The Interview movie interview

On the set of The Interview, talking to James Franco, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg really isn’t much of an interview. It’s more like three really good friends joking around with journalists trying to direct the conversation. The trio are incredibly familiar with each other. They’ve worked together on Pineapple Express, This Is the End, and now the December 25th release The Interview. In this most recent film, Franco and Rogen star as an entertainment journalist and producer respectively who head to North Korea to interview an evil dictator. However, the CIA has asked them to kill the leader while they’re over there.

Much like their last collaboration, This is the End, Rogen is serving quadruple duty here star and co-director, producer and writer along with his long time partner Goldberg. We’ve already written about all the shenanigans that went on on set back in December 2013 and now, you can read the full transcript of our “interview” with the trio.

This is a transcript of a roundtable interview with Franco, Rogen, Goldberg and about 10 journalists. 

When a project like this comes along, how quickly is the conversation, like, “Let’s work together again,” or is it just…?

Rogen: On this movie?

Franco: You have to remind me Seth.

Rogen: We had the idea for the movie a few years ago and we honestly didn’t know who would be Dave Skylark, and then as it started…

Franco: You guys were talking about it on This is the End, right?

Rogen: Yeah.

Franco: I wasn’t cast, but you guys were talking about it.

Rogen: Yeah, we just kind of had this idea, and yeah, we didn’t know if it, we didn’t know honestly, and then once…

Franco:  – There was no way you were talking about it on Pineapple?

Rogen:  No, no, no, no.

Franco: You sure?

Rogen: I don’t think so.

Franco: There was some idea that I thought was similar or something. I remember you guys…

Rogen: Was there?

Franco: There was something.

Rogen: I don’t think it’s that old, because when we made that, that was a really fucking long time ago. Hey, it’s Evan. And but, yeah, I think it was, it was after This is the End, right, that we first talked to you about it, I think, right?

Franco: Yeah.

Rogen: Yeah, I think it was like…

Franco: Well, we did This is the End, and then it came out a year later, and by the time it was coming out, we were already talking about this.

Rogen: We were talking about this. I think like, yeah, I think it was during This is the End that we were like, and then, we, I mean, we didn’t basically until the studio saw This is the End, we didn’t know if they’d let us direct another movie. So, once they saw it, they decided they would let us direct another movie, and I think it was around then. We’d just made This is the End, and had so much fun with James and it seemed like if we were going to direct another movie, then again we’d like to do it with people we are close with and work well with, and I think it all came together around, when we finished shooting This is the End and went back to LA.

Franco: I also believe this is sort of like the way that I, my character was written originally written in This is the End…

Rogen: Yeah, it was kind of based on that, a little bit.

Franco: Suit-wearing dude who is very much about his appearance. I guess that’s how they saw me.

[laughter]

Franco: So, the chance to do that, and I also think they probably felt guilty about killing me in This is the End.

Goldberg: He thinks we made a terrible mistake.

Rogen: He’s never gotten over that. He literally brought it up five minutes ago.

Franco: A few people on Instagram who said that you’re not in heaven.

Rogen: Why isn’t he in heaven?

Was this at all influenced by, the headlines Dennis Rodman being buddies with…?

Rogen: It was actually written before this happened. This was actually written when Kim Jung Il was still alive, initially, and no, the idea came from, like reading articles about like, you know, like Mike Wallace interviewed Osama Bin Laden and like, that like journalists are in a weird position to get closer to these kind of evil dictators than anyone else is, and it was also like, kind of inspired by the idea that you do always hear, like Sadam Hussein was a fan of Western movies. You hear that these guys are fans of Western culture and pop culture specifically, so we thought like an entertainment journalist might be a funny way into that. Then the Dennis Rodman shit happened and it really actually made it like, much less far-fetched, which was great, honestly. At first, part of what we were worried about, we want the movie to have kind of like exist in the real world, and our fear was like would anyone buy this would actually even happen, and then when that happened, it’s like that was way fucking dumber than what we came up with.

What day is harder for you, like the day that you have to act, produce, think of lines, and direct, all at the same time, with all the actors on the set?

Rogen: Yeah, that’s sometimes, that’s definitely harder than just directing.

[laughter]

Which of those will become the one that you dream at night that is a little harder?

Rogen: It’s hard sometimes, we were talking about it. When I’m acting and something isn’t going right, and I’m the director also, I get taken out of the scene sometimes, like…

Franco: Here’s what I observed, I mean, they’re a great team, so when Seth is acting, Evan is behind the monitor, and the way that they work, you know, and we’ve worked for I guess maybe 10 years now, I guess since 40 Year Old Virgin, it’s a lot of improvisation, so when Seth is acting, he’s also kind of still acting as a writer and it’s sort of a way of directing the scene from within, as acting, and then Evan can see, you know, how it looks or he’ll be back there with the writers and there will be alternative lines, so it’s sort of like on a movie like this, the roles or the positions or the jobs kind of blend into each other, and so it’s a little different, I think, directing and acting in a film like this than it would be on another movie, but, like Seth said, he is, you know, as the director, more conscious of…

Rogen: Like the technical stuff.

Franco: Yeah, the non, kind of creative things. So, when something isn’t going right, you can see him just pop out of character. He’s like, not in it.

Rogen: If I notice the camera’s not moving at the speed that it should or like I just, I literally will see it happening, like if it’s a push in on us, it should be faster. I know it.

Franco: He gets a dumb face. He’s obviously not in the scene.

Rogen: I do, and I see it in the dailies. I literally notice it happening sometimes, or one of the actors isn’t doing something I like, or goes on a run I know we’re not going to use. Yeah, but if I’m not the director, I’ll go with it. I’ll engage and I’ll do any stupid riff.

Could you tell during This is the End, when he was doing that, because now it’s just the two of you, but then…?

Franco: I couldn’t tell as much.

Rogen: Harder to conceal.

Is Dave Skylark inspired by anyone in particular?

Rogen: I mean, it’s inspired, we kind of say it’s like Oprah meets Ryan Seacrest, kind of, a little bit, like…

Franco: But like, you know, amped up.

Rogen: Amped up, like fucking crazy. The way that Franco ultimately acts in the move is not based on anyone. It’s like psychotic, in a wonderful way, but it’s far more heightened than anyone who I’ve ever. I mean, honestly no. Sometimes you meet people, and I’m sure you guys do, and you’re like this person’s fucking ridiculous. I mean, he kind of has the same job you guys do, in the movie. I mean, it just.

Franco: I mean, I don’t know anyone, but I imagine, you know, like the way this guy is so obsessed with any kind of celebrity gossip, I imagine the offices at TMZ or something where it’s just like Oh my God, we just got somebody…

Rogen: Definitely had like a TMZ vibe as well, where it’s like every…

Franco: We just got the pantiless shot of so and so getting out of the car. We have to have to… Oh my God, this is huge! You can imagine them celebrating it.

Did you know when you’ve gone too far with like…

Rogen: Sometimes.

Like the two dick thing there, was that just improv just then?

Rogen: Yeah. On set there’s no too far, and then when we screen the movie, we show it to the audience and if they stop laughing then it’s too far, basically, but as long as it’s funny then it’s not too far at all. It’s awesome…

As writers do you feel like you have to, you know, what do you do about like Asian Korean stereotypes. You said you’re trying to ground this partially in reality, but like, on paper, how do you tread that line of being funny and being completely bonkers?

Rogen: I mean, it’s very, everything about North Korea in the movie is real, like we’ve made up zero facts about North Korean culture or behavior or the belief system, like it’s all 100% real. So, and as far as like, the specific jokes, I mean, the characters, some of the characters in the movie are more racially sensitive than others, I guess you would say, just like in real life, but overall like, I’d say it’s you know, we don’t stereotype, I mean, the Asian characters, I don’t think, at all.

Franco: I mean, yeah, so it’s based on, I mean, I guess research or things that you’ve found, but also..

Rogen: We just googled it. Wikipedia mostly.

Franco: The Americans coming in are like Dumb and Dumber, so…

Rogen: We’re not the smartest guys.

Franco: A lot of the jokes do come from that, our ignorance.

Talk a little bit about he relationship between Aaron and Dave, because we just saw a little bit of Dave, but how does Aaron fit in and how do you guys…

Rogen: Aaron is like, I’m kind of, I’m like his friend and his producer who is definitely the slightly smarter, more together one of the group, and he kind of looks to me as like his intellectual. We’re kind of, it’s very codependent working relationship we have in the movie, like I, you know, like money and employment and I like him in the ride of the show, but I wish that we were going something more serious and like that was always my intention as a journalist was to be a real journalist and not just someone who talks about people not wearing panties as they get out of limos, whereas that’s all he ever wanted to do, and he loves it, and he knows that I make the show better, so it’s kind of this, and he just throws tons of money and perks my way, but we get along very well, so it’s kind of an unhealthy, codependent relationship, and, but we’re like, it’s like a married couple type relationship in the movie, like we clearly spend tons of time together and we clearly love each other, but we clearly are at times, incredibly frustrated, him with my probably uptightness and me with the fact that he’s just psychotic.

Can you talk a little bit about your relationship with Evan?

Rogen: It’s the same.

Evan Goldberg: He just explained it.

[laughter]

Particularly because you have to wear so many different hats in order to wear the hats you have to have that trust, you know, if you take one off, someone else is going to be able to run with it.

Rogen: Yeah, we work, I think, I don’t think we’re the type, I think you hear some times about directing teams that one guy is the visual guy, and the other guy is the guy who talks to actors. Like, we’re not like that. There’s not like really, sometimes because I’m in the scene he will see things I don’t see and sometimes because I’m in the scenes I see things that he doesn’t see, but there’s, it’s funny, like people, the crew comes up and asks you questions, like the wardrobe guys will present us 5 options for one of the extras to be wearing in one of the scenes and sometimes they don’t always get us at the same time, so they’ll ask us each individually and it seems like ten times out of ten we pick the same one.

Goldberg: Like the last one was how much blood should be in this gun hit.

Rogen: Yeah.

Goldberg: I said four times and he said 12 times.

Rogen: Exactly, but it’s like, but we, it’s like were generally on the same page and we pretty much have the same skill set, so…

Goldberg: I can’t act.

Rogen: Exactly. When it comes to directing.

Goldberg: Or can I?

Rogen: Or can he? He’s not even Evan Goldberg.

How do you deal with disagreements?

Rogen: Usually do both, like that’s the thing about movies, is like, and we do it all the time. If it’s ever like, I like this line, he likes this line, then we do both lines. There’s almost never a situation where you can’t do both things and then let someone else decide later.

Goldberg: Very liberating too about this kind of movie making is there’s some movies, and it’s not to say that one way is better than the other, but there are some movies where…

Rogen: Our way is better.

Goldberg: It’s certainly more liberating, where everything is kind of planned to the T and it’s like a weird kind of honing or something like that, where this is like explorative and you just try things, like why not. We’re here and everybody knows how to kind of work in that way, so why not just explore, you know, where it can go. So, what you guys saw out there is an example of that.

I’m curious about you, James, if you’ve ever gotten a line from Seth or Evan where you’re like, No effin was am I saying this.

Franco: That’s the whole things about it.

Rogen: No, there’s really some jokes that he literally doesn’t get at all, likes some references, like exsqueeze me, there was a scene when we kept asking him to say exsqueeze me, baking powder, from Wayne’s World, and he did not get it, like literally at all and he just kept, like what is it? Exsqueeze me? He kept saying baking soda, but God bless him, there was not one moment when he was like Stop, I need to understand what this is that I’m saying. I literally don’t understand what this means. He was just like, “Ok, exsqueeze me. Baking Powder,” and yeah, it’s, and it’s fucking unbelievable. It’s amazing.

So you’ve never said anything that’s just completely beyond NC-17 where you’ve been like, “Oh I’m not, this is too far.”

Franco: No, I mean,…

Rogen: There’s been some crazy jokes, but.

Franco: You’ve got to try it. It’s like, and…

Rogen: He knows we wouldn’t use it if it didn’t work.

Franco: Yeah, it wouldn’t work that way with every director, but I know these guys have the best taste in their, you know, I think the best comedic filmmakers around…

Rogen: And the best dressed.

Franco: So it’s like, you’ve got to just try it…and best dressed.

There was a period where you were sort of catfishing the paparazzi. Were you doing that to see how they would react so you could use it for this character? There was a period when you were doing crazy shit for the paparazzi to catch you earlier this year.

Rogen: Were you?

Franco: I don’t know.

Rogen: All those shots with your balls hanging out…

Franco: When I was running around naked in Vancouver? No, I took those photos. I wasn’t doing crazy things. I took those photos.

You tweeted photos of your abs recently. Didn’t you tweet that?

Franco: Yeah. It got like ten thousand likes or something like that.

Rogen: I liked them.

Franco: 100,000 likes.

Rogen: I liked it twice.

Can you tell us about the homecoming aspect, of coming home to your hometown?

Rogen: Yeah, it’s been nice. It’s fun. It’s cold as fuck. It’s literally snowing right now, but it actually works really well for our purposes. the movie is set in NY, China, and North Korea, so it really just worked geographically for that, because we grew up here we knew there’s a lot of, there’s like a Chinese market in Richmond where there are thousands and thousands of these little food stands and weird shit like that, and there’s this weird, like we kind of wrote it for things that we knew existed here, and you know, the whole thing takes place in this mountain complex, a lot of it. That’s where Kim Jung Un’s fortress is, and again, the mountains in the area, we were able to film the finale in. It just has this scope, and it’s huge, and it just looks gigantic, which was very nice. So, it wasn’t just so we could hang out with our friends and eat good sushi. It was also…

Goldberg: I kept asking, I kept complaining that we weren’t in New Orleans.

Rogen:  Exactly, I love New Orleans.

Goldberg: We did the last one there, but for a lot of the exterior stuff, it wouldn’t have worked.

Rogen: We’re in the bayous of North Korea.

You guys, sort of started real small and got so big. Does this have a similar structure when we start seeing more footage it will look like a tiny little movie and it gets much bigger?

Rogen: It starts a little bit bigger, I think.

Goldberg: The style in which we filmed it is totally different, in a way, it’s not going to start as a subtle hint. It starts with a level of scope that we kind of maintain.

Rogen: We tried, as contained as This is the End was, we tried to make this filled with scope as it could be, like we really tried to use a lot of helicopters and cranes, and we tried to move the camera a lot, and we tried to develop a visual style that allowed us to improvise a lot, that allowed us to do things they don’t usually do visually in comedies. We tried to completely abandon how comedies look as much as we possibly could.

More like an action comedy?

Rogen: We actually based it more on political thrillers, like Ridley Scott movies and like Michael Mann movies. We tried to use a lot of long lenses and, you know, we probably played some of the scenes tighter than they generally would in these types of comedies, but to us, like the fact that it looks kind of serious and has this weight to it, makes it funnier because it really looks like we’re stuck in like a serious political thriller, which is funny to us, because a lot of things get shoved in asses in this movie.

You guys mentioned that when you guys were making This is the End, there were some questions about whether you could do this, but now that This is the End was such a big success, do you guys have more confidence, have more freedom from the studio?

Rogen: We always had freedom.

Goldberg: Sony, we have such a good deal with them. They let us do whatever we wanted on This is the End and they let do the same this time.

Rogen: I think we have more confidence in some ways, but at the same time I really feel like we’re doing something so different with this movie that not a lot carries over and it really feels like we’re doing something for the first time in a lot of ways, honestly. It’s just, again, like finding, moving the camera and thinking of ways to really, and get out there. The fact that we’re on a different location almost every day is a different experience.

Goldberg: Our goals are more specific when it comes to the acting, or the narrative, the cinematography.

Rogen: Plot is a lot more complicated, and there’s a lot more elements. There are scenes that cut between five locations at once as we’re, along these, you know…

Goldberg: Instead of just Franco’s house.

Rogen: Instead of us all screaming at each other in a house for six weeks straight. So it’s a lot more complicated on our end so it does, even though I think we have more confidence, it feels, it kind of feels new at the same time.

The Interview opens December 25. Read our full set visit report here.

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