Seth Rogen, Director Michel Gondry, Evan Goldberg and Producer Neal Moritz Interview GREEN HORNET

     June 21, 2010

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Earlier tonight Sony invited 10 online reporters to watch the new trailer for Green Hornet at Mann’s Chinese in Hollywood and then do a Q&A with Seth Rogen, Director Michel Gondry, Evan Goldberg and Producer Neal Moritz.  Following the Q&A, we were escorted across the street to Jimmy Kimmel Live, as Rogen was going on tonight’s episode to premiere the trailer.  Well, that was the plan.

It ends up the power went out at Jimmy Kimmel Live, so it looks like tonight’s episode will air tomorrow night, which is just par for the course on Green Hornet.  Thankfully, the Q&A was really informative and surprisingly engaging, but it’s probably due to the great group of reporters Sony had assembled to ask questions.  So if you’d like to know a lot more about Green Hornet, hit the jump:

Green-Hornet-movie-image-seth-rogenLike I always do, you can either read the transcript (thank you Sony!), or listen to the audio of the Q&A by clicking here.  Since many of you just want to know the highlights:

  • The movie gets released in January 2011 and in 3D
  • They will be at Comic-Con and the clip they are planning to show might be in 3D
  • Rogen seemed fairly comfortably in his role as an “irresponsible idiot, trying to get his life together in the wake of his father’s death”
  • Gondry pointed out that their intention was to balance action & comedy, with an emphasis on action, rather than make a “spoof” of the character
  • Release date was initially pushed back due to time concerns in the 3D conversion
  • Filmmakers actually convinced the studio to pay for 3D…This is an interesting point, because of the semi-popular belief that studio’s use 3D simply as a gimmick
  • Chou (Kato), out of respect for Bruce Lee, avoided Lee impersonations in order to make character his own
  • Rogen likened the film to Iron Man in that both feature somewhat obscure characters…Said they plan to take a similar approach to promoting the film / simply getting the public to become familiar with the character as much as possible prior to its release
  • Gondry made an interesting parallel between Rogen and Jim Carrey…Said both were widely known as comedians and Carrey was quite successful in transitioning into more dramatic roles (Truman Show, Eternal Sunshine).  Said he thinks Rogen can, and currently is, doing the same with more action-filled roles.
  • Rogen talked about the issues surrounding getting the film made and commented how the film wasn’t like a Thor or a Captain America in that, unlike those films, Green Hornet was not going to be made regardless of their involvement…They had to WILL it to happen
  • Improvisation was still present within the film regardless of its more action-packed nature…Rogen commented on how Chou was actually pretty good at improv and how one of the funnier lines in the trailer was improved by Chou
  • Cameron Diaz helped Chou with his English both in-between takes and off-set
  • Rogen stated that he couldn’t believe how nice Diaz was and joked that she was so famous he thought she should be less nice and “on her island”

Here’s the full transcript.  It’s a really good Q&A.  Look for more on tonight’s event very soon.

What’s the story line with the characters?

Seth: To explain it I guess briefly, I’m an irresponsible kind of idiot, as one might imagine and my father dies and I form a friendship with someone else that did not have the highest opinion towards him…one of his employees, Kato. And through that friendship, we realize that maybe we can create this kind of thing that will help us both live out our dreams. In time, we realize that each other’s personalities are the most difficult thing to overcome and try to form this thing. That’s how the story goes.

Michel: We see a bit of his childhood and home. This friendship finds its resolution through his inner voice. He’s talking to his dad in his mind

This is different in terms of action. Is this more of the final look of Kato vision? Still evolving?

Michel: It’s not really represented here. There’s an outside of Kato vision. There’s the way he sees things. Not really represented here. It’s more like a surprise I guess.

Seth: Two steps to Kato vision as I guess we’ve called it. The way you see the fights as an observer and then the way Kato sees fights in his own eyes.

Have you reconsidered how you stage fights, now that you’re doing it in 3D?

Michel: To be honest, we were always hoping to go 3D. The way I put the camera was always like “It would be so cool to see it in 3D”. We pushed a little more the effects. The way the fight works…the use of the 3D to split the screen. We sort of always wanted to do it in 3D.

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This is the first time an audience gets to see movie? How involved were the four of you in deciding…do you have another version of this trailer…how the trailer would go?

Seth: There has been a Lot of versions of this trailer. We were pretty involved. We watch it every step of the way. I have to acknowledge honestly that our perceptions of the movie are different sometimes to your general person who knows absolutely nothing about the movie…I’m sure every person in this audience know a millions times more about the green hornet than 99% of people who will be seeing this trailer. And some of you came to set and saw another thing and that was kind of…if you kind of know the green hornet. We really had to keep reminding ourselves that we were presenting to people who knew nothing about the green hornet. And we really wanted to make sure that it portrayed the real feel of the move more than anything.

Neal: We really showed it a lot and we got a lot of feedback. We tested the trailer a lot of times… quite a few times to make sure that what we liked about it was the same thing that the audience was going to like about it as well.

Michel: We wanted to make sure our enthusiasm for the story and the characters would be portrayed.  We really worked close. For the first time I’m really excited about the movie.

Neal: The goal of the movie is the relationship between Kato and Britt and in the subsequent trailer we really want to develop that more.

Seth: We have to introduce the idea of the green hornet to people first. There will be more trailers and more advertisements down the line and we can explore the intricacies of what the movie is about. To make sure people understand the general concept of what it is we are doing.

Kato is more the superhero. Green hornet is work in progress? Is that still an aspect that will remain?

Evan: Kato is the definitely the more skilled individual. We joke about it with Seth and he had to get in shape to do the movie and Jay didn’t. He was in shape. It was inherently there, he is very talented; genius kind of guy and Seth is a normal guy.

Seth: We didn’t want the joke to be look at this…one of complete and utter goofiness and complete physical incompetence at all times. And we knew that ultimately it had to live up to the expectations of a superhero movie and needs to have the kind of action, full-blown action that people expect from that genre and we knew that we couldn’t just rest on the comedy to make it interesting.

Neal: Something they create together.

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What kind of tone are you going for? What kind of tone do you see emerging? Balancing action and comedy? This is clearly not some kind of dark superhero film.

Michel: There is comedy but overall the tone is not a spoof. You get that in trailer. Never intended to do something comical. Really embraced the superhero feature and there are serious parts. Of course there is some comedy but I think it’s more of an action movie.

Neal: We always talk about as an action movie with comedy versus a comedy with action.

Seth: Michele and Sally, our editor, are really coming up with a lot of interesting ways to tell the story. Both of them are really great at that. She had Pulp Fiction and movies like that, which really are great at telling the narrative, the story and its really amazing to see what they’ve done in the editing room and how…what a giant creative step the movie has taken, leaving it in Michele and Sally’s hands for a little. It’s really exciting for us as fans to see your movie filmed and then taken to this whole other place.

How close does storyline fit into comic? I was thinking he was a bad guy when I originally heard this.

Seth: Green hornet comic has nothing to do with our movie. Other than it’s called the green hornet. Yeah, sorry. Unless you love the Green Hornet, then it’s exactly based on the comic. We clearly all got our ideas from the same source. There are some elements that are the same. But I think naturally when you are trying to update something, the ideas are going to go to similar places but there is no collaboration on behalf of comic and filmmakers.

Evan: The one constant is that he poses as a criminal to catch criminals.

Michel: What is important to say is that the green hornet has so many forms. It was a comic. Then it was on television and then you have Bruce Lee. We had to digest all of that to find what would be our version of the green hornet. As a director I was thinking to make a movie before it was asked to be a film. And as well the notion of Kato has evolved so much over the years. Supposed to be Japanese and then during WWII because of the war they had to change character so he was not Japanese. He was Filipino and then he was Chinese. So all of that inspired…we respect that but we had to bring it to a place that it would fit now

3D conversion process has gotten criticisms lately because of Clash of the Titans and Alice in Wonderland? What measures are you taking to avoid pitfalls?

Neal: That’s why we moved the release date back. We wanted 3D to look really good. Only way was buying ourselves time to make it look good. We already have some sequences that we’ve turned over now in 3D so we have plenty of time to actually make it good and do it the right way as opposed to clash of the titans which was done in six to eight weeks.

Seth: It’s like any other visual effect. There are really good applications of it and really bad applications of it. It all depends on whose hands it’s in. You look at CG sometimes and its terrible. You look at CG sometimes and its great. I think this is no different. Very good versions and very bad versions. I think it’s like any other creative decision. It’s going to be gauged by the levels of enthusiasm…of the creative people behind it. It’s something that we all feel really strongly about…something that we’ve always wanted to do…since the first idea of this movie came along. I’ve been working in 3D movies for years. I started in Monsters vs. Aliens almost four or five years ago. It was then I traveled around the world with Jeffrey Katzenberg…hearing him pontificate on 3D and what a big evolution it was going to be. So it’s always something I’ve been a big fan of. It started in the society of the 60’s I believe, so its always been something we’ve been big supporters of and I think just like I said there’s good versions and bad versions and we hope to do a really good version.

Michel: You could imagine a movie in 2D in 3D and transform it. If you take this type of movie where they really use the full depth of field. This movie if it was transformed in 3D would use much more fast editing. And even before we could do it in 3D we talk about the fight or we say okay we don’t want to rely to much on the other team so we didn’t make it so fast with editing and this is a very important element to make 3D work well.

Neal: We didn’t make a rash decision by any means. We saw a lot of demonstrations with a lot of different companies and then ultimately brought in a number of these companies into the editing room and then went through the film with them together and really looked at the pitfalls, positives and negatives to doing it. And kind of weighed those all out before we even approached the studio and asked them to let us turn it into 3D, which is obviously a huge financial impact. After that as well and I remember Amy Pascal said to us “this is going to cost a lot of extra money. Are you sure about this?” And we were because we had done so much homework on it. And we did not want to be reprimanded like Clash of the Titans was. We really wanted to take our time and do it right.

Seth: First thing people like you say is that the studio is forcing us to do and it’s a quick fix. The funny thing is it could not be more opposite. It was us begging and pleading as creative entities to the studio to allow us to have this tool to tell our story in an original way. And we’re super excited that we were able to do it.

Michel: There were some ideas. The relationship is such that even after he’s passed away, he keeps talking to him in his mind. Several times. Got this idea to represent his father…his silhouette, which you can only see if you watch the movie in 3D. In 2D you would hear the voice but in 3D he’s going to pop out. So that’s why we were so thrilled to be able to execute this in 3D. We always had the voiceover of the father in the story but then when we decided to do it in 3D, it was perfect.

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In marketing this film, are you going try to evoke Bruce Lee thing? Some kind of selling point?

Seth: If you ask most High Schoolers who Bruce lee is they will say that it someone they sit next to in English class. I don’t think that it would. I think it’s not something that would ever be my instinct to do and not to attempt it. Jay Chou is one the coolest dudes I’ve ever met or been around. What we say is that he’s like Steve McQueen. He does everything cooler than anyone else does anything. And I think Jay…Man I’ve never been psyched to show up to work and be completely overshadowed by somebody on a regular basis. And it’s just how it is. Jay in his own right will win people over. He is incredibly impressive and charismatic performer. Jay is incredibly talented martial artist and he’s just a rad dude and I don’t think we will need to do that.

Neal: No one here thinks that we will replace or be better than what Bruce Lee was.

Seth: Yea we didn’t try. Just as different as I am from Van Williams, Jay is from Bruce Lee. We wanted to create new characters in telling it.

Michel: Of course for any actor from Asia…it’s a very heavy task over Bruce lee. So Jay never wanted to emulate Bruce lee by any means. Did not want to use his type of expression, sound or scream. So, out of respect you don’t want to mimic him.

Seth: Yeah he definitely was very conscious of not doing a Bruce lee impression. He wanted to make his own character. He was into that and thank god he did because he makes a great Kato

Since the character is lesser known than say Superman or Spiderman or other superhero movies, is there any concern going into that? In terms of marketing? Or other things to address that?

Seth: For whoever saw the first trailer and then this one. I think that thought is exactly what led us to say this is the approach that we need to take. Like we look at Iron Man. I remember when Iron Man came out. I drove by a billboard with my girlfriend and she said “Who’s Iron Man?” and they did a good job at taking Iron Man and believe it or not… he was a relatively unknown Marvel character when that first movie came out. And they did a good job at introducing it. They didn’t really tease it. There was no teaser. They just kind of showed you exactly what it was and that’s something that we talked about. That they successfully took a pretty obscure character and made him well known and introduced him to people and that’s kind of what we realized we had to do. Not show our version of the Green Hornet but say here’s what the fuck the green hornet is. That’s the only fuck I’ve said the whole time and that’s not bad.

We are a month away from Comic-Con? Started having the conversion? Are you guys going to be there and what are you going to show the fans at comic-con?

Neal: We are definitely going to be a Comic-Con and will be there with big presence. We are going to show a piece of the film. As long as the 3D is done to the standard that we want it, we will show the trailer in 3D

Seth: Yeah we’ve already been looking at stuff to show. We are all Comic-Con fans and as comic book nerds and it’s important to us to show respect for those people who go out there and shove their ass there.

The whole idea of bringing your Michel Gondry style to a comic book? I didn’t see it in the trailer. Is there more?

Michel: There is more. I don’t want really to…there is danger of having a shtick…different than you will see the movie. There’s a difference between a trailer and a movie. That’s traditional for a movie. There is some sequence that we’re still working out that you didn’t see in the trailer, that’s more of my specific signature. But when we met they said we want to see Michel Gondry sequence and I said no.

Seth: Originally I was going to be made a string

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Seth you talked about always being a comic book fan, is this the first time you’re getting an action figure that’s actually you?

Seth: I have a “Bob” but that’s not really an action figure. It’s a blue toy. But yea it’s pretty cool. I’m excited but yea it’s my instinct to blow it up with firecrackers. I might do that.

More than people are saying, “This is the green hornet movie” they are saying, “This is the Seth Rogen action movie”. You slimmed down. What is your approach to getting people over that hump to Seth Rogen as action hero.

Seth: My guy is not exactly like Bruce Wayne. The whole story of the movie is I’m an irresponsible idiot whose is trying to get his life together and do something worthwhile. So as an irresponsible idiot I’m quite good. And that’s why we always knew it was an easy buy. We didn’t want to just tell people what the whole story of the movie was but that’s why we knew it was going to be fine because the story wasn’t that of a completely serious well-groomed man who decides to become a superhero. Its about a guy who is grappling with his own irresponsible activities and tendencies and can he put those all aside and do something worthwhile and that’s why I think as an actor I thought it was something I could tackle. It displayed what people expected of what and me maybe I could show as a growth through the character.

Michel: What I was hoping when I took the job basically is that my contribution could help that. I think that with Jim Carrey as good as he was at being a comedian, he was excellent at being much more dramatic in Eternal Sunshine. I think Seth is selling himself short a little bit because I think that he really conveys a really complex and interesting character and what I hope is that people will see him evolve.

Seth: It’s true that part of the reason we decided to approach Michele was we knew that it was going to be something different, taking it in a new direction and that he was traditionally someone who worked with comedic actors and took them in new directions. Just as he had taken people not traditionally known as comedic actors and made them much funnier than they were before as Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine. That’s something that was one of his strengths and something that we hoped he could bring to this.

Who was really the champion among you guys who said to Sony “we need to make green hornet movie?”

Neal: It’s a good question. We were all champions at different times.

Seth: We’ve all been champions at different times. Where does an idea come from? I’m sure Inception will answer that for all of us. It’s hard to think…I mean Michele Gondry was attached to a Green Hornet movie 13 years ago. It’s hard to say who is the first one who wanted to do it. I would say that no matter what they are making a Thor movie and no matter what they are making a Captain America movie. But they are not no matter what making a green hornet movie. We had to work really hard to have them let us do it. It wasn’t a given that it was eventually going to get made no matter what. We were lucky enough to be the guys that got to do it. We really creatively saw this as an opportunity that was exciting to us and we’ve all fought really hard. A lot of uphill battles…a lot of bad press, a lot of strikes against us and it hasn’t been easy but ultimately we are all really proud of the movie. We all love the movie and I’m excited to be able to show you some of it. I was just saying to Evan as we were walking up here “Today is the first day I believe this might get released” which is exciting.

Neal: I’ve been involved in a movie where we had so many starts and stops and I think it was August of last year that Amy Pascal and a number of others were on vacation and I think that was the reason we got to go ahead. It’s been a great experience.

Seth: Honestly it’s something we all strongly agreed. We were passionate about. It’s an idea for some reason. The relationship between those two guys. The idea of exploring that relationship… it’s creative. Evan and I as writing partners, Michele as the director make these relationships and you try to make something out of it and it’s something that we all felt very strongly about. It was not a movie that was going to get made no matter what.  It’s something we had to will into being. We had to work to make happen. If we didn’t do it there would not be green hornet movie on screen right now.

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Seth, you’re known for improv. Was there improv?

Seth: We definitely wanted it at times in the relationships…when the relationships have that spontaneous feel. I just think that me and Evan found something that works really well. The things in movies that people relate to a lot and the ways characters interact and they see themselves in the characters and a lot of that is through improv. Jay is amazing at it and even in that thing “I don’t want to touch you” he improvised that and we were joking around one day on a scene and yes there was a lot and everyone got really into it. I mean obviously as an action movie there’s limitations to what you can do but it doesn’t have a rigid feel to it. It’s a very loose conversational feel.

Michel: I think always my interest in making movies is to have something really technical mixed with something that was not so formal…something free. I realized very soon that it’s not because there are constraints like that there is a lot of it in camera effect. The person wants us to be stiff. That is a lot of time the actor. They don’t think too much about what they have to do to act or be funny. This context is a very good or great performance.

Working with Christoph? What comes from his background in European cinema?

Seth: Working with him was great. I would say that his character is a very unique villain, I hope.  Not something were going to talk about a lot because I think its something that people are excited to discover on their own. Christoph is a great actor, really fun. He embraced coming and doing things in our strange way with open arms. And I don’t know…he’s technically a very impressive actor to watch. And the way he does things is very demanding at times. At the same time he is very nice and collaborative. I would love to work with him many more times.

Have you started work on the score? Can you talk about the process and what we should expect?

Michel: Danny Elfman.  It’s in the beginning stages.

Seth: Watching him and Michele weird out together is pretty rad.

How was working with Cameron Diaz? How much did she get into all the action?

Neal: Nicest lady in whole world.

Seth: As to how much she gets involved in the action, we should keep that somewhat under wraps. She’s amazing. She gets very involved creatively. The character is very important to us that it was not just an obligatory character. The character…added a lot to the movie both comedic and story wise. She had a lot of great ideas. Anytime someone that famous puts any extra effort into anything. I really feel great about it. Anyone that famous…you don’t expect them to get involved at all. Evan literally had a party one night and she showed up when Evan was really drunk and literally gave him two hours worth of notes and made Evan drunkenly type them on his computer.  And I thought wow, that’s so impressive.

Evan:  She came in like ten times to help Jay Chou learn English.

Seth: His English at first was a little sketchy at times. She put an enormous amount of time and energy into making sure that their scenes were natural and understandable and very loose and funny. Again, it’s the kind of thing where you’re like “She’s too fucking famous to be doing this. She should be on her island”.

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