Seth Rogen Interview – KNOCKED UP

     May 24, 2007

Seth Rogen got his start on “Freaks and Geeks” as one of the friends. On “Undeclared” and “40 Year-Old Virgin” he played the same kind of role. Now after numerous roles as the side character who makes the audience laugh or pushes the main story forward, his role in “Knocked Up” is front and center as the story revolves around his relationship with Katherine Heigl.

In the movie Seth plays a normal twenty something guy who likes to smoke pot and lay around with his buddies. He has a plan to make a website with his friends but it’s not like they’re working 24/7 to try and make it happen. Pulling tubes and having fun is more what they’re about.

One night they decide to go to a club and he ends up pulling a girl way out of his league and she ends up getting pregnant. The rest of the film is what happens after that night…

To help promote the movie Seth and most of the cast recently held some press conferences and I’ll be posting all of them. I already posted the Judd Apatow one in case you missed it.

As always you can download the audio of the interview here. It’s an MP3 and easily put on a portable player like an iPod or a CD for listening in your car.

“Knocked Up” opens June 1st and you’ll definitely want to check it out.

How did it feel to play a Canadian Jew in the movie?

Seth Rogen: Well, having no real skills, I always try to play characters close to myself – I don’t know. I say ‘sorey’ instead of ‘sorry’ and Judd just got tired of editing around it, I think. We embraced it on this one. Yeah, as much as I’d like to not play a Jew, this was the had I was dealt, you know.

How was shooting the fake sex scenes with Katherine Heigl?

Seth Rogen: Yeah, it’s really kind of nerve wracking, you know. If I was 18 years old, I’d literally be as far as I’ve ever been with a girl. You’re essentially – you’re dry humping; I don’t know if you can say that, but I’ll say it. You’re dry humping a girl who you don’t know very well; and I was just afraid I was going to sweat on her. That was my major concern, that I was going to drip a big gob of sweat on her head. Its nerves – but luckily they’re comedic sex scenes, supposedly. So that kind of helps; it’s not like I’m supposed to be acting sexy. There’s lines like, ‘This is my new record’ in there; so that kind of alleviates some of the pressure that would be put on me to look attractive and sexy – which is nice.

Was Porky’s or any other sex comedy an influence on you when you were a kid?

Seth Rogen: Porky’s – you mean the highest grossing Canadian film of all time! Yes, that was – Porky’s was one of those films. I used to, when they play it in Canada, I would tape bits of it, the nude scenes and compile them. So I’ve seen the nine minutes of Porky’s where people are naked 1000 times over and over. The rest I’ve recently caught up on, but that introduced me to adulthood – Porky’s.

What about other sex comedies?

Seth Rogen: Bachelor Party was a movie I always liked; it’s pretty dirty for a Tom Hanks movie. There’s some bestiality jokes in there and stuff like that; that would always shock me. Kevin Smith was an inspiration language wise, I would say; his movies were the first that I saw that people were cursing up a storm and that was very amusing to me, so I think we took a nod from that, definitely when it comes to sexual language anyway. I don’t know, what other ones are good? Any suggestions.

Last American Virgin.

Seth Rogen: Last American Virgin; I haven’t seen that. I’m in, I haven’t seen it.

Is the general idea of this movie that any guy is redeemable?

Seth Rogen: I think almost any guy is redeemable, yeah – if you haven’t done anything truly terrible. More than anything, I think, our movies have a very simple message and that is try to be a good guy or girl, do the right thing – as Spike Lee said. That’s kind of all you need, I think. You can kind of have all the people say all the filthy, despicable things you want and have them do stupid things, but as long as you get that character’s trying to be a good person through it all, that’s kind of all I need to latch onto. It’s simple, but I think, emotionally speaking, it’s true to my experience with people. If you meet someone, everyone has their short comings, but as long as you see they’re trying to do well by others, then they’re very redeemable I find.

How outrageous and R-rated were you at age 13 when you were doing stand up in Vancouver?

Seth Rogen: I was not, I was clean; I didn’t work blue back then. Mostly because my mother came to a lot of my shows I think; I was just embarrassed. My life wasn’t that R-rated back then, I guess. I tried to be truthful to what was going on with my life and my friends and my experiences. Then, it was more about my grandparents and playing video games and my Bar Mitzvah and stuff like that. I hadn’t delved into the filthy world I now occupy.

Where was it where you first did your stand up?

Seth Rogen: At a lesbian bar in Vancouver called The Lotus. I thought it was ‘Ladies Night;’ I didn’t really get what was happening.

What were your responsibilities as executive producer on this movie and who was your character in Donnie Darko?

Seth Rogen: In Donnie Darko, I play Ricky – is my character’s name. It was kind of these two bullies in the movie, me and Alex Greenwald play them; we kind of torment Jake Gyllenhaal and Jenna Malone’s characters throughout. And then at the end, I throw Jenna Malone out in the road where she gets hit by a car; it’s kind of not that big of a role, it was my first movie. It was a great experience; I didn’t get it back then, and still don’t, but had a good time. What was your first part –

As executive producer –

Seth Rogen: My duties were being near Judd at all times, kind of; I told him, ‘I’m just going to give you my opinion until you tell me to shut up.’ And take what you have and take what you will and don’t take what you won’t. Basically, I’m there throughout all the casting and all the meetings with the studio about the script; I helped as much as I could with the writing process and the re-writing process. There weren’t many on this movie, but on days I wasn’t acting, I’d come to set and think of some jokes for some of the other scenes in the movie and the other characters. And in editing, I’m involved giving notes and going to the preview screenings and doing what I can – keeping off the couch.

Are you ready to be the lead in another romantic comedy?

Seth Rogen: We’ll see; I don’t know. It’s a strange concept, I guess that romances that people want to see me do; but I had fun, I’d keep doing it, sure!

Were you familiar with the site, Mr. Skin before making this movie?

Seth Rogen: No…(long pause). Yes, of course I was. Originally in the movie, there was no Mr. Skin; we actually – I can’t remember how it actually played out, but there was no – the movie originally took place in a universe that Mr. Skin did not exist, and it really started to amuse us that the notion that Mr. Skin did exist and we just hadn’t heard of it. It just made us laugh a lot as we were writing, so that’s where that kind of came from. Yeah, definitely, the idea for our webpage came from Mr. Skin.

How often are you writing?

Seth Rogen: How often am I writing? Pretty much when I’m not acting, which is often, I guess; or doing press. Yeah, as soon as I finish doing the Knocked Up promotion, I will start writng again. And between movies, that’s kind of my default mood is – sitting in my underwear writing; that’s where I want to be, if no one else expects me to be anywhere else.

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Which creative hat do you enjoy the most?

Seth Rogen: I’ve got to say, with movies like Knocked Up, where I have significant amount of input and Superbad, which we just did. I really love doing them both; it’s hard to pick one. Ideally, I’d just keep doing this and be able to wear both hats at once. I view them, they’re kind of the same thing to me; they’re both kind of making movies, it’s not really compartmentalized in two separate halves of my brain, really. It’s all part of the same goal and yeah, I like to be as involved as I can.

How much improv was there and how involved were you in the testing process?

Seth Rogen: The first part, yes, there was tons of improv in all the scenes, especially the ones with me and my friends. We hired my actual friends because we always hope for those dynamics to kind of show on film; our hope was to be able to tell we were all friends and we actually all know each other really well and the best way to get that stuff out is just through improving and letting loose the actual dynamics play out of it. It’s funny that Martin’s the one with the beard because he’s the one who always gets sh*t from all of us and it really suits him so well to be this one guy who’s constantly getting it from all of us. And it’s those little things that really amuse me, especially watching it – and it’s really weird, his name is Martin in the movie; it’s very confusing in a way. But yeah, we improvise heavily; generally, we shoot the script once or twice and then we just kind of go off. Harold Ramis put it well, he was talking about it, and he said when he did Ghostbusters and stuff, he would always say, ‘The script is what we – the script is the worst case scenario. The script is what we have if we can’t think of anything better.’ That’s pretty much what we do – and it was a pretty good script to begin with, so it was a pretty good worse case scenario we all thought. But, we basically said what else came up – the whole Munich thing; that wasn’t even implied in the script at all. That stuff just comes up as you’re shooting. And as far as the test screenings, I was at every single one; I’d kind of hang in the back, try not to laugh too loud, cause people recognize my laugh, apparently. And luckily, it was a pretty pleasant test screening process, so people seemed to like it, it got good reactions. It didn’t make me want to kill myself, which makes it much nicer, I would say.

Can you talk about the birth scene, and can you talk about your past and how you grew up?

Seth Rogen: The birth scene, ok, I was always a big proponent of showing the whole megillah, as they say. I thought it’d be funny and shocking and it reminded me a little of Something About Mary when you see Ben Stiller’s zipper and the crotch. It just kind of reminded me of – it’s always implied in movies, but not really 100 feet tall. So I just knew that that reaction would be fun from the audience; it’s one of those things that I couldn’t imagine how people would react. I assume they’d just scream, which pretty much happens. But it was stressful to shoot that scene, Katie was really – she actually pulled her back out pushing and screaming so much; I just had to stand there and hold her hand, which I felt a lot like I imagine a real husband feels during the birth. It’s her show, stay out of the way and try not to ruin anything. But, it was weird to film. As far as my past goes, I started doing stand-up in Vancouver around when I was thirteen and then I got cast for Freaks and Geeks – by Judd – when I was 16 and I moved to LA, and sunk my claws into him and haven’t let go ever since.

Can you talk about the many characters you play in Fanboys and what about the raunchiness of Superbad?

Seth Rogen: Yes, all involving teens, according to the MPAA; that was the big thing.

Are you trying to bring back that dirty talk with teens?

Seth Rogen: Yeah, we really – that is our prime directive with Superbad was to bring back – unaware of where we were bringing it back from. Movies like Fast Times, that stuff we really like and has a really relatable feel to it, and the language feels true to life. We hadn’t really seen that when we started writing Superbad; we were 14 years old when we started writing it. It was born out of a very pure desire to see kids acting as how we acted on film, and speak how we speak and spoke – and it just happened to be very dirty. And it’s also just what made us laugh. When me and my writing partner, Evan Goldberg were writing it, we were teenagers in Vancouver, there was no real implication that it would ever get made into something into anything, it was just to amuse ourselves. And unfortunately, really, really filty jokes is what amuses us, so that’s what we wrote. But, yeah, it was just born out of a desire to see teen characters act like what we acted like when we were in high school. As far as Fanboys, I haven’t seen the final movie; I play several kind of characters throughout it. My good friend, Jay Baruchel is in it, who is here today; you may speak to him later. Yeah, I don’t know ultimately what my roles in that are – I hope they’re funny; it seemed funny when we did it.

How did a 13-year-old get hooked up in a lesbian bar?

Seth Rogen: You sign up. The first time, there’s actually a work shop that was being held at the bar where you go and basically learn – they tell you the loose format for writing a stand-up joke, and then at the end, you go and perform it for everyone. Then, from there, you just start getting invited out, someone there would say, ‘I know this other guy who runs this other comedy room,’ and ‘why don’t you come and do 5 minutes.’ After that, you kind of get invited to do ten minutes and then you’re kind of making 50 bucks a week and you don’t need to work at McDonalds.

What’s it like all being together from Freaks and Geeks?

Seth Rogen: It’s amazing, I don’t know; it’s funny, I look back to Freaks and Geeks and I’m terrified how little thought I put into it. I think I was just young and inexperienced and it never really dawned on me that at this time, this was a really great show we were doing and these actors were amazing. It really just seemed so there and given. Looking back, it’s a great show with some really talented people involved, and we all got along really well, so I think that’s why we all want to keep working together. I just finished a movie with James Franco a few days ago, and it was amazing to be able to work together again. We kept looking at each other saying, ‘If you told us 8 years ago that someone would allow us to be in a movie that we’re the stars of,’ I would have never believed it. It’s amazing to us.

How dirty is the humor in Pineapple Express and how action packed is it?

Seth Rogen: Sexually speaking, Pineapple Express is not nearly as dirty as Superbad or maybe even Knocked Up; it’s not really a sexual movie. It’s more of a marijuana themed, buddy/buddy, comedy, more in the tone of say, 48 Hours or Midnight Run. I mean, action wise, it’s pretty jammed packed; we’ve got car chases and shoot-outs and explosions and me holding many machine guns, which is amusing to me. I hope other people find it entertaining, but when you say you’re making an action comedy, it’s like anything else. We thought it really has to function as really both as an action and as a comedy; with a romantic comedy, it needs to function in those worlds as well. We took that very seriously.

What strikes you most about working with Judd?

Seth Rogen: What’s amazing about Judd is about how open the set feels, you can do no wrong, which is nice. He’ll never tell you not to say something – he may tell you not to say it again, but he won’t tell you not to say it in the first place. You know you can do whatever you want; he gives you the time, the film, and the focus to really get the best out of people. People who have one line in Knocked Up would say it was the best acting experience they’ve ever had because they would have gotten a whole role of film to get the funniest version of that line. Everyone kind of gets their moment in the sun and the opportunity to do whatever they think is funny. It’s just amazing, it feels very communal. You know you have the time and the film and you really feel like you can mine humor out of whatever you are doing.

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