Seth Rogen:
buddy movies

Stoner movie maker Seth Rogen talks about the leftfield success of The Disaster Artist and his fondness for working with his mates

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“I think comedians are drawn to it,” suggests actor and comedian Seth Rogen on what keeps people coming back to Tommy Wiseau’s so called best-worst movie The Room. Together with friend and long-time collaborator James Franco, he used this cult hit as the basis for 2017’s sleeper hit The Disaster Artist, a film chronicling director Wiseau’s turbulent and often hilarious efforts in bringing his oddball story to life.

“For me, what’s interesting is that this guy’s goal was to make a really dramatic movie and instead he made something that was really comedic and his failure was kind of what our goal is in a lot of ways,” he laughs. “I think that’s fascinating. It calls into question the very nature of what’s good.”

After bursting on to the scene almost 20 years ago in Judd Apatow’s short-lived high school comedy Freaks and Geeks, Rogen has made a healthy living writing, directing, producing and starring in a string of stoner comedies of varying success. From 2007’s Knocked Up and Superbad, 2008’s Pineapple Express and Zack and Miri Make a Porno, to 2013’s meta epic This Is The End, Rogen has been an on-screen staple in recent years, often starring alongside his mates Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill and the rest of their aptly named Frat Pack troupe of stars.

Surprisingly this latest leftfield Franco-helmed dramedy found itself as an awards season one to watch.

“People say the movie is bad,” continues Rogen, delving deeper into the obscure allure of The Room, perhaps best described as a melodramatic love triangle, and its regularly sold-out screenings. “But if it’s bad, why do people go and see it over and over again? It’s like one of the weirdest case studies you can imagine.”

Weird? Certainly. But Rogen and Franco were keen to try and make The Disaster Artist – adapted from The Room co-star Greg Sestero’s tell-all “making-of” book – accessible to everyone. After all, Wiseau’s tale of following your dreams – regardless of the odds – is universal.

Rogen, still only 35, says: “We talked a lot about trying to make a movie that – even though it seemed as though there’s potential for it to be something that was very inside and something that only we thought was funny and interesting – other people would find funny and interesting. I’m glad it seems like we did a good job of it.”

Rogen, who was born in Vancouver but moved to LA shortly after Freaks and Geeks, says working with his pals brings a “comfort level” to their work. “I think people are more willing to take big risks when you’re surrounded by people that you’re comfortable with. I know I am, at least. We just have a very strong passion for the things we’re working on and we enjoy working on them with one another and I think that’s additive to the finished product.”

Whatever the reason, The Disaster Artist somehow managed to get both audiences and critics on the same page – but what about the film’s originator, Wiseau? Was he happy with Rogen and Franco’s take on his very personal evolution from scrappy zero to cult hero? According to Wiseau, the duo 99.9 per cent nailed it.

“He claimed it was the lighting in the beginning of the movie,” explains Rogen on what lost him that precious 0.01 per cent. “He thought it was too dark.”

But, lighting trouble aside, The Disaster Artist hardly felt like hard work for those involved. “I’ve been working for a long time and it’s great if we can do something that still feels like a group of friends who somehow got their hands on a camera and decided to make something really crazy. That’s really how this movie felt.”

With The Disaster Artist receiving its home release later this month, he’s already busy working on an number of new projects. From lending his voice to Dreamworks’ new animation BOO: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations to stepping into the shoes of legendary American newscaster Walter Cronkite for David Gordon Green’s JFK drama Newsflash, Rogen continues to keep audiences on their toes by dabbling in a variety of genres.

For the meantime though he’ll be taking it easy and voicing the Hakuna Matata-singing Pumbaa to Billy Eichner’s Timon in Jon Favreau’s upcoming live-action, star-studded adaptation of The Lion King.

“It’s crazy,” admits Rogen on his involvement in the project. “I’m honoured and thrilled to have been invited to be a part of it. I’ve known the director for a very long time and I think that’s why I’m in the movie – but I’ll take it!”

Does this mean Rogen can now add singing to his repertoire? “I’ve been trying. I’m not a great singer, I’ll be honest. I’m just doing my best!”

Mates’ rate

Which of Seth Rogen’s friends has he worked with the most? 

James Franco
Having met in 1999 while shooting TV comedy Freaks and Geeks, Rogen and Franco (pictured, right) have gone on to work together on nine feature films. Look out for them in Knocked Up, Pineapple Express, The Green Hornet, This is the End, The Interview, The Sound and the Fury, Zeroville, Sausage Party and last year’s The Disaster Artist. Surely there’ll be more to come.

Jonah Hill
Rogen and Jonah Hill crossed paths with an unlucky in love Steve Carell in The 40 Year Old Virgin but it wasn’t the pair’s sole big-screen outing. You’ll also spot them sharing scenes in Knocked Up and Superbad; lending their voices to animated outings Horton Hears A Who and Sausage Party and sharing scenes in Funny People, The Watch, and This is the End.

Paul Rudd
Actor Paul Rudd had a career resurgence thanks to his turn as crass news reporter Brian Fantana in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy –
a film that boasted a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene with Rogen. Since then the pair starred in a further five films together, including The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Monsters Vs Aliens, This is the End and Sausage Party.

Danny McBride
You’d be forgiven for thinking Rogen’s Franco bromance spawned his highest number of feature film friend collaborations but it’s actually Danny McBride who currently holds the record, at 11 movies. Look out for them in Superbad, Drillbit Taylor, Pineapple Express, Fanboys, Observe and Report, Kung Fu Panda 2, This is the End, The Sound and The Fury, Sausage Party, Zeroville and The Disaster Artist.

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