An American Pickle, the HBO Max comedy about a man who is cryogenically, um, pickled, and awoken in the future to meet his modern ancestor, stars Seth Rogen in two roles, interacting constantly with “himself.” How did they pull this ubiquitous visual effect off so well, and so seamlessly? Luckily for us curious filmmaking fans, HBO Max has just released a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the doubling of one Mr. Rogen.
The film’s director Brandon Trost (Rogen’s longtime DP making his directorial debut) concedes that filmmakers have been doubling people numerous times before. They usually use a combination of split-screen photography, body doubles, CG-assisted-dots-on-the-face technology, and tons of invisible post-production trickery. All of this was used on An American Pickle, but with one specific caveat. Normally, you’d shoot one side of the “person whose face you need to see,” and then immediately set up the other side with that actor playing the second person in that same location, in real time. But Rogen’s characters having two different beard lengths (which Rogen himself got into in a Collider interview) meant they had to film everything with him bearded and then go back on separate days and do it all again with him clean-shaven. The continuity nightmares that must’ve come up are giving me stress hives!
Lucky, then, that the American Pickle crew seemed to have quite the streamlined, fascinating process. And a lot of that process rests on Ian Poake, who was Rogen’s body double on both sides throughout the film. Poake walks us through his role in the film, and it is surprising — he never actually spoke dialogue, only emoting with his face to Rogen’s off-screen playback, and sometimes had to literally say what he was doing physically so Rogen could follow with his eyes. It seems like a technically impressive, and ultimately thankless job — but I, for one, thank Mr. Poake, and can’t wait to see him in a role where his dang face is on screen.
Check out the fascinating An American Pickle making-of featurette below — and hopefully, check out Ian Poake in a starring role where we can see his dang face soon! The Rogen comedy is streaming on HBO Max; here’s our review.