Seth Rogen Podcast | The Backlot | New York Film Academy

Transcript

— I am McLovin. McLovin?! That’s bad ass.

I’m not going to punch her in the head. She’s really sweet. – No I mean you punch her in the — head emotionally.

I swear to god. I want to see Breathless at the LACMA!

I remember thinking how much food could $20 possibly buy you at Taco Bell, and the answer is infinite.

Love, the most beautiful shiny warmy thing in the world, you can’t accept it?! —

Eric: Seth Rogen started his career before he was even old enough to drive honing his stand-up skills in Vancouver during his freshman year of high school.

Seth Rogen: You know when I did stand up comedy I was actually very like reluctant to talk about my age at first because I didn’t want to be viewed as like a gimmick. I didn’t want to be like known as the 15-year-old comedian. So I would tell jokes that were like Seinfeld-esque like kind of observational humor like, “What’s the deal with crazy glue? What’s so crazy about it?”

And then I remember another comic pulled me aside and was like, “Dude! Like, you’re — 16 years old. Like you’re trying to get a hand job for the first time right now.” Like that is like, a remarkable perspective to have comedically as a writer, as an actor. Whatever you’re trying to do that is like, a remarkable perspective to have, and you shouldn’t deny that. That was like a very interesting lesson for me: was to accept my age and not deny it, but at the same time to never try to use my age as like a gimmick and be like the young comedian you know? That –  I always like – I hated that idea. And writing “Superbad” was really that: like finding the balance between doing work that I thought was adult and transcended the fact that I was a teenager. But at the same time do work that could only be done by a teenager and offer a perspective that you could only have if you were in high school. And literally, like “Superbad” was on TV the other day and I was watching and I was like “I could never write this movie today because I’m too old and I don’t know what the — kids do in high school.”

I’m terrified of high school kids. So I think that is just something that I thought a lot about when I was younger is, “How do I use my age?” And at the same time not use my age because people will just always hate the guy who seems like he’s using his age.

But you just aren’t using all your tools if you are not using your perspective which is entirely based on your age.

Eric: His stand-up and unique perspective caught the attention of Judd Apatow and Paul Feig who are casting their seminal comedy-drama “Freaks and Geeks.” Possibly the best show ever made about high school life.

— Disco sucks.

What’s up your butt princess? – Sorry, it’s hard to pick up on the subtlety of your wit.

You know, I had a friend that used to smoke. You know what he’s doing now? He’s dead. —

Eric: Freaks and Geeks and Apatow’s follow-up “Undeclared” also introduced Mr. Rogen to many of his favorite collaborators.

Seth Rogen: Most of the people I work with I’ve known since before I was 20 years old, like Judd, and Franco, and Jason Segel, and Martin Starr, and Jay Baruchel, and you know, a lot of the writers and directors I work with. I met them all through work except for the people that I grew up with Kyle R, the people who wrote this movie, basically, those are the only ones I’ve known. Like from growing up and being like, a child.

I met Evan in bar mitzvah class. So I’ve known him since I was 12. I met Ariel at summer camp. I met Kyle at home ec. class in eighth grade. And we all wanted to be writers and so we just kept working together over the years.

Everyone else I met through work and what originally drew us together was each other’s work. And I think beyond that it’s what made us take the time to get to know one another and then become personally good friends with one another over the years. But when you’re working it’s really hard to do something that feels good a lot of the time. So when you find people that are around whom it feels good you desperately want that. You know, it’s like an insulation. Like nothing makes me more secure feeling creatively than seeing basically all the people who are in this movie in close vicinity to me if I’m on set. Like, I feel so much better if Jonah, or Franco, or Craig, or Danny, are there because I’m just like, they’re just incredible at their jobs. Of the hundred things I have to worry about being a producer-writer-director, that is not — one of them. Like, they’ll just destroy it. And in a lot of ways, they are the most visible element of the film. So it just is a huge stress relief. It makes you not have to worry about it. And on top of that, we just like each other. But if I — hate these people I would still work with them all the time honestly, because they’re great at their jobs.

Eric: His career could not have started on a better note but it wasn’t always smooth sailing.

Seth Rogen: I was very lucky in that I got on TV show very young, but then I went years without working and I did for sure, start to think that like, “Freaks and Geeks” was like, an anomaly and I was only cast because I was a — weird looking Canadian guy. And once that was over no one would ever want to put me in anything again. And that wasn’t that far from the truth, honestly. You know “Undeclared” was canceled in like 2001, and I didn’t act again until “40-Year-Old Virgin” which came out in 2005.

— It all makes sense. You’re a virgin. – I am not. Shut up. –  How does that happen?! – I knew it! That makes so much sense! Look he’s a virgin! – You guys are hilarious. —

Seth Rogen: There was four years where I did absolutely nothing. And it was really during that time that I definitively learned that if I wanted to have a career as an actor I first had to get a career as a writer and a producer and then I had to cast myself as an actor essentially, which is basically what I did. The only reason I was cast in “Knocked Up” is because I had been working with Judd as a writer

— I’m pregnant. – — off! – What? – What? – I’m pregnant. – With emotion? – With a baby. You’re the father. —

Seth Rogen: And I had been helping him rewrite his movies, so I was just a guy who was around him, you know? And “40-Year-Old Virgin,” I was cast in that because I was a producer on it first. Then, the movies we wrote, we wrote for myself to star in. There was probably better people we could have gotten honestly, but it just seemed again like the only way to perpetuate my career as an actor was to provide myself with that work, and if I didn’t do that I would have acted in like two — movies in the last decade, literally. I did not think there was like a room full of Hollywood people being like, “You know what we need is like, a stoned, Jewish, Canadian guy?” Like, I just knew that that conversation wasn’t happening.

And so I had to be the one creating the material that required a stoned, Jewish, Canadian guy.

And I knew that was my only way to do it, basically. And if you’re only an actor and can’t write for yourself or create your own material otherwise, then I always just tell people like then become friends with a writer because they always need actors for their —, and become friends of the director because they always need actors for their —. And so just link up with someone who’s has a job you can’t do.

-singing- His friends would say stop whining. They’ve had enough of that. His friends would say stop pining, there’s other girls to look at. But there’s something about Mary that they don’t know. —

Seth Rogen: To me like, “There’s Something About Mary” who is one of those movies that I watched in high school.

And to me, that shifted the parameters of comedy and then the “South Park” movie came out when I was in high school.

— All those times I said you were a big, dumb, Jew I didn’t mean it. You’re not a Jew. – Yes, I am. I am a Jew, Cartman. – No, no Kyle, don’t be so hard on yourself. —

Seth Rogen: It was like one of those moments like, “Oh! Like, movies can be so much more than I thought they could be like.” It was like the most shocking thing I’d ever – I could not believe what I was seeing. And so we’re standing on the d— of giants.

Yeah.

Eric: Much of Mr. Rogan’s inspiration comes directly from his parents’ love for all types of movies.

Seth Rogen: My parents were just into movies like they liked movies they would go to a lot of movies. We had like a big VHS collection that my parents would like tape off of television so it’s funny because lots of them were like — up not the right versions of movies like I didn’t know they smoked weed in “The Breakfast Club” till like three years ago because like that was edited out for television. But I really look at the movies that my parents had growing up and it is like a direct reflection of the stuff that I now make. There was like Woody Allen movies, and Robert Zemeckis movies, and some incredibly violent Paul Verhoeven my mom was like a huge Paul Verhoeven fan, and she loved “Die Hard” and she was big Steven Seagal fan, and it had big Jean-Claude Van Damme fan. So I was inundated with like incredibly violent movies from a very young age and incredibly like, intellectual comedic movies from a very young age. And my friends we just had like a disgusting sensibility and I think the combination of those three things are why I make the types of movies I make but I really think it’s just because I watched a lot of movies when I was a kid and I loved movies.

Eric: Mr. Rogen also acknowledges that growing up in Canada gave him a unique perspective on American comedies.

Seth Rogen: What I honestly think it is is because I’ve also worked with like British comedians before and they’re hilarious. But they don’t quite understand like, American culture to the degree they probably need to in order to like really infiltrate it. You know what I mean? But Canadians grow up with American culture but it’s not our culture. So we view it as though it’s like this other thing kind of. But we know it all we get the grind all that MTV —. I grew up watching, you know? So we grew up with all this American — but we didn’t view it as our —. And so we probably were a little more inclined to make fun of it. Well, and to comment on it well because I think when you’re like outside of something you’re in a slightly better position to comment on it. And so I think that’s why a lot of Canadians do well in American comedy because they comment well on American culture and it’s not their culture so they’re not as you know attached to it. They’re a little more objective about it I guess.

Eric: If there’s a hallmark to Mr. Rogan’s work it’s finding the heart within the crudest of moments.

Seth Rogen: I think it’s different things for different people. For us, it’s having a very simple emotional story that through all the insanity is very clear and identifiable and articulatable (I don’t know if that’s a word) By the people who saw the movie, afterward. And “Superbad” is very similar in that we really learn the lesson. It’s really about like two friends who don’t know how to say they miss each other. And because of that is allows us to like get period blood on one of their legs and do all sorts of crazy —.

That like would otherwise be appalling. Were it not surrounding what is like, a very sweet emotional center.

And so for us, we talk a lot about balance and balancing emotion with crudeness and balancing intelligence with stupidity and I think balance is the most important thing in making a comedy. And finding the elements that you want to balance and striking that balance between what genres you’re trying to mix which is something we’ve done in our work before and I think that is the most important thing because that’s what makes the movie unpredictable is when you don’t know which one of those things it’s going to be.

But it’s all those things. What’s wrong. I’m just I’m a little nervous. I just found out we have to play Hail to the Chief when Bush arrives I can see it now.

The FBI announced today that North Korea.

Had the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio. Because of a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen and James Franco.

I love Seth and I love James but the notion that that was a threat to them I think gives you some sense of the kind of regime we’re talking about.

Here. Oh no my wife must have put them in there because I have never heard this before in my life I love Katy Perry. You know Dave Sometimes I feel like a plastic bag. Drifting through the wind wanting to start again.

Eric: In 2013 his twisted sensibility attracted some unwanted attention with the release of his film. The interview on the eve of the movie’s premiere Sony experienced a massive hack in response to the movie’s satirical themes. One student asked about how this incident affected Mr. Rogan’s approach to filmmaking.

Seth Rogen:I don’t know I don’t think reshaped.

If anything I guess it told me that if you make a movie about something then the subject of that something could really react to it in a very strong way. And so in a way I guess it reinforced what I always thought was the power of filmmaking which was if you antagonize a worthy subject then that is something that people will probably get behind and what I didn’t predict is that subject perhaps attacking the movie studio that was releasing the film. But honestly I don’t — know if North Korea hacked into sony I don’t even know. And no one does.

And so.

So it’s hard to really learn that many lessons from something that you don’t even quite know what the — happens. One lesson I could have learned was to like tone down what could be considered controversial filmmaking and I clearly did not do that.

So I guess I didn’t learn any lessons.

I think as a movie when I look at it there are some things storywise that we could have tightened and I think honestly like on a narrative level there was some filmmaking lessons I learned. It was the second movie we directed. So you just learn a lot from that. So just as a filmmaker there was a lot I learned just from making my second movie in the kind of things that worked and the things that didn’t. But I don’t know if I really learned a lot from what happened because again I don’t really know what happened.

Eric: Fortunately, most of Mr. Rogan’s projects have gone much more smoothly. As a producer Mr. Rogen never loses sight of the bottom line no matter the scale of the production.

We made movies very different ways spanning from the most studio of ways to the most independent of ways and part of you know what we think is like a big part of the question is like budgeting the movies properly like we’ve never had the philosophy that we should just get like as much money for every movie as humanly possible we’ll look at the movie and think like realistically how much does a movie like this make. We probably shouldn’t make it for that much more than that because we just want to keep making movies like 50/50 is an example of a movie that we’d made completely independently. But then we sold it to a studio before it came out.

I would like to present to you what I have grown to call exhibit whore look at it.

That’s Rachel and that’s a filthy Jesus looking —.

And they’re kissing I did it. I — nailed you I’ve hated you for months and now I have evidence that you suck as a person.

It’s all different. They all have their ups and downs. I have never liked financed a movie myself. I put money into our movies for little things here and there but I’ve never like fully like paid for something because other assholes are willing to do that.

Eric: After 70 something roles, he’s now enjoying his work more behind the camera acting.

Seth Rogen: I probably like the least to be totally honest it just like is not the most engaging of all the jobs on set. To me, you’re like kind of not doing — like 80 percent of the time. To me that is very frustrating and I don’t like it. Directing ,on the other hand, is probably the most active job you can have on set you’re literally doing something one hundred percent of the time. I really like that and I like being hyper-engaged.

Directing has probably become the most enjoyable thing to me. And writing is also very fun because it’s kind of like the most familiar thing and it’s kind of the thing we’re always doing amidst all of it as producers, is constantly reading other people’s scripts and helping with them and having meetings with the writers of those scripts and talking to them about it. And at the same time we’re generally writing one of our own movies but on a day to day basis directing has been incredibly fun and it’s very engaging and so I think right now that is is our favorite thing to do.

Eric: A student asked Mr. Rogen about how he approaches working with a variety of actors.

Seth Rogen: I think you just do your thing honestly like I’ve noticed no consistency between how these actors work and as a director I’ve noticed actually incredible inconsistencies in what different actors respond to like some actors I realized solely if I was in the scene with them they just wouldn’t listen to my direction. Like it just they just wouldn’t listen. Just something happened you know and I would literally have to tell my partner like tell him this and other actors are completely unlike that. And so you know when I was in that Steve Jobs movie I honestly was worried like is is what I do as an actor in any way going to mesh with how this movie is expected to be made.

I’m talking about you guys designed and chipped a little box of garbage Well while I was gone I’m talking about the Apple 2 which is not just a crucial part of this company’s history it is a crucial part of the history of personal computing for a time. The least you could do if you’re going to downsize these people they’re going to live in the biggest houses of anyone on the unemployment to acknowledge them.

And I instantly found that everyone working on the movie worked completely differently in and of themselves and that there is no correct way to do it. There’s only what makes you feel like you’re confident in what you’re doing and so I’ve guess I don’t know if that’s good advice. Just do you I think feeling confident in what you’re doing is the most important thing and whatever makes you feel confident in your performance because that’s the one thing that is bad is when actors start losing confidence in themselves on set.

It’s like babysitting a lot of the time honestly.

You discern what each person needs to be the best version of themselves I guess. And then you just do it.

When dealing with some of his more sensitive material Mr. Rogen has learned that honesty is the best policy.

I recently found the email I sent to Channing Tatum when I asked him to be the gimp in this is the end.

This is my gimp. Channing, introduce yourself.

Hey what’s up guys that’s. Channing Tatum dude what the — Channing — Tatum. Tatum I found him wandering on the freeway. I collected him made him my bitch get off my dick. I call him and Channing Tate-yum.

And what I was amazed by was how like plain it was because I was very concerned that he would show up and in some way be expecting something different so I was literally like this is the movie you are playing Danny McBride’s sexual gimp it will require you to be at the end of a leash.

He yanks you around. He talks about how your his —- how you’re an idiot.

Like like I was like if you have a problem with any of this just don’t do it because thats like the nightmare is if they show up and they’re like 99 percent on board then that 1 percent is like a — real chasm to navigate.

At times I get very nervous around actors honestly.

I don’t like like as a director like talking to actors is like by far my least favorite thing to do because I get nervous I’m like what if they ask me a question I don’t know the answer to like. I just don’t like talking to them.

And so even if I’m friends with them I don’t like talking to them. I’m more comfortable talking to them if I’m friends with them which is probably a reason I work with my friends so much because I’m for sure I’m more comfortable talking to my friends. But like when you like tell like give like Eminem direction like it’s — horrifying.

You know when I say things about gay people or people think that my lyrics are homophobic You know it’s because I’m gay. When I rap about violence or let’s just back it up a moment you just said that you were gay. I mean I’m gay. I am a homosexual meaning I like men.

What the — just happened. Eminem just said he was gay four times. That’s what the — just happened. Holy —.

And again the only thing that makes it slightly less horrifying is because I’ve made it incredibly clear that types of things I was going to ask him to do before he showed up that day because again like I would so much rather have my second choice who is 100 percent committed than my first choice who’s ninety-nine point nine percent committed because the last thing you need is on set having to navigate a sudden difference in sensibilities or a lack of understanding over what the movie or TV show or whatever it was was going to entail. That’s kind of like the philosophy for everything is like you don’t want to have to be convincing people to do things on set. You want them to be psyched on set you want that to be the most joyous experience for everyone possible and you know that’s when everything is hypothetical. When you’re filming the movie it’s not till you’re editing it that you actually have to deal with all the — that happened like set. There’s like no reason to ever be unhappy. It should only be a pleasant creative experience where you’re just getting as much as you humanly can that you think you might need. And the only way to do that again is if everyone is fully trusting and fully on board and the only way to do that is if you’ve really gone out of your way to explain to them that you know you don’t want them surprised at the premiere even after his many successes it still took a decade to get this sausage party started.

Once you see that — it’ll — you up for life.

There was a lot of hard parts.

It was.

Writing it was not the hardest part. Clearly these jokes write themselves.

Getting it made was incredibly hard. Finding someone to agree to pay for it was very difficult. It took us literally years and years and years of going on meetings and being told no by independent financing companies by major studios. Every basic way you could be told no is how we were told no. And then someone named Megan Ellison was the coolest person ever and basically like made it her thing to like make movies that no one else wanted to make and ours was for sure that and so she co-financed the movie with Sony. So that was really difficult. The actual process of making it was very difficult. We never made an animated movie it was very different than anything we’d done. There was a moment in the process were like — if we’re like kind of making fun of a Pixar movie it kind of has to be around as smart as a Pixar movie. And I remember that moment we’re like — and. There was a definitive moment like halfway through the process where we realized we had to make the movie significantly better than it seemed like it was going to be.

And that was a very difficult time as well.

Eric: As Mr. Rogan’s work shows he marches to the beat of his own drum.

Seth Rogen: When I was younger I didn’t give a —. I like I was so confident and I was like 18 or 19 when I moved to L.A. and I was just like — everyone they wrong I’m right. Like I was really aggressive and confident and it’s over the years as I’ve read like thousands of articles just saying what an idiot I am I’m like — maybe I should just stop. When I was younger Honestly I look back and marvel at how little I thought about whether or not other people thought I was funny when I was first starting.

It was all. I think I’m good at this. I’m just going to do it. And I think I can do something different in movies so I’m just going to try to write movies. I was very angry. I would get bitter and angry a lot but I just was like the more I didn’t succeed I would just get more angry and try even harder to do my —. I mean this movie like we’ve been trying to make for ten years. And like we were successful when that happened. Like it’s not like like when we tried to make it was like after Pineapple Express and Superbad and all of like our big hit movies had come out and still nobody wanted to — make it. And so we just whenever that happens you just have to really make sure that it’s a good idea and that’s by trusting the people around you and making sure you’ve surrounded yourself by people who will be honest with you and give you good constructive criticism. And if the consensus is it’s a good idea then you just do it until it occurs and you do other things. Meanwhile like we make like six movies that aren’t as good as this while we were trying to make this. But you know you got to keep going. Just in some way. But the whole time we were trying to make this as well just never stop. That’s the idea I guess.

Eric: As he was wrapping up Mr. Rogen reminded our students to be original and bold with their own work.

Seth Rogen: This movie was our craziest idea and most people who were told this idea to looked at us like we were — idiots and like it wouldn’t work. And our best movies are always the ideas that are the craziest ones. And if I see like a lack of one thing in movies I don’t see a ton of people making stuff where you’re just like what the —. Like how did they do that. And that is like all I ever want to go see in movie theaters is movies were like I’m literally wondering how it got made. You know those are like as a kid. The best experiences I had. I think like if I hope any of you take anything from this that I’m sitting in a movie theater in a few years watching a movie where I’m thinking like how the — did people make this. Please make those movies make movies that people are like. How did they do it.

Eric: Thanks to Seth Rogen for coming to our school and thanks to all of you for listening. This episode was written by me, Eric Conner. Edited and mixed by Kristian Hayden. Produced by David Andrew, Nelson Kristian Hayden, and myself. Executive produced by Tova Laiter, Jean Sherlock, and Dan Mackler. Associate produced by Vinny Sisson. A special thanks to Sajja Johnson and the entire staff and crew who made this possible. This is a production of New York Film Academy’s media content department in always beautiful Los Angeles. To learn more about our programs check us out at nyfa.edu. Be sure to subscribe. And if you can leave us a review on iTunes. We’ll see you next time!

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