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Judd Apatow is extending his relationship with Universal. The director, writer and producer has inked a multiple-year deal with Universal’s film and television studios.
Apatow’s relationship on the film side dates back to his 2005 directorial debut, The 40-Year-Old Virgin. He would go on to direct Knocked Up (2007), Funny People (2009), This Is 40 (2012), Trainwreck (2012) and The King of Staten Island (2020) for the studio. He has the Netflix comedy The Bubble due out later this year, and he is currently producing Bros for Universal. The film, from director Nick Stoller and starring Billy Eichner, is the first major studio film to feature an all-LGBTQ+ lead cast.
He is a rare name-brand comedy features director in an era in which the theatrical landscape is increasingly dominated by tentpoles. As a producer, his feature credits include Bridesmaids (2011) and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013), with his films grossing nearly $3 billion. He joins directors such as Jordan Peele and M. Night Shyamalan and super-producer Jason Blum among the noteworthy filmmakers with Universal pacts.
“For 18 years Universal Pictures has been an incredibly creative and supportive partner in my film career,” Apatow said in a statement. “It only took me 18 years to realize I should probably try to do that with the television studio, too. I am so excited to get started.”
The TV element of the sweeping pact is notable as Apatow has had a longtime relationship with WarnerMedia-backed HBO. Apatow, who most recently had a first-look deal with the premium cable network, started his relationship there in the late 1980s as a volunteer for Comic Relief before joining The Larry Sanders Show as a writer in 1993. For HBO, Apatow exec produced Lena Dunham’s hit Girls and the Pete Holmes comedy Crashing. He earned an Emmy for his The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling documentary. His credits there also include George Carlin’s American Dream. Sources say HBO opted to not re-enter a deal with Apatow after the latest pact delivered only documentary fare, though the cabler is open to working with him again in the future.
Beyond HBO, Apatow has been a prolific comedy creator whose credits also include beloved one-and-dones Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared plus animated comedy The Critic and Netflix’s Love.
In Apatow, Pearlena Igbokwe’s Universal Studio Group lands a big-name comedy showrunner who can deliver documentary, scripted comedy and comedy specials as well as his own stand-up material. The timing comes as NBCU has faced an uphill battle in launching its own streaming service, Peacock. Signing a big-name writer-producer like Apatow will certainly help the streamer with must-see programming that can help drive subscriptions.
Apatow joins a comedy roster at Universal Studio Group that also includes Tina Fey, Mike Schur, Seth MacFarlane and Lorne Michaels, among others.
“We are eager to expand Judd’s longtime relationship with NBCUniversal by making his television home here at Universal Studio Group,” said Igbokwe. “We, like most audiences, are fans of his unconventional characters and unparalleled brand of comedy. We look forward to giving him a creative environment to do what he does best — make us laugh.”
Apatow becomes the latest name writer-producer to combine film and TV deals with one media conglomerate. Many film and TV studios are looking to harness the larger power of their portfolio to recruit top talent amid the streaming wars.
“Judd has championed the industry’s most groundbreaking comedic voices for the past two decades and has inspired and guided an entire generation of filmmakers and creators,” said Universal film boss Donna Langley. “His unerring eye for talent and his mastery as a writer and filmmaker continue to command the attention of audiences worldwide, even as the entertainment landscape has undergone seismic changes over the course of his career. We are thrilled to continue our relationship with Judd with this new pact and can’t wait to share what he and his team create with our global audience.”
Apatow is repped by UTA, Mosaic and Ziffren Brittenham.
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