Friday, November 21, 2014

An Evening with Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg, & Screening of The Interview

The other night we attended the San Francisco Film Society's screening of The Interview, and discussion with the film's writers/directors (and one of its stars) Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. The duo were interviewed by comedian W. Kamau Bell, who did a fantastic job asking about how the two got started and their creative process.

Best known for films such as Pineapple Express (BFFF!), Superbad and This is the End, Rogen and Goldberg met in Bar Mitzvah class. They started writing together in Goldberg's sister's bedroom, since that's where the family computer was. They later wrote in Rogen's parents' basement, and finally in his grandma's car with a laptop, because then they could smoke pot while they wrote. Bell asked if Goldberg had ever thought about acting, and he said he had tried once, they had made a parody of Space Balls (a parody of a parody) where Rogen directed and Goldberg had acted all of the roles, but joked that hadn't gone so well and he hasn't been tempted since.

Rogen got his start acting in Judd Apatow's Freaks & Geeks. Apatow flew Goldberg out for the summer and told him and Rogen to come up with 150 pitches for movies, and that if they did that one of them could probably get made. After presenting their ideas to Apatow (Example: a time traveler has a mission to carry out and travels back in time. A stoner living in the apartment the time traveler is arriving at has built a wall in order to hotbox better. Because the wall wasn't supposed to be there, the time traveler gets stuck in the wall and the stoner has to complete the mission) he advised them to scrap all of the pitches and just make an action movie about stoners (Pineapple Express).

Rogen mentioned that although he and James Franco worked together on Freaks and Geeks, they didn't hang out together much due to their age gap (Rogen was around 17, Franco was 21). After the show ended, Rogen and Goldberg wrote for Da Ali G Show, and Franco went on to make movies like Annapolis and Tristan & Isolde. Their career paths were pretty different, but when Rogen was casting Pineapple Express, he and Apatow met with Franco. Franco had just made a short comedy film called Ape, and was interested in the genre. Rogen said doing the film changed Franco's perspective of what a comedy film could be.

Bell asked them what the typical work distribution was when they were writing, and both Rogen and Goldberg agreed they were pretty equal partners. Both take turns typing, both equally think of ideas for the storyline. They mentioned they work better when they are writing together, as it causes them to have arguments, and those arguments help them figure out when something isn't working.

Rogen and Bell also noted that even as successful as they are now, they still sometimes have trouble getting movies made. When asked if they'd ever make another Green Hornet they said they had felt constrained by the PG-13 rating and pressure from the large budget to do well, but if they could make it low budget and do whatever they wanted, maybe. They joked they should start a kickstarter, and that it would probably be the least successful campaign the site has ever had.

Also because it's San Francisco, and we were at the Castro Theatre, the discussion about the gay community and bears came up. Rogen mentioned he had heard that he was popular in the bear community, and that he was considered a cub, since he'd need to gain about 40 more pounds to be a bear. There was also discussion about the artist who published drawings of Rogen nude. He's never met the artist, and Rogen admitted that his wife had been surprised by how oddly accurate they were.

Bell also mentioned how their movies have led the way portraying close male friendships where the characters aren't afraid to tell each other that they love each other. All of their movies have a bromance, which is in many ways reflective of their own close friendship.

Their latest film The Interview follows talk show host Dave Skylark (played by James Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Rogen) as they travel to North Korea to interview (and assassinate) Kim Jong-Un. North Korea has promised retaliation for the film. When asked why they picked a real leader as the subject of their movie, instead of just making up a fictional character, they said it was because they couldn't make up something worse. They had the idea while working on This is the End (in which the main actors play satirical versions of themselves). They said this was their first foray into more political subject matter. They noted that as an actor or writer, it's easy to get stereotyped into the characters you portray. If you play dumb, people assume you are. However, they're aware of what's happening in North Korea and wanted to incorporate that into their film. They joked if the movie bombs they'll just go back to their usual subject matter, but if it succeeds the next one will be about Putin.

Also they talked about Bound 3, which they filmed over 3 lunch breaks while shooting The Interview. They had joked about spoofing the video, and Franco had noted it would be relatively easy to film shot for shot. They already had a green screen, and as they started doing it even the lighting guys got into it, and helped match the source video.

Rogen said he ran into Kanye later and told him that it took 3 lunches to make, and Kanye told him he hadn't even spent that long on his own video.

The Interview opens in Wide Release on Christmas. If you are a fan of Rogen & Goldberg's previous work, we highly recommend this movie. We don't want to give too many spoilers, but our favorite line of the movie is 'It's 2014, women are smart now'. Although said by a slightly ridiculous character, there are strong female roles in the film. If they can do for women what they did for bromance, it will be a successful coup indeed.

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