Can you think of a better pair of unlikely road trip companions than Paul Rudd and Selena Gomez? The two put that theory to the test in The Fundamentals of Caring, an adaptation of the 2012 sick-lit hit The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving. In the film, Rudd plays Ben, an out-of-work novelist, who’s become a home health aide in the wake of a tragedy, while British up-and-comer Craig Roberts (Submarine; a dead-ringer young Martin Freeman) plays Trevor, his foul-mouthed 18-year-old ward, who’s confined to a wheelchair with muscular dystrophy. The pair bond over a mutually crass sense of humor — Trevor’s first question to Ben is, “How would you wipe my ass?” — and eventually Ben convinces Trevor’s overprotective mother (Jennifer Ehle) to let her son go out and experience the world. They head off on a road trip to all the places Trevor has become obsessed with while watching the local news, including their holy grail: the World’s Deepest Pit. Along the way, they pick up a straight-talking young runaway, Dot, played by Selena Gomez, who starts a sweet road-romance with Trevor. You’ll be able to catch Caregiving on Netflix, which picked up the worldwide streaming rights. We talked to Gomez and Rudd about what makes a good road tripper, their search for hotel ghosts, and their best hitchhiking stories. (They’re pretty good!)
Paul Rudd [Seeing my knee brace]: Skiing?
Snowboarding. I was thinking we could go to my doctor together. [To Selena] We did an article where he took me on a visit to his optometrist.
Rudd: She was doing an interview and she says, “What do you want to do? You want to get lunch?” And I was like, “Well, I have to go to the eye doctor today,” so you interviewed me as I was getting my eyes dilated.
Selena Gomez: What?! I love that! That’s kind of amazing.
Best interview ever. Anyway, are you guys uniquely bonded, given that this movie is basically a road trip?
Rudd: I’d say we hit it off [Snaps] right away. Wouldn’t you say so?
Gomez: [Laughs, puts on a newscaster voice] I would, Paul.
Rudd: We met on this movie and we’ve remained friends ever since, and I’m just continually in awe. You know, I host this charity event every year for Children’s Mercy Hospital with these other guys in Kansas City and Selena just said, “Yeah, I’ll come.” This was after the movie.
How much of the movie actually imitated a road trip?
Gomez: For me, most of the road trip stuff was green screened, so the most memorable experiences I had with the gang were just being in random motels, hotels, abandoned places that are really sketch.
Rudd: It’s cold and you’re shooting all night, so you tend to get a little loopy …
Gomez: You get delirious …
Rudd: … and those are good bonding times for all of us sitting in this hotel room.
Gomez: And then we got the ghost app? Remember?
Rudd: Yeah, that’s right! You got a ghost app!
Gomez: We were hunting ghosts, and he humored me so I could believe it was real.
Did you find any?
Gomez: Yeah, I think her name was Cathy or something?
Rudd: Bonnie? I’ve never even heard of this, you get it on your phone and if you’re near a ghost, it would tell you. I think the first one was, “Ope! Douglas is here!”
Gomez: [Laughs] At 3 a.m. anything is entertaining.
Selena, you’re the only girl for a lot of the movie. Did the guys get protective of you?
Gomez: I definitely always felt safe. Yeah.
Rudd: I think that we were protective in that, you know, no matter where we were shooting people in the town would tweet it, and everyone knew that Selena was on the film, so we would be shooting and then thousands of people might show up. But Selena is such a pro and so kind that she after shooting she would meet everybody and say hello.
You were like the Pied Piper coming into town?
Gomez: Not all the time but, yeah, when we were outside or we’d shoot in places that were kind of in the middle of the town. But it was calm, it was nice.
They weren’t like “Ant-Man’s here!”?
Rudd: No, they were not. [Laughs]
Are you good road trip people in your real lives?
Gomez: I mean, I tour, so that’s like one big road trip for me. I like driving. I’m from Texas, so it takes us, like, 3 days to get through the entire state. I’m a good road tripper, I think.
What makes a good road tripper?
Gomez: Umm, music? You have to have good taste in music.
Rudd: You’ve got to be able to pick out a good variety of snacks. Anybody that’s going on a road trip and doesn’t really want to get into a myriad of snacks is probably no one you want to get in the car with.
Yeah, you don’t want someone who considers Craisins a good snack.
Rudd: Craisins are fine! But you also have to have, like, a giant thing of coffee, you need the candy, you need chips, you need lots of cash-ewwws — you need a wide variety.
Gomez: Cash-ewwws! [Laughs]
Your characters are on a mission to visit the World’s Deepest Pit. Was it actually a really beautiful experience for you?
Rudd: In all honesty wasn’t really the world’s deepest pit. It was a big pit and it was pretty cool.
Gomez: It was beautiful, but it was freezing. And then — Spoiler alert! — we had to take care of a baby and the whole birthing scene. It was a little stressful in the pit!
Rudd: It was hard. Not fun, really. [Slumps over, pouts] Acting’s really hard, guys!
Gomez: Paul, shut up! See I can’t get anything done — all I did was laugh the entire time.
So, why were each of you so into the script? I really love Dot and Trevor’s love story, by the way. It’s so sweet.
Gomez: Thanks. I hadn’t read the book when I got the script, but I completely resonated with the characters. I understood that these were three broken people that were going through their own separate journeys, and I was willing and I wanted to go there. I wanted to do all of the things that I could do with her. So I auditioned three times.
So you wanted it — bad.
Gomez: I did, yeah. [Writer-director Rob Burnett] asked me if I would cut my hair. Obviously, I don’t think he would’ve pictured me in the part when he was writing the script, but we pieced it together and created the look and did the hair and it kind of all worked. It was really fun.
Rudd: I was just drawn to the script. I thought it was really funny and sweet and moving, and I liked all of these characters. I liked how all of them were dealing with their own profound traumas and yet were hilarious with each other and with their situation. Ben and Trevor have this gallows humor way of dealing with their situation that I found really appealing. And then they meet Dot, Selena’s character, who is this kind of spitfire who’s more no-bullshit than they are. In a way, they don’t know how to deal with her, and she comes into this world and shakes it up even more. All the while, it’s funny. Like, you’re dealing with a sad and difficult subject matter, but hopefully it’s not sentimental or saccharine. Actually, it’s the opposite of that.
What I really like about Dot is that she doesn’t feel sorry for Trevor. She’s like, “What’s wrong with you?”
Gomez: I think people could be a little bit more like that in a way, because I love the fact that she’s not afraid to say what’s on her mind. And it’s not too crass. It’s kind of balanced by how he wants to be the protector, asking where I’m from, where’s my family, and then I end up — completely besides the fact of his condition — just falling for the person that he is, which I think is endearing.
Paul, did you practice how to pick up this young female hitchhiker without it seeming skeevy?
Rudd: Yeah, I did. I went out a month before shooting and tried to find as many young female hitchhikers as I could, and I would drive them to wherever they wanted to go unless it was really far. [Laughs] So that was the preparation that I did.
It’s just such an odd part of the movie. How do you convince this young woman that you’re totally cool and you’re not, as she keeps saying, a “pervert.”
Rudd: Well, the thing about acting [Laughs] — Oh god!
Gomez: Don’t do it.
Rudd: You know, Stanislavski said — [Heaves] oh my god, my organs are shutting down. [Collapses on the couch]
Gomez: Luckily, you don’t give pervert vibes, Paul. That’s a good thing.
Rudd: Oh, I could very easily give pervert vibes.
Have either of you ever hitchhiked?
Gomez: I got in trouble for doing it! I went outside my house and did it when I was like 8. I got in so much trouble because two cars stopped, and then I’d run inside because I was scared.
Where did you think you were going to go?!
Gomez: I don’t know! I just saw it in a movie and I thought I’d try it.
Thank god they didn’t take you.
Gomez: I know! [Laughs] I was just asking to get kidnapped.
Rudd: I’ve hitchhiked — it is “hitchhiked,” and not “hitchedhike” like “passersby,” right? — a couple of times, but only in emergency situations, and that’s really the time that it’s okay to hitchhike.
Like when you ran out of gas or something?
Rudd: One time I was on my way to the airport and the cab I was in broke down. And I had to get on the flight, and I knew it wasn’t going to happen. So all of these cars were going to the airport; I could just tell because I was not that far from JFK. So I hitchhiked, and this awesome couple — the girl’s name was Ali Brown, I still remember — picked me up and took me to the airport. Another time, it was my very first job. I was working on the show Sisters, and I had this car that always broke down. Always. I was 22 or something, and I was always asking my roommate at the time, “Can you drive to me to work, to Warner Bros., on set?” So he would very begrudgingly drive me on occasion. Little side note: We had a deal. He was so mad that part of the deal was that when we got in the car, he was allowed to breathe in my face for a minute because he had the worst morning breath, and I had to take it. And then he would take me to work.
Gomez: Oh my god. That is the weirdest deal.
Rudd: It was super weird, but that was the deal. And he was getting so pissed off about having to do it that one time, I’m like, “All right, my car is back in the shop” — it broke down again. And I thought, Oh my god, I cannot call my roommate to take me and I have to get to work. It was my first real acting job. And it was too long to get a cab, so I started trying to hitchhike. And no one was picking me up. It was right outside of a mini-mall. And I remember, a guy was coming out of a 7-11 or something, and I ran over to him and I said, “Is there any way you can take me to Warner Bros.?” And I had a script. I said, “I have to get to work. This is the show I’m on, this is my character. I’m not fucking around. Could you please help me? I’ll give you 20 bucks if you take me to Warner Bros.”
Gomez: Did he?
Rudd: He was like, “Are you serious man?” He was kind of freaked out. But he said, “You’re on this show, really?” And I said, “Yes, I promise you.” He said, “My wife watches this show, so yeah, I’ll take you.” So he took me to Warner Bros. [Laughs]
Selena, were you scared off after doing it at age 8?
Gomez: I got in so much trouble! I was a kid! I don’t know what I was doing. Yeah, no, never again.
Paul, final question for you. Trevor’s greatest dream in the movie is to pee standing up, so tell me, is peeing standing up really life’s number one joy?
Rudd: Yeah, it’s pretty great. [long pause] It beats shitting standing up.
Gomez: Oh my god. That’s a great way to end this.