Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have created a nice niche for themselves within the world of R-rated comedy, partially thanks to the guidance of producer Judd Apatow, who helped them by producing Superbad and Pineapple Express. The long-time Canadian friends wrote and produced a couple other movies since then, but This is the End is a big deal since its their first time directing on top of everything else, and it could mean the difference between whether they direct the next screenplay they write together.
Here’s the full interview with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg conducted over two breaks during filming:
Question: James Franco told us about the paintings and some of the in-jokes about other movies youve made. How do you find a good balance between having fun in-jokes that audiences will pick up on and overwhelming audiences with too many jokes they might not pick up on?
Evan Goldberg: I mean we’re shooting more than we’ll use. That’s for sure. Then we guess and test after.
Rogen: We let the audience tell us honestly.
Goldberg: And it’s pretty apparent too when something goes too far.
Rogen: Yeah and it’s too inside but basically if people don’t laugh, we generally don’t use it. As long as the people are laughing at it, then we’ll use it and if there is something that seems like it’s too inside or just a reference the people don’t get, then, you know, we don’t want to like impose things on people. We let the audience tell us. You know, honestly, like even having you guys watch it was a testing ground for us to see what you guys respond to. I mean, it’s helpful for us. I mean, we show it to as many people as we can just to see how people react and see what people respond to and think is funny and what sh*t people don’t like basically.
Q: You’ve been developing this for years with the idea being around as a short. Was it always going to be such a big movie?
Goldberg: Well, the initial short, the basic idea was: What’s the biggest concept we could do at the cheapest price possible? And that lends itself to making a big movie. So we never wanted to do a small version, but we would’ve if it came down to it.
Rogen: It was our “End of the World.” We made an end of the wrold movie in that short, for literally like zero dollars. (Laughing) So that was kind of the idea, was to make an epic giant movie that was somewhat contained at times, so you could kind of afford to spend your money on the big stuff when you needed to basically.
Q: It’s very Canadian tradition, Cronenberg used to end the world for a dollar and thirty cents!
Rogen: Exactly, it doesn’t take much, but visual effects have come so far at this point–you really can do a lot with not a little money.
Goldberg: Like “Chronicle” kind of blew our f*cking minds.
Rogen: Yeah, we look to movies like “Chronicle” and “Cloverfield” and a lot of movies that use practical effects in great ways. Those were really what guided us and let us know what we could do something that was visually epic and gigantic but for a price that we could do whatever the f*ck we wanted basically.
Q: So you talked about practical effects and you have K&B doing your make up on this. It seems like for comedy, the more you push it, you almost can’t go too far. Just that head, when Jonah picks it up and it’s pouring blood out of it.
Goldberg: It’s “Kill Bill”-ish at times; we don’t quite go that crazy.
Rogen: More blood is something that’s said often on this set.
Goldberg: It’s weird, but at a point it becomes less gross if you put in a little more blood.
Rogen: Yeah. I think it’ll let people know that we think it’s funny. The human head does not hold that much blood right? (Laughing) It kind of adds to the imagination, but we are not necessarily striving for realism in every moment. I mean I think that’s what makes it funny too. It’s played for laughs.
Q: It seems like before every take you guys are throwing lines out there. Are you writing this?
Goldberg: We’re sh*t writers. (Laughing)
Rogen: I mean, we have a script, yeah. I’m sure we got a take of it here and there, but it’s so silly to have all these guys in a movie together and not let them riff off each other. You know, that was always our plan. It’s not that different from capturing stunts at times. We put as many cameras on it as we can and we hope something f*cking awesome is going to happen – and that is kind of what it’s like. So it would be silly for us to be too, strict with the lines because these guys – most of them are movie writers in their own rights. So it’s silly to not get their ideas and sh*t like that.
Q: As you were writing it and describing these personalities to your friends, how did you decide how much of an *sshole someone is going to be?
Goldberg: We definitely started off with everyone being full-blown *ssholes and then realized that it was too silly and we kind of give them each more realistic characters.
Rogen: Gave them different type of *ssholes! (Laughing)
Goldberg: Strengths and weaknesses.
Rogen: But not everyone is *n asshole. I mean Jonah. Different people have different shades in the movie. I don’t think any of these guys are really playing themselves in any real way, but I think every character is rounded to some degree within the reality of the movie. I wouldn’t say, it’s necessarily like any of us, but everyone has their own little part to the story.
Q: Do you work on this script thinking of the actors?
Rogen: Oh yeah. We talked to all these guys about doing it before we started writing.
Goldberg: We never ever thought they’d all do it, just by scheduling and all that.
Rogen: Yeah, we told them, “We don’t want to write a f*cking movie with you guys in it if you guys aren’t going to do it. So just let us know if it’s something you think you would do.” And everyone said “yes” and so then we wrote it, after having talked to them all. So we knew we could do it basically.
Q: You are shooting a lot these days, are you?
Rogen: Yeah, we shoot a lot these days.
Q: Have you kept up this pace the whole time?
Rogen: Yes, definitely. This is not even one of our hard days.
Q: I’ve been impressed with the fact you guys aren’t doing a ton of coverage, you pretty much get it and go.
Rogen: Yeah. You know, for these kind of hectic scenes, we don’t need to do clean singles of every guy or anything like that. For the more dialoguey scenes, like the inventory scene, that stuff we need to cover every guy individually. We use three cameras on a lot of those days where it’s like a big dialogue scene with a lot of guys.
Q: How did you guys wind up writing Jay as the outsider? Because from the outside, it’s like “Okay, everyone is in the movies” but he’s the friend from home. Is that less real life than all the others?
Rogen: No, he plays an actor, but he does live in Montreal. He doesn’t live in Los Angeles – which is a part of the story, and that he was so adverse to the LA lifestyle that he literally left and works from Montreal – which is kind of true. So, that was just something that we used. He just kind of represents the old friends versus the new friends that was the idea more than anything. And the fact that he doesn’t live in L.A. we thought was a good way to separate him from the other guys, and also make him a more relatable kind of eye into the movie. Because, in the movie, he doesn’t live the Hollywood lifestyle like Franco and some of the other characters.
Q: Talking about the title, obliviously it started as “Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse,” whereas now it’s “End of the World.” Is it a problem that Steve Carell has a movie coming out titled “End of the World” and are you guys worried about being confused with Edgar Wrights “The World’s End”? [Editor’s Note: This was before the movie received the title This is the End]
Rogen: Yeah, there’s a chance this isn’t what the title ultimately ends up being. We suck with titles, we’ll be the first to admit it. If it’s not completely apparent what the movie should be called, then we have a hard time with it. So, this is what we’ve got for now. We’ll see what happens.
Q: Were people just wanting to know what “Apocalypse” this was?
Rogen: No, we just couldn’t legally clear that title. Fox owns it! Titles are a motherf*cker. Everyone owns every f*cking title in the universe. Like they’re all registered with MPAA and it’s crazy. It’s really hard to get a title. Even with 50/50, Disney owned it. We had to call f*cking Sean Bailey to get permission to use it. And I’ve called Tom Rothman over and over – they won’t let it go.
Q: We did an interview a couple of months ago for “Goon” and you mentioned that the “Apocalypse” in this was the Rapture. Like how strictly biblical are you guys? Are you introducing crazy demon elements?
Goldberg: I’m not really enlightening people as to exactly how that goes down or what happens. It’s just the “End of the World.” (Laughing)
Rogen: Be nice to try to have some mystery. Other people seem to do it well.
Q: You have some kind of creature in there though, right? Because we saw that in the sizzle reel.
Rogen: You saw some creatures? Who knows if that’s a placeholder creature or what? Jay could be a demon this whole movie.
Q: Is there anybody that you wanted in the film, either for a cameo or as part of the main cast that you weren’t able to fit in because of scheduling?
Rogen: We have some friends that weren’t able to do it, but when you watch it, you’ll notice that not every single person we’ve ever worked with was in it. That’s because a few of them had scheduling conflicts. (Laughing)
Goldberg: No one rejected us on content.
Rogen: Exactly, yeah. It was mostly just scheduling issues I would say.
Q: You guys have been friends for so long and youve written together, but youve never directed a movie, so has this put your friendship to the test?
Goldberg: Same old sh*t.
Rogen: Yeah, at this point, this is not the hardest thing that we’ve done together by a long shot. So it’s not that different. If anything, it’s just more fun. We get to do all the fun stuff.
Goldberg: It’s less of us being like “the f*cking director’s wrong.”
Rogen: Exactly, us commiserating over how we would have done it differently.
Q: I’m always fascinated by co-directors. Can you talk a little bit about the process because you’re directing while you’re in the scene sometimes?
Rogen: I think to other people it might seem as though – if one of us is going off the rails or taking the scene in the direction – that the other one isn’t aware or something. The truth is we’ve had a hundred billion conversations with every element of this movie, literally, for the last six years when we started thinking of it. We kind of know how we want everything to be in a general way, and then there’s the general throw out any idea you want during the scene rule.
Goldberg: And it’s pretty much, when one of us is running with something, the other one just kind of lets that person talk unless they “disagree” and most of the time we don’t – because we’ve already disagreed for months in pre-production.
Rogen: Yeah and we usually have come to a decision by now, but as you see when we’re rolling, we’ll check with the other guy to see if there’s anything the other guy wants – before we cut for example. But every once in a while one of us will have an idea the other guy doesn’t like and the beauty is you can just do both versions and then we can argue about it in six months from now.
Q: Is there any difference for your process as writers when you’re doing something like “Neighborhood Watch,” where you come in and work on something that’s already in progress or something like this where its your idea from start to finish with yourselves directing?
Goldberg: Well with “Neighborhood Watch,” whenever we can, we don’t try not to read the script that we’re handed and just start fresh and do what we can.
Rogen: But we pretty much wrote it like a movie – we tried to make it as funny as humanly possible but, that being said, we kind of had nothing to do with the production of that movie on a practical level. So, there definitely is a difference when you’re not the producer, director, whatever on a movie and you’re just the writer on the movie.
Q: You don’t have to worry about how to pull it off?
Rogen: Yeah, you don’t have to worry about how to pull it off and you probably have to listen. You know, when you’re not the producer, you’re just the writer, you have to be slightly more flexible I think with other people’s visions, you know?
Goldberg: Yeah, you can write more sentences like “the freeway explodes, as forty buildings collapse.”
Rogen: Yeah, he’ll figure out how to f*cking do that!
Q: I was really impressed by how much you guys have already finished and edited together since you literally have a year before the movie opens.
Rogen: We’ve got over an hour of the movie cut together.
Q: Does that mean a lot of visual effects? Have you been spending a lot of time there?
Rogen: Yeah, we have got to get it as fast as possible, but our editor is just fast. I mean we haven’t been rushing – he’s just fast. He’s used to working on smaller movies with less time.
Goldberg: We didn’t sit him down and say like “You’ve got to edit this light f*cking speed,” he just does.
Rogen: Yeah, he just goes fast.
Q: Is it really obvious which jokes to keep? You obviously have so many different versions of the jokes and some of those scenes. Do you guys give notes?
Goldberg: Light smatterings of notes, maybe.
Rogen: Barely any of our notes have made it into this stuff, he’s kind of on a “plow forward” command.
Goldberg: We have an agreement that if we give him a note, he’ll note it down, but he doesn’t have to do it until we’re done filming and we’ll get to all that later.
Rogen: Yeah, but I think as he watches the scenes being shot, you could see like an evolution. It becomes clear which jokes we like and which ones we don’t, because we have the actors keep doing it or stop doing certain ones. I think by the end, after our two-minute scene has become a twelve-minute scene, it’s pretty clear through watching the raw footage which ones we think are funny and which ones we don’t, I think.
Q: Does finishing a cut earlier give you more time to test it? Because I know you guys are big believers in showing it to the audience and listening to the audience.
Rogen: Yeah, way more time. I mean if it was up to us I would show I mean maybe not to a real audience, but I would show like a cut of this movie two weeks after we finish filming it if we can. Because we really don’t know what people are gonna respond to and how much. When we have this many jokes in each scene, some of the scenes are really long and have like you know, tons of jokes in them that we just need to pick which ones work the best. And the only way to really figure that out is by showing it to audience after audience after audience and really just whittling out every joke that doesn’t land the way you want it to.
Q: You guys obviously worked with Sony before on quite a few movies. Did you always have a director to kind of buffer you guys from having to deal with the studio and cuts and stuff like that? How’s it been so far with you guys not having to deal with any of that stuff?
Goldberg: Only when we worked with Judd was there this overall buffer between us in the studio ever since
Rogen: With Neal (Moritz) there was not much buffer.
Goldberg: Yeah. Neal would be like “Come here. We’re going to go get in a huge fight with them.”
Rogen: Yeah, exactly. (everyone laughs at this)
Goldberg: Neal made it fun. It was a sh*tty job to do but he made it fun to do.
Rogen: And we fought with him a lot also. I love Neal. I will say that over and over – but at times he was on the side of the studio more than our side.
Goldberg: Everything is boring-er without him around.
Rogen: Yeah he’s f*cking hilarious, but no they’ve been pretty happy. I mean it’s not a disaster. That’s what’s nice with doing a smaller movie – you’re kind of off the radar, you know? They’re dealing with f*cking other Neal Moritz movies. To compare this, one day of a Neal Moritz movie is this whole movie. So we’re not their biggest issue. We’re out of sight out of mind I think to some degree. Which is nice. We haven’t heard much from them.
Goldberg: It generally seems with us they’re like, “Is that worth a gamble?” and if they let us do it, then they just tell us.
Q: Was there ever any talk about actually doing this in L.A. just for convenience of people coming in and out, doing shorter pieces?
Goldberg: Oh, yeah.
Rogen: Yeah and it’s set in L.A., so definitely we try to shoot in L.A. It’s just way too expensive and the tax credits here in New Orleans are I mean this movie literally would have been impossible to make if we weren’t here. We got so much of our budget back in tax credits that it actually wouldn’t have been possible to make this movie anywhere else in the world.
Q: Have you guys thought about the soundtrack and is R.E.M. a forgone conclusion?
Goldberg: Its crazy how often people bring that up!
Rogen: We’re thinking of a gospel-themed sound track. That kind of feels right. (laughter)
Q: Do you guys model yourself after any directors you’ve worked with that you stepped behind the camera for the first time? Like are there people who you’re trying to be inspired by?
Goldberg: Oh, definitely, Judd, Woody Allen.
Rogen: Woody Allen. Yeah, we never worked with him! (Laughing) I think our style is probably closest to Judd in the way that he is willing to completely let a new scene materialize on the day and in the moment. We haven’t worked with that many other people and on our movies, the ones that aren’t Judd movies, there’s usually a different writer than director – so there’s some level of respect that happens. The director won’t just suddenly say like, “Throw out all the f*cking lines go crazy!” But since we’re both, we can do that, which is nice and there have been some scenes that we’ve done one take of and it’s like “This isn’t right” and we’ll literally, completely, re-write all of it in a few minutes. Or we’ll just improvise for an hour and see if something better comes up and it usually does and then we’ll just go with that version.
Goldberg: A few times though we’ve had like five actors, two of whom haven’t really worked with us and they’re just “What the f*ck is going on right now? Like I had memorized the scene, I didn’t know this was going to happen.”
Rogen: Yeah, exactly.
Goldberg: They all end up rolling with it in the end and having a good time.
Q: Most of the stuff we’ve seen has been inside the house and I know you’ve been shooting so that the house get more destroyed as it goes along. Have you actually shot any exteriors yet? Are you shooting in L.A.?
Goldberg: No, we’ve built L.A. here in New Orleans basically. It’s actually cheaper to literally construct Melrose in a parking lot here than to film on actual Melrose, which is what we did.
Q: So you’ve already finished all the exteriors?
Rogen: Yeah, I don’t think that we have any more exteriors that maybe one or two more exterior nights, but yeah we’ve done almost all of our exterior stuff already.
Q: Can you guys say anything about Emma Watson’s role? From the sizzle reel, it looks like she has more than just a party cameo?
Rogen: Yeah, that’s all we can say; that’s all we should proudly say is that she has more than just a party cameo.