Rudd made his acting debut in 1992 with the television drama Sisters where he played Kirby Quimby Philby. In 1994, he appeared in Wild Oats for six episodes. Rudd left Sisters in 1995 to appear in the comedy film Clueless with Alicia Silverstone. He also appeared in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, The Locusts, Overnight Delivery, The Object of My Affection, and 200 Cigarettes. He was part of the cast of the 1999 film The Cider House Rules that received a SAG nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
He played FBI Agent Ian Curtis in Benny Chan's 2000 Hong Kong action film Gen-Y Cops. In 2002, he was cast on the sitcom Friends as Mike Hannigan, who dates and then marries Phoebe Buffay, played by Lisa Kudrow. In 2006, he appeared in several episodes of Reno 911! as "Guy Gerricault" (pronounced "jericho"), the coach of a lamaze class, and then portrayed a drug lord in the Reno 911!: Miami film. He guest-starred as a has-been 1990s rock star, Desmond Fellows, on the television series Veronica Mars, in the 2007 episode "Debasement Tapes".
The year 2004 marked the start of his work with director/producer Judd Apatow, first on the film Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy as Brian Fantana with Steve Carell, David Koechner and Will Ferrell, produced by Apatow and again in 2005 in The 40-Year-Old Virgin with Carell and Seth Rogen, directed by Apatow. He subsequently worked with Apatow in 2007's Knocked Up, as frustrated husband Pete, married to Leslie Mann's character. In that film, he co-starred with Jason Segel, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, and Jay Baruchel. He also was the narrator for the 2007 edition of the sports documentary series Hard Knocks, focusing on his favorite team, the Kansas City Chiefs. (This is the only time someone other than Liev Schreiber has narrated a season of Hard Knocks.) Rudd appeared as John Lennon in the comedy film Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story in 2007 and as the drug-addled surf instructor in Nicholas Stoller's Forgetting Sarah Marshall in 2008 with Jason Segel and Jonah Hill, both of which Apatow produced. Rudd appeared as uncredited cameos in Year One (2009) and Bridesmaids (2011). In 2012, he starred and also co-produced with Apatow on the film Wanderlust with Jennifer Aniston. He starred in the comedy film This Is 40 with Leslie Mann, a spinoff from Knocked Up, which was directed and produced by Apatow. He reprised his role as Brian Fantana in the 2013 sequel Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.
In 2007, he starred in The Oh in Ohio and The Ten, which reunited him with David Wain and Michael Showalter., and then in Over Her Dead Body with Eva Longoria the next year. In his next comedy which he also wrote, Role Models, he and co-star Seann William Scott portray energy drink salesmen forced to perform community service in a child mentoring program.
In 2009, Rudd again appeared with Jason Segel in I Love You Man where he and Segel play buddies who bond over their shared love for the rock band Rush. Both Rudd and Segel are themselves fans of the band. Also in 2009, Rudd co-created the TV series Party Down with John Embom, Rob Thomas and Dan Etheridge. He lent his voice to the DreamWorks computer-animated movie Monsters Vs. Aliens.
In 2010, Rudd reunited with Steve Carell for the first time since The 40-Year-Old Virgin for the Jay Roach-directed comedy Dinner for Schmucks. In 2012, he had a supporting role in the teen drama The Perks of Being a Wallflower, playing Mr. Anderson, a teacher of Charlie, played by Logan Lerman. He starred in the 2011 comedy-drama film Our Idiot Brother with Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, and Emily Mortimer. It was the fifth film that Rudd starred in with Elizabeth Banks. He had previously appeared with her in Wet Hot American Summer (2001), The Baxter (2005), The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) and Role Models (2008).
In 2012, he signed to appear on four episodes of NBC's Parks and Recreation as Bobby Newport, a candidate for City Council and a rival of Amy Poehler's character Leslie Knope, a role for which he won the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Guest Performer in a Comedy Series. In 2014, he began providing voiceovers for Hyundai television commercials. He has also voiced the audiobook recordings of John Hodgman's books The Areas of My Expertise (2005) and More Information Than You Require (2008).
On December 19, 2013, Rudd was officially confirmed as cast in the 2015 Marvel film Ant-Man. He played lead character Scott Lang/Ant-Man, and also co-wrote the screenplay with Adam McKay. Rudd reprised his role in Captain America: Civil War (2016) as well as Ant-Man's 2018 sequel, Ant-Man and the Wasp; he also co-wrote the latter. Rudd will return alongside Evangeline Lilly in Avengers: Endgame (2019).
Rudd reprised his role as Andy from Wet Hot American Summer in the Netflix prequel Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, alongside an ensemble cast including Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler and Elizabeth Banks, all reprising their roles from the 2001 film. In 2016, he appeared in the comedy-drama film The Fundamentals of Caring, alongside Selena Gomez, and lent his voice to the animated films The Little Prince and Sausage Party.
Rudd often stars with other Apatow film regulars like Seth Rogen (four films), Steve Carell (four films), Jonah Hill (three films), Leslie Mann (three films), Kristen Wiig (three films), Jason Segel (three films), Elizabeth Banks (five films), and Joe Lo Truglio (seven films), as well as working with director David Wain (five films).
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