The always affable and entertaining Seth Rogen talked to ComingSoon.net on the set of his new project, Pineapple Express, about what it’s like working again with James Franco and how the idea of his newest comedy came about.
ComingSoon.net: So this is the last day, huh?
Seth Rogen: It is, kinda. We’ve got a DVD day, I guess.
CS: What’s a DVD day?
Rogen: It’s a day where we shoot s**t just for the DVD.
CS: Interviews and stuff?
Rogen: No, like bits. We invite every actor we know, basically, to come in and just shoot extra content, kind of.
CS: Like the “Special Edition” DVD?
Rogen: No, we’ll put it on the regular DVD. Like for “Superbad”, for example, me and Bill played cops, so we did this thing, like for a whole day we just invited every actor we know to come in and play criminals we busted. We just shot in front of a green screen and kind of improv’d all day long with every actor we know. We’re kind of doing the same thing with this. We have different people buying weed from Danny McBride and stuff. We have this part in the movie where it’s like the government marijuana testing in the ’30s. So we’re like doing that for the DVD. We just have people coming in and being test subjects.
CS: Who’s coming in?
Rogen: I think Rudd’s coming. I’m not sure what the big list is. Charlene Gi. We’ll see if Jonah’s in town. Michael, Sarah, just whoever’s in town. Schwartzman maybe. David Krumholz I think is coming. I don’t know who else. I haven’t looked at the final list. It’s our regular band of misfits. I think Martin Star is coming. Leslie Mann I think is coming. I think Judd might shoot something. It’s whoever’s in town. We’ll see. (Laughs) You get $300 bucks.
CS: “Superbad” is based on your experience in high school?
Rogen: Kind of. I mean, it’s so confusing to explain, even for me. There was never that night. That never happened to us. But like some of the stories the pee your blood thing, for example. A lot of the people’s names are real. Just our friends getting fake IDs and stuff like that. But we kind of like just combined it all I mean we never had any separation anxiety going to different I didn’t go to college, so that didn’t play into it. I was just a loud mouth assh**e in high school, and Evan was just a slightly less loudmouth assh**e. That we took from our lives, I guess. But Michael was much cuter than Evan ever was.
CS: You and Evan wrote the screenplay as well for this, right?
Rogen: Yeah. This came from years ago, actually, in like 2001. Judd paid for Evan to come here for a summer. This is after “Undeclared” got canceled, and basically just had us generate movie ideas all summer. And this was not one of them. After we handed Judd our list of ideas, he said, “Ah, write a weed action movie.” And we said, “Ok.” And that’s basically where it came from. He had the notion that there was a process server for some reason, which we went with, that witnesses a murder. And the notion, basically, was: Would you quit smoking weed if your life literally depended on it. That was kind of our starting off point. And then it really turned into this kind of examination of drug dealer/drug buyer relationship and how awkward that could be. All our movies are thinly veiled homoerotic love stories. And this is no exception, I would say. So that’s where the idea came from. We didn’t even like the idea at first: “That sounds terrible. A weed action movie?” We really got into thinking like, but if that was good, it would be our favorite movie of all time. So we decided to kind of shoot for the stars, I guess. If we saw a trailer for a good weed action movie, we’d be the first ones there to buy a ticket. So it’s tailor made for us. I know I’ll enjoy it.
CS: How would you describe the comedic tone of “Pineapple Express”?
Rogen: By nature, just having two knuckleheads do physical things it becomes somewhat slapsticky. It definite in a good way, I think develops this kind of Laurel and Hardy feel to it, just kind of two idiots trying to avoid danger and violence whenever they can, but our big inspirations were movies like “True Lies” and “Lethal Weapon” and “Midnight Run,” these action comedies of the ’80s and early ’90s. We try to play it real. Our general mantra at all moments is kind of, what would you do in that situation? The situations are definitely ridiculous at times, but I think tonally we try to keep it as straight as possible and not reach for the jokes so much as kind of letting it play out. You just have two really stoned guys shooting machine guns, you don’t really need to try to make that funny (laughs).
CS: You’re the buyer and James is the dealer.
Rogen: Yes. It was originally written the other way actually. I was kind of the goofy sidekick and Franco was kind of the straight leading guy and we were like, “That doesn’t seem as exciting as it could be.” So we decided to flip it. And I think it’s really funny. He’s amazing doing the character. At the first table read, I was like, “F**k. He’s way funnier than I would have been doing that.” (laughs) Thank God we did that. He thinks we’re friends, but I just think he’s my pot dealer. And throughout the movie it comes out that I don’t actually even like him. I just kind of pretend to be nice to him because he sells really good weed. But he really thinks that we’re friends and kind of really wants to be friends. And then I kinda slowly realize that he’s actually my only friend. (laughs) He’s actually the only person that I talk to.
CS: What is surprising about working with Franco? He’s basically a serious actor.
Rogen: I worked with Franco years ago, and what was surprising is that I always thought he was hilarious. He was really funny. I mean, most of our scenes in “Freaks and Geeks” were comedic ones. If anything, I was surprised when he was suddenly dubbed this “serious actor.” That term is so weird. But he definitely seems to get that, being a serious actor. But it’s exactly the same as it was. We both have a lot more experience, I would say. Personally, I’m much more comfortable in front of the camera than when we did “Freaks and Geeks.” So it makes it a little easier if anything. But it’s awesome. I love working with him; that’s why we decided to do it. We always got along really well. He’s funny as hell.
CS: How did he end up working with you guys?
Rogen: We just thought, let’s ask Franco to do it. (laughs) It’s really simple sometimes. Yeah, it was easy as that.
CS: And he had to leave for a little bit to finish “Spider-Man 3”?
Rogen: He left for his press tour. He had this giant run of publicity. He left for two weeks. But there’s a good chunk of the movie that he’s not in, so he didn’t miss much.
CS: And you’re about to do press for “Knocked Up,” which has a ton of buzz surrounding it. What’s that like?
Rogen: It’s nice that it’s good buzz. It must suck doing this for a movie that no one likes. It’s really nice that people seem to like it. That’s kind of where it ends for me. It’s nice. I don’t feel insane. When we were making it, it’s like, “If people don’t like this, then we’re crazy. ‘Cause it seems really funny to us.” So we’re not nuts. That’s nice.
CS: Has Judd stopped by?
Rogen: Yeah, he’s come by quite a bit. They’re doing “Walk Hard” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” simultaneously. [He] was around more at the beginning when we were kind of finding our legs. David’s directed a lot of movies before. And I think it kind of becomes his own means of prioritizing where he needs to spend his time on set. It’s funny, he describes it as he just pretends he’s running a TV show and instead of episodes they’re movies. And he just has different writers on them. It’s funny because it’s exactly like that. And it’s all the same writers from “Undeclared.” Nick Stoller is now directing “Sarah Marshall” and Jake Kasdan’s doing “Walk Hard”. It’s literally like he’s doing a TV show. (laughs) The writers are just running the episodes.
CS: You have different costumes in this film from what I understand?
Rogen: Yeah, I’m a process server in the movie, so
CS: Why a process server?
Rogen: I barely know what it is. We don’t do research really. We’re running on the assumption that everybody else knows what it is, because we don’t actually know what it is. We kind of tailor made this job to fit our needs in the movie. But what a process server actually is is someone who serves subpoenas and legal documents to people who are getting sued by other people. Once they say that they are them, then your job is over. You just hand them the subpoena and that’s it. But the only legal thing that needs to happen is that they need to admit that they are them. So where the costumes come into play is if they know someone’s trying to serve them, they would not necessarily admit they were them to just anybody. And if you’re just like a pizza delivery boy or a Xerox repair man or something, they’re more likely to say that they are them.
CS: Is James’ wardrobe traditional pot dealer wear?
Rogen: Seems like it. Guatemalan pants and a funny T-shirt, the T-shirt’s amazing.
CS: I love his hair.
Rogen: Yeah, his hair’s amazing. What’s funny is, it’s like a wig and I always forget it’s a wig. It’s like, I feel like I have a hard time talking to him without the wig on. [Laughing] He’s much more accessible with that wig for some reason. Without it, it’s like, that’s James Franco man, that’s the New Goblin [Laughing], but with it, just some stupid pothead. [Laughing]
CS: Can you talk about how David’s adapted to doing a comedy since he has been doing so many indie films?
Rogen: I mean, how we hired him is we’re friends with Danny McBride and Jody Hill, who went to film school with David who made this movie “Foot Fist Way” that you guys will inevitably be hearing a lot about, because it’s one of the funniest movies of all time. I think! And it’s coming out in September I think. But we saw it, Will Ferrell’s company is releasing it and we saw it while we were actually making “Knocked Up.” And we kind of, what we do is see movies that we like and then force those people to become friends with us [Laughing] and we were doing that with these guys. And Danny McBride’s actually in this movie, that’s how well it worked and we were talking to him about this, saying like, “who do you think would be good?” and they always talked about how David was funny and that they were like, if you meet him, you’ll find it’s so weird that he makes these movies because he’s actually just a really funny, easy going guy. And you just picture him, like this brooding, kind of evil, emotional guy whose job it is to put you in a bad mood almost. [Laughing] I don’t know if you’ve seen “Snow Angels,” but it’s one of the most depressing movies I’ve ever seen in my life I think. And what’s funny is I hadn’t even seen his movies when we hired him. I met him and I know a lot of people that are obsessed with his movies. I met him and I thought this guy’s f**king rad! Let’s hire him. And then I went and watched his movies and I’m like, wow, I hope we didn’t blow it. [Laughing] These are really serious. But even in “All the Real Girls” there are funny scenes involving Danny McBride actually, who is in that. And if you can do anything funny, then I think you can do a lot of funny. You know, like the fact that he had these moments in “All the Real Girls” that are just super natural and funny, and they’re just kind of exactly what we try to go for, it was just clear. Like if he can do that, then he can do that for a whole movie you know. And you know, with an action kind of comedy, it was really important to us that it just didn’t feel like you’re regular action comedy. You know, people are kind of going to expect this deeper, emotional resonance from the movies Judd does and the movies that we’re beginning to do, you know, “oddly sweet” is something that people say about “Superbad” a lot, and it’s something that we like to hear. So we thought if we hired someone like David that it would kind of set us apart from just your regular kind of shoot ’em up weed movie. And it kind of would add this real, emotional kind of sweetness and heart to it that you don’t generally see in the same movies as AK-47’s. [Laughing]
CS: It seems pretty collaborative they way you guys, you know, you shoot the scene, then you come out [and watch]. Is he pretty open to
Rogen: Totally open. From the get go we established that, you know, we wouldn’t even bother hiring a director who wasn’t like that. He’s super collaborative, like we are. I mean, as the writers, we could care less what they say. It doesn’t matter if they say any of the lines, or all the lines. I mean, when you have Nora Dunn and Ed Begley Jr., you’re insane to assume that they’re not gonna think of something funnier than what you wrote, you know. And he’s totally cool with it. This movie’s more logistically complicated than the other movies we’ve done, just cuz, you see there’s gunshots and kind of, squibs and explosions and s**t like that, so it’s somewhat more limiting than say a movie like “Knocked Up” where it’s mostly just people kind of sitting around talking. [Laughing] But we do, I think. I think there’s more improv in this than most action movies. [Laughing] I don’t know if Mel Gibson and Danny Glover were riffin’ a lot but [Laughing]
CS: Do you have more respect for action actors now that you have sort of been through that?
Rogen: Ah, some. I would say, in a way I do. But then there’s that thought of, if I could do it anyone can. [Laughing] If I can make it look possible, well then, what are they getting paid for? I’m like an overweight Jew. If I could throw a punch then Mel Gibson’s not that impressive. [Laughing]
CS: Where did the title come from? I know it’s supposed to be a new kind of weed right?
Rogen: Yeah, um, it’s funny; I always fear defending our titles like Judd always goes with this super literal title that explains the movie. Me and Evan have begun going with the title that has nothing to do with the movie. But it was literally in high school; Evan came up to me one day and was like, “I just learned about this weather system called the pineapple express. It’s a warm wind that comes in from Hawaii and affects the west coast of North America.” And he was just like, “ that’s a cool name. We should keep that in mind.” And years later we were writing this and we were like, we need a name for this weed that kind of kicks off all the sh*t, and [we thought] Pineapple Express, that’s something we always wanted to use as a title. [Laughing] And it actually worked perfectly.
CS: Can you describe the scene we were just watching a little bit more?
CS: Like, the people shooting at you
Rogen: So we just found out, officially, that we are being hunted by murderous drug dealers in the previous scene. They know who I am, my name and who Saul (James Franco) is, so we kind of, in a state of paranoia/genius foresight, conclude that they might go to my girlfriends house cuz a lot of her information’s at my house. So we run here, upon arriving I realize that I was actually supposed to be there for a dinner to meet her parents, which I hadn’t done yet. So yesterday we shot the scene where I kind of bust in like a bat out of hell and I’m trying to explain that we all need to evacuate the house. Ed Begley, who’s her father, thinks I’m insane, and he’s actually the one shooting at us in this scene. Because he thinks I’m just a bad guy and I won’t leave the house, and so he goes to get his gun to try and get me out of the house. And then he sees that Franco’s there too, and he doesn’t know who he is, so he just starts firing at us. [Laughing]
CS: And your girlfriend is the one that stabs Franco with the fork
Rogen: Yeah, my girlfriend (Amber Heard) stabs Franco because she thinks he’s one of the drug dealers, one of the “bad” drug dealers. And he’s actually one of the good drug dealers. [Laughing]
CS: So you witnessed a murder then?
Rogen: Yeah, as I’m supposed to serve Gary Cole’s character, I witness a murder. And in a fit of fear, I drive away but I leave a roach of this Pineapple Express weed outside his house. And since me and Franco are the only guys in town who have this weed that he is the one who sells, he’s able to tie it back to us, and begin trying to kill us.
CS: So Gary Cole’s a bad guy?
Rogen: Yes. Him and Rosie Perez are the villains.
CS: Was that your casting idea?
Rogen: It’s all collaborative I guess. Rosie Perez just came in and auditioned actually, and we saw her and were like, we were seeing the tape and like, is that Rosie Perez??? What the f**k is she doin’ auditioning? [Laughing] And she’s just amazing and she’s hilarious and you see her and it’s just like, “Ah, Rosie Perez! She’s amazing, where has she been all this time?” And she’s been producing independent documentaries is the answer to that question. But she hasn’t been in a movie in like, eight years or something, she said. She’s amazing, I think she’s gonna steal the whole thing. She’s crazy/funny, especially with Gary Cole. She plays, like a dirty cop and he’s kind of this drunk, out of it, pot dealer, kind of weed kingpin. A single dad and he’s kind of not in it anymore, his head’s not in the game anymore. Their scenes are really weird and funny. We keep watching all the sh*t we shot and we can’t believe this is all one movie, it’s really strange. [Laughing]
CS: Were you inspired by any other “pot” movies, like “Half Baked”?
Rogen: I love “Half Baked” and I loved “Dazed and Confused”. But, you know, it’s interesting with weed movies; I mean like, a lot of them function well as weed movies and that’s it. I mean, if you remove the weed it would not be much of a movie generally speaking. [Laughing] If you showed it to someone who didn’t smoke a lot of weed, they probably wouldn’t like it at all. That’s kind of where we had to be cautious here, I mean obviously this movie is made for people who love weed [Laughing] but not everyone does, so we kind of wanted it to function as an actual movie beyond that. But for my money, you know, “Half Baked” is amazing. But my mom might not like it. I think she’ll like this movie though. [Laughing]
CS: You’re mom is comfortable with the subject matter?
Rogen: She is I guess. I think so. She fine, she’s found enough weed in my drawer in high school to know [Laughing] what’s happening. I got a job; she can’t worry about me anymore. But I gotta say she’s the one who really sparked my love for action movies. I mean, “Die Hard” is her favorite movie of all time. So I had a healthy diet of Paul Verhoeven and John McTiernan growing up. [Laughing]
CS: You said she found weed [in your drawer]
the first time she found weed how did she react?
Rogen: Not well. It started with a bang actually. What’s funny is they’d never found anything on me and then like the last day of grade eight, they found an ounce of mushrooms in my backpack. They weren’t even mine, I wasn’t taking them. I was kind a middleman. [Laughing] And so that was like, very jarring to go from never like she never caught me drinking or anything, to find an ounce of mushroom so I think, beyond that, finding a joint here or there, was like, a least he doesn’t have a f**king ounce of hallucinogens . [Laughing]
CS: So it worked out well.
Rogen: Exactly! Now I know message for the kids, start out with something horrible, scale it back after that. [Laughing]
CS: So is writing something that you want to continue doing?
Rogen: Ah, yeah, totally. We are actively still going strong.
CS: Was “Superbad” the first thing you guys wrote together?
Rogen: Yep. We started writing it in high school actually. When we were like thirteen or fourteen years old I think. And it took a long time to get it going. [Laughing] But yeah, we love it. I mean, when you can work with your best friend and be paid to sit in your house all day and eat snacks and play video games and then write for an hour here or there it’s a great job, I can’t imagine why we’d stop. [Laughing]
CS: How do you guys work together? Do you write a draft and then he writes a draft?
Rogen: No. A lot of writers do that, who write in pairs. We do not; we specifically, always try and be there together at the same time. One of us will type, the other watches, you know, and we find it’s definitely more enjoyable, the products better, I have no idea, but we like it better when we can be there together. You know kind of just riffin’ and doing it at the same time. But not everyone does that. He was in college for a while as we were writing a script, we did have to at times, kind of do that. It didn’t work that well and we would just do it over the phone. We’d have phone writing sessions. [Laughing]
CS: Are you guys the type that rewrite as you’re shooting ?
Rogen: Sometimes something will come up as you’re shooting and you’ll just stumble on to a great idea sometimes as you’re shooting. But we improv so much, we generally find it’s pointless. Someone will just be like, “what about these lines?” Ah, f*ck it, whatever. [Laughing]
CS: So when you’re casting, do you look for actors who are really strong at improv?
Rogen: Yeah, I’ll generally go in and audition with a lot of the actors and we go through these crazy f**king twenty minute marathon auditions where we just do it all. I mean, we definitely look for actors who are comfortable improvising, we just know that’s a big part of what we do.
CS: I noticed that David just let you guys keep going, it takes him a long time to yell “cut”.
Rogen: Yeah, sometimes. [Laughing] Yeah, it’s fun, you know. It’s great when you can just go. Where there’s an environment where you really feel like you can do no wrong. Obviously it’s not all going to make it into the movie, but you know that he’ll never yell at you for saying something that you weren’t supposed to say necessarily. And he has the craziest direction of anyone ever in the entire universe; I hope you guys get a chance to see it. That has been the most hilarious part of working with him. “Do it like a drunk robot.” is one of his favorites. [Laughing] “Say that like a drunk robot.” That’s one of his favorite directions. I want to do a DVD thing of just all his I regret not having mic’d him the whole time. I really wish we had mic’d him just so we could have like clear I was telling him that he’s gonna like, have to come in and ADR his own direction. [Laughing] Because people need to hear it; like that makes the s**t he tells people to do makes me laugh as hard as anything anyone says in the movie as well. “Say it like it stinks like s**t.” “Say it like you have earwax in your mouth.” Just crazy [Laughing]
CS: Are there going to be any other cameos from anybody else from “Freaks and Geeks”?
Rogen: I don’t think they’re is in this movie actually. Sorry to disappoint. Is there?
CS: Will there be in the DVD?
Rogen: Well the DVD will have ’em all. [Laughing]
CS: Those situations you were talking about?
Rogen: People coming to buy weed and stuff like that? Yeah. This movie doesn’t have a very big cast which is the one kind of different thing about it from our other movies. There’s really not that many characters in the movie. There’s basically me and Franco and Angie’s family, and Gary and Rosie and that’s pretty much it. There’s two hit men that are chasing us, Kevin Corrigan and Craig Robinson. The oddest two hit men ever. [Laughing] And that’s pretty much the whole cast. And Danny McBride, who is the funniest man alive. I really can’t emphasize that enough. You will all be very aware of him soon, I imagine. I’m just glad we’re in on him early. I wonder if his movies will come out by the time this I’m sure he’ll be kind of well known by the time this comes out.
CS: He’s doing an HBO pilot so he could.
Rogen: Yeah, he could be on a series by then. Their pilot’s funny as hell. It’s awesome. But “The Foot Fist Way” is amazing; you guys should try and see it.
CS: I like the title.
Rogen: Well it’s about a Tai Kwan Do instructor, that’s what Tae Kwan Do means, the “Foot Fist Way.” It’s about like a Tae Kwan Do instructor in like a small southern town whose life just completely unravels [Laughing] as he’s teaching children Tae Kwan Do. It’s amazing. It’s about a miserable guy, [Laughing] which I find hilarious. To me that’s the funniest thing ever. Just a really sad man. [Laughing]