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Pineapple Express - Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg interview

Seth Rogen in Pineapple Express

Interview by Rob Carnevale

SETH Rogen and Evan Goldberg talk about writing their latest comedy, Pineapple Express, striking the right balance between comedy and violence and – in Seth’s case – performing as many of his own stunts as possible.

They also talk about being a part of the Judd Apatow comedy gang, writing together since the age of 13 and forthcoming project, The Green Hornet.

Q. So how seriously did you take the research to play a stoner?
Seth Rogen: Pretty seriously [laughs]. I’m like Daniel Day-Lewis in a lot of ways. Obviously, we smoke a lot of weed and we made a whole movie about it.

Evan Goldberg: We actually did more research on the action. We’d walk around and I’d go: “OK, I’m a bad guy car, you’re a good guy car…”

Seth Rogen: We literally had toy cars we’d play with and we read a lot of action movie scripts. That was the departure for us.

Evan Goldberg: And we came to the conclusion that it didn’t matter, we could do whatever we wanted.

Q. A lot of the action is brutal. So, was it hard to get the balance right?
Seth Rogen: We didn’t think so. It was more difficult to convince people that we’d be able to get the balance right. In my sick brain, gruesome violence and comedy go as hand-to-hand together as anything else in the world. The only thing we did realise was that it’s not funny to see people in immense pain. So, we did have to temper the amount of physical agony they appeared to be in right after they got shot. But as far as the blood was concerned, there was no problem

Evan Goldberg: It’s as simple as to see a bunch of blood in a movie like this is fine, but to rip someone’s chest open in a movie like this isn’t. It’s not funny. We kind of looked at True Lies. In that movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger skis around and shoots 17 people but you don’t see any of them dying.

Seth Rogen: Even in Pulp Fiction, which we thought about a lot, there’s a scene in the car where they blow that guy’s head apart. It’s as gruesome as anything, but it gets a giant laugh because of how they deal with it and the whole attitude towards it is just funny. Again, it doesn’t really deal with the real emotions of the situation; it’s just the funniest possible version.

Q. You threw yourself into the action scenes as well, didn’t you?
Seth Rogen: Yeah, I hurt my finger pretty bad crashing through a coffee table. [James] Franco got the worst injury where he cracked his face open [laughs]. He even has a scar. But we thought, you know, it’s a comedy and it’d be funnier if we did as much of it as we could. Stunt men are trained, physical professionals and they really know what they’re doing. They know how to throw a punch and a kick. We don’t – Franco’s never thrown a punch in his life at anything other than a computer-animated spider. So, I think it just added to the humour to see us doing as much of it as we could. There are parts now, though, where I see how we’re holding the machine guns and I think: “It’s amazing we didn’t f**king kill ourselves!” We really didn’t know what we were doing [laughs].

Q. How much training did you have for the action sequences?
Seth Rogen: As little as humanly possible. We literally said: “Teach me how to use this gun just enough so I don’t kill someone. But I don’t want to look comfortable with it. I don’t want to look like a guy who knows how to shoot a machine gun.” So, the mandate was enough that we don’t hurt ourselves, or others, but not enough that we really look like we know what we’re doing.

Q. Would you like to be able to revisit the characters in the future?
Evan Goldberg: We’ve talked about it and definitely. If we do, we have it all planned out.

Seth Rogen: We’ve been approached about sequels to our other movies and it just didn’t feel right. But I love these characters so much and just by virtue of the fact it’s an action movie it lends itself more to that possibility. With Superbad, if you gave us twice the budget it wouldn’t make that movie funnier; with this, if you gave us twice the budget it would probably make it funnier. We also didn’t really think of an ending… so that helps.

Q. How much of the film was improvised?
Seth Rogen: Tonnes. Watching the movie, it’s now hard to tell what was improvised and what was on the page. The whole cross joint scene – none of that is improvised. That’s pretty much 95% how it was written. But the scene in the diner at the end is 100% improvised. We literally didn’t have a script for it. So, it really ranges from scene to scene. But overall we tell people to say whatever the f**k they want. If we see people rehearsing their lines, we tell them to stop wasting their time because we don’t even bother.

Q. Why do you think the whole Judd Apatow fraternity works so well together?
Seth Rogen: I don’t know. I think we all just get along well and we all just want to make the same types of movies. We have a common goal and different skill sets, so everyone helps each other. I feel that if Evan [Goldberg] wasn’t involved, it would be a different movie; if Judd wasn’t involved, it would be different again. Even right down to the smallest characters it would be different because we really encourage people to add.

Q. What are you like when you write together? Who is tougher on who?
Evan Goldberg: There’s just tiny little differences. I type slightly faster. But Seth’s slowly been getting better.

Seth Rogen: We really write exactly the same we did when we were 13-years-old…

Evan Goldberg: When we started, I was a little more about the actual structure of sentences [laughs].

Seth Rogen: I’d say the way we go about writing the screenplay has evolved a lot. We outline now, we talk about it, and we have our system down. But having said that, we sit down and it still happens. We’re like: “OK, let’s write the most commercial, easy-to-understand idea ever…” And then we write it and go: “What the f**k is this?” Which is encouraging in a way – we haven’t gone mainstream yet! The process is fun. But we literally can’t believe we’re still doing this. We’re in our late 20s almost and we’re doing the exact same thing we were doing when we were 13-years-old. It feels the exact same – we’re just in my house now, as opposed to Evan’s sister’s bedroom.

Q. And you’re taking on the superhero genre next with The Green Hornet?
Evan Goldberg: It’s not really superhero though…

Seth Rogen: It’s more masked crime fighter.

Evan Goldberg: He doesn’t have any powers.

Seth Rogen: It’s more like a crime-action movie than a superhero movie in our heads. He does have gadgets. There’s nothing super about him. If anything, he’s kind of lame. But it’s definitely that world of crime-fighting and masked characters. It’s been a lot of fun. But people are confused by it.

Evan Goldberg: That’s right… one person will say they love how it’s just straight up action, and another will tell us they love how it’s just ’70s camp!

Q. How faithful do you want it to be to the original?
Evan Goldberg: Well, when you really look at all the stuff there was, there wasn’t much. There’s no defined source material or characters. There’s not even a set origin. It’s so old that all these things people now take for granted didn’t exist then. All they had was Zorro and The Lone Ranger.

Seth Rogen: He is the first guy with a sidekick and a mask, and a car that does things that other people’s cars don’t do. So, in a way he is kind of like the original Batman type, which makes it fun. It’s part of what we like about it… the fact there isn’t a real fan-base for it. There are some Green Hornet fans. But if it was only them who went to this movie it would make $7. That’s what’s nice. It’s not like Spider-Man or X-Men, or Batman. I mean, I love Batman, so when I go and see a Batman movie I think “it better do this”. The latest Batman movie, The Dark Knight, blew my mind but I still went home and said: “Batman shouldn’t have that.”

Q. It feels like you’ve had quite a quick rise since The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. Does it feel like that to you?
Evan Goldberg: Well, there was 10 years where we didn’t get anything made [laughs].

Seth Rogen: We wrote Superbad when we were 13-years-old and we wrote Pineapple Express in 2001 or 2002. So, to the outside world it seems like we’ve just unleashed a billion movies, but to us it’s like we’ve been trying to get them made for half our lives.

Q. Do you have any urges to make a weighty, serious heavy drama?
Seth Rogen: One day, maybe. We definitely have ideas that we like. We’re not ruling it out.

Evan Goldberg: I think we’ll do that when we’re good enough. We’re not. I’m not capable of making Munich.

Seth Rogen: Exactly. My favourite directors are like the Coen brothers, who make totally different movies. They’re like the gold standard of movie careers. To be able to make The Big Lebowski and No Country For Old Men

Evan Goldberg: If you showed someone three Coen brothers movies, they’d say they weren’t made by the same people.

Seth Rogen: Whereas right now, we’re not doing that by any means and people can pick out our movies from a mile away. But I guess the goal is to do what you think is interesting and I can’t imagine that when I’m 40 I’ll think the same thing is interesting as I do now.

Q. You mentioned being blown away by The Dark Knight. Was it therefore something of a double-edged sword to be coming out at the same time in America?
Seth Rogen: Yeah! [laughs] But we just have to accept that we came out during a cultural phenomenon! Having said that, we made our money back within the first two days of release. I said to Evan beforehand that if this movie made $70 million, that would be f**king crazy! It’s a weed movie and it’s nuts. So, the fact that it’s already at $65 million in a little over a week is crazy to us. I mean, people say about Batman, but we’re already the biggest movie ever! We’re the cheapest summer movie by far.

Read our review of Pineapple Express

Read our interview with James Franco