Seth Rogen Interview

Knocked Up

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Twenty-four year old Seth Rogen is a Canadian actor, comedian, and Emmy-nominated writer. Seth Rogen began his career doing standup comedy for four years beginning at age thirteen, (his first gig at a lesbian club), coming in second place in the Vancouver Amateur Comedy Contest when he was sixteen. After moving to Los Angeles, Rogen landed supporting roles in Judd Apatow’s two critically acclaimed network television comedies, Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared (the latter of which Rogen was also hired as a staff writer). Both shows were cancelled after one season. After landing as a staff writer on the final season of Da Ali G Show, for which he and the staff received an Emmy nomination, Rogen was guided by Apatow toward a film career. Rogen was cast in a major supporting role, and credited as a co-producer, in Apatow’s directorial debut The 40 Year-Old Virgin. After receiving many good notices for that performance, Universal Pictures agreed to cast Rogen as the lead in Apatow’s next directorial feature, Knocked Up. Seth Rogen has appeared in the films Donnie Darko, You, Me, and Dupree in addition to the Apatow-produced comedies Anchorman and Superbad (a semi-autobiographical comedy Rogen wrote -and which hits theaters this August.)

Wild About Movies sat with Seth Rogen in Los Angeles recently, where he talked about his teen lesbian bar experience, his work on the cult TV fave, “Freeks & Geeks,” his long standing collaboration with Judd Apatow, director of “Knocked Up,” and “The Forty-Year-Old Virgin,” in addition to another summer comedy, one he co-wrote, “Superbad.”

Wild About Movies: As a Canadian Jew, 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, so we embraced it on this one. Yeah, as much as I’d like to not play a Jew, this was the hand I was dealt, you know.

Wild About Movies: 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 would have been literally 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 or not, 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. It’s 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.

Wild About Movies: 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 played 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.

Wild About Movies: What about other sex comedies?

Seth Rogen: Bachelor Party is a movie I always liked. It’s pretty dirty for a Tom Hanks movie especially. There’s some bestiality jokes in there and stuff like that. That one always kind of shocked me. Kevin Smith was an inspiration language-wise, I would say. His movies were some of the first movies that I saw people just 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.

Wild About Movies: Is the underlying theme of this movie that almost any guy is redeemable or is it something special about your character, Ben?

Seth Rogen: I think almost any guy is redeemable, yeah – if you haven’t done something truly terrible. I think more than anything our movies have a very simple message which is try to be a good guy or girl, just do the right thing as Spike Lee says. That’s kind of all you need, I think. You can kind of have 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 throughout 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 generally trying to do well by others, then they’re very redeemable I find.

Wild About Movies: How outrageous and R-rated were you at age 13 when you started out 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 always 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 yet delved into the filthy world that I now occupy.

Wild About Movies: Where was it that 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.

Wild About Movies: What were your responsibilities as executive producer on this movie?

Seth Rogen: My duties were being near Judd at all times. I tell 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 can with the writing process and the re-writing process. There weren’t many on this movie, but on days I wasn’t acting, I would come to set and just kind of help think of jokes for the other scenes in the movie and the other characters. And throughout editing, I’m involved giving notes and going to the preview screenings — just doing what I can and keeping off the couch.

Wild About Movies: This movie has the potential to be a big hit and make you a leading man in romantic comedies. Any thoughts about that?

Seth Rogen: We’ll see. I don’t know. It’s a strange concept, I guess, that romances are something that people want to see me do on film, but I had fun. Why not? I’ll keep doing it. Sure!

Wild About Movies: Were you familiar with the site, Mr. Skin.com before making this movie?

Seth Rogen: Yes, of course I was. Originally in the movie, there was no Mr. Skin. 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 then it just started to really amuse us — 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 kind of where that came from. Yeah, definitely, the idea for our webpage came from Mr. Skin.

Wild About Movies: You have three or four films that you had a hand in writing the script that are in various forms of production or post production. How often are you writing?

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

Wild About Movies: Which creative hat do you enjoy wearing the most?

Seth Rogen: I’ve got to say, with movies like Knocked Up, where I have a significant amount of creative input and Superbad which we just did, I really love doing them both. I mean it’s hard to pick one. Ideally, I’d just keep doing this and be able to kind of wear both hats at once. I view them — they’re kind of the same thing to me — they’re both 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.

Wild About Movies: Talk about the birth scene…

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 of Something About Mary when you see Ben Stiller’s zipper and the crotch. It just seemed like something – it’s always implied in movies, but it’s never 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 is pretty much what 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 how a real husband feels during the birth — it’s her show, stay out of the way and try not to ruin everything. But, it was weird to film, I have to say.

Wild About Movies: Talk a little about your past and how you grew up and why you wanted to do this, act, in the first place?

Seth Rogen: As far as my past goes, I started doing stand-up in Vancouver around when I was thirteen and then I got cast in 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.

Wild About Movies: Talk about the many characters you play in Fanboys and also about Superbad which you co-wrote that’s supposedly R-rated with a lot of frank sexual talk?

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

Wild About Movies: Are you trying to bring back that genre of dirty talk involving teens?

Seth Rogen: Yeah, we really were. Our prime directive with Superbad was to bring back – unaware of where we were bringing it back from — maybe movies like Fast Times and stuff like that. I mean that stuff we really like and that kind of has a really relatable feel to it, and the language feels true to life. We hadn’t even seen that when we started writing Superbad and we were 14 years old when we started writing it. It was born out of a very pure desire to just see kids acting like we acted on film, and kind of speaking how we speak and spoke – and it just happened to be really 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 anything. It was just to amuse ourselves, and unfortunately, really filthy jokes are what amuses us, so it ended up that’s what we wrote. But, yeah, I think it was just born out of a desire to see teen characters that were a lot like what we were like when we were in high school.

As far as Fanboys goes, I haven’t seen the final movie. I play several kinds of small 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.

Wild About Movies: How does a 13-year-old comedian 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 basically go and learn. They tell you the loose format for writing a stand-up joke, and then you get up at the end and you perform it in front of everyone. Then, from there, you just start getting invited out. Someone who was there would say, ‘I know this guy who runs this other comedy room,’ and ‘why don’t you come out and do 5 minutes.’ After that, you kind of get invited to do ten minutes and then you’re kind of making 50 bucks every few weeks and you don’t need to work at McDonalds.

Wild About Movies: 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 at Freaks and Geeks and I’m terrified at how little thought I put into it. I think I was just young and inexperienced and it never even really dawned on me at the time that this was a great show that we were doing and all these actors were amazing. It just seemed so there and given. Looking back, it was just a great show with a lot of really talented people involved in it, and we all got along really well, so I think that’s why we just keep wanting to work 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 and 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.