The summer blockbuster movie season wouldn't be complete without an epic end-of-the-world movie. Who would have thought that the creators of Pineapple Express would create such a film? Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen serve up a whole platter of inappropriate humor (is there any other kind?) and a surprising helping of heart in This Is the End.
In the movie, Rogen plays himself alongside Craig Robinson and a whole roster of celebs including James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel, Michael Cera, Emma Watson, Mindy Kaling, Aziz Ansari, Rihanna—the list goes on for days. In addition to having a bunch of actors play themselves, the movie turns the genre of apocalyptic movies on its head to show that the end of days is something that can get a laugh—or 12.
We had the chance to sit down and chat with Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, and Craig Robinson about working with a bunch of celebrities, playing versions of themselves, token females in an all-male cast, and turning some of their favorite end-of-the-world movies into comedies.
Divine Caroline: There are a lot of celebrities in the movie. How easy or difficult was it to bring everyone together?
Evan Goldberg: It was a scheduling nightmare. (laughs)
Seth Rogen: It was hard to schedule it from a production standpoint I guess you would say, but it wasn’t hard to get people to do it. People were actually really psyched about doing it, and it kind of snowballed. There was a point we almost felt we had too many people because we actually had to make sure everyone had a funny moment and a good joke.
EG: We got a little worried because we thought some of them would drop out.
SR: I (would look) at the call sheet, and I'd be like, “Jesus Christ!” It was the most ridiculous list of people and we’re like, “Wow, we got to make all of them feel like they’re getting a moment, which was a little stressful.
EG: One of them would come up to you after filming a scene with another one and be like, "Am I gonna get a moment?"
SR: We want to make sure that (the moments) were good enough so that we’ll be able to use them in the actual movie because if they’re not, that was our nightmare. If we didn't use them, all of these actors would have come up to New Orleans and they’d not be in the movie at all so it was stressful.
EG: We should have just pretended a certain actor was in the movie but was completely cut—like Jake Gyllenhaal.
SR: He was there in spirit. (laughs)
DC: Did you guys do any CG tricks to put people together?
SR: No. There was no spliced-together shots in that regard.
EG: That probably would’ve been smart.
SR: It probably would have made it a lot easier! But we did film the party over the course of different days. We gave people two options as to when they could show up. We knew that we couldn’t just give all 20 famous people one day to come and expect them to show up.
DC: During the movie all these celebrities comically die and then Jonah Hill's character probably has one of the best meta lines in the movie: "Actors should be the first to get rescued."
SR: (laughs) We don’t actually think that at all and I desperately hope that no one thinks that we actually feel those things. It’s supposed to be self-deprecating in commenting on how ridiculous it is that A.) I’m sure a lot of actors think that and B.) I wouldn’t be surprised if it was true in some capacity. We were really trying to take the piss out of ourselves and comment on how self-centered, ridiculous, and out of touch most actors are or are perceived to be.
DC: The movie started off as a short, but what made you want to stretch it out into a feature?
EG: We made the short six years ago. Jason Stone directed it and helped us produce the movie and put it online. It got a good reaction; got almost 200,000 hits and because it was online we never forgot about it.
SR: Yes, people would ask us about it in interviews every once in a while.
EG: We’d always say, "Yes, we wish we could make it into a cool movie," but we just couldn’t figure out what the trick was that made it interesting. We always had this other idea to have actors play themselves, which started off as, Seth Rogen and Busta Rhymes versus the Ant Man. That was our first idea. Then we figured maybe Busta Rhymes isn’t the right guy. Maybe (Seth Rogen) and Brad Pitt should play themselves. Then we just said let’s just work with our friends. We like working with our friends. We realized that if we push these two ideas together, we have ourselves a pretty good story.
DC: Did you always know you wanted the six core cast members, or was it based on who was available?
SR: No, it was always them. We went out to them before we even started writing it. We wanted to make sure they had hope in the idea because we didn’t want to waste a bunch of our own time and we really wanted the roles to be tailor-made for the guys. I think it was in 2010 that when we first spoke to the guys and told them we’re thinking of writing this apocalyptic movie where we all play ourselves. We asked if they would be open to it and they all said yes. It wasn't until they all said yes did we actually proceed to write it because and it was always them. There was never a different version.
EG: We never imagined we’d get all of them, but even in that scenario we didn’t come up with backups. We just had to get them somehow.
DC: Craig, how did you feel having your friends writing this exaggerated personality for you?
Craig Robinson: I loved it. They really made us comfortable. My wardrobe was basically the same T-shirt company that makes my usual T-shirts, so I literally would take this off and then put on this. It’s just fun to see that. They made me kill a man—and I would never do that (laughs) and they made me a little mean to Jay (Baruchel) and whatever, but it was all good.
DC: Did you ever consider adding a female to the core six?
SR: Honestly...that’s a good question.
EG: The simple answer is that sex becomes a conversation.
SR: We were actually resistant to even having Emma (Watson) return in the movie because we kept saying, "It just goes sexual." It’s like 28 Days Later there is this inevitable thought that you’re the last people on Earth; it’s all these guys, there’s a girl. Are you going to repopulate the world? Honestly we kept saying, "If we have a girl, we’ll start to feel rape-y." (laughs) It wasn’t until that happened when we said, “What if we make that the whole point of the scene?”
EG: That was the greatest studio note we ever received. The studio executives said, "Why don’t you just embrace that rapeyness?" (laughs)
SR: Exactly! And we were like, "Wow, that’s actually a great idea!" I think that’s what it was and it was also because we’re not that good of friends with any female comedians. Now we are, but at the time we made this, they just weren’t in the circle of our friends that much. The other thing was we didn’t want it to have these sexual overtones. To us that is just a comedy killer in some regard.
EG: We’ve worked with what we could over the past couple of years and that’s just been a handful of guys, but if this movie does well, we’ll try to get more women in our movies.
SR: I’d love to work with women! We just made a movie where I'm married to Rose Byrne and she’s amazing. It makes up for this. (laughs)
DC: Is there an end-of-the-world apocalypse movie that you would want to change into a comedy?
EG: A hilarious version of I Am Legend?
SR: It’s just a guy alone doing funny s***? That’d be hard. I wouldn't want to be in that movie.
EG: (turns to Seth) What about A Boy and His Dog?
SR: Yes, the Don Johnson movie!
EG: If you ever want to watch the weirdest post-apocalyptic movie ever, watch A Boy and His Dog.
SR: What about The Road? Could we make that into a hilarious father-son comedy? It would be like Big Daddy.
DC: There is a scene in the movie where James Franco and Danny McBride have a hilariously graphic argument about male bodily fluids. Was that scripted or improv?
CR: Completely scripted. All the way.
SR: I think the first half was written and then they went off for the second half. It's literally just them screaming nonsense at each other for the last ten seconds.
EG: The four of us worked well on Pineapple Express, but that scene was funny. There's a lot more improv in the movie than what your question implied. It’s half or more of their improv.
DC: Are there any other improv scenes you remember?
SR: A lot of them, honestly.
EG: That inventory scene had a lot of improv.
SR: Yes, where we're talking about how we would divide the food up and ration out stuff.
EG: All the stuff with the gun—none of that was scripted.
SR: When Franco tells Craig, "I want one-fifth of your T-shirt" —none of that was scripted. Structurally we spent a lot of time making sure the movie flows properly to the best of our abilities. We know that the guys are so good and funny. They all know their characters and they all know the jokes. Everyone knows that and plays into it really well, so they don’t need much to make a scene really funny.
DC: There's a bit in the movie about a sequel to Pineapple Express, was that just a one-off joke, or is there actual talk of a sequel?
EG: That’s the plot for the idea.
SR: Yes, a few years ago we literally were like, "What if there was a sequel? What would the story be?" and that was the story we came up with. It’s about Red calling us and asking us to help him assassinate Woody Harrelson. It’s literally the story we came up with!
EG: It might happen one day. It might.
DC: Finally, you've been doing interviews and talking to people and journalists about this movie non-stop for the past couple of weeks. Is there one end-of-the-world question that you wish people would stop asking you?
EG: Oh, yes. It’s, “If you could bring any three items with you in the apocalypse, what would they be?”
SR: It’s always hard.
EG: They think I’m going to say like, my X-box, grapefruit, and Michael Jackson's Thriller.
SR: It turns out I’m a human who needs food. Yes, so I’ll take food.
DC: Well, I’m glad I didn’t ask that question—just joking I wasn't planning on asking that.
SR: Don't worry everyone does.
This is the End opens in theaters June 12.