Posted on Monday, May 5th, 2014 by Germain Lussier
Over the past decade, few actors have had quite the impact on Hollywood as Seth Rogen. The writer, actor, producer and now director has quietly become the comedic voice of this generation, much like Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy or Bill Murray before him. Rogen’s everyman demeanor and total commitment to embarrassment has become something of a benchmark in modern comedy. Unlike those other comedy icons, however, Rogen is more than just an actor. He got his start writing comedy and continues to write and produce films. He has now proven himself as a director, too. Like his mentor Judd Apatow, Rogen is shaping the laughter of the world.
Rogen’s latest film, Neighbors, is sure to add to that legacy. Directed by Nicholas Stoller, the hard-R film tells the story of a new parents (played by Rogen and Rose Byrne) who fall into a major feud with their fraternity house neighbors, lead by Zac Efron. The film is filled with the kind of big laughs and big heart you’d expect from Rogen.
Recently, we spoke to Rogen about Neighbors, and also touched on his views on his comedy legacy, and the fact he’s making the kind of mid-budget films many in Hollywood see as non-existent. The conversation also ranged through upcoming projects, Zac Efron, female empowerment in the movies, and more. Read our Seth Rogen Neighbors interview below.
/Film: Hey Seth, Congrats on the movie. I hope you’re having fun doing press today.
Seth Rogen: Thank you. Yes, you always get us at our best. [Laughs]
So much of what makes Neighbors good is the personal struggles of the characters. For example, you and Rose are floating between a new life as parents, and their younger, possibly more free lives. Did you experience that in your own life and did you draw from that for that part of the character?
Yeah, for sure. I mean, I’m 32 now and I’m married and a lot of my friends have kids. I work way more than I ever thought I would. And, you know, all those things together really, just, it’s kind of like being an adult has smacked me in the face.
I also love the party scenes in this movie. Nick [Stoller] gave them some really good energy, but you’ve done a ton of movies and shows with parties. How did shooting these scenes compare to stuff that you’ve done in other movies?
There were a lot of them. This was by far the most party scenes I’ve ever done in a movie. Even Superbad I think had fewer party scenes than this movie does. I mean, I was thrilled that like they spent so much time, you know, giving each party its own visual style. It was a little more chaotic. Like we shot the movie really fast, so it was kind of scrappy at times. And there were moments where we literally would like have 200 people in the house going crazy, and we’d run around with like iPhones and little Sony cameras to film stuff as though a party was really happening. And I think it feels like that in the movie. It feels like we threw a party and just happened to film some of it. It was a lot of fun actually. It can sometimes be a nightmare, but it really wasn’t that bad.
We’re at a time in Hollywood where it seems like studios are either making $200-million dollar movies, or they’re buying $2-million dollar movies at Sundance. Most people say you can’t make a movie in between those extremes, but you guys….
We will only make movies in between.
Do you still find it difficult to get those movies made? Or does comedy has a different thing about it?
I think comedy’s different. We find them, I mean, not very easy to get made, but relatively on the grand scale. I’m always blown away that it almost at times seems like it would be easier for us to get a $200-million dollar movie made. Like, me and Evan had to jump through so many hoops and have such an amazing cast and script put together before anyone would let us direct This Is the End. And you see some $200-million dollar movie is directed by a guy who directed three fucking music videos and a Sprite commercial. And you’re like “What the fuck happened there?” So there’s some truth to that statement, I would say.
But we found, generally speaking, that it’s not to us whether it’s easy or hard to get them made for a certain amount of money. It’s that we found, for a certain amount of money, a studio will just be much less up your ass and in your shit. And that’s the amount of money we go for. We generally say, what amount of money can we do whatever the fuck we want for? And if that was $200 million dollars, I would probably take it, but it’s never gonna be that.
You’re obviously a long-time fan of comedy, and it seems that every comedy generation is defined by a handful of people. Has it occurred to you that you are one of the people who’s defining this generation of comedy?
It’s bizarre. As I get older, more young people say that to me, which makes me think there must be some truth to it. But it’s yeah, it’s really strange. It’s very strange.
Do you feel pressure with that?
Yeah, I don’t think about it at all. I think if I did, it would ruin me. It would probably make me not wanna do half of the horrible, despicable things that we put into our movies.
Part of what I love about this movie is the conflict between you and Zac [Efron]. Before he did this, it seemed like people were worried about casting him because he’s got this Disney/Nicholas Sparks thing. Were you worried about that at all?
No, not really honestly. I mean, I’d met him a few times. And I had seen that 17 Again movie, Leslie Mann was with him in that. She always spoke very highly of him. So no, honestly, it was, it honestly didn’t even occur to me. Maybe it should have, but it didn’t.
No, it works great because now he’s against type and you’re bringing him to a whole new audience with this thing.
Yeah, honestly I couldn’t think of anyone else that could do it that was like in any way recognizable, you know?
Now the fight between you guys at the end of the movie is pretty great. And I know Nick said a lot of that was a reshoot. What was that like to shoot? Was it physically demanding?
Yeah, you do it shot by shot. It’s not physically demanding at all. You’re almost never doing anything for more than 15 seconds. I like shooting fight scenes. I think it’s a lot of fun and it’s so cool ’cause you have a playback guy on set. Sometimes they can even just like slap the shots together so often by the time you’re shooting the scene in the day, you can watch the scene at the end of the day and it’s very gratifying.
You have so many things that you’re attached to produce and star in. What is exactly, what is next after you finish press for this?
We’re gonna finish post on The Interview. We’re in production on Sausage Party, our animated movie, so we work on that quite a bit. And then we are in pre-production on Jonathan Levine’s Christmas movie. So we’re doing all that stuff.
How is The Interview coming? I was on the set and I saw you guys shooting the stuff in the tank. And I was just, we were laughing so hard I think you sent P.A.s to shut us up.
It honestly might be my favorite thing we’ve ever made. It’s totally crazy and insane and it feels oddly smarter than some of our other movies maybe. I’m very proud of how it looks, I think visually we took a major leap forward. And we’ve been testing it and audiences have been really, really, really digging it. So yeah, I’m psyched about it.
Now, you don’t have to give me a lot on this, but can I hit you with like five other projects for quick updates?
Me and Evan are writing it write now with the help of Sam Catlin and we’ve come up with a lot of incredibly crazy ideas. [Laughs] It’s a fun thing to riff on and talk about. We’re definitely trying to expand on some of the ideas in the comic and make it that…we love most of the main cornerstones of the comic but we’re trying to make it that even if you’ve read the comic you should not know exactly what to expect from the TV show.
Very cool. This Kevin Hart buddy comedy that Nick Stoller might direct.
That they’re rewriting right now. It’s such an awesome idea. My friend Rodney [Rothman] came up with it; we were working on Undeclared I think is when he first mentioned it. It’s a period movie about the first black cop and white cop who ever teamed up, basically. And they go undercover on the jazz scene to try and arrest jazz musicians for smoking weed. And there’s a chance we’d shoot that after the Christmas movie.
Okay. Now and two things that you’re attached to produce and probably way down the line, but there’s a Console Wars thing and The Room behind the scenes thing, what about those two?
Console Wars. We are producing right now, also, a documentary on it and the book just came out written by Blake [J. Harris]. So me and Evan are starting to work on the screenplay for the movie of that. We’re still kind of wrapping our heads around the emotional side of the story. But I think it’s going to be interesting.
Cool. And The Room behind the scenes movie?
The Room movie I think we just hired two writers on. I’m not sure their deal is closed but they’re very exciting, well-known writers that will make the movie incredibly awesome. It’s been really fun to work on that movie too. The book is so crazy and we’ve been a fan of [The Room] for so long. And if anyone is weird enough to pull it off, it’s James Franco.
Back to Neighbors, the first time you read the script or you got it pitched to you, what was the thing that you really, really liked about it?
Honestly most of our movie ideas are so bizarre I liked that it was the first time anyone had presented us with an idea that actually sounded like a simple, commercial, but smart idea. Like almost since Knocked Up I hadn’t heard an idea that everyone was just like ‘Oh yeah, that sounds like a funny movie.’ Our movies are either usually like actors playing themselves stuck in the apocalypse or something like that. Which doesn’t sound like a good idea. This idea really sounded like a good idea, which we were very happy about.
And since then, what has changed the most?
Yeah, I think what changed the most honestly is the relationship between me and Rose in the movie. In the first earlier drafts, it was more about me and my buddies fucking with the frat. My wife was kind of the exact character you would expect her to be in a movie like that. And then slowly we realized that almost the most innovative thing about the movie could be our relationship and our dynamic if it reflected more what all of our actual relationships with our wives were like. That would actually be much more original and funny. All of us really get along with our wives and we do fun shit with our wives and our wives aren’t trying to stop us from having fun, they’re trying to have fun like alongside us, you know? And the more we talked about that, the more we were like “that hasn’t really done before.”
Do you ever have a discussion with Judd [Apatow] and be like ‘Hey, why am I not at least cameoing in This Is 40? It makes no sense.’
[Laughs] He just said that he was so worried that people would get so excited to see me and Katherine [Heigl] that they wouldn’t care about the rest of the movie.
And finally, have you ever flipped through a TV on a Sunday, hit IFC. and been like ‘Oh my God, what we did with Freaks and Geeks and this cast at that time was insane.’
Yeah, for sure. I mean, I hadn’t re-watched a lot of the episodes for years and years and years and then every once in a while, yeah, I’ll see it on IFC and I’ll watch like 10 minutes of one. I mean, stylistically more than anything, it’s so ahead of what was on television at that time. Like it feels like something that would be on HBO now, not something that would be on NBC 15 years ago. It’s like really crazy how ahead of its time it was and therefore not surprisingly it was completely rejected by the world.
Neighbors opens Friday May 9. Check back soon for a discussion with director Nicholas Stoller.