Seth Rogen: Me So Hornet (Cover Story)

Seth Rogen: Me So Hornet (Cover Story)

Think fame is easy? Spend three-plus years working on your passion project—while dashing off a few certified classics along the way—and get back to us. As he prepares to drop The Green Hornet, the genre-bending, big-budget opus he wrote, produced, and stars in, Seth Rogen muses on the good life, and how hard it is to make time for It.

Interview By Noah Callahan-Bever; Photography By Robert Trachtenberg; Styling By Annie Psaltiras

Seth Rogen is just like you and me. You know, that affable, well-liked stoner who fills silences with awkward laughter, reads comics, collects KAWS toys, plays Xbox, and yearns to be romantically un-challenged. But this is a lie. You have been hoodwinked. BAMBOOZLED! We didn’t land on Seth Rogen, Seth Rogen landed on us! Wait...what? Never mind. The truth of the matter is that the 29-year-old auteur who’s managed to be the funniest man in Hollywood for the last three years is absolutely all of the above things—but he is nothing like you. Or me. For all of his laid-back jokes and seeming mellowness, Rogen is a relentlessly ambitious creative with a definite vision and the follow-through to see it executed. Case in point: his latest, The Green Hornet. Like, why stick to your core competency of mid-budget laugh-fests that are guaranteed moneymakers when you can invent a new genre: the kinda-unhip-old-timey-radio-serial-turned-awesome-modern-action-comedy? And get acclaimed avant-garde-ass Michel Gondry to direct, while you’re at it? Why? ’Cause if you’re Seth Rogen, you can do it and succeed. And then go back to smoking weed on your couch while playing God of War III and listening to Kanye, surrounded by boxes of comics and KAWS toys. So yeah, we’re down with Seth because he reminds us of ourselves—our insanely talented, insanely disciplined, insanely paid, better selves. Dude was kind enough to take a break from his rigorous genius/regular-guy schedule to talk to Complex about his passion for all the stuff we’re passionate about, and, along the way, what makes him altogether different from you and me.

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We’re days from New Year’s Eve. What would you say was your biggest personal win of 2010?

Well, I got engaged. I’m going to get married, so that’s a big personal win. We’ve been together for...fuck, like five or six years. I can’t even remember at this point, that’s how long it’s been. [Laughs.]

How does engagement change a relationship?

It means your girlfriend stops bugging you to get engaged!

That’s probably a major change five, six years in.

We’ve talked about it before. It wasn’t a total shock for her. It really hasn’t changed that much, except we’re planning a wedding now. Well, she’s planning a wedding now, and I’m kind of observing the planning of the wedding.

Agreeing—a lot of agreeing.

“Sure, whatever!” [Laughs.] And then every once in a while I almost disagree with something, and I’m like, Oh man, just go with it.

Always go with it. Was there any anxiety leading up to popping the question?

No, I was pretty sure she’d say yes. [Laughs.]

Phew!

Yeah. It would have been so fucked at that point if she had said no.

Well, while that was the biggest win, it obviously wasn’t the biggest challenge. What was?

Editing The Green Hornet. The whole post-production process of putting that together has definitely been the biggest challenge. There’s so many different versions of it, and there’s so much action that we used, and there’s so much stuff that we didn’t use. Me and Evan [Goldberg, his writing partner] talk about how many more movies we could have made in the amount of time that we spent making this movie. We could make 10 Pineapple Expresses!

Up until now, you’ve done films with modest budgets. During those projects you must have become somewhat of a businessman. Does the pressure of the budget on a 3-D action film like this change your process at all?

A little bit, I guess. As a filmmaker, I believe in fiscal responsibility—to a degree. I would never make a movie as weird as Pineapple Express for the amount of money that this movie costs, for example. [Laughs.] I just know that that’s not a good idea. There’s just inherently some things in some of our movies that will make a lot of people not want to go see them, you know? And we very consciously had to balance those things in a movie of this scale or it would have just been irresponsible. I don’t want to be the guy that makes the weirdest fucking movie ever, and then when it doesn’t make any money, I’m like, “What? I can’t believe no one liked it!”

We’re not above lying to the studio. We listen to them...then completely rewrite the scene and don’t give the script to anyone except the actors.

“But I thought Waterworld was going to be a hit...”

Exactly, “A guy with gills. Who doesn’t want to see that?” [Laughs.] But what was actually very gratifying was when we tested the movie, and it tested better than any of our other movies. We thought, “Whoa. Well, we actually did it.” Beyond that, we’ve done our jobs. As far as the marketing goes, if the movie makes its money back—at this point it’s out of my hands. That’s up to the studio. I assume they want to make their money back a lot more than I give a shit about them making their money back. [Laughs.] We’ve given them a movie that I think is good. I know it tested well, so we’ve given them the ball, it’s their job to run with it.

So you’re happy, the audience is happy, and hopefully the suits will be happy. How did you Jedi-mind-trick the studio into letting you execute your vision?

There’s a lot of trickery involved—and sleight of hand. We’re not above lying to the studio. We have this trick now where we listen to their notes, and even write a version of the scene [that incorporates them], and then the night before we shoot the scene, we just completely rewrite it and don’t give the final script to anyone except the actors. It works pretty well.

The overlords aren’t on set to see it?

No, they’re almost never there. At that point it’s kind of a runaway train, which is great. But editing is where they can really fuck you if audiences don’t like what they’re seeing. But luckily, when we screened the movie, it tested really well. So they had no argument to change any of the stuff that we did.

You’d think they’d have a little more faith. Looking at your career, you’ve had a pretty much unblemished record since Knocked Up.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that. [Laughs.] Financially, or just good-movie-wise?

Either way.

I don’t know. Funny People, I’m not sure if it quite made its money back. Did it?

Well, I saw it in the theater...and on cable, too.

[Laughs.] I think creatively they’ve all been good. I don’t know if everyone who paid for those movies is 100 percent thrilled about it. You’ll have to ask Harvey Weinstein about that.

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