All week I’ve said it and I’ll say it again: Nicholas Stoller’s Neighbors is an extremely funny movie filled with laugh out loud sequences. You should definitely see it this weekend in a crowded theater. If you haven’t seen the trailers or read our previous coverage, the film stars Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne as a married couple with a newborn baby who must deal with a fraternity—fronted by Zac Efron—when it moves in next door. Neighbors also stars Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jake Johnson, Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo, Jerrod Carmichael, and Lisa Kudrow.
A few days ago at the New York City press day, I landed an exclusive interview with Seth Rogen. During our wide ranging conversation he talked about transitioning from a struggling actor to being able to get movies made, how Neighbors changed from its inception to the final release, how and why they cast Rose Byrne, the status of The Interview and when we’ll see the first trailer, what’s going on with their adaptation of Preacher for AMC, the R-rated animated movie Sausage Party, how he really wants to be on an episode of Better Call Saul, Stoller’s Black and White that would star Rogen and Kevin Hart, director Jonathan Levine’s Christmas movie that would star Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and a lot more. Hit the jump for what he had to say.
SETH ROGEN: Thank you! I appreciate that.
And fuck the senators and all those people-
-for not being, you know, more attentive.
ROGEN: Thank you, I appreciate that and I think it’s actually doing something in a weird way. If feel like we brought a lot of attention to the cause and I was just in Vermont the other day we did a college program to see- we did a contest, so whichever school raised the most money we would show them Neighbors, and a fraternity, actually, from Vermont raised like 20, 000 at their own event and all the schools across America raised $150,000 through the college program. So it’s been amazing to see, honestly the discrepancy between the level of enthusiasm that the average person has, because they’ve been touched by it, versus what the government has, who seems to be doing very little.
What’s messed up about it, and I’m not trying to get on a tangent, because I have other questions, is that these senators are at the age where they really should be thinking about this.
ROGEN: Its truly bizarre and even they seem to have no- even they seem to have the idea that its something that much older people than them got. You could tell that just from the questions they asked and their kind of general attitude towards it. they even seem to think its something people in their nineties get. It was disturbing, honestly [laughs]. It was fucked up.
ROGEN: No problem.
I hope you continue to.
ROGEN: We will, for sure.
Now jumping into other stuff, what’s interesting over the last few years for you is that you went from a place of “Will I be able to get a job? Will I be able to do stuff?” to being in a position now where you and Evan (Goldberg) are making your own movies, you’re producing things. What is it like now when you go into the studio and pitch something? Do you find that the wheels are just turning so much easier or do you still really have to go to bat and explain?
ROGEN: It depends on the project, but both things happen now as opposed to only the former thing happening now [laughs]. The Interview got made very easily, shockingly. Like, we came up with the idea, the studio bought it, there was a draft they read that they bought that they loved, they greenlit the movie – there were a few creative conversations along the way, but it just kind of happened and it never took a really huge push to get it made. It kind of organically got made. But Sausage Party, which we’re also making now, took years and years and years and years to get made, and up until even like a few months ago when they started really financing it, it was a massive struggle to really pull it all together. So both things happen and I expect that. We don’t make movies that are always easy to wrap your head around, and I’m happy about that, but because of that we’re not ever going to be the guys, I don’t think, who have a really easy time getting all of our movies made.
With Sausage Party, I’ve heard the logline of it, is it one of these things where the studio is hesitant because it’s going to be R-rated, or because of what it deals with? What is it that made the studio hesitant?
ROGEN: I think studios like precedent and as much as we don’t. It’s almost like an inverse equation, as much as we want to be original, they don’t want to be original [laughs]. So as exciting as it was for us to be the first guys to make a fully CG-animated R-Rated comedy, it was horrifying to them to be the first people to do that. Just because there’s no financial precedent for it. They can’t point to any movie and say it’s worked or it hasn’t worked, so there’s literally no business model for it.
Is it one of these things where you try to relax them by saying we’re going to get all these people to do voices?
ROGEN: Yes, that helps. Yeah, that definitely helps, by saying we’ll populate it by very famous people [laughs].
Well let me ask you I don’t know how much has been revealed for casting and I don’t want to get you in trouble.
ROGEN: No, we can talk about the cast.
I’m very curious, who did you manage to pull? And was it one of these things where you’re like, “Guys it’s going to be filthy. You’re going to be able to say things that you wont believe”?
ROGEN: Yeah, everyone came into it differently. It’s diverse, it’s an odd cast. Me, Jonah Hill, and Michael Cera are the three sausages, so that was easy to wrangle. Me and Jonah came up with the idea for the movie in the first place years ago and then Anders Holm is a sausage as well. Then David Krumholtz plays a lavosh, like a pita bread kind of thing and he we’re friends with. Edward Norton we’re friends good with and have been for years, he plays a bagel, and he’s good friends with Salma Hayek so he convinced her to play a taco in the movie [laughs]; Theresa Taco. And then we’ve know Kristen Wiig for a while and she plays the bun, who’s like my romantic interest. And Bill Hader plays a couple characters. He’s guacamole and fire water, who’s like an old bottle of booze shaman. Craig Robinson is going to be in it now, it looks like. It’s mostly people we’re friends with. Nick Kroll plays Douche, he’s the villain of the movie who’s a douche.
What animation style- Is there a movie out there that you saw and said “we want to animate it like this”?
ROGEN: We want it to be reminiscent of those Pixar, DreamWorks kids movies. That being said, we have directors who have a lot of- Conrad Vernon, who’s one of the directors who directed Shrek 2, Madagascar 3, Monsters and Aliens and he’s like a giant animation director, so he is good enough that he doesn’t need to just emulate that style. He has his own kind of style to a large degree, but we want it to feel like- definitely part of the joke is that it’s in the style of the type of animated movies that you’re used to seeing.
I spoke to Nicholas Stoller and he said he saw a cut of The Interview.
And he just raved.
ROGEN: Oh, that’s nice.
Just raved, so have you done test screenings of it yet?
What have you learned through the test screening process?
ROGEN: Man, that people really like it first and foremost, which was really great because it’s a really crazy movie. It’s one of those movie that there’s always a fear that just like conceptually people might reject it. I remember with This is the End it was just like, “Man there’s a chance that conceptually people don’t jive with what we’re doing here.” And this has a similar thing. There’s a few big buys you have to make in the movie and people really went along with it and loved it. If anything I’m thrilled with how well we were able to make a plot that had twists and turns and suspense, and I think visually it’s a major step forward for us. And I think it feels like a much bigger kind of, for lack of a better word, “real” movie [laughs], which is exciting to do, and people seem to appreciate that.
When are fans going to be able to see footage? When does the promotional machine start amping up?
ROGEN: For The Interview, I’m pretty sure on 22 Jump Street is when our trailer is going to come out.
Oh, that’s a nice link.
ROGEN: Yeah, it’s really good. [Laughs] We wanted to wait for this to come out. I don’t like to have two movies kind of competing for people’s attention.
ROGEN: Yeah, so we wanted to wait for Neighbors to come out and then start it, basically [Laughs]. Then we’ll start inundating people with our next shit [laughs].
Getting back into Neighbors, you produced, very involved behind the scenes creatively, all that stuff. Fom when you guys set out to make the movie to what people are seeing on screen, is it pretty much your original conception? Did it change?
ROGEN: It changed a lot in some ways. It was originally much more about me and several of my buddies kind of messing with a frat. It wasn’t really about me and my wife at all, she kind of had a much more traditional naggy wife, like almost the thing that we now make fun of in the movie- and the reason we make fun of it is because we ourselves fell into that trap in the first few incarnations of the script. And then we gave it to people the read, my wife read it, she was actually one of the ones who really pointed it out [laughs], like that’s not how it would be. Me and her get along and we would ultimately be the ones who were dealing with our neighbors if that was a big problem. It was almost one of those movements where we realized for no reason other than it’s how traditional writing works. we had set the wife off to the side to be naggy and focused on dudes. Then once we started thinking about it, the way it is now, what if they’re a team and they have fun together? It’s much more reflective of how our relationships are and that actually became the most innovative idea of the movie to us and the thing that I became most excited about, honestly.
You and Rose have phenomenal chemistry in it, it starts with a great scene.
ROGEN: Yeah [laughs].
ROGEN: She was definitely someone we always talked about. She was nice enough to come in and read with me so we could feel each other out and see what it was like, and as soon as she did that it seemed really, really funny. I’d met her a few times, but I didn’t know her all that well or anything, but Nick had worked with her before and a lot of my friends had worked with her before. Jay Baruchel actually made an independent movie with her like ten years ago I think, and I even remember then he would talk about her all the time and how funny she was. So yeah, I was thrilled. I was so psyched that it worked out. She was someone I always thought was- I’m a huge Damages fan [Laughs]. I’ve seen every episode, literally every episode, every season, love that fucking show. So that was honestly another reason I was really excited to try to work with her.
That’s really funny. This leads me to my next thing. Right now is easily the best time TV has ever had.
ROGEN: Yeah it’s really good right now.
The amount of great shows on so many different networks is staggering.
ROGEN: Yeah, its true. Movies could take a fucking lesson or two [laughs].
A hundred percent. You and Evan are moving in that direction with Preacher, I’m definitely curious have you looked at anything and you’re trying to cherry pick certain looks? What have you seen on TV that you’re like, “Wow”? And what have you seen that maybe is influencing how you’re thinking about pursuing or making Preacher if at all?
ROGEN: Um, that’s interesting. Visually I wouldn’t say there’s anything on TV that we’re really looking to. There’s some things I think production value wise, like Game of Thrones and stuff like that is so- I mean, it looks like a movie and that is definitely an aesthetic to strive for [laughs]. Obviously finances have something to do with that, but if you’re smart about it you can achieve that with not a lot of money. I mean, we both love Breaking Bad and are obsessed with it, which is why we pursued getting Sam Catlin from Breaking Bad to be the showrunner for the series. So we’ve been working with him, even as we write the pilot, a lot just to really- you know, it’s just amazing to get his insight as to how they shaped that show and the series, and how their ideas evolved along the way, and the different things they planned versus the directions the show ultimately took. That’s been very helpful because it’s one of my favorite shows of all time, so to have one of the people who’s directly responsible for it, to have direct access to him as we’re writing all of it, and we’re really writing it with him, it has been very, very educational.
So you guys are basically working on the script and then the script will determine if you get a pilot made or a series picked up, so you’re still in that writing phase?
ROGEN: Yeah, we’re still in the writing phase and we’re signing on to direct the pilot if it gets picked up to get made.
When does the network want the pilot script?
ROGEN: Probably sooner than they’ll get it [laughs]. We really have to shape the whole series to some degree before you start writing the pilot, an we really want to change some of the ideas, not just to change them, but to expand on them and emphasize some and deemphasize others, and to shape some things that aren’t that well shaped, and to answer some questions that aren’t answered and also, I honestly want to make it so that if you have read the comics that you don’t know what to expect. It’s pointless just to make a literal interpretation of the comics, if you want that experience you can go read the comics, so we’ve had to do a lot more work than I expected before we could actually start writing the pilot, honestly. We kind of have to shape the whole series in a weird way and think like, “Oh, what season would this character come in? When would you fist introduce his guy? Where does this go? Why is this guy here?” So that’s kind of what we’re doing now is shaping almost the whole series.
You’re basically writing the bible.
ROGEN: Yeah, exactly. But what’s amazing is talking to Sam, like then some idea might come up in two months, we’ll do three episodes and some writer will have an idea and we’ll throw out the bible and completely do something else. Like we’ve famously seen on Breaking Bad, Aaron Paul was supposed to die at the end of the first season and they just liked him so they kept him around. And he was saying how Mike Ehrmantraut’s character was originally hired because they couldn’t get Bob Odenkirk one day and they just needed a guy, and then they liked him and he became one of the instrumental parts of the series. So that’s really interesting to hear, just how fluid it can be as well.
Well Vince is directing the Better Call Saul pilot, and they start shooting in a month or two, with your love of the show are you basically secretly saying “I really want to be involved in an episode of Better Call Saul“?
What I find interesting is that they’re going to bring back a bunch of people.
ROGEN: I know it’s so smart [laughs].
They’ve also talked about how it might be a prequel and a sequel, how it might jump around in time.
ROGEN: Kind of jump around, it’s really smart, a great idea, because I want to know what the fuck happens to Saul at the end of Breaking Bad. He just goes off into hiding or whatever [laughs]. It’s such an interesting- it’s so smart of them to do that, I think. Vince Gilligan is very smart.
He is a genius and I don’t throw that term around lightly.
ROGEN: No, he really is, and he’s such a nice, unassuming dude. The first time I met home I was like, “That’s the guy responsible for Breaking Bad?” [Laughs]
So let me ask you, I talked to Stoller and he talked about he’s developing something for you and Kevin Hart called Black and White or Jazz Cops.
ROGEN: Jazz Cops, yeah [laughs].
He said he’s really, really working on it.
What is your schedule like for the next-
ROGEN: Well we’re going to make this Christmas movie with me and Joseph Gordon-Levitt that Jonathan Levine is gong to direct and he wrote.
When do you shoot that?
ROGEN: That, we’re going to shoot here over the summer. I think starting in August, through August and September. Then there’s a real chance that the Kevin Hart movie would film after that. I’d have to promote The Interview throughout October, but maybe in either the end of this year or the beginning of next year we could shoot the Jazz movie.
So that could be a real priority.
ROGEN: Yeah, I love the idea. To me its like totally original and different. It’s a period movie, which is really cool, but it’s really a dirty action comedy. It’s really musically driven in a lot of ways, which is cool, and I’ve known Kevin since I was 18 years old and we’ve always wanted to do something. It’d be fun because both of our characters are pretty different from what we normally do, so it’s pretty fun.
Nick told me that sounds awesome is that the people in the time period are very racist and very…
ROGEN: Yeah, it’s very edgy [laughs] and anti-Semitic, like really anti-Semitic.
This goes back to the originality, you guys are almost always pushing buttons that other people are afraid to push and that’s one of the reasons I think people respond to your material.
ROGEN: Yeah, I think as we’ve kind of tried to play it safe in the past and A) not had a good time doing it and then B) just not liked the result of it [laughs]. We found that not only do we have way more fun when we’re doing stuff that we think is really crazy and edgy and innovative in some way, and then the result has indefinitely been better every time. So it’s been a great realization to have, like “oh, the more fun we have and the more excited we are about the idea, the better it turns out and the more our audience seems to like it.” So yeah, I hope that keeps happening [laughs].
Neighbors opens this weekend. Go see it.
For more on some of Rogen’s upcoming projects, here’s a few other interviews you might want to check out:
- Writer Evan Goldberg and Executive Producer James Weaver Talk R-Rated Animated Film SAUSAGE PARTY; Pixar Movies Will Get “Ripped Apart”
- Producers Evan Goldberg and James Weaver talk Adapting PREACHER for TV, the Look of the Series, Where It Fits in Their Schedule, and More
- Evan Goldberg & James Weaver Talk NEIGHBORS, Casting Zac Efron, Deleted Scenes; Say Blu-ray Will Include the Craziest Thing They’ve Ever Filmed
- Co-Director Evan Goldberg and Producer James Weaver Talk THE INTERVIEW, Test Screening Response, James Franco’s “Insane” Character & More