TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. The apocalypse has arrived in the new movie comedy "This Is the End," starring my guest, Seth Rogen, who co-wrote and co-directed it with my other guest, Evan Goldberg. They also co-wrote the movie "Superbad." "This Is the End" is set in L.A. and features Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride and Jay Baruchel playing themselves.
Rogen and his friends have been at a party at James Franco's house when what they think is an earthquake turns out to be the Rapture, the end of days. Several of their friends fall into the pits of hell, and then these remaining six friends barricade themselves into Franco's home and struggle to survive. "This Is the End" is filled with references to end-of-the-world and disaster films, zombie movies and "The Exorcist." One standard scene in end-of-the-world films is the survivors taking stock of their remaining provisions, arguing over how to divide them fairly.
In "This Is the End," the provisions they have left are 12 bottles of water, 56 beers, two vodkas, four whiskeys, six bottles of wine, tequila, Nutella, cheese, steaks, and a Milky Way, which is where this clip picks up.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THIS IS THE END")
SETH ROGEN: (as himself) How are we going to deal with this?
JONAH HILL: (as himself) Um, can I have that Milky Way?
JAMES FRANCO: (as himself) No, you can't have the Milky Way. That's my Milky Way. I went out this morning, specifically bought this Milky Way to eat after my party.
HILL: That's weird.
FRANCO: It's not weird. It's my special food. I like it. Back me up on that, Seth.
ROGEN: I don't think you should get the whole Milky Way. I want some of the Milky Way.
CRAIG ROBINSON: (as himself) I'll be pretty bummed if I don't at least a bite of the Milky Way.
FRANCO: Oh, now Craig wants a bite of the Milky Way.
ROBINSON: Yeah, I want a bite of the Milky Way.
ROGEN: Everyone gets a fifth of everything.
FRANCO: I want one-fifth of your T-shirt. I want the bottom part, the belly.
ROGEN: I'm not sporting a crop-top in your house.
FRANCO: I'll cut that off and make a headband.
ROGEN: You couldn't handle my midriff.
HILL: Guys, the only issue is I kind of need the Milky Way. No, for real, I have low blood sugar, and if my endorphins drop too low, I'm going to be a nightmare to be around.
FRANCO: Your LBS starts acting up, you can have a finger scoop of Nutella, OK?
ROGEN: One finger scoop of Nutella.
GROSS: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, welcome to FRESH AIR. So you've decided in your new movie that the world would end with the Rapture, as loosely based on the Book of Revelation from the New Testament. So in your version, like the good people are raptured to heaven and the bad people kind of drop into deep pits into hell or are forced to face catastrophes on Earth similar to - similar to what happens in zombie movies.
ROGEN: Yeah, yeah, we're kind of holed up in a house, yeah.
GROSS: Right, that you board up like in the zombie films, and...
ROGEN: Exactly, yeah.
GROSS: So why did you decide to choose that as your end of the world, to choose the Rapture and the Book of Revelation as the jumping-off point?
EVAN GOLDBERG: Well, as two young Jewish gentlemen...
GOLDBERG: We always thought it was really funny that...
ROGEN: Evan, I try to hide that I'm Jewish. Please, don't bring that up on NPR.
GOLDBERG: We always found it funny that people genuinely think we're going to hell.
ROGEN: Yeah, we had a friend in high school, actually, who was, like, really into the Christian stuff, and like he was a good friend of ours, and he went to, like, Christian, like, day camp and stuff and got, like, kind of more into these, like, Christian kind of youth groups.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, and he never treated us poorly; he was never unkind to us.
ROGEN: No, he was super-cool to us, but one day it came up conversationally, kind of we were talking about heaven and hell and all that stuff, and then we were like: Do you think we're going to hell? He was like: Yeah, I do, unfortunately.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, he was like: I'm super bummed about it, but you're going to hell.
ROGEN: Yeah, he's like, it sucks, but you guys are probably going to go to hell. And it was kind of just always like a funny concept to us that, like, I mean, not every Christian believes it, obviously, that literally, I think. But a lot of people, I'd say like a vast majority of people in this country at least, are taught that, like, you know, if you're good, you go to heaven, and if you're bad, you don't, you know?
ROGEN: And as...
GROSS: And if you're Jewish, you need to convert.
ROGEN: And if you're Jewish, you're definitely going to hell.
GOLDBERG: And even then.
ROGEN: Exactly, if you convert, you've still got a rough road ahead. So it was to us - I mean that was actually one of the most entertaining concepts of it, and that is really why we gravitated towards it because it's such like a popular thought, you know, so many people have that notion.
GROSS: You quote from the Book of Revelation in the movie. Did you actually go and read it?
ROGEN: We did, but we actually kind of changed it to be a little more like concise at times.
GOLDBERG: It's all up to interpretation.
ROGEN: Exactly. We unabashedly changed the Bible in a few parts here and there.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, we used to have on the script: Based on the book by God. But we changed that.
ROGEN: But it's very - all the ideas, like the smoke, like the sinkholes and the smoke, and...
GOLDBERG: The imagery is in there.
ROGEN: The imagery, the hills on fire. Like all those ideas are stuff from the actual Bible, which we did read. And reading it, it was like crazy. We were just like this is unbelievable.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, I thought it'd be wild, but it's like - like "Lord of the Rings" got nothing on this.
ROGEN: Yeah, and it's like what's in the movie, like it's really like we - we don't take that many liberties with what happens, you know.
GROSS: So in the movie, at first people think, well, you and Jay Baruchel, who you're with, think it's an earthquake, and the deep pits are being formed by the earthquake, although there's all kinds of other inexplicable phenomenon happening. But the earth is opening up and swallowing people. And watching that scene, I was reminded that Seth, when you and I recorded our first interview back in 2008, you were at NPR West, in L.A., as you are right now, and I was in Philadelphia, in our studio as I am now. And there was an earthquake in the middle of the interview.
GROSS: And we never broadcast the part where you realized that the earth is shaking, but...
GROSS: But we still have that as an outtake, and I want you to hear it, and I want our listeners to hear it.
ROGEN: Oh, that, I always wondered what happened.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, I was just going to say, you better play it for us right now.
GROSS: We're going to. So you and I had been talking about how a lot of, like, young comic actors got their start on "Saturday Night Live" and then ended up in movies, but you are not one of them, you never did the "Saturday Night Live" thing. So we'll pick up right there.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
ROGEN: It's true, you know, that never - whoa, there's an earthquake happening right now in L.A.
ROGEN: Yeah, I think so.
GROSS: Is the studio shaking?
GROSS: Do you need to evacuate?
ROGEN: No, I don't think so.
GROSS: Well, if you do, just say the word.
ROGEN: Either that or I'm completely losing my mind.
GROSS: It's not that the interview is shaking you up.
ROGEN: Yeah, exactly.
GROSS: Yeah, hang on one sec.
ROGEN: I could be completely wrong. Maybe my chair's just messed up.
GROSS: Is it still shaking?
ROGEN: No, not at all.
GROSS: OK, OK, so can I ask you...
ROGEN: Yeah, keep going.
GROSS: So we resumed...
ROGEN: That's crazy.
GROSS: Isn't that crazy? So we resumed the interview, and then...
ROGEN: I remember thinking I assume someone would have come in and got me if there was an earthquake.
GOLDBERG: I like how you did nothing you're supposed to during an earthquake.
ROGEN: I just sat there.
GOLDBERG: I was hoping it was going to be like, oh God, we're all going to die, oh no.
ROGEN: I dealt with it in a pretty mellow way, it seems like.
GROSS: Very mellow, very mellow.
GOLDBERG: That's how you might die one day: Is this an earthquake? No, crush.
ROGEN: I think there's an earthquake happening: boom, the ceiling collapses on me.
GROSS: Wait, but we're not done yet, we're not done yet. So you and I, we continued doing the interview, and then at the end of the interview one of our producers walks into the studio and talks to me, and I'm going to pick up with my reaction.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
GROSS: Oh my God, wow. Seth?
GROSS: You just survived a 5.8 magnitude earthquake. Our producer just said they heard it on CNN.
ROGEN: I told you.
I'm so glad that there was an earthquake and I'm not (bleep) losing my mind. Honestly for the last 10 minutes, I'm like I just, I lost my (bleep). There was no earthquake.
GROSS: Wow. Well - well, gee, I hope you're nowhere near the epicenter of that. I guess you would have felt it a little more strongly.
ROGEN: I hope my toy collection at home is OK.
I've got to call my girlfriend.
GROSS: Yeah, well let me let you go. Thank you so much.
ROGEN: Thank you.
GROSS: OK, be well. OK.
ROGEN: OK, bye-bye.
ROGEN: My toys were OK, for the record.
GROSS: Thank goodness, thank goodness.
ROGEN: But a tree fell over outside my house, actually.
GOLDBERG: And none of your toys fell?
GOLDBERG: Do you stick them to the shelf?
ROGEN: No, no, it was shocking. But it fell the next day, the tree, is what was weird. Like that day it was fine. I remember because it was during "The Pineapple Express" premiere, all our friends were here for "Pineapple Express."
GROSS: Exactly, exactly.
ROGEN: And yeah, that was crazy. I remember I was a little hungover, I think, because the premiere was the night before, and I probably didn't want to say so, but I'm like: Am I just, like, really messed up?
ROGEN: Is that what I'm experiencing right now? But thank God. I remember being so relieved when I heard there was an earthquake.
GROSS: So but this, of course, made me wonder, like: How afraid are both of you of the big one? You live in L.A., you're from Canada. I don't think Canada faces a lot of, like, earthquakes.
ROGEN: No, no.
GOLDBERG: When the big one happens, Vancouver gets it worse than L.A.
ROGEN: Yeah, Vancouver, actually, it's funny, like you're always taught that the big one is coming.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, we did earthquake drills every single year, every semester, all of our schooling.
ROGEN: And there was actually a joke in the movie that we didn't use that much but where I kept saying it's the big one. Like that was my theory, like guys, I think this could just be the big one. Like we've all heard about the big one. It happened, that was the big one, you know. But I think we realized that not many people are as familiar with the big one as us West Coast Pacific Rimmers.
GROSS: So in the movie, James Franco has - playing himself - has built his own house, which is earthquake-proof. And so he's convinced that he's kind of famous enough, wealthy enough, and he built his own earthquake-proof home, so like he's safe. Is that a joke about some of the people who you've met in Hollywood who feel quite immune to it because they're privileged?
ROGEN: It was kind of the idea that we were tapping into, I guess, is that you meet people who kind of, like, do seem like they've forgotten that they are vulnerable to the regular things that normal people in the world are vulnerable towards, you know.
And actually they probably aren't, in a lot of the same ways. You know, it's probably not a complete misconception on their behalf. Like a lot of rich people just don't have to deal with a lot of the stuff that, you know, that people who don't have money do have to deal with. But an earthquake does affect everyone.
GOLDBERG: If there's an earthquake, Franco will be in an airplane somewhere and safe, flying to another location.
ROGEN: John Hurt in "Contact," yeah.
GROSS: You've gotten your friends to play themselves in the movie. Seth Rogen, you play yourself, Jonah Hill plays himself, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera, Jay Baruchel. Evan, you don't act, as far as I know, so you're not in the movie playing yourself. Can you talk about - both of you talk about writing Seth's character?
ROGEN: I'm sure, Evan, that you had some input into that as well as Seth.
GOLDBERG: Well, we always screw up writing Seth's character because we always want to not be putting all the attention on him, you know, because like he's usually the star in the movies we make, and we write it together, and now we're directing it. So we always leave his character to last. He's always the worst character, and then in the 11th hour we put a lot of work into fixing his character, and we did it again on this one.
ROGEN: It's true. Like we always don't want to be accused of having spent too much time on my character. And actually going into the movie, you know, Franco's directed himself in some movies, and I was like do you have any advice for me as someone who is about to be, you know, directing myself in a movie.
And he actually said like, I do, actually. It's going to be your instinct to spend less time on you than everybody else. It just will, that will happen. And he's like you have to fight that instinct because, like, you are just one of - also just one of the actors in the movie, and you have to make sure that, like, you get as much, you know, time as everyone else does, which I think we still didn't.
But I mean, we knew - in the writing of it we knew, like in real life in a lot of ways, like I am kind of the common thread between all these guys. Like it isn't - that part of it is kind of real. And so that element we really wanted to kind of monopolize on and maximize, and that kind of became where the idea of the movie came from just emotionally, is that, like, I'm kind of stuck in the middle of this old group of friends and this new group of friends, which I kind of, you know, was at times, right Evan?
GOLDBERG: You were. You were torn.
ROGEN: It's kind of like you, honestly. Like when you...
GOLDBERG: People were threatened by me when I showed up.
ROGEN: And you didn't like a lot of my friends that I had at the time.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, yeah, it's true.
ROGEN: It is. It actually is more representative of how it was when I was working in L.A. for a little while, and Evan came down to visit.
GOLDBERG: I never thought of that.
ROGEN: I actually never thought about that either until right now.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, I came down and I said, Who are these schmucks?
ROGEN: Exactly, and they said, Who's this schmuck?
GROSS: Seth, one of the things your character says is, I'm a victim, I've had a victim's mentality my whole life. True?
ROGEN: A little bit. For a while, when I was young, I was an inherently kind of soft child.
GOLDBERG: Well, who was - there was a guy who picked on you at Talmud Torah.
ROGEN: Yeah, I got picked on by a couple guys at my Jewish school, incessantly. Like it really drove me crazy. Like it was so brutal. And it didn't last like - it lasted like a year maybe, something like that, but long enough that it really sucked. And then I started taking karate, though, and then nobody picked with me much after that.
GROSS: Evan, did you have to...
GOLDBERG: Essentially the story of "The Karate Kid."
GOLDBERG: But just Seth.
ROGEN: I'm Jaden Smith or Ralph Macchio in "The Karate Kid."
GROSS: My guests are Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. They co-wrote and co-directed the new end-of-the-world comedy "This Is the End." More after a break, this is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guests are Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. They're writing, directing and producing partners, and they wrote and directed the new film "This Is the End," which is an end-of-the-world comedy, and Seth Rogen is one of the stars, along with several of their friends, including Jonah Hill, James Franco, Danny McBride, Michael Cera and others.
GROSS: When you were making "This Is the End," did you go back and watch a lot of, you know, zombie films and, you know, end-of-the-world films? And there's a funny exorcism, "Exorcist" sequence in there.
ROGEN: Yeah, tons.
GOLDBERG: Almost nothing we do is original.
ROGEN: Yeah, exactly. I mean, it's heavily - you know, I think we really come from like the film fan school of moviemaking in a lot of ways, and we don't pretend that, like, you know, imagery-wise and just, like, concept-wise there's a lot of original ideas out there. So what we do is just kind of try to, you know, repackage them in the most original way we can think of, you know.
GOLDBERG: And with this movie in particular, with it being an apocalyptic situation, which is...
ROGEN: There's so many of these types of movies that like...
GOLDBERG: But it's just we wanted people to relate to it. We didn't want to reinvent the wheel and make something look like something you've never seen. We wanted people to see it and say, like, I know what that means.
ROGEN: It's true. Like to us it was almost funny that we had taken this, like, very simple concept that was almost like too familiar and applied this, like, kind of weird, meta, you know, humorous twist on it, you know. So yeah, we watched like "Dawn of the Dead," obviously, I mean the original one and the - I mean, those are movies about like people kind of stuck in places as there's like a force outside kind of trying to get them. Like that was...
GOLDBERG: Yeah, like "Apocalypse Now" was a big one first. You've got five or six guys stuck on a boat in the craziest situation ever. It's not necessarily an actual apocalypse film but pretty close.
ROGEN: Yeah, it kind of is, and like they're just kind of floating through this hellish landscape in this kind of insulated environment.
GOLDBERG: And some of them deal well, and some of them really don't.
ROGEN: Yeah, "Apocalypse Now" we really watched a lot. And then like obviously "The Exorcist" we watched, and "Rosemary's Baby" is a movie that we looked at.
GOLDBERG: And another big one was John Carpenter's "The Thing."
ROGEN: Yeah, "The Thing"...
GROSS: Oh yes. Yeah, yeah. I thought so.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, we have a match sequence where people are choosing a match to see who goes outside to get water.
ROGEN: I mean there's so many of these movie. So, I mean, yeah, we really tried to draw off of the best ones and just kind of do our own ridiculous, mostly stupid twist on how these movies, you know, execute these things.
GROSS: One of my favorite moments is, you know, is early in the movie, and the pits of hell have opened, and many of your friends are like falling into it, and some of them are hanging on by their fingernails over the edge of the pit. And Jay Baruchel, who plays himself, is hanging on, at the edge of the pit, and one of your friends is next to him. I'm not sure who that person is.
GOLDBERG: David Krumholtz.
ROGEN: David Krumholtz, yeah.
GROSS: Oh, OK, and he's hanging on like by one hand or something. And then why don't you repeat what Jay Baruchel says to him.
ROGEN: Well, it's just like, it's out of, like, "Cliffhanger," almost, that moment. It's like the classic guy falling off the ledge, and Dave is like, can you hold me, and he's like, yeah, I'll grab you and I'll swing you up over the edge.
GOLDBERG: And the whole twist with this is it's physically impossible.
ROGEN: It's literally impossible.
GOLDBERG: There's no version of him swinging, unless he's like triple-jointed.
ROGEN: Exactly, he's like you can do it, I can do it, give me your hand, I can do it. You promise? Yeah, I can do it. And then he does it, and he just instantly drops into the hole.
GROSS: I've grown - I grew up with so many versions of that scene, where one guy is hanging on by his fingernails, and somebody else says grab my arm or grab my hand and just kind of lifts him to safety. And I always thought, like, how can you do that?
ROGEN: It would be impossible.
GOLDBERG: I feel like if I tried, I could do it with like a 110-pound girl and that's it.
GOLDBERG: Any bigger, and there's no chance.
ROGEN: But even still...
GOLDBERG: Oh yeah, I couldn't reach down, pick up a 100-pound weight and pull it up.
ROGEN: You get like a fulcrum and like swing them across. It would be impossible.
GROSS: So one of the scenes is a satire of "The Exorcist" or one of the exorcism sequels, one of "The Exorcist" sequels. So Jonah Hill is possessed by the devil in this scene, and he's in bed, you know, tied down but possessed by the devil. And then Jay Baruchel walks in with a cross made out of kitchen utensils, a spatula and something else because they don't have crosses in James Franco's home, where they're holed up.
ROGEN: No, he's not - he's half-Jewish.
GOLDBERG: He's half-Jewish.
GROSS: Yes, so here's an excerpt of that scene - again, Jonah Hill is tied onto the bed possessed by the devil, and Jay Baruchel is approaching him with a cross made out of kitchen utensils.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THIS IS THE END")
JAY BARUCHEL: (as himself) Jonah Hill? Jonah? Jonah Hill?
HILL: (as Demon) Jonah Hill is no more.
ROGEN: That's not good. That's not good.
HILL: Jay, you fool.
BARUCHEL: I say unto thee: The power of Christ compels you.
HILL: Oh, does it? Does it compel me?
BARUCHEL: The power of Christ compels you.
HILL: Does it, Jay?
BARUCHEL: The power of Christ compels you.
HILL: Is the power of Christ compelling me? Is that what's happening?
BARUCHEL: The power of Christ compels you.
HILL: Guess what? It's not that compelling.
GOLDBERG: That's a good radio choice.
ROGEN: Yeah, it plays well over the radio.
GROSS: I like the way, you know, it's like the demon's making, like, really cheap jokes.
ROGEN: Exactly. It's still Jonah.
GROSS: So when you were watching all the exorcism movies and deciding like what do we want out of it, what were you thinking?
ROGEN: At first, actually, we had it be - we kind of had it be more traditionally like what - like from "The Exorcist," Jonah was kind of spewing this, like, biblical you'll go to hell and do all this stuff, I literally can't repeat the stuff they say in "The Exorcist." But actually, well, then what happened is we wrote what we thought was, like, crazy stuff for Jonah to be saying, and then we watched the original "Exorcist."
And what she says in that movie is like the craziest stuff you could ever possibly say. And it's coming out of like a 10-year-old girl. So it was like so much edgier than what we had written that we realized with Jonah, actually, kind of in the moment, he was like, we have to go the other way. We're not going to top - like what they say in the actual "Exorcist" is so dirty and disgusting that, like, that joke won't be funny.
What's funny is I'm just talking exactly how a jerk would be talking to Jay in that situation, basically, and because you'll affect my voice, it's almost like the more normal I'm talking, the kind of funnier it'll be. And...
GOLDBERG: And it sets up, well, the first two - you know, like Jonah Hill is no more. You think that the normal stuff is going to come your way, that he's going to say the biblical torture stuff. And then it just goes a hard turn in the other direction.
ROGEN: Later on, like when it starts working, he's like, seriously, stop. Like seriously, seriously, stop. Like that was just cracking us up because it's like, it's exactly what just a regular guy would say in that situation.
GROSS: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg will be back in the second half of the show. They co-wrote and co-directed the new film comedy "This Is the End." I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. They co-wrote and co-directed the new end-of-the-world comedy "This Is the End." Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel and Danny McBride play themselves. Rogen and Goldberg also co-wrote the film "Superbad" and were executive producers of the films "Knocked Up" and "Pineapple Express."
You both met when you were young, like 13.
GOLDBERG: Bar mitzvah class.
GROSS: Bar mitzvah class.
ROGEN: Bar mitzvah class. We were 12 years old, I think.
GROSS: Uh-huh. What were bar mitzvah classes like?
GOLDBERG: Well, Seth went to a Jewish day school and I went to a public school, but I had to go to after-school Hebrew school, and so we would cross paths every day...
GOLDBERG: ...because my synagogue, where I went to the after-school, was beside him.
ROGEN: He got dropped off at the parking lot I got picked up in.
GOLDBERG: So we always had like 30-second interactions...
GOLDBERG: ...but then both our schools merge in grade seven, so you can learn your Haftorah portion for your bar mitzvah.
ROGEN: Yeah. Tallits and Tefillin it was called, T and T.
GOLDBERG: And the real reason you went is because they gave you chocolate milk and delicious bagels.
ROGEN: They did give you chocolate milk and bagels. It was fantastic.
GOLDBERG: And Seth was the very loud guy from the day school. And I was the very loud guy from the after-school.
ROGEN: But really what it is - and I was thinking about this - because we were in the bar mitzvah class, you have to invite all the people in your bar mitzvah class to your bar mitzvah. So suddenly, me and Evan went to like dozens of bar mitzvahs together all the time. Basically, like every weekend of grade seven, me and Evan were at a bar or bat mitzvah together, and that's I think when we really started becoming friends.
GOLDBERG: And the other big thing is Sammy Fogle, who the character McLovin is farsely(ph) based upon...
GROSS: In "Superbad."
GOLDBERG: From "Superbad"...
GOLDBERG: Yeah. He was...
ROGEN: Was our third friend.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. He was our third friend and he was my good friend and he was Seth's good friend, and we didn't really know each other as well, so he kind of merged us together.
ROGEN: He was like the common - and we all knew we were going to the same high school together, so...
GOLDBERG: And we all knew we were going to be nerds there.
ROGEN: Yeah. We all knew we'd probably be losers so we should stick together.
GROSS: So describe your bar mitzvahs.
ROGEN: My bar mitzvah - both of our bar mitzvah parties were at the same place. It was in...
GOLDBERG: Yours was - I don't remember yours.
ROGEN: Richmond Country Club.
GOLDBERG: All I remember about mine is my mother, the cantor at the synagogue retired. The cantor, if you don't know, like kind of sings the - he's the best singer.
ROGEN: (Singing) Ya da dee...
GOLDBERG: So he retired, so mine was musically themed because my...
GROSS: He's a singer at the religious ceremonies...
ROGEN: Yeah. He sings the prayers.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. And my mother bought the decorations from his retirement party, so I also had a musically themed bar mitzvah, even though I'm not musical.
ROGEN: That's really funny. I remember my mom got like a square-dancing teacher or something to come to my bar mitzvah...
ROGEN: ...which was very lame.
GOLDBERG: I was the - my trendsetting moment was my bar mitzvah had the first like temporary tattoo guy.
ROGEN: Oh, yeah, I remember that, actually.
GOLDBERG: It was big stuff back in that time and day.
ROGEN: That was big stuff.
GROSS: So in "Superbad," which is based on your friendship in high school, and the characters are named Evan and Seth.
GROSS: Evan is played by Michael Cera and Seth by Jonah Hill. When you were actually in high school, were you as obsessed with sex as the character Evan and the character Seth in the movie?
GOLDBERG: I think I speak for every young boy on Earth when I say yes.
ROGEN: Definitely. And it really seemed like it was maybe never going to happen, like that was really like the overwhelming thought that we talked about.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. The general consensus amongst the dudes was, if this doesn't happen by like 18, I'm going to kill myself.
ROGEN: Yeah. And it just...
GOLDBERG: And thank goodness we all got there at 18.
ROGEN: I might have been 19, I don't even know. But still, in that vicinity. But...
GOLDBERG: But you're just, you're ready to rock when you're 14 and it's not happening.
ROGEN: Yeah. And some people you know, you hear, oh, that guy had this happen and this guy and this girl did this to that guy, and you're just like, oh my god. It's just like yeah, it was all we thought about. It was crazy.
GROSS: Were you insecure about your looks, like your characters in the film?
GOLDBERG: I would say I don't think...
ROGEN: We were pretty goofy looking. We had every right to be insecure.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. Insecure is the wrong word. We were realistic.
ROGEN: We were aware of our looks.
GOLDBERG: There were some like really handsome dudes and there were track dudes.
GOLDBERG: And then there was us.
ROGEN: Not to say we could not have gotten more girls than we did and I suppose...
GOLDBERG: Oh, we definitely could have.
ROGEN: ...we definitely could have looking back, but we just didn't. But like, yeah, we were insecure, but we were not great-looking guys. I had dreadlocks for some of high school. I had colored hair...
GOLDBERG: I mean there's not like calendars of hot Jews.
ROGEN: It's almost like I made a list of like what can I do...
GOLDBERG: Yeah, James Franco, the exception...
GOLDBERG: Usually the Jew gene brings you down a notch.
ROGEN: Not a lot of hot Jews.
ROGEN: Is Ewan McGregor Jewish? I don't think so.
GOLDBERG: Of course...
GROSS: This is a fairly personal question, or a very personal question. How worried were you the first time that it wouldn't...
ROGEN: I was pretty worried. I think the first time I was so nervous that I definitely, it was not like the most graceful experience.
GOLDBERG: No, mine was like the - mine was like, like I felt the miracle of Hanukkah was happening to me.
GOLDBERG: Like someone up there was looking down saying, you know what, Evan deserves this.
ROGEN: Here you go, pal.
GOLDBERG: Let's give him a good first go.
GROSS: There's a scene in "Superbad" where the Evan character is at a party and the girl who he has a crush on - who has a crush on him too - is at the party and she gets really drunk. And when she's drunk, her personality kind of changes, you know, she becomes, she becomes the girl she thinks she should be in order to be pleasing and seductive. Because she's seen a lot of movies and she knows, according to the movies, this is how it's supposed to be. So, you know, they go up to a bedroom, and then she starts like dancing and stripping...
GROSS: ...because that's what you see in the movies. And the Evan character is looking kind of baffled and thinking, why is she doing this? That's like not like her. What's going on? I like that scene and I think it's an interesting scene for you guys to have written for a teenage girl. And I'm interested in hearing how you wrote that scene.
GOLDBERG: Well, it's largely based on some, on two disastrous hookup sessions I had that...
ROGEN: I think it's based on the general idea that like you think alcohol is going to make things better and it generally doesn't. That's like the...
GOLDBERG: Yeah. Yeah.
ROGEN: That's like the general seed of the idea, I think, which is like they spend their whole, the whole movie trying to get alcohol and it's what essentially ruins the experience for them, you know?
GOLDBERG: Because that was our thought as kids - like we get a girl drunk, we're drunk appropriately, everything's cool and that's when it happens.
ROGEN: And then you start to hook up with girls when you're both actually really drunk and you realize like it is a disaster, like it never is how it should be or - and now, you know, you know that. So I think that's where like the kernel of the idea came from...
GOLDBERG: But I would also say like...
GOLDBERG: ...you just looked into it deeper than I think we ever did. And I think the actress, Martha MacIsaac, who played that role, kind of got it at a level we didn't.
ROGEN: Yeah. Because like we were, I mean we were around that age when we wrote that, so I think it was a little less, in a way, self-aware than it seems. I think it was, I mean like it is what it was. I don't think we had the, I don't think at the time we wrote it, honestly, we could've contextualized it the way that you just did.
GOLDBERG: No. We just were thinking like hey, let's write it like those disastrous scenarios we went through.
ROGEN: Yeah. And we thought like well, this whole movie, this guy, it's such a sexualized movie, it's this sexualized world clearly that we're existing in and it would be funny if what happens when this girl gets drunk is she kind of oversexualizes herself and it ultimately is the last thing that this guy would want. And the reason he likes her is she's not like that, you know?
GOLDBERG: And it was fun to just flip it. Normally you'd think the guy would be the girl character that we had and the girl would be the guy. But to see Michael Cera say, you know, this isn't how I pictured it.
ROGEN: Exactly. We always just thought that was funny also...
GOLDBERG: Because girls picture it, and guys are like I'll take anything.
GOLDBERG: I'm not picturing anything. I'm picturing everything or anything, just let it happen.
GROSS: How old were you when you wrote the first draft of "Superbad"?
ROGEN: We started when we were 13. We probably finished a few years later, like in high school.
GOLDBERG: I bet it took us two years to write the movie.
ROGEN: Yeah. We were like 15 when we finished it. Yeah, something like that.
GROSS: How serious were you then, about really writing a screenplay?
ROGEN: We were really serious about it.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. Growing up in Vancouver, it's not like growing up, you know, in Middle America or the middle of Canada or something. It's a very movie town. Like I remember they filmed a Lou Diamond Phillips TV movie at our high school...
ROGEN: They sure did.
GOLDBERG: ...and we would watch them doing it. And they filmed a movie called "Mastermind" with Patrick Stewart at our high school, and we would see it happening. And we would see television shows - "The X-Files" shooting. So to us, it wasn't this impossible goal. We thought, you know, worse-case scenario, Seth will make money with his stand-up, I'll make money teaching aquatic fitness - which is what I did...
GOLDBERG: ...and we will buy a video camera and we will film it ourselves. Like that was our goal initially.
ROGEN: Yeah. I mean like we were friends - I mean friends - fans of guys like, you know, Wes Anderson. I mean when "Bottle Rocket" came out, we loved it. And so like we, we liked like these really little kind of, it was kind of like "Clerks" was a movie that we like loved when we were in high school.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. Kevin Smith is the guy who really showed us that like we don't need a huge budget.
ROGEN: We could just do it. Yeah, we were...
GOLDBERG: You just need a good story.
ROGEN: So yeah, like we watched movies like that and we were like worst comes to worst is we do this, like we just make it on our own somehow, you know?
GROSS: Were you in plays in high school? Were you involved with theater groups or was it just about movies?
ROGEN: I was in like - we had like a theater PM group, it was called, which was like where the kind of, yeah, it was kind of like an extracurricular theater company. I was on my high school improv team for years, and that was actually amazing...
GROSS: An improv team?
ROGEN: Improv team. You would play against, you would do theater sport competitions against other high schools, basically - improvise scenes with different like - there's different like games, you know, premises in theater sports.
GROSS: Well, Seth, you did standup comedy for a while and...
ROGEN: Yeah. And I did standup all throughout high school also, basically.
GROSS: And I read - correct me if I'm wrong here - that you wrote jokes for a mohel. And a mohel is...
ROGEN: I did.
GROSS: ...like when a baby is born in the Jewish religion, the baby is circumcised and...
GROSS: ...the person who performs the ceremony and the circumcision is called a mohel. So what kind of jokes did you write for the mohel? And why did he even need jokes?
ROGEN: I don't know. I - at the time it seemed weird. He saw me do standup and I was like 15 years old or something like that, and he came to me. Just so weird. And...
GOLDBERG: You know what it is? He was a Jew sniffing out a deal.
GOLDBERG: This kid's going to do it for cheap.
ROGEN: This kid will do it for cheap. Get a good deal on this guy. It's true. And maybe because I was closer to the age of the people he was circumcising, I would relate more. But he, yeah, he asked me to write jokes for his ceremony. He thought it could be funny. I guess it's tense. People are tense at a circumcision and he wanted some like icebreaking jokes or something like that. And they were dumb jokes. They were like - because that's the thing, they couldn't be edgy at all, you know, they like - and they couldn't be jokes that made - there was like - I kept like writing jokes about like how you're going to mess up, like how shaky you are. He's like, no, I can't have any jokes about like me being shaky.
GOLDBERG: I mean, the basic idea of having jokes in that ceremony, like people shake when they laugh.
ROGEN: I know. It's weird.
GOLDBERG: You don't want a funny vibe.
ROGEN: Yeah, you don't want that. But I think there was a joke about like, he'll be the only kid who has like survived a knife fight at the nursery or something like that.
ROGEN: I mean they were ridiculous jokes. The Spice Girls were popular then. I think there was a Slice Girls joke. It was...
GOLDBERG: They were topical.
GROSS: In "Superbad," the two male friends who are in high school who were based on you - on both of you - they hoped to go to college together but the Seth character doesn't get into the school that the Evan character does, so they're going to be separated. And you know, whether they admit their feelings for each other and their fears about the separation is one of the storylines in the movie. And I'm wondering, Evan, if you felt similarly like when Seth got the job with "Freaks and Geeks" and was in LA and you were still living in Canada, did you feel, you know, like separated and - from such a good friend and really miss him?
GOLDBERG: No, I had Fogle still.
GOLDBERG: Me and Fogle went to university...
ROGEN: Just like in the movie.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. It's literally exactly like in the movie. Me and Fogle went to the same university, became roommates...
ROGEN: I was the one who got left alone.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. Seth is the one who got sent to somewhere else to work alone and trudge through difficulty and overcome adversity...
GOLDBERG: ...and then I just benefited from it all.
ROGEN: I just laid groundwork.
GROSS: How did you keep up the friendship at such a distance?
GOLDBERG: We never stopped working on "Superbad." We would call each other three times a week throughout my entire university experience and I would go down for a summer.
ROGEN: And I would go visit him at university a lot.
GOLDBERG: I dropped out of school for a year, came down, went back to school for a year. So we never stopped. From the moment we started we never stopped.
GROSS: That's interesting that you'd worked on it for so long and that it actually got made into a movie. How does the movie compare with what you started on as - were you 13? Is that what you said, when you first started?
GOLDBERG: I mean like the first few things we wrote were like unbelievably embarrassing, but it is a lot...
ROGEN: The general story...
GOLDBERG: It is a lot - there's like 10 of the best jokes and the general story are from the original draft.
ROGEN: Yeah. Like the idea that it's about guys who are virgins, who are asked to buy alcohol for a party being thrown by one of the girls they like, was always what the movie was about. I think what really evolved, when I was working on "Undeclared" is when I started writing more, and Judd was really teaching us about like adding emotional stories into these things. And...
GOLDBERG: Yeah. The movie used to just end with the guys leaving the party and walking down the alley drunk and that was it.
ROGEN: Yeah. Exactly. And it didn't really have as much of this, you know, story about the separation anxiety and how they won't admit that they don't - that they're afraid...
GOLDBERG: I think because we hadn't admitted that yet.
ROGEN: Yeah. It's because we hadn't even matured to that point where we could even see that yet, you know, I think. And so not until I think we were 18 or 19 or 20 were we able to really add in that story, where it's about guys who were afraid to admit that they are just going to miss each other, basically.
GOLDBERG: And we fought it a bit. Judd had to kind of force us to realize...
ROGEN: That's what the whole movie was actually about.
GOLDBERG: That was the whole - yeah.
GROSS: Did you have an understanding with each other that you were going to stick together as writing partners no matter what direction your separate careers headed in?
GOLDBERG: We did. I don't remember if we officially did.
ROGEN: I don't remember. I was just thinking did we ever have, like, an official conversation about it? I think we did, actually, didn't...
GOLDBERG: Well, I guess when you think about it, though, when you went to do "Freaks and Geeks" we'd been working together at least three times a week after school...
GOLDBERG: ...for four to five years.
ROGEN: It's true. If anything, like, I was leaving my job to go do another job and I was like...
GOLDBERG: Yeah. You bailed on me.
GOLDBERG: You jerk.
ROGEN: But, yeah. I mean, we - it was just so established that, like, that's what we wanted to do when we talked about it that, like, I mean, it's literally since we were, like, 13 we were like we're going to be - we want to write movies together. So I think, like, it was just always what we - it was kind of a given, I guess, you know?
GROSS: Evan, when Seth started becoming successful because of "Freaks and Geeks" and he was on TV, were you worried, well, he's going to go his own way now?
GOLDBERG: It did not come off as Seth had become very successful at the time.
GOLDBERG: He was on a show, it got cancelled. He was on a show, it got cancelled. And he was pretty worried after "Undeclared." He had, like, a year of unemployment. "Freaks and Geeks" seemed like a big boost and then it kind of took a downturn. But anything that he did that helped him would eventually help me is, you know, how I saw it. There was no downside to him being down there succeeding.
GROSS: Evan, did you ever want to act?
GOLDBERG: No, no. I sweat a lot and...
ROGEN: So do I. You can work around that.
GOLDBERG: I sweat way more than you. Don't even play that game.
ROGEN: You sweat more from the head than I do.
GOLDBERG: And the lights are so hot. And also, I'm just fidgety and I don't have a great memory. So it wasn't really ever something I was interested in.
GROSS: Memory in terms of memorizing lines? That would be a problem?
GOLDBERG: Yeah. Yeah. I don't know how these people do it. Like Seth and, like, above all people Paul Rudd. Like, I just don't know how they do it. Paul Rudd can hear a song twice and just know the words.
ROGEN: Yeah. It's pretty crazy.
GROSS: So Michael Cera, who was in your movie "Superbad," the one that you'd worked on for so many years, he plays himself in the movie. But it's so against our expectations.
GROSS: You want to just describe a little bit about what he does in the film?
ROGEN: He basically is a coked-out sexual deviant in the movie.
ROGEN: That's kind of how we described it to him, I think...
ROGEN: ...in the email.
GOLDBERG: And we just chose him because his perception to the public - the public perceives him as this incredibly kind, sweet guy who you would love for your daughter to marry. So why don't we take that guy and make him the craziest, most inappropriate maniac you possibly could?
ROGEN: Yeah. Because some people are like that.
GROSS: And did he go for that?
ROGEN: He loved it. It was almost scary how little resistance he put up and how few questions he asked leading up to it.
ROGEN: Like, we realized, like, a few days - like, we literally - Evan - I didn't even talk to him. Evan, you emailed him. We sent him the script, said do you want to do this. I think you literally got back like a two-minute conversation. I mean, like yeah, I'm in.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. And I was ready for him to be like, but dudes, I can't do this third thing, and this fifth thing I can't even come close to doing...
ROGEN: Yeah. But it was literally just like yeah, I'm in. And we're like OK. And then we didn't talk to him for months. And then, like, a few weeks before he came to show up we were like should we talk to him? Like, maybe he has a lot of problems with this stuff. And then...
GOLDBERG: And then he finally showed up and his only note was I would like to wear this windbreaker that I've brought from home.
ROGEN: Yeah. I want to wear this bright neon windbreaker.
GOLDBERG: Because he said it was, like, the core of his character and he just needed it. And we said we think it looks silly; you shouldn't do it. And he said trust me. So we just - we let him do his thing.
GOLDBERG: And he had no complaints and he gave us a grand slam.
ROGEN: Yeah. It was a wonderful, wonderful performance that was amazing to watch.
GROSS: And James Franco, who a lot of our listeners will know is also a writer and an artist in addition to being an actor...
ROGEN: Professor. He's a professor as well.
GROSS: Oh, is he? I didn't know that. Right.
ROGEN: He is. He teaches at...
ROGEN: ...USC, I believe? Yeah.
GROSS: And there are a lot of jokes in the movie about his, you know, like, self-absorbed, you know, artistic - how he thinks a lot of...
GROSS: ...his own art. More than other people do.
GROSS: So can you talk a little bit about writing that character for him and his reaction to playing it?
ROGEN: We actually first wrote the character to be a little bit more on like the Gucci model side of the prism.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. And if you don't know, he's the face of Gucci in the modern world.
ROGEN: He is the face of Gucci, like, all over Europe, basically, you know. And here but in Europe it's, like, really everywhere. And so we actually had it - we just kind of played more into, like, the materialistic kind of Hollywood-star kind of side of it. And then we sent it to him.
And he actually, I think, was one of the ones who suggested that we go more in, like, the arty - the kind of direction - the kind of weird art meta direction, you know. And so we did and I think even still we made it a little too one-dimensional as far as that went. But he was always, like, fine with making fun of it.
GOLDBERG: Oh, he reveled in it.
ROGEN: He loved it. He just wanted to make sure the character was just kind of textured. And so it was actually his idea that he's, like, obsessed with me in the movie. Because he thought that would kind of just make it - and it does. It makes it a little more redeeming and you see that, like, there's - he's not just fully self-obsessed; he's oddly into me for some reason as well.
Probably because of how I kind of validate him and his weird artsy endeavors a lot of the time. But that was an element that he actually came up with. But he was totally cool with it. And he knows how ridiculous it comes across in, like, a lot of it. But if you know him and are friends with him you know that, like, he is actually into it.
I think that's why he's OK making fun of it, because, like, he knows - it's, like, why I'm OK of making fun of just, like, the stuff about me. Because, like, it is a part of me so, like, I'm comfortable with it, you know. And he is comfortable with the fact that he loves art. He's really into it. He's constantly experimenting with it and he knows people think it's ridiculous, a lot of it.
But he's just completely OK with that because he doesn't think it's ridiculous.
GROSS: Seth Rogen, your character - you play yourself in the movie and in the opening of the movie...
GROSS: ...you're at an airport and there's a fan following you around with a video camera and the fan says to you: You always play the same part in movies. When are you going to start actually acting?
GROSS: And then he says, come on, give us the Seth Rogen laugh.
GROSS: Do you get those things a lot from fans?
ROGEN: I do. I get those things, both those things...
GOLDBERG: You've had that? People have actually said give me the laugh? Do the laugh?
ROGEN: Oh, my god. Are you kidding me?
GOLDBERG: And do you do it?
ROGEN: I honestly just do naturally because I think it's funny that people are actually asking me to do that. So...
GOLDBERG: So it's satisfying for the fans.
ROGEN: It does satisfy them. Because I just think it's so funny for someone to walk up: Laugh for me. Do the laugh. Often what happens, actually, is people say to me, I didn't know it was you or not and then I heard you laugh. And then obviously I could tell it was you. And they go: you actually laugh like that. I actually get that a lot too.
GOLDBERG: What I always find funny is...
ROGEN: You laugh like that in real life. Like it's some brilliant character that I've created with this ridiculous donkey laugh.
GOLDBERG: The funny thing to me is that his father has a laugh that is, like, 10 times funnier than his. Which I'm going to try to impersonate for you right now.
ROGEN: I was - it's going to be incredibly loud.
ROGEN: Yeah. That's exactly what my dad's laugh sounds like. We both have ridiculous laughs. But, yeah. People ask me. And it's just - people actually don't ask me, like, why you play the same character all the time. That's ...
GOLDBERG: They know why.
ROGEN: They know why. But it's more something I read - you just read in press a lot and stuff like that. Like, it's just something that - that's just more of a thought, you know, a sentiment that's out there in the world.
GOLDBERG: You've got to play a president to get out of this.
GROSS: There's a gluten-free joke in the movie. Are either of you gluten-free?
GOLDBERG: I still don't buy it.
ROGEN: Yeah. I actually don't know what gluten is.
GOLDBERG: I have no idea what it is.
GOLDBERG: And I'm pretty sure no one else does.
ROGEN: I'm sure no one does.
GROSS: I think people actually do, but if you want to be comfortable in your own...
ROGEN: OK. OK, fine.
GROSS: ...ignorance, that's fine.
ROGEN: Exactly. Yeah.
GOLDBERG: Thank you for letting us do that.
ROGEN: It's a calorie, right?
GROSS: No. No, it's not.
ROGEN: OK. Fine.
GROSS: It is not a calorie.
ROGEN: It's like a natural, like, binding agent or something?
GOLDBERG: I think it's like a corn syrup kind of deal.
ROGEN: No, it's not. It naturally occurs in things. It's not added, right? It's not an additive.
GROSS: No. Yes, it's...
GOLDBERG: No, it's an additive.
GROSS: It naturally occurs in certain grains such as wheat. And...
ROGEN: Wheat has gluten.
GOLDBERG: Do we really think she's the one person who knows what gluten is, though?
ROGEN: I think she might be.
GOLDBERG: I'm not buying this. Nice try.
ROGEN: If anyone does. Do you eat gluten? Are you non-gluten?
GROSS: I'm not even getting into what I eat.
GROSS: No, I'm not even going there.
GROSS: I'm going to ask you to talk about your sex lives but I'm not even going to talk about what I eat.
ROGEN: OK. You won't even say if you eat gluten.
GROSS: So I want you to compare the homes you live in with the home that James Franco lives in, in the movie. Or you don't have to go that far.
GOLDBERG: I'll let Seth field that.
GROSS: You can compare it to the home that Seth lives in, in the movie.
ROGEN: I think I live somewhere closer to probably my house in the movie.
GOLDBERG: What happened is we tried to make a douchebag James Franco house and as we finished it, we realized we made a douchebag Seth Rogen house.
ROGEN: Yeah. We made the house I would really want to live in. I actually wouldn't want to live in that house. It's too concrete-y. I don't think I could deal with that much cement and stuff like that.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. You'd like it.
ROGEN: No, I don't think I could. But it was - it did become, like, a perverse reflection of what I actually wanted to see in a house.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. Like a lot of the art that some people might think plays at a joke is totally stuff Seth would have.
ROGEN: Yeah. I actually did - I do have a lot of art and I actually did want to just reach out to artists that I like to see if they would give art to the movie. And a lot of them did. So it was actually nice in that regard. But, yeah, there were definitely some self-serving elements to it. It does speak probably closer to my taste than Franco's taste in a lot of ways.
GROSS: We have just enough time for you each to say what your favorite movie of all time is.
ROGEN: Oh, that's a tough one.
GOLDBERG: Whew. I'm leaning towards "Spaceballs" right now. I'm going "Spaceballs."
GROSS: "Spaceballs" is the Mel Brooks movie?
GOLDBERG: I love that movie.
ROGEN: It's a generational thing.
GOLDBERG: And we don't generally find anyone under the age of 35 is like "Spaceballs"?
GOLDBERG: Anyone under 35, everyone agrees. Over 35 everyone says what?
ROGEN: Yeah, exactly.
GROSS: And Seth, your favorite?
ROGEN: I think maybe "Ghostbusters" is probably one of my favorite movies.
GOLDBERG: But I think we can both agree "Big Lebowski" encroaches on both of those.
ROGEN: Yeah. "The Big Lebowski" might be the all-time favorite, though.
GROSS: That's great.
GOLDBERG: And "Schindler's List."
ROGEN: Well, we are Jews.
GROSS: I want to thank you both so much for talking with us. It's really been fun. Thank you.
ROGEN: Thank you for having us.
GOLDBERG: Thanks a lot. It was fun.
GROSS: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg co-wrote and co-directed the new end-of-the-world comedy "This Is the End" which stars Seth Rogen as himself. They also co-wrote "Superbad."