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Knocked Up - Seth Rogen interview

Seth Rogen in Knocked Up

Interview by Rob Carnevale

SETH Rogen talks about the overwhelming success of Knocked Up, working with Grey’s Anatomy star Katherine Heigl and why the sex scenes were awkward but dirty fun!

He also discusses how fame has helped him to be able to pitch more ideas, why high concept sci-fi may be next for him and why the audience always decides how far is too far in terms of gross out comedy…

Q. Has the critical and commercial success of Knocked Up been a surprise?
Seth Rogen: It’s insane. It’s totally unexpected and extremely nice.

Q. Did you have to overcome any nerves about stepping up into leading man status?
Seth Rogen: Hypothetically, I did. But I tried not to think about it. As soon as I’d get nervous, I just went back to thinking that the movie was an ensemble and any given scene wasn’t that different from anything else I’d done. I was just one of five people in the scene for the most part, so I tried not to approach it any differently from how I did The 40-Year-Old Virgin or anything else.

Q. Who’s idea was it to put your face on one of the posters with the tagline, “what if this guy got you pregnant?”
Seth Rogen: [Laughs] I don’t know! Maybe it was Judd [Apatow]‘s idea… We talked about that but I thought it was funny. It’s only really targeted at women, so it was a very subtle marketing campaign to get women to see it. I wonder if there’s guys or women walking round thinking I’m going to jump out and impregnate them – just inject them with my sperm!

Q. How did you enjoy working with Katherine Heigl?
Seth Rogen: She’s awesome. She was ideal – cool and fun to be around. She actually seemed amused by us, which was nice.

Q. Did you have long to build a chemistry before shooting began?
Seth Rogen: We rehearsed a bit but we’re arguing for most of the movie, so it’s not like we’re really supposed to be getting along! The whole concept of it is that there really isn’t a great romantic chemistry between them. In the audition it became clear that us screaming at each other was amusing and that’s all we really needed!

Q. But it’s also important that there’s some chemistry for the couple of touching moments you share…
Seth Rogen: That’s all her acting [laughs]! I credit that to her.

Q. How did you approach the sex scenes, which are raunchy but fun?
Seth Rogen: A little awkwardly I guess but as you say, they’re funny sex scenes. So as embarrassed as you are to be doing something like that, I like those scenes because I think they’re some of the funniest in the movie. And they’re dirty! Whenever I watch them I notice little things that both of us do that make it dirtier! More explicit! The look on my face in some of those shots is…. well, I always feel terrible for my girlfriend.

Q. Paul Rudd said that Judd Apatow sometimes uses up to 30 different takes to get one shot. Is the same approach used for sex scenes, or do you try and limit the amount of takes for scenes of that nature?
Seth Rogen: No, not at all because we improvise a lot. We approached them no differently than any other comedic scene. We just rolled the film and humped away, trying different versions. A lot of the stuff was improvised.

Q. How demanding is it to shoot a scene that many times? Or is the challenge to try something different each time?
Seth Rogen: It’s more fun. I would never think about shooting it that many times but it’s always different. What sucks is when you have to say the same thing over and over again. It’s inherently less interesting to do. But it makes you act entirely differently when you know that anyone might say anything at any moment. There’s a real immediacy. You can never just fall into doing it because you really have to pay attention. So, I love it and I’d shoot everything like that if the writers and directors would let me.

Q. When you write your own material, how far is too far?
Seth Rogen: I never know. I assume my lines are much further than most people but we let audiences tell us. You can sense in a theatre full of people if you’ve gone too far. You can literally feel the room tense up and reject your notion. I go to all the test screenings because we want you to enjoy the experience overall. But with a scene like the crowning shot, you can feel them enjoying it. They liked that they don’t really like it. But sometimes you can just tell that they didn’t really like a scene, so we’ll just take that stuff out.

Q. And stick it on the R-rated DVD?
Seth Rogen: Exactly!

Q. Judd Apatow has been quoted as saying that before writing Knocked Up, you kept pitching high concept sci-fi ideas. Are they still on the agenda?
Seth Rogen: [Laughs] One day, maybe! It didn’t occur to me that people didn’t want to make a $500 million Seth Rogen vehicle. Maybe that will change. We’re writing the Green Hornet movie, which is not sci-fi but kind of a comic book, superhero-style action movie. I love that shit so the fact that people are letting us write it is amazing to me. I’m going for it.

Q. Is there anyone you’d still like to work with? Any great comedic actors or people you’ve looked up to?
Seth Rogen: Yeah, lots of guys. So far, I’ve really been amazingly fortunate that I’ve worked with almost every single person that I truly look up to and idolise in some capacity or another. I’m a friend of Edgar Wright’s but I’d love to work with him, or Sasha Baron Cohen again. Steve Coogan is amazing – my friends are doing a film with him at the moment and I’m extremely jealous. There’s a lot of guys – the Coen brothers, they’re amazing. a lot of directors. But they’re not calling! People think we’re too self sufficient. So yeah, tonnes of guys – everyone who’s awesome!

Read our review of Knocked Up

Read our interview with Judd Apatow