The film follows six friends trapped in a house after a string of strange and catastrophic events devastate Los Angeles.
As the world unravels outside, diminishing supplies and cabin fever threaten to tear apart the friendships inside. And eventually, the group is forced to leave the house facing their fate and the true meaning of friendship and redemption.
Entering the round table interview with Seth Rogen I was, as you’d imagine, extremely nervous. I strolled into the interview room after taking in a deep breath to get my shit together and there he was; the dude I had only known through the big screen standing there in the middle of the room.
I managed to get out a “Morning, Seth,” and we shook hands. He showed me to the couch as we joked about Melbourne’s abysmal weather, and then we took a seat. At this point I was quite tense. But it was okay – Seth Rogen’s prized cackle let itself be known. His laugh is all a perspiring man needs to rid his nerves. From there came our discussion.
Q: You chose to work with your best friends in This Is The End: good idea or bad idea?
A: Good idea – definitely a good idea. It would’ve been intimidating I think to work with other guys, and they trust us a lot. They’ve seen that we’ve had a lot to do with a lot of movies. We’ve known these guys for years and years; I’ve known Franco since I was 16, Jay since I was 18, Jonah since I was 21 or 22 or something like that, so we’ve all known each other for a really long time and they’re obviously, like, in their own right filmmakers or writers, which is helpful because they can kind of help you (laughter). Franco’s directed more movies than we have, Danny went to film school; he created Eastbound and Down – it was very helpful to have people that experienced around. And if they weren’t friends with us they probably wouldn’t have given a shit (laughter).
Q: Looking over the production notes I read that James Franco said he wouldn’t have even considered playing a role in the movie if you and Evan Goldberg weren’t directing. Would he have wanted to take part?
A: Yeah, probably not (laughter). I think especially because they’re playing themselves and we’re asking them to really put themselves out on a limb. Like there’s a version of this where it went terribly wrong where we all looked really bad and I think, like, the only reason is because they knew us and trusted us. And that like literally locks the lines of the movie – we wouldn’t have had the balls to pitch them if we weren’t their friends. It takes a lot of nerve to tell someone to make fun of one of their own movies or something like that. And I think honestly if we weren’t friends with them we wouldn’t have felt comfortable approaching that, you know? Yeah.
Q: Are you guys competitive when it comes to cracking jokes and determining who’s starring in scenes?
A: Not at all. You do wanna be funny, the guys really support each other. They’re always pitching jokes to each other; no one tries to hoard the attention, by any means. All these guys have starred in movies. Once you’ve starred in a few movies it’s almost a relief to be able to take the backseat (laughter) and to not be the focus of every scene, and to just be able to say a couple of funny jokes and let the other guys do the heavy lifting. So if anything it was the opposite, people were like: ‘Yeah you can take my lines, I’ll be back here I’ll say one funny thing at the end of the scene and you guys can scream for the next three hours,’ you know?
Q: Does the script alter much from its original form throughout the production of the film?
A: Yeah, I mean we encourage a lot of improv, and every scene has improv in it. And again, like I was saying, all these guys are good writers and so they really know how to improvise not just in a way that’s just funny but that serves the story and their characters and really makes the whole movie better, and to me that’s good improv. Tonnes of guys can come up with funny jokes all day, but they don’t do it in a way that will work technically. You need to know how movies are made, like with the coverage. And you have to know literally how movies are edited together and shot in order to improvise well, which a lot of people don’t understand, I think, who try to improvise.
Q: What’s it like working with the likes of Jonah Hill, James Franco and Craig Robinson and the rest of the crew?
A: It’s great. I mean they’re all so funny, they’re nice and they all get along. I can’t believe we got them all; I remember we were sitting in our office and were like, wow, it might actually work there’s a scheduling chunk where they’re all available and all seem like they want to do it. And we made it very hard on ourselves because we really wanted them together the whole movie. I hate when they have these movies with big casts and then they’re never together – we wanted all of the guys in every scene. I would look around and think: wow I can’t believe we got them all. It was really cool.
Q: What motivates you to come up with ideas and actually finish them?
A: I think you really have to like the idea, you know? Luckily for the most part we have been very passionate about our ideas. Superbad took forever to get made, Pineapple Express took forever to get made and we’re trying to make this animated movie that looks like we finally might be able to get made, and again it’s taken us forever. Literally like whenever someone was like ‘We’re not gonna make it’ – like there was not even one per cent of thought in our head saying ‘Maybe we should pack this one in, guys’ (laughter) – it was always like ‘No, we have to keep trying to do it.’ Because we’re genuinely entertained by the idea, just as movie fans, it’s stuff we would want to see. I think a lot of people don’t approach it like that. I think a lot of people write what they think might get made or what they think might help their career; we clearly don’t do that (laughter). But we write movies that are impossible to get made and have the potential to destroy our careers (laughter).
That’s what’s fun about them to us is that, like, it’s that it’s so wrong and the fact that it might be the worst idea in the world to us is what makes it exciting and funny. We always think: what would we be super jealous if someone else made and not us? And I think those are the types of idea you keep working on for years and years and years. I’ve watched a lot of comedies and I can just tell that, like, no one thought it was that funny. You can just tell that no one’s laughing really hard as they’re coming up with it. Conversely, when I watch stuff like South Park or something I can tell that they’re laughing; you can just imagine them in hysterics as they’re writing down the jokes and thinking of the ideas, and I think you can tell when the people making it think it’s funny. I think that’s really a genuinely good thing, if it is actually funny. If they think it’s funny and it’s not funny then it’s a fucking disaster (laughter).
Q: Seth, would you say gone are the days of scripted gags?
A: No, I think some of the funniest gags are scripted, you know? But I think some of them have to be because they’re built on effects and stuff like that. I think different people do it in different ways. Like, The Big Lebowski to me is one of my favourite movies of all time and, you know, in The Big Lebowski it’s totally scripted – there’s no improv in that movie at all. So I think different people are just better at that than we are (laughter). If you can write a script like that then you don’t need to improvise (laughter). But we just approached it differently, you know? And I think it’s more fun for us procedurally when you’re constantly trying to discover new stuff, constantly exploring and it just makes it more fun on a day-to-day basis because you’re not just hearing the same shit over and over. There’s this sense that someone at any moment might say, like, the funniest thing and that might be the joke that makes the whole scene hilarious, you know? And that’s just exciting to do in the moment.