Paul Rudd Recalls Emotional Lesson Late Father Taught Him: 'It Was a Major Moment to Have with My Dad'

The actor stars in the latest Marvel movie Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, in theaters Friday

Arriving 30 minutes early to his PEOPLE cover shoot on a gloomy day in January, Paul Rudd had no entourage. It was rare behavior for a Hollywood superstar, let alone one who was named Sexiest Man Alive in 2021. But it's par for the course for Rudd.

"My dad and I would talk about this idea," the actor, 53, tells PEOPLE in this week's cover story. "If you are kind and nice to other people and treat them the way you would want to be treated, everything will be better."

It's a lesson Rudd, who stars in the next Marvel installment Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, has wholeheartedly embraced. Especially after his father Michael died of cancer in 2008.

"I had a good relationship with my dad, we always got on and talked. But we didn't have, like, the real heart-to-hearts. We didn't really have that," recalls the actor, who grew up in Kansas City. "But I do remember one time where we really did have a great, interesting conversation, and I was asking him just about his thoughts on life."

It was a time "when life was fairly hard," Rudd says. "We were having a kind of a tough time just as far as victims of the economy and everything else, and we started talking about religion and spirituality, because we were not a really religious family."

Paul Rudd rollout

Rudd's father explained his idea of religion to his son. "He goes, 'I do believe that you should treat people the way you'd want to be treated. And if I do that, if there's anything else [after this life], I hope that covers it for me, that all bases are kind of covered," the actor says. "You're only here for a short while anyway, so try and do something that adds to the pot, that makes life a little bit easier for somebody else, and you're contributing to the world while you're here and not just taking what you can from it."

The conversation made a lasting impression on Rudd. He adds, "I believe that wholeheartedly, I probably believed it before that. But I think about it now, you know? It was a major moment to have with my dad."

For more on Paul Rudd, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.

Paul Rudd rollout
Paul Rudd on the cover of PEOPLE. Michael Schwartz

Rudd also sees his dad in himself when it comes to being a husband to his wife Julie and father to their kids Jack, 18, and Darby, 13.

"It's how similar I am in many ways to my dad," he says. "I identify myself as part of a collective more than I did because I feel like a husband and a father when I think about myself. And I feel like I've learned a lot. People say, 'Oh, you know, I still feel 20.' I don't feel 20 at all, or in my 20s. I feel my age … in a good way."

Watch the full episode of People Cover Story: Paul Rudd below

If Rudd could talk to his dad, he knows exactly what he'd say. "I'd go back to that conversation. 'So what is there after? Does God exist? Is it super kickass after you die, and can you go anywhere you want? And can you go to the farthest reaches of space, and, like, look around the bottom of the ocean and be everywhere, and check in on all of us?' "

" 'When you died, did you float above and see everything down? And did you just feel all of your dead relatives coming around? And if so, how far back did that go? Did you stop at the grandparents or did you have great-great-grandparents that you never knew that were like, 'Mike, finally. Great to see you.' Wait till you see what this whole thing's about. Get ready for your mind to be blown.' "

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is in theaters Friday.

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