Seth Rogen has become one of Hollywood’s hottest sensations, and yet remains completely unaffected by his booming success and continues to be humbled and almost amazed by his latest accomplishments. Rogen was incredibly generous with his time on the set of Observe and Report and made sure we had all of our questions answered before we left.
ComingSoon.net talked to the comedic actor at great length about his current project as well as ones he has in the works.
Q: What was it like working with Ray?
Seth Rogen: It’s really weird. He’s definitely like the most real actor I’ve ever worked with. It’s really interesting to see the steps a real actor takes when doing a role, as opposed to how I just kind of blindly walk into the scenes. He knows his lines and sh*t like that. He doesn’t feel an urge to just make them up as we shoot. He’s very meticulous about blocking and things that I literally don’t think about at all. It’s great. It’s funny in the movie. It’s my role to kind of annoy him to the point that I finally crack him and I kind of feel like that’s happening in real life. Yeah, the dynamic works. When he’s trying to do the scene and I just make sh*t up, it works perfectly in the scenes because you can see he actually kinda wants to kill me, which is exactly what’s supposed to happen.
Q: Do you get the best of Ray?
Rogen: No, I don’t. He wins. I give it a good shot. Yeah, it was really interesting. It was interesting shooting a fight scene with him. When we first started, I couldn’t imagine, there’s a lot of just physical contact involved when you shoot a fight scene. I just couldn’t imagine man-handling Ray Liotta to that degree but he’s a big guy. He can handle himself and we very quickly got into the swing of things. It’s a pretty crazy fight. It’s pretty brutal actually and really, our stunt coordinator said he thinks it’s the most realistic fight he’s ever done.
Q: Were you intimidated by him?
Rogen: Yeah, I know, really, really intimidating. He’s scary. I’m intimidated with him in like the sitting and talking scenes, so yeah, the fight scenes were really scary. But he said he’s never been in a fight in real life so I actually have that on him.
Q: That’s cool to say you’ve been in a fight and he hasn’t.
Rogen: It is kinda cool. I’ve beaten up more guys than Ray Liotta.
Q: He thinks you’re serious about Steely Dan too.
Rogen: I know, he actually really took umbrage, is that a word? He was offended by that. He brings it up all the time. I was just saying, it literally came up again today. He’s a big Steely Dan fan.
Q: What’s it like being the lead day after day?
Rogen: It’s really fun. Everyone in this movie is kind of, I mean, not everyone but Jesse and Michael Pena, they’re kind of mostly based in dramatic movies. It’s a lot of fun to see them kind of do comedy. To me, I get no bigger kick than watching Michael Pena watch playback of himself because he is so in shock at what he’s doing that it makes me fu*kin’ laugh my ass off. But it’s a lot of fun. They’re all just great actors. They all couldn’t be better. It’s really awesome. Good cast.
Q: Do the mall security high five you or give you tips?
Rogen: Yeah, I talk to some mall security guards. There’s actually one guy who works here. He’s been the mall security guard here for 30 years or something like that. He read the script and he said it actually somewhat accurately represents a lot of the people that he’s known. He said there’s two types, the guys who don’t give a sh*t and then the guys who give way too much of a sh*t. I definitely fall into the latter category in this one.
Q: What cameos are planned?
Rogen: No one has come out for this yet. We usually shoot in town which makes it a lot easier, I’ll say, just to get people over. But it’s definitely a little trickier when we’re shooting here in Albuquerque just because normally you’ll be like, “Where are you? We’re at Sony. Come over.” But yeah, no one’s come by yet on this one but we’ll see.
Q: You’ve been demoted from cop to mall cop.
Rogen: Yes, I have.
Q: How is that different? This guy doesn’t have as much power.
Rogen: No, not at all. No power. It’s kind of the exact opposite joke actually. In “Superbad,” the joke was kind of they could do whatever the f*ck they wanted with no repercussions but in this, the guy can’t do anything. Yeah, when I first agreed to do it, like I said, I haven’t read the script or anything and somewhere in my head, I was like, “F*ck, I hope it’s not exactly the same as “Superbad” but it really couldn’t be more different.
Q: What was the thought behind shaving and cutting your hair?
Rogen: We just thought it’s a mall security guard who really fancies himself a protector of justice and has a secret dream to be a cop so we kind of thought that the more official clean cut look would make more sense for the character, just kind of almost a military kind of look because he was very disciplined and regimented and ritualistic with everything he does so we thought this just kinda fit the character.
Q: Was part of the attraction breaking out of the mold?
Rogen: I have to say, when I signed on to do this movie, it was around a year and a half ago maybe. I’d met Jody and seen “Foot Fist Way” and literally, he said, “Hey, I might do a movie about a mall security guard.” I said, “I’m in.” I didn’t even know what the character was at the time and I was pleasantly, you know, I loved it when I read it and I thought thank god that I committed to a good movie. It was more just working with Jody that drew me to it and I really like it and I think it is a great character and really ultimately different than anything I’ve done, but Jody was the draw in the first place, just working with him.
Q: Any similarities between Fred Simmons in “Foot Fist” and your character?
Rogen: I’d say they’re both kind of tragic figures I guess. They’re both guys who generally would not be the heroes in movies. What I love about Jody is he kind of makes these epic movies about really pathetic people. To me, that’s just hilarious, just to paint someone in the light of a hero when they’re clearly just kind of the type of guy most people ignore and avoid.
Q: How would you describe the drama/comedy of this?
Rogen: It is very dramatic. I just see it as a character movie. It’s really about a guy, unlike any of the movies I’ve done so far. Those were more relationship stories but this is really a portrait of this guy. There’s really dramatic parts and there’s really funny parts and to me, it’s just kind of a portrait of someone. I think ultimately it will be called a comedy because I think there’s more laughs than not laughs, but my goal, when I go into the scenes, being funny is not my prime directive. It’s more just kind of honestly bringing this guy to life. If it’s a funny scene it’s funny and if it’s not I don’t try to make it that way.
Q: Why do you have crying scenes?
Rogen: Just kind of the world beating him down I guess.
Q: The world or Ray Liotta?
Rogen: Both. Ray Liotta is the world in this movie. Yeah, he goes through some hard times in this movie, physically and emotionally. Me and Jody always discussed it as a guy, this case, a flasher comes to the mall and finally he gets a case that he seems like he might be able to solve and he can’t do it. I always described it, in my head it was like a guy who is a loser his whole life and he gets an opportunity to f*ck the prom queen and he just can’t get it up. That’s basically the story in my head. That’s what it is. It’s a guy who never did anything and he has this opportunity to accomplish something small in the name of justice and he just can’t seem to do it. It’s kinda sad.
Q: What’s your relationship with the task force?
Rogen: The Specialty Task Force? My character desperately wants to be in charge of something. This collection of misfits is the only guys that seem to listen to him. It’s the Yuen twins who are these two guys who are actually twins and they’re hilarious and it’s Jesse Plemons and it’s Michael Pena and they’re just kind of the guys who have to listen to him because they are his subordinates on the security team. So the dynamic is kind of a tough love one. I’m not very nice to them for the most part. I really give them a lotta sh*t, kind of in a R. Lee Ermey “Full Metal Jacket” kind of way I guess you would say, but it’s all out of love. That’s what Vincent D’Onofrio didn’t get. It was character building. So yeah, I’d say it’s kind of a drill sergeant/private relationship in the movie.
Q: What do Jody Hill and David Gordon Green bring to comedies?
Rogen: They just bring a sensibility that is outside the mainstream in my opinion. When we did “Pineapple,” I kept marveling at the fact that the studio was letting us do all that stuff and I think if it wasn’t someone from a background that wasn’t so far removed from the studios then he wouldn’t even have been trying to do that. I think it’s the same thing with Jody in this movie. To me, a movie’s most fun when it kind of feels like no one’s in charge and that it is just like an independent film and everyone’s kind of working together to try to make it work. Half of this crew went to film school together and it’s a lot of the same crew that worked on “Pineapple.” It literally has that feeling, that it’s a student film. To me that just makes it exciting and collaborative and there’s just a real kind of young energy to it.
Q: How challenging is it to balance original scripts and others?
Rogen: To me it’s just what is around and who approaches me. I’m more than happy to do stuff that I’m in but it’s exciting to me when the director or writer that I admire wants me to be a part of whatever it is that they’re doing. I’m more than happy to do that.
Q: Do you love the DVD extras?
Rogen: Yeah, I think DVDs are great. I’m the first guy to get the DVD and watch every f*ckin’ lame thing that most people probably never look at in a million years.
Q: The art gallery?
Rogen: Yeah, exactly. Like they’ve got “Sin City” all green screen? I’m the guy that watches that sh*t. To us, it’s for fans. It’s for people who are really interested in the process. Most people aren’t, but some people are and we figure they should be taken into consideration too. Yeah, I mean, I was actually really inspired by the DVDs of guys like Robert Rodriguez and those guys who just put in everything to say like here’s exactly how we do this. There’s no mystery to it. There’s no air of secrecy. I’m against that. Kevin Smith is really secretive with his stuff and I’m kind of trying to convince him to not be like that so much. I just don’t get what it gains you. If I gave one of you a DVD of “Pineapple Express” right now, nothing really implies that it will make any less money ultimately. If anything, it gets more people talking about it, I think. There were actors in the movie who didn’t read the script for “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” and you could literally go on my iPhone right now and download the “Pineapple Express” script from IMBb in 35 seconds. I don’t think, I personally don’t think it makes a big difference. I know I’m a movie fan. I love to go out and look at that stuff. Before I was a writer, I would actively seek out unmade movie scripts and read them and compare them with their final product, so I’m all for that stuff being out there just in the hopes that other people will make movies I like.
Q: With the DVD director’s cut, which do you see as the canon version?
Rogen: The theatrical version to me. I’ll be honest, we basically get final cut on our movies. I can’t think of one instance where the studio has made us take something out or put something in that we didn’t want to take out or put in. So the movie as you see it in the theaters is 100% how we want it to be. If anything, we get pressured to add stuff onto the DVDs just because they want to slap that sticker on it that says, “with an additional 25 f*ckin’ million minutes of sh*t we didn’t think was good enough to put in the movie in the first place.” So yeah, to me, it was actually kind of a fight on “Pineapple Express” in that we really didn’t cut much. There’s no scenes that are cut altogether. There’s little bits here and there so we were kinda struggling to find enough material for the studio to be able to say, “Look, there’s extra sh*t on there” because it’s 100% how we want it to be. If we wanted extra sh*t in there, we would have put it in there. So we kind of had to finesse it a little bit. There is extra stuff ultimately. I think there are funny jokes. I honestly don’t think it makes the movie better. I think if you’re a movie fan, again, it’s interesting to see what else was in there, what they could have added but I’m always trying to push for it to be put under a separate section. I don’t think it should be put in the movie. I think it should be deleted scenes as its own special feature on the DVD. You can watch them if you want but if you don’t want to, you get the movie exactly how you first enjoyed it.
Q: What have you been watching on DVD lately?
Rogen: Well, it’s funny. It’s really interesting acting in a movie that I’m not writing or producing in that I get a sh*t load of time in my trailer to watch a lot of satellite TV which I normally don’t get. What have I been watching on DVD? I’ve been going to the theater. I live a block away from the theater so it’s great. I saw “Speed Racer.” I saw “Iron Man.” I liked “Speed Racer.” No one else did.
Q: We did.
Rogen: I really f**kin’ loved it. Yeah, I don’t get it. Really, I want to see it again. I saw “Indiana Jones” and then “Speed Racer” the next day and the level of creativity that went into “Speed Racer” in my mind versus the level of creativity that went into “Indiana Jones” was just not even a comparison. Every shot of “Speed Racer,” any one frame of “Speed Racer” I felt like had more creative energy pumped into it than any shot in “Indiana Jones.” And I like those movies. I’m not a guy who hates Steven Spielberg. I’m a big fan of his generally speaking but yeah, I loved “Speed Racer.” I was kinda shocked. I got it I guess in that it might have thrown people for a loop and the plot was maybe a little too complicated for kids to really grasp but it was made for 25-year-old potheads. I don’t know how many of us there are.
Q: You do a lot of voice work.
Rogen: “Kung Fu Panda’s” pretty good.
Q: Do you enjoy that in between other projects?
Rogen: I do. It’s a lot of fun. I like to do movies that I’d go see and I do go see all those CG movies. I like the visuals of it. It doesn’t matter to me that they’re really aimed towards younger people. They’re just kind of impressive technical fetes and to me, I get a kick out of just hearing my voice coming out of something that some f*ckin’ nerd in San Francisco spent four million man hours trying to create on the computer somewhere. So yeah, and it’s funny because it’s the exact opposite of making a movie in a weird way in that 100% of the attention is on you and your performance. There’s no extras, there’s no set, there’s no lights, there’s no camera. It’s just you saying the lines. There’s not even other actors. So yeah, I really enjoy it. It really feels like just playing kind of and again, I’ve seen 10 minutes of “Monsters vs. Aliens” and it’s f*cking insane. I just get such a kick by the fact that I’m in that movie and yeah, that someone put that much effort into that.
Q: Is generating a script with Evan different now than when you were 13?
Rogen: Yeah, way different. We write in a much nicer environment, I’ll tell you that much. Yeah, we’ve definitely refined our writing process a lot. It’s easier every time. “Green Hornet,” it just flew out of us. It couldn’t have been an easier movie to write I would say, probably because we’d been ruminating or marinating on it for almost a year by the time we actually sat down to write the screenplay. Don’t tell Sony that. But yeah, it’s definitely become a much more refined process. We outline a lot better now and we know where to start with the emotions and the simple kind of relatable story and then build from there as opposed to starting with like, “There’s a car chase where a guy’s foot goes through the window.” It’s a lot harder to write a movie starting there and working backwards to find a story. Now we start with the story.
Q: Are you a 9 to 5 writer?
Rogen: Yeah, we are, when possible. I mean, when I’m making a movie, it makes it a little more difficult but yeah, I’ll go over to his house and we’ll write pretty much from nine to five. Neither of us, we both love writing but we both love sitting on our asses doing nothing more so we do it in a way where we get as much time to do that as humanly possible. We also both have girlfriends so we can’t just – before we would write from 10 to three in the morning. That doesn’t fly.
Q: What advice did Kevin Smith give you about working in a mall?
Rogen: He did actually. You know, there was some discussion as to where we were going to shoot. Just because I just shot in Pittsburgh and I’m lazy, I was pushing really hard to shoot in Los Angeles. None of the malls were empty there so we were saying maybe we would have to shoot when the mall was closed. He said they did “Mallrats” that way and it was f*ckin’ miserable. So basically, yes, he was instrumental in me backing off from pressuring them to shoot in LA because I just realized yeah, I guess two months of night shoots would be pretty miserable. So yeah, he did have some pretty good advice in that regard.
Q: How is your awesome life now?
Rogen: It’s been very good lately. It’s busy. I was just going through my schedule for the next few months. It’s weird. Assuming “Green Hornet” gets made which it looks like it might, the next year and a half of my life is basically planned out for me already. So it’s a little strange being a guy who normally doesn’t know what he’s doing tomorrow to have that work, but it’s a good feeling.
Observe and Report opens in theaters on April 10th.