There’s room for everyone at Comic-Con. Sure, there are the big comic and genre properties like “Watchmen” and “Terminator Salvation” but you can also get in if you’re the stoner comedy that’s going to close out that Summer blockbuster season. I sat down with the cast and creators of “Pineapple Express” to talk about their new film, opening today. In the room were executive producer and co-writer Judd Apatow, director David Gordon Green, co-writer Evan Goldberg, co-writer and co-star Seth Rogen, co-star James Franco, co-star Amber Heard, and co-star Danny McBride.
Where did the idea for this come from?
Seth Rogen: Judd originally had the idea for a weed-action-comedy and he kind of handed it off to me and Evan and we thought if it could really function in all those terms: as a weed film and as an action film and as a comedy and it had a story to it that you actually cared about, that’d be a movie I’d want to go see! That’s really where we started.
Did you run into any concerns about the budget and the studio funding the film due to the drug content?
Judd Apatow: It wasn’t because of drug-related. It was because we had a lot of stuff planned. It was purely explosion-related. Not drug-related.
Rogen: But they probably wouldn’t have given us $80 million for a weed movie.
Apatow: We used to have a scene where they fought underwater with kayaks.
James, what was it like preparing for the fights in this film where they’re more about comedy as opposed to a film like “Spider-Man” where it’s about the action?
James Franco: I think they wanted me to do some yoga for this…
Rogen: I did yoga.
Franco: …which maybe I should’ve done…There were a lot more injuries on this. Like on “Spider-Man”, you get weeks to do one scene and in this you get days. And we also did a lot more of our own stunts than on “Spider-Man” so that just means a lot more blood for the actor.
David is known more for his dramas and I was wondering if you guys had any other dramatic actors you’d like to bring in for a film?
Apatow: We always think, “Who’s too good to work for us?”
Rogen: Atom Egoyan is going to make “The Green Hornet” [laughter]
How many fake joints did you have to smoke for this film?
Franco: Like they had a case where they kept them. There must have been hundreds.
Rogen: Hundreds and hundreds.
Apatow: Made out of pure asbestos. [laughter]
Rogen: It’s like the Tin Man. It’s going to kill us in six years.
Evan Goldberg: Yeah, I still have pain in my hand from rolling them. For some reason, Seth and I were better at rolling them…
Rogen: I have a picture of me and him rolling like 400 cross-joints.
David, how did you bring your indie sensibilities to a mainstream studio comedy?
Rogen: He didn’t eat craft services. [laughter]
David Gordon Green: In any movie, I never think you have enough money, enough time but in this movie in particular, we were given a comedy budget and we wanted to make some pretty great action sequences so it was calling on people for favorites and calling on people for the purpose rather than just making a movie off the assembly line. Like an indie film, it’s about getting people involved in your next passion project which in this case was a weed-action flick. Any part of any of these process is just getting the right people together and you trust each other and to maximize every dollar.
Why did it take so long for you to make a comedy? Everyone kept saying what a funny guy you were but you became known for films like “Undertow” and “Snow Angels”.
Rogen: You clearly haven’t seen his first short film.
Green: It was really guys like these that helped escort me and sell the studios that I could do a comedy and get people to take the risk. It was a matter of finding the right family and say “let’s roll with it.”
Most of you guys met while working on “Freaks and Geeks”. What was it about that show that inspired such friendship and a long-term working relationship?
Apatow: I think our age had a lot to do with it.
Rogen: For a lot of us, it was our first big job. I think it was just a really exciting time in all our lives and so there was a lot of bonding and we all got along really well! And I think Judd and Paul [Feig] encouraged an improvisational environment but we rehearsed a lot, we hung out a lot, we all just got to know each other really well. And I think that’s part of the reason we all stay in touch with one another and work so closely with each other.
What are your favorite drug movies?
Apatow: “Withnail & I”.
Rogen: That’s right, drinking. Is alcohol considered a drug? NO. [laughter] “The Big Lebowski”, I guess, if you consider that a drug movie. Um, “A Beautiful Mind”? [laughter]
How much of the film was scripted and how much was improvised?
Goldberg: We never wrote a script.
Rogen: There was! Some scenes we shot with no script with normally you don’t do. Usually we have something. The scene at the end with all of us in the diner, we had nothing. We just had a day of shooting and we thought, “Something will come up!” We had some kind of ideas going in but luckily we shot it towards the end of the movie and kind of a lot had happened that we could draw from. But it’s one of my favorite scenes in the movie and it’s totally written by Danny and James.
Danny, I read somewhere that you were actually instrumental in bringing most of the players together for this film. Is that true?
Danny McBride: I don’t know about instrumental…
Rogen and Apatow: He was.
McBride: But Judd had seen “The Foot Fist Way” which I made with some other School of the Arts alums and when I got to meet with them and talk about the script, I thought of David and thought he was very funny when we were in school so I told them he was a pretty funny guy. And when they met him, they saw how handsome he was.
Rogen: I remember asking, “Is your dad David Gordon Green going to show up some time?” [laughter]
Was it hard to buckle down on set and just get the shots done because you guys kept cracking each other up?
Green: I had to leave the set a few times. Particularly the seen where Seth, James, and Danny are talking over the counter at Red’s house, I ruined enough takes where I was asked to leave. I liked to be there to yell “Action!” and especially when you’re watching improv and it’s such a fun energy to be there right beside the camera and that was one instance where I was like “Alright, I’m going to go sit by the monitor. Try to be civil about this.”
Was it a requirement to watch “Acting Lessons with James Franco”?
Franco: It will be.
Rogen: On the next one.
Goldberg: It will be the defining quality between good and bad actors; those who have and have not watched it.
Rogen: You’ll know.
Judd, with your films, how much tends to be improv and how much tends to be script?
Apatow: Well in “Superbad”, Jonah Hill was very proud of how much he thought he improvised his part and part of awards season we had to transcribe the movie and decide what script we would send out to people and we realized that very little of the movie was improvised. He DID improvise a lot but at the end of the day—
Rogen: We just didn’t use it. [laughter] I read interviews where Jonah takes credit for improvising stuff that was in the script. “When I improved that, I don’t know where it came from…” We wrote that fourteen years ago!
Apatow: As far as improving goes, it’s when the actor knows that the other actor is allowed to changed his lines and just changes the style of acting. And everyone is just a little more on their toes and sometimes a lot changes and sometimes nothing changes. Danny in the bathroom dying of his wounds was very improvised. Danny can take some credit. Danny can take more than Jonah Hill. [laughter]
The whole last scene is improvised?
Rogen: Yeah, the whole last scene. It’s in a diner and it’s just us recapping the whole movie, basically. It’s the ending!
What happened with Amber’s character?
Rogen: It’s like the end of “Transformers” when Starscream flies away. [laughter] That’s kind of what we’re doing.
James and Seth, can you talk a little bit about your relationship in the film?
Franco: It’s a bromance.
Rogen: I mean just look at that face! [laughter]
Franco: No, it’s a romance story between a pothead and his dealer. And I find that when you look underneath all the marijuana and the action, it actually is a love story.
Are you guys planning a special feature on the DVD on how to roll one of those cross-joints?
Rogen: You know, I realized we should of.
Goldberg: We actually did shoot it and the lighting didn’t work out. We’ll put it alongside the “Acting Lessons with James Franco”; “How to Roll Joints with Seth Rogen!”
Rogen: We should put it on Yu-Gi-Oh rolling papers.
Do those cross-joints actually work?
Goldberg: The cross-joint is only the beginning! Let’s talk about the Christmas-tree joint! Or the menorah joint! I’ve seen that! It’s on the Internet. Out branches eight.
Rogen: That’s a Hanukkah-joint.
How much of an influence were films like “Midnight Run”?
Rogen: Big time. Movies like that like “48 Hours”, “Tango & Cash”.
Green: We had a lot of movies we were inspired by and wanted to use as reference points.
Rogen: We watched “Bad Boys II” a lot, also.
Goldberg: The shortest answer would be, “The 80s”.
What did you take from “Tango & Cash”?
Rogen: Just how rad it is.
Goldberg: We have a deleted cocaine tanker scene.
Rogen: Our stunt coordinator actually did “Tango & Cash”.
Not to mention, Huey Lewis.
Rogen: That’s right. We got Huey Lewis to do a song. That’s a victory right there! [laughter] Whatever happens, we did that.