Interview: Stoner Maestro Seth Rogen from Pineapple Express!
by Alex Billington
August 4, 2008
In addition to chatting with David Gordon Green at Comic-Con, we also caught up with Seth Rogen, not only the star of Pineapple Express, but also the writer and executive producer. In short time, Rogen has become one of the most well-known comedic actors and has consistently delivered laughs in everything he's in, from Knocked Up to Superbad to Kung Fu Panda (as the voice of Mantis). In addition to Kevin Smith's Zack and Miri Make a Porno, he next stars in the funniest stoner comedy of the decade - Pineapple Express. We shot-the-shit with Rogen about everything from smoking weed, to working with David Gordon Green, to the magic of Huey Lewis, and finally, The Green Hornet. If you're a fan of Rogen or are just looking forward to seeing Pineapple Express, be sure to check out this interview before you do!
I've already mentioned how much I enjoyed Pineapple Express before, including in our interview with director David Gordon Green. Rogen and Franco play off of each other perfectly and are two of the greatest stoners you'll ever see (even more than Kal Penn and John Cho), and as you'll read below, not all of that is acting. Hopefully you enjoy our chat with Rogen and be sure to catch Pineapple Express in theaters!
Let's kick this off - how big of a stoner are you?
Seth Rogen: Well, I enjoy it as much as I can and still function, you know?
It's funny I ask, because normally no one will actually admit that they smoke on set when they're filming, but I imagine there was no way that this movie could have been made without it!
Rogen: We actually-- I can honestly say that we did. Like, we really did it. Yeah, it's frightening that we even smoked weed. Isn't that weird?
That is weird, for as awesome as it was, that is weird! Can you go over the story about how you got attached to this and how it all began with Judd Apatow?
Rogen: Judd had the kind of loose idea for a weed action movie. We thought, that's a strange notion and then we kind of realized there hadn't really been a weed movie that was that good, and actually functioned as the real movie. Half Baked isn't bad, but it's not-- Cheech and Chong movies are pretty stupid, generally speaking. So we thought, wouldn't it be nice if there was a really good weed movie and wouldn't it be cool if there was a really action-packed weed movie, and we kind of just went from there.
Were you familiar with David Gordon Green before he came on?
Rogen: I was, my girlfriend went to film school, so she had inundated me with his work and I liked it. I never assumed that he would be a good choice for the movie. We met Danny McBride and Jody Hill and we started hanging out with them, and they all went to film school together with David, and they were like 'you know who's really funny -- David Gordon Green' and I'm like, that's weird. But we met and we hung out a few times, me and Evan just really got along with him and we thought that could make an interesting combination with David's sensibility and our sensibility and that could be cool.
I agree with you. I saw Snow Angels and that was the first time I was introduced to him and seeing him come off of that to this kind of movie...
Rogen: Yeah, exactly!
Especially with the action scenes, which I thought he would have been new at -- how did he work on set, was it comfortable for him?
Rogen: It was, he was new at it, but he was really psyched about it and clearly he has a good visual sense. I mean, he might not have done action before, but his movies look really good and that's hard to do. It's almost harder to make just two guys talking look good than a shoot out -- that's just exciting by nature. He was just super enthusiastic about it. When we met him, he loved action movies, clearly, he loved all the same action movies we did. We watched Bad Boys II a lot of times together and that's really where it all came from.
And I'd love to ask about improv, because in our interview with David, he said they literally shot so much that wasn't based off of the actual script.
Rogen: Yeah. We wrote the script and it's structurally very similar to how the movie is -- they go here, they go there, but what we say was kind of always up for grabs. We always just want to have it seem as natural as possible and we don't pretend that we can write exactly how people speak to one another at all times. We just love to have people kind of do what they want.
And I know you wrote this with Evan Goldberg from Superbad again. To start, how many times have you written scripts? This and Superbad are the only ones?
Rogen: Yeah, I wrote for a TV show though, me and Evan wrote for "Da Ali G Show" together, also. So we've written together a lot before and we've written other scripts together that just happen to be unproduced at the moment.
It's fulfilling to see someone who can do a great job writing and do a great job acting and do a lot of that at the same time.
Rogen: Thanks man.
There's not a lot of people who can.
Rogen: Yeah, I mean there's -- I guess me and Ed Burns.
That's funny. In terms of the action scenes, one of the things David mentioned is that you guys went to gun training school, is that true?
Rogen: We did a little bit of gun training, not much, I mean we didn't really want to know too much about what we were doing, but we got to go to this big warehouse in the valley that has every gun imaginable in it and we just kind of shot guns all day and it was a lot of fun, it was great, that was a good day.
Awesome. Sounds like you guys had a blast.
Rogen: We did.
I love the whole ending action scene, just because it seemed so realistic.
Rogen: Yeah, it's crazy that they let us do that. David did a great job of that, it looks – it's funny, he really shot action scenes kind of like he shoots a normal scene. He gets a master and then he goes in for coverage and he gives it an interesting look because of that.
Can you go over the story about Huey Lewis and the Pineapple Express theme song?
Rogen: While we were editing the movie, I just started singing this song in my head that could have been the theme song to Pineapple Express and I just felt like 'oh that could be funny' and then I asked the guys 'what do you think if we asked Huey Lewis to do a theme song?' And I was kind of half joking and-- they say, 'well, that would be a good idea.' Then I had lunch with Huey Lewis and explained to him the idea and he saw the movie and he really liked it and then he did it.
Sweet. And if I remember correctly, a lot of the movie had a score, right?
Rogen: Yeah. Graeme Revell was our composer. He's great, he did The Crow and stuff like that. He does really big intense action movies, but we wanted kind of a synthy eighties, like Michael Mann, like Manhunter-y score, like a Miami Vice sounding score, and he used to be in a synth band, Graeme Revell, so he did that really well.
I was wondering why you didn't actually have the Huey Lewis song or other music in the actual movie?
Rogen: Oh, it was just too late by the time we had the idea -- the movie was pretty much finished and it was a really last minute thing if we tried to get it in there.
Can you talk about the progress on Green Hornet at all?
Rogen: We're meeting with directors, we finished the script, and they want to make it. They're going to make it, I think, there's a tentative release date of 2010 and I think as soon as we find a director, we'll go into pre-production, I assume.
Have you been chiming in with the fan reaction here Comic-Con especially?
Rogen: Well, there's really not that many Green Hornet fans out there, I got to say—
Is that part of why you wanted to do it?
Rogen: That really is part of why we wanted to do it, I mean it's not like it's fucking Spider-Man. There's some abstract people, but I haven't seen one guy dressed as the Green Hornet.
Maybe by 2010 there will be, for all we know!
Rogen: Yeah, exactly, maybe next year, two years... That is one of the things we liked about it -- it's not something that people hold sacred. There are some Green Hornet fans, but if only Green Hornet fans went to this movie, it would make fourteen dollars at the box office.
Not to keep talking about the Green Hornet because I know you're not that far along, but a lot of the concern I've heard is in regards to the comedy and to casting yourself. I don't think it's a bad choice, in fact I think it's fantastic, but can you speak to how much comedy will be in it? Are you trying to implement comedy or are you trying to go for straight action?
Rogen: It became clear that if we just went for the straight ahead version of it, it would be Batman. Like, it's a rich guy, he's got a car that shoots fuckin' shit and he drives around at night. And it just seemed like that had been done really well and we really just started realizing that the kind of fun, action comedy version of these movies is what hasn't been done yet well. I feel like Pineapple is really encouraging and we love the way it turned out and we did find a good mix between comedy and action. Obviously The Green Hornet is completely different, but I'd say Pineapple showed us that we could balance the two and that neither needed to be sacrificed in order for the other to work, so not that it's exactly the same as Pineapple tonally, but that I feel like once people see it they'll say like 'oh, they can do an action comedy and the action is still good, and the comedy is still funny.' Or they can go fuck themselves!
That's what I think, too! To wrap it up, what are you five favorite movies?
Rogen: Oh man, that's a tough one. I really like The Big Lebowski (1998). I liked The Last Detail (1973) a lot, that's a great movie. I really like Goodfellas (1990), that might be one of my favorite movies ever. What is that, three? I also liked Back to the Future (1985) and Ghostbusters (1984).
Thanks to Seth Rogen at everyone at Sony for arranging this interview! Rogen is truly a funny man in person and it was great to finally catch up with one of the best comedic actors working these days. Be sure to check out Pineapple Express in theaters this week.