonardo DiCaprio to star in Titanic and who feels so badly about running over Jennifer Aniston's foot with a Segway on first day on the set of Friends that he's still bringing it up. Him and that Midwest upbringing.
"I think that when I get a little nervous, I get a … smile," Rudd said about his charming interview persona during a panel at this year's New Yorker Festival. "I also think there's something about the Midwest. The people that I grew up with in the Midwest—there's something hardwired in them that they just don't take themselves too seriously. They don't get too big for their britches."
Even if, like Rudd, who will next star in the upcoming Ghostbusters film, they have every reason to.
Living With Myself is now available to stream on Netflix.