Superbad - Seth Rogen interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
SETH Rogen talks about writing and starring in Superbad and how lots of the things in the film really happened.
He also gives us an insight into his forthcoming film, The Pineapple Express and reflects on his early career as a stand-up comedian.
With Knocked Up and Superbad you’ve really taken the summer box office by storm in the US. Can you believe it?
Seth Rogen: It’s weird because I’ve been here [in the UK] the whole time that Superbad has been debuting. It’s strange to think that across the world right now our movie is sweeping the nation. I really haven’t seen any proof of that. I did not think Superbad would do that well at all. I always thought Knocked Up had a much larger audience than Superbad. It’s just a less offensive movie in a lot of ways. But I think people were excited about Superbad because it came after Knocked Up.
How autobiographical is Superbad?
Seth Rogen: Well, myself and Evan Goldberg started writing it in high school when we were 14 years old and a lot of that stuff actually happened. The relationship between us is totally fabricated for the movie. We did split up eventually but we don’t give a shit… we don’t love each other! But a lot of the stuff that happens throughout the movie, like the period blood, actually happened to a friend of ours. The whole fake ID concept happened. Fogell is actually our other best friend and all the names in the movie are people who went to high school. Countless little things in Superbad are based on actual things that happened.
What about the cops?
Seth Rogen: The cops are not! [Laughs] That part came from the idea of always being caught in high school with weed or beer, or something like that. The cops would always take it and we’d always say to ourselves that they’d probably be out in the parking lot drinking it afterwards. So we then got to thinking: “What if they did? That would be funny just to follow what we think cops do at night!” I met Bill Hader [Officer Slater in the movie] doing You, Me & Dupree and we really just got along great. As soon as we met we said that if we ever make Superbad – which will probably never happen – then it would be really fun to have him be one of the cops.
You turned to stand-up comedy at a very early age (13). What prompted you to do that and why comedy?
Seth Rogen: I always knew I wanted to do something creative. I actually wanted to be a painter until I was in Grade 8 and failed art class. So then I started stand-up because I loved comedy and writing… I was thinking very practically – or impractically – that I probably wouldn’t go to college or anything, so if I started doing stand-up because you can, if you’re good, get recognition and then I can move to LA; maybe I’ll do stand-up there and then get on a sitcom. So I thought I might as well get started early.
How were those early years?
Seth Rogen: They were good actually. I mean I kept doing it! If I was bad I probably would have stopped, so I really was pretty good at it I think.
Would you ever go back to it? A lot of former stand-ups say they wouldn’t.
Seth Rogen: Maybe, I don’t know. It’s funny because over the past few months of promoting Knocked Up I got to do Letterman and Leno, and that’s kind of like doing stand-up: you write your little stories beforehand and they just basically set you up so that you can tell your story. It’s been a lot of fun. I don’t know if I’d want to go up there with a microphone or anything, but it has been enjoyable to be able to get in front of an audience and tell jokes again. I like that.
And you have The Pineapple Express coming up…
Seth Rogen: Yeah, well that was kind of our experiment to see if we could do action. There’s still a lot of comedy in it, so it felt a little safer. But I love that movie. To me, it’s incredibly original – a weed-themed action comedy, which you don’t see very often. We really set out to make our favourite movie of all time – and it really is. James Franco is in it and he’s hysterical. It’s an oddly sweet movie about the pot dealer/pot buyer relationship and I really seem to be able to relate to it in a strange way. David Gordon Green [Undertow] directed it and he’s awesome – but he’s going to confuse a lot of really smart film people. I’m really proud of it.
Has the success of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad opened up a lot more doors for you creatively? Is it easier to pitch ideas and have people listen?
Seth Rogen: It is. It’s a little scary now because we probably could make almost anything we want – and that’s not good! I don’t think all of our ideas are good. It’s almost easier when people are critical of you because it helps with the quality control. Now they seem to be listening to everything we say, so we’ll probably make a few really shitty movies [laughs]. You have to be careful because it’s a little weird. I’m used to really struggling and facing a hard time to get things going, so I’m not comfortable at all with it yet.
Do you also now find yourself getting recognised a lot more when you walk down the street?
Seth Rogen: Yeah. It’s a little weird but it doesn’t happen that much because there’s always someone more famous down the block. No one cares about me when George Clooney is 30ft behind me! It’s a little strange, I guess, but it’s probably more intense right now than it will be almost at any other point in my life. I’m very fresh in people’s memories. At most it occupies four minutes of my day, taking pictures with people, so it’s really not that life-altering. It’s nice because generally people are throwing stuff at me! It’s great that people appreciate what we do.