This Is The End is yet another collaboration between writer Evan Goldberg and actor Seth Rogen, two childhood friends who first worked together on Sacha Baron Cohen’s Da Ali G Show. Since then, the duo has been responsible for films like Superbad, Pineapple Express and The Green Hornet. Now, Goldberg and Rogen are taking on roles that are completely new to them as they step behind the camera for This Is The End. Of course, they also both have writing credits on the film and Rogen also stars.
Playing himself (as does everyone in the film), This Is The End sees Rogen attending a star-studded party at his buddy James Franco’s house when the skies open up and suddenly, a global apocalypse ensues. Along with Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Danny McBride and a few others, Seth finds himself facing the end of the world, which includes demons, cannibals and some other fun surprises.
Last week, Rogen and Goldberg arrived in Toronto to do some press for the film and I was lucky enough to participate in a roundtable interview with the duo. It was a very fun and humorous talk as we discussed what it was like working with such a talented cast, where the ideas for the film came from, how they enjoyed directing their first feature film and much more.
Check it out below.
Co-directing yourself, and also all these comedic actors who have their own style, did it ever feel intrusive or was everything sort of by the book?
Seth Rogen: We’ve worked with a lot of these guys before. A lot of them developer their comedic sensibilities with us. We all went to the same movie-making college in a sense. The first comedies that a lot of us made were together. Pineapple Express was Franco’s first comedy film and really the first big roles for Craig and Danny. Undeclared was the first big thing Jay really did and Superbad was the first thing that Jonah really did. So I think that luckily, a lot of us have whatever styles we have due to working with one another in a lot of ways. And so, it all feels very similar stylistically. There’s not a lot of conflict there.
The film feels loose and improvised, how much freedom did you have when making it and how much structure did you have built in?
Evan Goldberg: The VFX really put you in a box and you just have to kind of deal with what you can there.
Seth Rogen: It puts you in a physical box. Like we know that Jay and Dave Krumholtz are hanging from the thing and Dave reaches out and Jay drops him. That’s very specific and all those shots have to be planned. But as far as like what they’re saying to each other, they can improvise all that stuff. Just because we’re cornered into certain shots, because we had to plan like that for the FX, the actual dialogue you can still be loose with. And that gives the whole thing a much more natural feel.
Tell us about the conflicts between the characters. Is that something that was scripted or do you just know these people well enough?
Seth Rogen: No that was all scripted. It took a long time to plot out the friendships and who liked who and who hated who with these characters. The actors had a lot of input into it too. The house itself, we designed it. It’s a set. There were some specifics needs that it had. We wanted it to have levels so we could shoot in different ways and so people could pop out from different places. A lot of thought went into planning out all that stuff.
Did you write the script with an eye to direct it initially?
Evan Goldberg: Ya. We made the short and when we did the short there was no intention to direct. Over time though we kept talking with Jason Stone, who did the short with us, about doing some apocalypse thing and then we had our idea to have stars play themselves. And once we had our six actors in mind, for who we wanted to play these characters, we realized that we’d be the best directors for the project.
Seth Rogen: We couldn’t unleash these guys on someone else. [laughs] It wouldn’t be fair.
Evan Goldberg: We knew that we would be the only people that could get these six guys to do it. So it had to be us.
When you are setting up the script, and you have everyone playing themselves, and they have a lot of input, how hard is it as directors and writers when they have an idea but it’s not really right for their character?
Seth Rogen: It’s a delicate balance. You have to just let them do it. Sometimes what you lose in the time it takes to let an actor do something that you don’t like as a director, you gain in not shutting them down creatively by telling them their idea sucks. You need to find what gets the best performance out of them and shutting people down creatively often doesn’t get the best performance out of them.
Evan Goldberg: If you’re making The Shining, you want people to look tormented and frightened all the time. We want people to look happy though.
Seth Rogen: We want to create an environment where we are fostering ideas, not rejecting them. Every once in a while, ya, you have to film someone for half an hour saying something that you do not think is funny because for the previous two hours they said a bunch of stuff that you thought was really funny.
Evan Goldberg: We had a never ending argument with Jay. He would keep doing this gagging thing whenever something gross happened. We kept saying, “we’re not going to use it” and he was like “oh, you’re going to use it.”
Seth Rogen: And we never used it. [laughs] We won that argument. We just let him keep doing it though. He made the crew laugh, that’s what kept him going.
You could make a literal gag reel out of that.
Evan Goldberg: We could make a gag reel out of that.
Both: We SHOULD HAVE made a gag reel out of that. [laughs]
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