Posted: 07/27/2008

 

Seth on Weed and Porn

by Paul Fischer



Exclusive Interview


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Seth Rogen is right at his element in the thick of Comic Con. A comic-book aficionado from way back, he is using the opportunities promoting both Pineapple Express and Zack and Miri Make a Porno, to walk the floors of San Diego’s Convention Center. But in between buying comics and games, he did spend some time talking to Paul Fischer on a celebrity-laden balcony above the crazed fan action that remain Comic Con.

Paul Fischer: Your career has really taken off in leaps and bounds in a very, very short period of time, relatively speaking. How surprised are you by that?

Seth Rogen: It’s pretty shocking. It’s weird. Yeah, it happened very suddenly, with Knocked Up. I mean, I didn’t realize that that was how it worked. It’s interesting and it’s crazy. I mean, I guess I saw it happen with Steve in 40 Year-Old Virgin a little bit, but I didn’t think that would necessarily happen to me, the same thing. It kind of did and it’s really strange.

PF: You obviously don’t take all of it too seriously.

SR: Yeah.

PF: Where does that come from?

SR: I mean, I don’t know, what’s to take seriously about it? It’s just a silly job, you know? We’re not saving lives or anything. So I mean, yeah. There’s nothing serious about it at all. We make movies.

PF: When you were writing Pineapple Express, what was the germ of that idea? Why did you decide this would be kind of—

SR: Judd had the idea initially, just in the simplest sense of the word, for a weed action movie. That was kind of his idea. It was a weed action movie. And me and Evan are from Vancouver, we smoked a lotta weed growing up and we realized that there really hadn’t been a movie that kind of expressed our experiences with weed, just kind of the day to day life of a guy who smokes a lot of weed and not broad or surreal, just kind of what potheads are like and the relationships between the potheads and the people who sell the weed, and how all that works. And we thought, “Well, that could be a funny movie, to do all that.” We also felt like if we could do that, and have a good emotional story in the midst of all that, and have it function as an actual movie, then that would be what I want to go see and that would be perfect.

PF: Did you expect to be doing action in a movie like this? Did you write it with that in mind?

SR: Oh, yeah. We wrote tons of action. To us, that was really important. There were a lot of conversations about how we wanted it to be violent, and we wanted it to be exciting. That was the whole kind of joke of the movie, was that it becomes like a real action movie. And yeah, we were very clear that it needed to function really as an action movie.

PF: As a writer, is it a challenge to strike a balance between action, physical comedy, and comedy that comes out of these characters?

SR: No, I guess just because maybe I grew up watching so many movies like that. Action movies, action comedies. To me, it comes pretty naturally, I think. I mean, it’s just—it’s hard to write a movie where people aren’t punching each other in the face, now. [laughs]

PF: Why were you the natural choice to take on The Green Hornet, do you think?

SR: I don’t think I was, by any means, but in the same regard, you know, David was not the natural choice to direct this movie and Christopher Nolan was not the natural choice to make Batman. I think unexpected choices are what makes these things interesting, and yeah. I mean, I’m a big fan of the genre. Green Hornet, specifically, is a hero-sidekick story and me and Evan, I feel like, are good at these relationship stories between two adult males [laughs], kind of trying to work out their issues with one another. So we just thought that could be a great way to do it.

PF: Are you putting a lot of humor into it? Is your own sense of humor going to be inherent in this piece?

SR: I mean, yeah. We wanted it to seem very real. We don’t want to prevent the characters from being funny. The relationships and dynamics we’ve set up – to us, humor is naturally where we come from. But at the same time, we want the action to be really exciting. If you aren’t laughing, we don’t want the movie to be failing. Just, it’s in a different mode at that point.

PF: How faithful is it to the source material?

SR: It’s pretty faithful. I would say—you know, it’s not quite as straightforward as the source is. I mean, if you really analyze the show, there’s really not a whole lot there, to be perfectly honest. It never really explains why he’s called The Green Hornet, where that came from. It never really goes into detail about how they met. It doesn’t go into that much detail about how the real dynamic of their relationship works. I mean, there’s just—there’s not a lot of details. It was only one on season. The comic books have a very odd take on it. The radio play, again, is very straightforward. And we realized if we just did the straightforward version of a rich guy who at night drives his crazy car and fights crime, that’s Batman. They’ve done that, you know? So we kind of had to think, “What haven’t they done with these movies? What’s the direction that they haven’t been taken in, well?” And we thought maybe the kind of action comedy world is somewhere that we can take these things.

PF: I was very disappointed that Kevin’s movie was given an official NC-17 rating.

SR: I think they’re gonna battle that. But it’s pretty crazy that that happened, yeah.

PF: What does it say about the state of American film, that they can get away with violence, and yet sex is still a puritanical—

SR: Yeah. It’s crazy to me, man. I really don’t get it. It’s funny, because I was just in Canada last week. And all the movies were rated totally different stuff. Like, Superbad I don’t even think is rated R there, because it’s just sex, and there’s no violence. And they do it the exact opposite, you know? Yeah, it’s crazy. You know, Pineapple Express, we sell drugs to 11-year-olds, we kill people. No one had a problem with that. But, you know, hey, it’s the same rating. But, you show people having sex, and that’s completely unacceptable. It’s a very strange double standard.

PF: You mentioned a number of times you’re going to take a break. You’ve been really doing one film after the other, as an actor.

SR: Yeah.

PF: What are you planning on doing during your break?

SR: Absolutely nothing. Just hanging out, and reading comic books, watching TV, and hanging out with my friends.

PF: Basically the same kinds of things you do as the characters you play.

SR: Yes, exactly. I just want to live my life, man. [laughs]

PF: Is there a property or a project, or something that you really have a burning desire to do? What about directing? I assume you’re almost on the way to becoming a director.

SR: As long as we can keep getting really talented directors to do our movies, it doesn’t seem like there’s any reason for us to do it. I mean, we like it when people can bring new things to the table. We don’t have a crystal clear vision. You know, we’re very open and collaborative. So to us, it’s great to have a guy like David come in and give new ideas. Or a guy like Greg. So, directing is actually something that we’re not that interested in right now, just because we’ve been able to work with great directors.

PF: Was acting something you aspired to when you were growing up? Or was it more being creative?

SR: It was more writing. I’d started doing stand-up comedy, but mostly just because I enjoyed writing the jokes. I like performing, also, but that was almost secondary to the writing of the material. Yeah, I really just fell into acting. I never thought it would be an actor. It’s weird.

PF: And of course you’re acting in The Green Hornet?

SR: Yeah. I’m gonna be The Green Hornet.

PF: So you’ll be taking on a pretty responsible character.

SR: I guess so. Not that many people like The Green Hornet. [laughs] Some do. But, I mean, it’s not like Spider-Man.

PF: Are you going to go check out the comic book stuff on the floor?

SR: Yeah. I’ve been down a couple times already.

PF: Do you get mobbed when you’re down there? Do people sort of know who they are?

SR: They do. Some people notice. I kind of punch `em in the face if they get too close to me. [laughs] I just swing. I swing away. [laughs]

PF: Have you bought anything?

SR: I have. I bought tons of stuff.

PF: Will it make your girlfriend very happy?

SR: No, it’ll probably make her upset, it’s going to just clutter our house. My stupid toys, and stuff like that. [laughs]

PF: Well, it’s good being a geek, though. Have you always been a bit of a geek?

SR: I have always read comic books and that kind of thing. Never got into girls or anything like that. So, yeah. That’s pretty much the requisite, I think.

PF: I presume you’ve seen The Dark Knight.

SR: I have.

PF: And what is your unbiased opinion?

SR: I really liked it. I thought it was really good. It wasn’t like, when I went – when I was walking into the theatre, I was like, “There’s a chance this might be, like, my favorite movie of all time.” And it was not my favorite movie of all time. But I really liked it.

PF: What did you think of Heath’s performance?

SR: I thought he was great. He was scary. I thought it was awesome. It was a cool take on it.

PF: What is your favorite movie of all time?

SR: That’s a good question. I don’t know. I really like The Big Lebowski, but I really like Total Recall. I love that movie

PF: How’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno coming along?

SR: It’s great, I think. It’s really, really funny. It plays great. I saw it in a theatre with an audience. And yeah, it was a lot of fun. It was awesome.

PF: And you didn’t have to do any research.

SR: No, none for that one. Yeah, it’d be nice if Kevin gets a giant commercial hit on his hands, jjust for him, more than anything.

PF: He hasn’t had one for a while.

SR: No, I didn’t even really realize—it’s funny, when I started doing the movie, I finally box-office-mojo’d Kevin. I was like, “Wow, none of these have made more than $40 million.” I didn’t really know that. I just assumed what I love is successful, for my own egotistical reasons. But—yeah, it’d be great if one of them can kind of break through, and he can reach a really—I feel like he has a wide audience. Everyone I know knows who Kevin Smith is.

PF: Yeah. He’s very iconic, too.

SR: Yeah, exactly. But it’d be nice if in the theatre, it could happen.

Paul Fischer is originally from Australia. Now he is an interviewer and film critic living in Hollywood.



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