Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann had fairly different upbringings, with Apatow being born and raised in Queens, while Mann grew up on the opposite coast in California. As a child, Apatow was obsessed with comedy, counting Bill Cosby and Steve Martin among his many heroes and influencers. Meanwhile, Mann was focused on being an actress She got her start right out of high school in commercials. One was an east coast comedian, the other a west coast actress, so it seems almost a miracle that the two ever got the chance to meet and fall in love.
After a series of commercials, Mann finally got her big break in 2006, when she was cast opposite Matthew Broderick in the dark comedy "The Cable Guy." By this time, Apatow had moved to the west coast to pursue a career in standup comedy and comedy writing. He was succeeding. One of his first big gigs was writing for the Grammy Awards. Around this time, Apatow was also introduced to actor Ben Stiller, who was stepping behind the camera to helm "The Cable Guy." Stiller hired Apatow to help him produce the film, which is where he would meet Mann for the first time.
Apatow recalls that he was taken aback by Mann's beauty, and he was sure that she would not like him. Fortunately, he was wrong, and the two began dating while filming was still going on. They fell in love on the set, and Mann later became pregnant with their first daughter. The two got married in a hurry and welcomed their daughter Maude in 1998. They would later have a second daughter, Iris, born in 2002. Both girls have appeared in "Knocked Up," "Funny People," and "This is 40," all of which starred their famous mom and were either directed or produced by their dad.
After settling into married life and fatherhood, Apatow got lots of inspiration for his writing, which led to plenty of opportunities to produce and eventually direct. During this time he co-created the cult classic television show "Freaks and Geeks," which starred future superstars Seth Rogen, James Franco, and Jason Segel. It wasn't until 2005 that he would hit the Hollywood jackpot, directing the unexpected smash "The 40 Year Old Virgin," which starred Steve Carell in his breakout roll. Mann had a small but memorable roll in the film as one of Carell's dates who vomited on him. With the massive success of this film, Apatow had clout in the film industry and massive comedy credibility as well. This potent combo meant he was able to make just about any film he wanted. He has since directed eight films and produced twenty, many of them starring Mann and other actors he has come to rely on in multiple films, including Rogen, Segel, and Paul Rudd.
There is a belief in some circles in Hollywood that Mann only does films that her husband is involved in, but this is simply not true. Even though they have a long-lasting marriage by Hollywood standards, they have both pursued plenty of work without the other. Mann has done voice work in the "Rio" animated movie and "ParaNorman," and she also made a very memorable cameo in an episode of the smash hit series "Modern Family." She also starred opposite romantic comedy queen Jennifer Aniston in "The Change-Up" and took a dramatic turn as a harried mother in "Little Birds." In that same time, Apatow has produced a number of projects without Mann, including "Girls" for HBO, "The Five-Year Engagement" with Segel, and "Bridesmaids" with "Saturday Night Live" vet Kristin Wiig.
Even though they do plenty of work apart, Apatow said in an interview that he relies on Mann when he writes a script to provide him with input. He says he is a guy and he finds certain things funny that women do not, so he needs a female point of view. When he was writing the screenplay for "This is 40," he tossed ideas at Mann, who then pitched him scenes from the perspective of Debbie, her character who she had already played once in "Knocked Up." He said he needs this balance in his work, which has sometimes been called misogynistic and sexist, most famously by "Knocked Up" star Katherine Heigl. In the final version of "This is 40," the balance of power seems much more even, which is likely the result of Mann's suggestions. With this type of collaborative input, Mann and Apatow show that you can mix business with pleasure, as long as it's funny.