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By MICHAEL SMITH World Scene Writer
Last Modified: 8/19/2007  1:17 AM

Slideshow: Listen to Michael Smith’s interview with Bill Hader and watch a slide show of photos from “Superbad.”

Native Tulsan Bill Hader moves from ‘SNL’ success to big-budget film roles

It was 10 years ago this summer that Bill Hader gathered several of his Cascia Hall friends to make a home movie, a kind of a last hurrah before they all went off to college.

A decade later, Hader stars in “Superbad,” the buzzed-about coming-of age comedy about high school nerds trying to find themselves – as well as booze and babes – before they leave for college.

It’s a concept Hader admits to understanding well – the geek part, not the partying.

“My pursuits were, like, going to Sound Warehouse and trying to find ‘Aguirre, the Wrath of God’ (the Werner Herzog film classic). I was a big nerd,” said Hader, calling this week from Hawaii, where he’s filming a comedy with Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Jack Black.

“I hung out and would go to parties, but I was always the designated driver, and I’m not just saying
that. I remember people thought I was weird. People (might have) thought I was on drugs … but I was just weird.”

He recalls one particular trip to the now-closed Cherry Street video store. A Sound Warehouse employee startled Hader, who had fallen asleep in the aisle of the drama section.

“This guy is like, ‘Hey dude, you gotta wake up, we’re closing,’ and it was really lame,” said Hader, laughing. “I remember thinking at that moment, ‘Omigod, I’m a nerd.’ ” He admits to moving to Los Angeles in 1999 without “knowing anyone.” Now his connections include the important producers of Hollywood comedies.

Just two years removed from working as a field agent for MTV’s “Punk’d” and a video editor for the cable channel E!, Hader is a regular on “Saturday Night Live” and appears in four films this summer and has three more lined up for 2008.

He’s working on films with producer Judd Apatow (“The 40-year-old Virgin”) in addition to his “SNL” pals (“Hot Rod”) and now with Frat Pack members Stiller and Wilson (next year’s “Tropic Thunder”).

Hader appears in this summer’s smash “Knocked Up” as well as “Superbad,” both products of Apatow and writer-actor Seth Rogen, and he works with the pair again in films next year.

It appears Hader will be making comedies for years to come if his new friends have anything to do with it.

“Last night was the (‘Superbad’) premiere, and I couldn’t make it because I was here (filming), but I got phone calls and e-mails from all those guys, and that’s just not normal,” Hader said.

“That’s just really cool … It’s cool to be kind of a part of all these camps.”

His role as a ridiculously toogood- to-be-true cop in “Superbad” – he buys liquor for a teen, allows him to fire his gun and more – came as a direct result of these extended friendships.

On the set of the comedy “You, Me and Dupree,” Hader first met “Superbad” co-writers Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who were visiting the set.

“Within 10 minutes, Evan turned to Seth and said, ‘He’d be really great as Officer Slater in ‘Superbad,’ and I was like, ‘What’s that?’ and they said, ‘Oh, it’s this movie we wrote. We don’t know if it’s going to get made. But you would be really funny as the cop.’ And I thought ‘Oh, cool.’ ”

Next up was a meeting with Apatow at the producer’s home. Apatow told Hader he wasn’t a fan of impressions (Hader does spot-on takes on Al Pacino and Vincent Price on “SNL”).

“Then he said, ‘Well, you’re going to be in this movie ‘Superbad’ I guess . . . and you and Seth will play these two cops. Yeah, you’ll be funny,’ ” Hader said of the tight-knit group’s casting methods.

“They just kind of know. They say, this guy is funny, let’s get him to do it,” which Hader said has led to him making brief appearances, like the two days of work for “Knocked Up” as a TV station colleague of Katherine Heigl’s character.

Hader plays a video editor. The filming location was an oddity, taking place in the same building where he worked as an editor for E!

“So I was down the hall (from) where I used to work, and that was weird seeing some of the guys I used to work with,” he said. “They were like, ‘Oh, you’re Mr. Hollywood now.’ ”

Things have moved fast for Hader, now 29 and married last year to filmmaker Maggie Carey, who he jokes got a “mini-vacation” out of his filming in Hawaii this last week.

“I work crazy hours and hang out in the mud all day, and she tells me, ‘Oh, today I went kayaking . . .’ ” Hader said with a chuckle.

It all seems so far removed from fi lming a mockumentary with his Cascia Hall classmates at sites like Philbrook Museum of Art in the summer of 1997.

The project was filled with an amateurish innocence that still aids Hader’s work today, he claims.

“We were all improvising, but we didn’t know to call it improvising,” he said, adding that he remembers his direction often being, “Just say something. I don’t have time to write this out. The general idea is this, and you just say whatever you want in your own words.”

Hader thinks this experience is a common thread among the current generation of comic actors: They were intrigued more by making their own small films than by performing stand-up comedy.

“We all talk about it, and it’s like, ‘Yeah, that’s how we learned to improvise, being too lazy to write out a script,’ ” Hader says before making one final joke.

“That’s how ‘Superbad’ was made.”

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