Seth Rogen, Not Such A Loser In Real Life The Pineapple Express star often portrays less successful members of society — but he's hardly one of them. The actor and screenwriter had four Hollywood projects out in the summer of 2008.
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Seth Rogen, Not Such A Loser In Real Life

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Seth Rogen, Not Such A Loser In Real Life

Seth Rogen, Not Such A Loser In Real Life

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DAVE DAVIES, host:

This is Fresh Air. I'm Dave Davies, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, filling in for Terry Gross. Seth Rogen was only 17 when he got his first big break, a role on the TV series "Freaks and Geeks" produced by Judd Apatow. Too bad it was canceled before the end of the first season. So was Rogen's next series with Apatow, "Undeclared." But they reunited for a series of movie hits: "The 40 year Old Virgin," "Knocked Up" and "Superbad," which Rogen also co-wrote.

Rogen co-wrote and stars in the film "Pineapple Express," a funny, hybrid, kind of stoner and action film which comes out on DVD next week. Terry spoke to Rogen about it in July. Rogen plays Dale Denton, a process server. While parked outside the home of someone he's about to serve with a subpoena, he witnesses the guy being murdered. Not wanting to be discovered, Dale drives away. But he accidentally dropped some telltale evidence - the very potent marijuana Pineapple Express, which is sold by only one dealer - his. So, the killer's know how to find Dale and his dealer, Saul Silver, played by James Franco. Here's a scene just before the murder. Dale is at his dealer Saul's place, smoking and buying Pineapple Express, before heading to his next assignment. Saul is surprised to see Dale so professionally dressed.

(Soundbite of movie "Pineapple Express")

Mr. JAMES FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) What's up with the suit?

Mr. SETH ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) Well, I'm a process server, so I have to wear a suit.

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) Wow. You're a servant, like, a butler, a chauffeur?

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) No, no. What? No, I'm not, like...

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) Shine shoes.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) I'm a process server. I, like...

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) Process.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale Denton): I work for company that's hired by lawyers to, like, hand out legal documents, like, subpoenas to people who don't want them. So, I've got to wear...

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) Subpoena.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) Disguises sometimes just to make them admit that they are themselves, so I can serve them the papers.

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) Disguise.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) Kind of, I guess. It's a hell of a job.

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) That's cool, man.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) Like, a day-to-day basis, it's fine...

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) Got a great job where you don't anything.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) That's what I say.

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) I wish I had that.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) Are you kidding? You do. You have the easiest job on Earth.

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) (Laughing) That's true.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) You didn't think of that, huh?

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) I do have a good job.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) Yeah, you do nothing.

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) Thanks, man.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) No prob.

(Soundbite of WHYY's Fresh Air, July 31, 2008)

TERRY GROSS: Seth Rogen, welcome to Fresh Air. What are some of the possibilities you saw in the idea of an action film with two stoners as the heroes?

Mr. SETH ROGEN (Actor, Writer): You know, it's just kind of seemed like a funny way to explore action movies, I guess. I mean, I'm a big fan of them always. And you know, it's always people who are very equipped to deal with the situations that they're thrown in. So, the notion just seemed funny, because it's, like, basically stoners are kind of the last guys in the world who are equipped to deal with that. And the humor possibilities just seemed somewhat endless.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: There's a lot of action scenes in the film that are obviously inspired by action movies. What was one of the classic scenes you wanted to try yourself? Like, there's one scene where you have to jump from a balcony, I think it's onto Gary Cole, who's...

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah.

GROSS: One of the villains. And that's such a classic scene. Like, tell me the action film that doesn't have that kind of jump on it.

Mr. ROGEN: The dramatic leap.

GROSS: Yeah, yeah. So, what are the things you wanted to, like, do that you've seen in other action films?

Mr. ROGEN: One of the big things that we wanted to do was trying to kick out a car window as you're driving after it's been shattered, you know, obstructing your view. I mean, that's - I can't count how many movies I've seen that in, and we just thought, you know, like, it could be funny if it just kind of goes wrong and this foot just kind of punctures through the window and gets stuck.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: And yeah, you know, we just kind of wanted to play with these iconic moments of action. There's a really small one that always makes me laugh really hard, where there's a big shootout at the end, and the moment my gun runs out of bullets, I turn and there's just another gun sitting there, and I'm, like, oh, nice.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: And to me, always just - that scene is, like, so convenient. And you know, they never run out of bullets in action movies, unless it's at the most dramatic time possible.

GROSS: And you had - this is your first movie where you had to carry a gun, right?

Mr. ROGEN: In "Superbad," I carry a gun, but I didn't get to shoot it that much.

GROSS: Oh, that's true because you're a cop, yeah, of course.

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah.

GROSS: And you carry it very irresponsibly, yeah.

Mr. ROGEN: I do. But in this, there was, like, a week straight of shooting, where, like, all I did was shoot a machine gun. And I hate to - every - it went against all my Jewish and Canadian instincts, but I enjoyed every second of it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: When you were growing up, could you physically defend yourself as a kid, and did you ever need to?

Mr. ROGEN: I did. I did karate for a really long time, almost 10 years when I was younger. And I was always big. I was kind of around this size, like, since I went into high school. I played rugby and stuff like that. So, people, you know, would screw with me, but I never got into, like, a real fight or anything like that.

GROSS: Why did you take karate?

Mr. ROGEN: My friends did it. Sammy and Evan took it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: It was at the Jewish community center. It was just really something to do.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: I was really into martial-arts movies and stuff like that...

GROSS: Uh-huh.

Mr. ROGEN: You know? I liked actions movies. Jean-Claude Van Damme was a major influence on me at that point in my life.

GROSS: So, how far did you get? What belt?

Mr. ROGEN: I was, like, a brown belt, which is pretty good. I entered a tournament once, and I punched the guy in the throat and got disqualified. I realized - I don't know if you're familiar with "Karate Kid," but the bad guys in that are called Cobra Kai, and they're, like, the evil karate guys. And then when I went to the tournament, I realized that's what we were; we were like the Cobra Kai of the Jewish karate community.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Since you play stoners in so many films, tell us about the first time you got high and what the experience was like.

Mr. ROGEN: I was pretty young. I guess I was in high school, so I was probably 13 years old. It was crazy. I remember it very vividly. I remember - it was actually kind of horrifying, because one of my friends - we smoked out of a bong, and one of my friends - this was so stupid - he didn't want to bring - it was after school on a Friday, and he didn't - we smoked weed in this park called the Ravine that was across the street from my high school. And he didn't want to bring the bong back home with him. We were going to walk back to his house and hang out, and he didn't want to bring it there. So, he wanted to go back into school and put the bong in his locker and leave it in there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: And I was like, dude - I was so paranoid and high and scared - I was like, we can't go back in the school; like, that's the last place we should go. To school, are you're kidding me? And he was just like, no, I'm just going to put it in my locker, and no one will know; no one will know we're high. He had smoked pot before a few times. And I like - I lost my mind, and I was like, we can't go back in there. And they just went in anyway. I remember thinking, we're traveling through time. I remember I kept thinking that. And then he put it back in and everything was fine, and we went back to his place. We ate a lot, and we wrestled in his room, I remember.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: And one of my friends tripped over a beanbag chair and hurt his head. And we all - it sobered us up completely.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: My guest is Seth Rogen, and he's starring in the new movie "Pineapple Express," which he also co-wrote with Evan Goldberg. And the two of them also wrote "Superbad," and also were producers of "40 Year Old Virgin." So, how did you meet Evan Goldberg?

Mr. ROGEN: I met Evan at bar-mitzvah class. It was called tallis and tefillin. Every day after - maybe not every day - a few days a week after school, all the Jews that went to that temple would converge and learn of their haftarahs and what not, and him and Fogell were in my bar-mitzvah class, and we became great friends. Once, you know, you're in bar-mitzvah class with people, they're going to invite you to their bar mitzvah, so we got invited to dozens and dozens of bar mitzvahs.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: And we - there was a year straight where every weekend, I went to at least one bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah, and we would all go, and it was a lot of fun. We sneak some beer; we'd hang out; we would try to get with girls and not. And usually we'd just end up hanging out together alone.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: But we became good friends.

GROSS: Well, didn't you write the first draft of "Superbad" when you were 15 with Evan Goldberg?

Mr. ROGEN: We started younger. We started when we're around 13 writing it - maybe 14. I mean, you know, I'm a little older than he is, like, only like six months. But like, I would say, like, the general structure of the movie, like, the series of events is very similar to what it was when we first wrote it. What wasn't there, though, was the relationship between the Seth and Evan characters, the fact that you know they were going to college and they were breaking up and they were going to different colleges and they felt weird about that. That was all stuff that was added as we got older and a little smarter and, you know, we realized more, you know, what made a good movie, and ultimately, you know, that's what the movie is about. And we kind of wrote the movie backwards in that regard. Now, that's what we would start with and kind of build everything around it, but you know, later we worked out the emotional side.

GROSS: Well, let me play something from working out the emotional side, and it sounds like this is a scene that you added later when you were older. And this is toward the end of the movie, when the Evan and Seth characters, they've been fighting a lot and getting in each other's way, but at this party, where all kinds of mayhem happens, but anyways, the Evan character rescues the Seth character from this terrible situation. They're both really drunk, they sleep side by side in sleeping bags, and the Evan character, played by Michael Cera, has this to say to the Seth character, played by Jonah Hill.

(Soundbite of movie "Superbad")

(Soundbite of sigh)

Mr. MICHAEL CERA: (As Evan) I can't believe you saved me. You saved me. I can't believe - I owe you so - you carried me. I love you. I love you, man.

Mr. JONAH HILL: (As Seth) I love you. I love you. I'm not even embarrassed to say it. I just - I love - I love you.

Mr. CERA: (As Evan) I'm not embarrassed.

Mr. HILL: (As Seth) I love you.

Mr. CERA: (As Evan) I love you. It's like, why don't we say that every day? Why can't we say it more often?

Mr. HILL: (As Seth) I just love you. I just want to go to the rooftops and scream, I love my best friend Evan.

Mr. CERA: (As Evan) We should go up on my roof.

Mr. HILL: (As Seth) For sure.

Mr. CERA: (As Evan) Like, when you went for Easter on your vacation, I missed you.

Mr. HILL: (As Seth) I missed you, too.

Mr. CERA: (As Evan) I want the world to know. It's the most beautiful thing in the world.

Mr. HILL: (As Seth) Boop, boop, boop. Come here. Come here, man.

(Soundbite of hand slapping back)

GROSS: And that's the Seth character giving the Evan character a big hug.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: Yes.

GROSS: So, it's a very uncharacteristically emotional scene for these two characters, and they're very...

MR. ROGEN: It is.

GROSS: Embarrassed in the morning when they wake up next to each other.

Mr. ROGEN: It's like they slept to each other, exactly.

GROSS: Yes, exactly, exactly. So, where did that scene come from? Had you had emotional moments like that with Evan or any other male friend?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: Never ever in a million years, never. Eh, not with Evan, for sure. I mean, I've never had something - like, you know, drunk people have tried to do that to me, and I instantly shut it off. I say, don't to this, dude; you'll feel terrible about this later. It'll be - I'll bring it up all the time; I'll make fun of you. Just save yourself the embarrassment and don't do it. To us, you know, these male friendship stories are just funny. You know, when we grew up in Vancouver, you know, our friends were - I don't know if I'd say callous, but we had a very, you know, harsh relationship with one another; we'd constantly make fun of each other. You know, emotions, you know, really were not welcome there. You know, there was no room where your feelings hurt. You know, everyone had really thick skin, I would say. And then I'd moved to L.A., and everyone's actors here and writers, they were like super emotional and super in touch with their feelings, and it seemed like every two weeks one of my friend just coming to me and, like, you hurt my feelings the other day, dude.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: And I'm like, what are you talking about? What?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: And to us, there's just nothing funnier than, like, a guy awkwardly explaining to another guy that he's hurt his feelings, and then later, awkwardly, you know, forgiving him for doing that.

DAVIES: Seth Rogen speaking to Terry Gross in July of last year. More after a break. This is Fresh Air.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: Our guest is Seth Rogen. His movies include the "40 Year Old Virgin," "Knocked up," "Superbad" and "Pineapple Express." Terry spoke to him in July.

(Soundbite of WHYY's Fresh Air, July 31, 2008)

GROSS: Now, let me ask you about "Knocked Up."

Mr. ROGEN: Yes.

GROSS: In which you play a very unenlightened guy who has a, kind of, drunken - you were drunk at a bar, and a very attractive woman is drunk at the bar, too. She's an anchor for a local station, and you end up sleeping together for one night. And - actually, let me play a clip from the movie, and this is, like, the morning after. It was, like, the day after; you're meeting in a coffee shop...

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah.

GROSS: After you've slept together, and you're both, like, really uncomfortable.

(Soundbite of movie "Knocked Up")

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) Whew. I just yacked something nasty. I feel way better, though. I think that's, like, the secret, like, you've got to - I mean, once you're hung over, you've just got to puke. Feels so - did you puke?

Ms. KATHERINE HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) No.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) You can. I won't think it's gross.

Ms. HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) Oh, that's OK. I'm - I'm fine. I just need some coffee, so...

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) You know the best thing for hangover is weed. Do you smoke? Do you smoke weed?

Ms. HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) Not really.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) You don't?

Ms. HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) No.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) At all?

Ms. HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) Mm-mm.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) Like, in the morning?

Ms. HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) No, I just don't.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) You know, it's, like - it is, like, the best medicine.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) Because it fixes everything. Jonah broke his elbow once. We just got high, and it still clicks, but I mean, he's OK.

Ms. HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) Right.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) Yeah. Last night was great, what I remember of it.

Ms. HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) Right, yeah.

GROSS: Well, it turns out, as most of our listeners probably know, that she's pregnant from this one-night stand that you've had together, and she decides to keep the baby, and then you're in the position of having to figure out what the heck to do, and you end up actually falling in love with each other. So, you know, a lot of people's reaction to the movie was, there is no way she would have had this baby.

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah.

GROSS: You know, she's just started, like, this new job; she's so into her career; there's no way she'd have this baby. And you and she are so different; there's no way that she'd actually stay with your character, because you guys have nothing in common. So, what's your reaction to that response?

Mr. ROGEN: Um, I don't know. I mean, she does keep the baby. I mean, to me, that's a weird issue, that there's no way she would keep this baby. I mean, I don't think this character is the first person in the history of the universe to get pregnant and keep the baby. I mean, people do that. I mean, if she didn't keep the baby, it'd be a pretty short movie. So, you know, we just didn't tell that story. To me, when there's movies that are about, you know, guys named Hell Boy, and you know, the issue that they have with our movie that she doesn't get an abortion, I mean, I think there's greater suspensions of disbelief...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: That are made on a daily basis among movie goers. And as far as, you know, she would never fall in love with me, I mean, I feel like that's what the movie's about. I mean, either you buy it or you don't. It's a - I mean, that's what it is. I mean, that's the journey. It's that she does - you know, we do slowly fall in love with each other. So, either the movie works for you or it doesn't. I mean, that's, you know, that's a pretty big...

GROSS: You've played several characters who are kind of clueless about women and what women or girls really want and who they really are. Now, I have to say, you grew up in Vancouver.

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah.

GROSS: You've described your parents as radical Jewish socialists.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So, I have to assume that your parents tried to bring you up in an enlightened atmosphere, where you learned to respect women and treat them as equals.

Mr. ROGEN: Yes, very much so, yes.

GROSS: Which your characters never know how to do. So...

Mr. ROGEN: No, not at all, but I feel like I - I feel like the reason I have the insight to know that that's funny to watch is because I know how wrong it is, you know, and I also feel like that's was how kind of why we can get away with it, is because you can tell that we're not actually like that, that we're showing these guys as idiots, and that we think they're wrong. And that's the joke of the scene, is it's not, like, how great this guy's advice is; it's look at what a moron he is.

GROSS: So, what are some of the things your mother taught you about how to behave around women or how to treat women?

Mr. ROGEN: Oh, just always be extremely respectful, was something that was drilled into me, which I think probably prevented me from having sex for a good seven years longer than it should have.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: I mean, you know, some of my friends would lie to girls to get them, or do things that - you know, they would cheat on girls. I was just never in the realm of what, you know, what's instilled to me, you know? Yeah, I mean, my mom's a social worker, for God's sakes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: I mean, it's a - when it came to, like, appropriate behavior towards one another, it was - I was well-versed.

GROSS: So, you moved to L.A. when you were 17, maybe?

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah.

GROSS: Were you graduated from high school yet?

Mr. ROGEN: No. It was the summer going into my senior year is when I moved.

GROSS: Why did you move? I mean, you ended up working on "Freaks and Geeks," but you didn't have that lined up yet.

Mr. ROGEN: I moved because I got...

GROSS: Did you?

Mr. ROGEN: No, I did, I did. I got cast on that from Vancouver.

GROSS: Oh.

Mr. ROGEN: They did, like, casting sessions, like, all over North America, in Chicago, New York, Toronto, and I moved to L.A. with a job.

GROSS: Now let me play a scene from "Freaks and Geeks" and this is, you know, again a series set in high school, which also starred James Franco, who's in "Pineapple Express" with you. This is one of the episodes that you were prominently featured in, and you were with a girl who plays tuba, and you're starting to date, and she's about to hit you with a really big surprise.

(Soundbite of TV show "Freaks and Geeks")

Ms. LINDA CARDELLINI: (As Lindsay Weir) This isn't really that uncommon, but when I was born, I had the potential to be male or female.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ken Miller) Yeah. Me, too.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CARDELLINI: (As Lindsay Weir) No, I mean - I mean, I was born with both - with both male and female parts.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ken Miller): Uh-huh?

Ms. CARDELLINI: (As Lindsay Weir) My parents made a decision with the doctors that I should be a girl. I mean, thank God, because that's who I am, but it's still a really big part of my life, and I thought you should know.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ken Miller) No, this is good that you - you told me this.

Ms. CARDELLINI: (As Lindsay Weir) Are you freaking out?

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ken Miller) No, you know, you're - you're all girl now.

Ms. CARDELLINI: (As Lindsay Weir) Yeah.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ken Miller) Yeah, so, you know, it's OK, you know. So, it's - if I was dating you when you were just born, things might be a little different because of all that stuff, but now you're all girl now, so, it's OK.

Ms. CARDELLINI: (As Lindsay Weir) Thanks, Ken.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ken Miller) Yeah. You know, it's - I had a - I had my appendix out. So, you know, I've been there.

(Soundbite of music)

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: That's Seth Rogen in a scene from "Freaks and Geeks." It must have been an amazing experience at the age of 17 to suddenly be on a show like "Freaks and Geeks," and even though it wasn't a commercial success, it was a big cult success, and I bet it's still popular on DVD. And that's where you met Judd Apatow, who you're still working with, I mean, that you've had such incredible successes together. So, can you talk a bit about what it was like to suddenly go from, like, a high-school kid to suddenly being a co-star on an American TV series at the age of 17?

Mr. ROGEN: It was amazing. You know, what's funny about that time, when I think back on it, is how - it's actually kind of scary - how little thought I put into the actual quality of the show. Like, I didn't think it was a bad show necessarily, but I don't remember putting any thought at all into whether or not it was a good or bad show. I think I was just so ecstatic that I was working, and then as it went on, you know, I started to really appreciate that it was good and that we were doing something a little different and that, you know, everyone was really cool to work with and that it was really talented group of people, and it was just when I was realizing that, that it got canceled.

GROSS: It was great to talk with you. I really want to thank you a lot.

Mr. ROGEN: Thank you very much for having me.

DAVIES: Seth Rogen speaking to Terry Gross in July of last year. His film "Pineapple Express" comes out on DVD next week. I'm Dave Davies, and this is Fresh Air.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: Coming up, actor Josh Brolin on playing George W. Bush in the Oliver Stone film, "W." His other films include "No Country for Old Men," "American Gangster" and "Milk." And we remember South African Helen Suzman, who, for decades, campaigned for racial equality in the Apartheid-era parliament. She died yesterday at the age of 91.

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