Seth Rogen Chats with Capone about ZACK AND MIRI and 50 Other Projects He's Working On!!
Published at: Aug. 4, 2008, 11:33 a.m. CST by Capone
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
So Seth Rogen has a movie coming out this week--it's called PINEAPPLE EXPRESS--only we never talked about it during our 20-minute conversation at Comic-Con (well, we do but only about how I haven't seen it yet). The reason for not discussing PINEAPPLE EXPRESS is two-fold. One, it was looking pretty good that another AICN writer was going to have a chance to grill Seth and some other cast members and filmmakers about the film right after Comic-Con. And two, I was more interested in talking to Rogen about upcoming projects, including Kevin Smith's ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO; OBSERVE AND REPORT (which he'd just finished filming); FUNNY PEOPLE (the next Judd Apatow-written and -directed movie, co-starring Adam Sandler; and a couple future projects co-scripted by Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg, including GREEN HORNET and JAY AND SETH VS. THE APOCALYPSE. The guy has been working pretty much nonstop since his role as the cameraman on ANCHORMAN, and it's taken him all of four years to be one of the most successful comic actor working today.
The circumstances of our interview were less than ideal, through no fault of either of us. We were in a room teaming with people, sitting by a high-traffic door that led out to a patio where many other interviews were taking place. Seth was incredibly patient, considering the number of interruptions we had--from the likes of Jamie King (Rogen's co-star in FANBOYS) and Elizabeth Banks (the Miri to his Zack). I certainly wasn't complaining. The first thing you notice about Rogen is that he has one of the great laughs of all time--it's infectious and it makes you feel right at home in his funny world. Here is Seth Rogen…
Seth Rogen: Have you seen PINEAPPLE EXPRESS yet?
Capone: I have not. No one invited me to the earlier screening in Chicago, and I'm missing the screening here because of Kevin's panel tonight. So thanks a lot.
SR: [laughs] Well, we're doing a thing where we're showing it everywhere you're not. It's a strategic move.
Capone: I have to confess that shortly after I get back to Chicago, we're doing a screening of the film for readers.
SR: Oh, that's awesome.
Capone: I did see FANBOYS last night, which I didn't even realize you were in.
SR: Did you like it?
Capone: I did.
SR: That's awesome. Which version was it?
Capone: I believe this is the version that's being released in theaters.
SR: Is there cancer in it?
Capone: Yes, there was cancer.
SR: Wow, okay. Are there a lot of celebrity cameos in it, especially at the end?
SR: Craig Robinson? Danny McBride?
Capone: Yes and yes.
SR: Wow, that's a hybrid version. I'm one of the few people who has seen both versions. That's amazing; I want to see that. That's sounds good, a hybrid. They found a hybrid--an unholy union.
Capone: So with ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO, did you just look at the title, see that Elizabeth Banks was going to be your co-star, and say "Yes"?
SR: Yeah, that wasn't quite the order. Liz wasn't involved at that point, but I knew they'd get someone! [laughs] This isn't going to sound good, but I recommended [Kevin] hiring Liz for the part.
Capone: In your mind was this a continuation of the bathtub relationship the two of you begin in 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN?
SR: Exactly! It's "What If…" What if Cal and …I don't even remember her character's name [laughs], but yeah that's exactly what it is.
Capone: Talk about working with Elizabeth again. She's such an underrated comic actress.
SR: I think so too. I think Kevin originally wrote the part of Rosario Dawson, and then she couldn't do it for one reason or another. And I was kind of thrilled as soon as I heard that, and I said, "Hey, put Elizabeth Banks in it; she's fucking hilarious." No one has every put her in the big role in a big comedy, you know? And I thought that would be perfect for her. We've known each other for years, and there's a lot of very awkward situations in the movie, and that's very helpful when you really know the people. I know her husband; that helps [laughs].
Capone: It might not help him.
SR: Exactly. [laughs] But I think it turned out great. And there's no one I would have rather done it with.
Capone: So obviously you have a long-standing actor-director relationship with someone in this room, I believe. I thought I saw Judd [Apatow] in the room a minute ago.
SR: Yeah, he's here somewhere.
Capone: So now you're working with someone who has a reputation of being a little less ad-lib inclined than maybe you're used to.
SR: You know, that's exactly something I thought at first, and I feared for myself more than anything. I don't know if I can do that. But he made it clear from the get go that he was very open to improv and that he was flexible with the lines. I told him how I like to do it, and he said, "Yeah, I'm totally in for doing that," which was just so easy that I found it strange. It went against everything I'd been led to believe.
Capone: Did you get a sense that he's seen how the ad-lib route has gone for other films in recent years, and said, "Maybe I'll give that a shot."
SR: Yeah, he said that it's…[At this point Jamie King interrupts the interview, having just come from the panel for THE SPIRIT. They talk for about 30 second, and finally Seth says to her,] I don't want to cut him short on his interview.
Capone: [After King leaves] I really don't mind being interrupted by her.
SR: Yeah, exactly. Sit down, talk a while! So Kevin claims that he stopped being so protective of his writing after DOGMA, that was the turning point for him as to when he became more loose dialogue-wise. Judd shoots everything with two cameras, which Kevin doesn't do, which kind of frees things up a little bit. But I get not wanting to do that. And for a guy who does shoot with one camera, he did go to great lengths to make sure we could be loose with it.
Capone: In just reading the one-line summary of what's going on with ZACK AND MIRI, it combines two things that are very relevant and timely right now…
Capone: Amateur porn, for sure. And just people being broke. People are more broke than usual these days.
SR: Yeah, it's true. Times are tough, gas prices, shit like that, especially…we were shooting in Pittsburgh, which economically is not doing that fantastically right now, and you could really see it. And it was cold as shit, so you think, "Wow, it sucks to be broke in L.A., I can imagine what it's like in fucking Pittsburgh. It's way worse. I knew eventually I would do a movie involving porn. [laughs]
Capone: Well, you've skirted it for so long.
SR: Exactly, I've skirted it. But this just seemed like the best circumstance to do that in. I've been a fan of Kevin's for a long time; I've wanted to work with him for a really long time. I read the script really fast, and that doesn't usually happen for me. Usually it takes me… Hey, Banks. [Elizabeth Banks drops in.) Yeah, it usually takes me a long time to get through these scripts, but I just blew through it and I liked it. It was a really easy decision. Yeah, I'd love to do it. It's fucking filthy! It's about porn, man. It's like a funny porn movie.
Capone: And I'm hearing Kevin is having ratings issues already.
SR: We're having a little ratings issue, which is kind of surprising and not surprising. They're weird about sex. It's so funny that PINEAPPLE EXPRESS goes by, I mean, we kill dozens of people. There's a scene where we literally sell weed to 11 year olds, and we don't even do anything illegal in ZACK AND MIRI. But that's the movie that's having the real ratings issue all of the sudden. It's really strange.
Capone: This might be a stupid question, but is there a lot of nudity in it?
SR: Yeah, there's nudity in it. Katie Morgan is in it. She doesn't own clothes [laughs].
Capone: Are there any fundamental differences between the directing styles of Kevin and Judd?
SR: Yeah, the way the do things is definitely different. Kevin really knows what he wants, I get the sense. He edits the movies himself, and he's very shot oriented, and he knows this shot goes to that shot, and that shot goes to that shot. Judd is not like that at all. He really has no idea visually what he wants going in. He knows the emotion that he wants the scene to have and the story points that he needs to happen, but he really discovers it as we're shooting it. We've just been rehearsing a movie, and Kevin's rehearsals are very much about blocking and "On this line, you get up and go there. This line, you go sit down, and she's going to go over there." Judd's rehearsals are just us improving for hours and hours, basically. So it is really, really different.
Capone: You've got a couple things coming up that sound great, and you do seem to be the busiest guy on the planet.
SR: I know, I'm trying to slow down. I'm over-saturated! [laughs]
Capone: Are you done shooting the mall cop film OBSERVE AND REPORT, and that's with Jody Hill [writer-director of THE FOOT FIST WAY]?
SR: Yeah. And that is definitely R rated. That was a lot of fun. It's kind of like a comedic TAXI DRIVER in a weird way. It's really about a guy losing his shit. It's a comedy, but it's about a really sad guy who's a bit delusional with vigilante tendencies.
Capone: It's sounds like THE KING OF COMEDY and TAXI DRIVER.
SR: Exactly, that's really what we were going for. And it's really sad that he's a mall security guard.
Capone: We're just starting to hear some things about FUNNY PEOPLE with you and Adam Sandler, and what I'm hearing is that people are going to be surprised by it. It's Judd going into the James L. Brooks territory.
SR: Yeah, it definitely tackles more serious things than the other movies have. But at the same time, it's about stand-up comedy, so inherently it will be funny. Whether he likes it or not, it will be very funny. I'm really excited about it. Me and Evan were just saying it's the best script he's written. When you sit down to read it, you're like "Wow, that's fucking great." We did a table read, and it went better than any of our other table reads ever have. It's really exciting. We started rehearsing with [Jason] Schwartzman and Jonah [Hill] and Sandler, and it's been a lot of fun. It's really crazy.
Capone: It seems like having you and Sandler in the same movie might make my head explode.
SR: Yeah, for me it's been surreal. To me, I still get uncomfortable…like me and Evan are like "Dude, 'Medium Pace' is the funniest thing ever." We're still kind of uncomfortable.
Capone: You're at the age now where you would have grown up watching him on "SNL."
SR: I literally did. And I heard his first comedy album when I was about 13 years old, maybe even younger. And that was the dirtiest thing I'd ever heard. I mean, that was the inspiration for a lot of it.
Capone: I saw you in the cameo for STEPBROTHERS, which I was surprised by.
SR: Yeah, I haven't seen it yet. Is it funny?
Capone: I thought it the movie was great.
SR: That's great.
Capone: And where are you with GREEN HORNET now? I'm guessing that will come up during Kevin's panel.
SR: We're meeting with directors. We have a tentative release date of June 2010, or something like that. The Future! You can teleport yourself there.
Capone: I've heard Stephen Chow's name come up as a possible Kato. Is that still true?
SR: He's someone we're definitely discussing, but along with other people. We're not 100 percent sure that that would work necessarily. I'm not sure how much English he speaks, and that would be helpful [laughs]. But yeah, we finished a script, and we've been meeting with directors and they tentatively want to start shooting around March, after FUNNY PEOPLE. As soon as we find a director, I'm sure you'll be the first to hear about it. [laughs]
Capone: Was that a show you were a huge fan of?
SR: I wasn't a huge fan of it. I've definitely seen it. I was a big Bruce Lee fan always. But that's part of the thing that drew us to it is that it's not something that is really iconic in my mind. It's something that a lot of people like, but I think a lot more people have never heard of it or seen it. It's hard to get the DVDs. There's really no "Green Hornet" web page. There's no infrastructure for fandom really. But we've been wanting to make a hero-sidekick story for a while, and we thought that could be the perfect way to do it, with the GREEN HORNET because it's the one hero where the sidekick is more famous than the hero. So we thought that was a funny thing to play off of, but at the same time that it's really real. It's one of those heroes who can exist in the real world, and we thought that was a cool element to it.
Capone: It's probably also one of the properties where, because not many people know it too well, no one is going to be overly protective if you change something.
SR: Exactly. We talked about that. We knew we wanted to do something in this vein, and we definitely shied away from writing a fucking movie like THOR or something like that [laughs]. "People really like that!" But this was something, like, people definitely liked it, and we did make a conscious effort to make people who already like the show satisfied. We did watch every episode over and over again, and tried to draw as much as we could. But at the same time, we didn't want to be completely confined by it, and we just wanted to make a good movie and we didn't want to sacrifice what we thought a good movie was by staying overly true to something not a huge amount of people know in the first place.
Capone: I'm embarrassed to admit this, but it wasn't until this year, where I finally sat down and watched "Freaks and Geeks" for the first time. Honestly, I was having so much fun watching the movies you guys have been making that I was afraid the TV show would be a let down. It was actually someone telling me about the use of music in the show that made me cave, and I'm glad I did. And I know people always talk about how seemingly every single cast member has gone on to bigger and better things, but even people who were only on one or two episodes…
SR: I know, Shia LaBeouf was in an episode.
Capone: Pre-Disney Shia LaBeouf at that.
SR: We got him early. Yeah, it's pretty incredible. Samaire Armstrong was on it, and now she's on that show ["Dirty Sexy Money"] now. I know, it's amazing. They had an eye for funny people, those guys. It's pretty impressive.
Capone: I also spotted Ben Foster and Rashida Jones. And I do plan on watching "Undeclared" as well.
SR: Ah, that's pretty funny also. It goes down easy, "Undeclared," little bite-sized treats. They're super short, like 21 minutes long. They're not at all dramatic in any way, shape, or form.
Capone: So will you be here next year for the GREEN HORNET panel?
SR: I hope we have a director by then [laughs]. I assume. I would love to be.
Capone: Have you gotten around on the floor at all?
SR: I was here this morning and walked around for a few hours, bought some shit.
Capone: You're a big comic book guy, aren't you?
SR: Big time. I read a lot comic books; I collect toys and shit like that.
Capone: Seeing you in FANBOYS [as a "Star Trek" fan who gets into a violent exchange with the STAR WARS fans who are the heroes of the film], I was thinking "Wow, Seth is really into that character. He's not just reading lines; he knows exactly what he's saying."
SR: [laughs] I really did. I watched a lot of "Star Trek" growing up; I can't deny it. I was much more interested in "Star Trek" than STAR WARS. But I know STAR WARS, definitely. Yeah, I can't help it, dude. I didn't get laid. [laughs]
Capone: One of the things I remember from the "Freaks and Geeks" DVDs was the one extra that showed that panel the cast and crew did. And during the Q&A, somebody makes the comment, "None of us were trying to get laid in high school." And you said, "I was."
SR: I was trying, but it didn't happen though.
Capone: Was else are you pursuing work wise right now?
SR: I don't know. I fell like I should actually take some time off, probably. I've done a lot of stuff lately. We're doing the GREEN HORNET. We're doing JAY AND SETH VS. THE APOCALYPSE, which we're writing now. So there's a lot out there. Me and Evan are making a conscious effort not to set up any new projects right now.
Capone: You two make it look so easy.
SR: I'm glad it looks easy. It's not that bad, but we need to recharge the batteries I feel like, and give people a break from us, almost more importantly [laughs]. It just starts to lose its value after a while. I mean, a lot of these recent project are ideas we've had for a while, and we're just now finally getting the opportunity to make. But we don't want to get ahead of ourselves and just start making shit because we can.
Capone: You've come up so fast and had every magazine calling you a rising star.
SR: Oh god [laughs].
Capone: And I always hear how great all of you guys are -- you, Evan, Judd, Paul Rudd. I keep thinking, "I wonder when that's going to turn." Are you going to do anything to make sure you don't become the other guys.
SR: I don't think I will; I hope I don't. How do you not become the other guys? I don't go to a lot of clubs, I think that's part of it. [laughs] Not a lot of nightclubs for me. I don't know. That's always the fear; I think about that. Maybe the other guys don't, because they are the other guys [laughs]. It's funny, me and Evan were talking about this lately. I do look at guys like the Coen brothers and Paul Thomas Anderson, these kind of older--they aren't old by any means, but they're older than us--and they're still making groundbreaking, fearless stuff. Guys like Martin Scorsese, they guy is like 60 years old, and you watch THE DEPARTED and it looks as new and fresh as anything. Guys like that give me hope; maybe I'll become one of those cool guys and not one of the guys that starts to fucking suck. Some guys do maintain some cutting-edge coolness and credibility throughout their lives. My only hope is to be one of those guys.
Capone: It seems like that is harder for guys who do comedy.
SR: It definitely does, you know. It's true, it's so true. Maybe we'll stop doing them [laughs].
Capone: Well thanks for sitting down with me.
SR: I want to go to Chicago. I want to go there so badly. I just want to eat all day.
Capone: We can make that happen.
SR: I think the Ain't It Cool guy in Chicago can arrange that [laughs].
Capone: Well you've got plenty of films over the next couple of years to bring to Chicago. Thanks again.
SR: That would be awesome. Really great meeting you. Keep up the good work, man.