ARTICLE JAMES FRANCO
PHOTOGRAPHY JAMES FRANCO
ACTOR, WRITER, STAND-UP, PRODUCER—FOR NEARLY FIFTEEN YEARS, SETH ROGEN HAS EXPLORED EVERY VARIATION OF HIMSELF IN HIS SEARCH FOR CREATIVE EXPRESSION. AFTER THE WILD GLOBAL SUCCESS OF HIS DIRECTORIAL DEBUT (ALONG WITH EVAN GOLDBERG), THIS IS THE END, ROGEN FINDS HIMSELF REBORN BEHIND THE LENS, AS IF ALWAYS DESTINED TO DIRECT. THAT FILM’S STAR, JAMES FRANCO, SAT DOWN TO INTERVIEW SETH ON THE SET OF HIS SOPHOMORE EFFORT, THE INTERVIEW, STARRING JAMES FRANCO.
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JAMES FRANCO One theme of this issue of VMAN is reincarnation, so I figured we could talk about your new role as director, now that it’s your second time around.
SETH ROGEN I’ve been reincarnated, yep.
JAMES It’s perfect, because we’re back in Vancouver, where you started. You were a kid here, a 16-year-old kid doing stand up, and then there was an audition for Freaks and Geeks in Vancouver?
SETH Yeah, they went all around North America. I think they did one in Toronto and New York and Chicago.
JAMES You got the role, but there was absolutely no interest in you writing on Freaks and Geeks?
SETH I don’t think Judd knew I wrote at all. He knew I did stand up. I don’t think he knew if I was at all good at it. He just liked me as the character. It wasn’t until we were on the show that I think he slowly started to realize that I was interested in writing.
JAMES Right, because you gave him some scenes. Did he actually have time to read it?
SETH I’m not 100 percent sure. I actually don’t think he read it during Freaks and Geeks. I think that’s why I got hired as a writer on Undeclared. He was fucking busy though. I don’t think I would read a script that some actor just handed me. Especially a 16-year-old one.
JAMES And then how did you get hired as a writer on Undeclared?
SETH I was first hired as a writer on Undeclared before I was an actor, because they had specifically said they didn’t want anyone from Freaks and Geeks on the show.
JAMES However, on Undeclared, suddenly you were the writer and the actor. Then on Pineapple Express you were the producer. So tell me, how did you decide that you were going to direct, or was that just something that you wanted to do before?
SETH No. Honestly, I think directing is a job that has a weird mysticism to it. They make it seem a lot harder than it is in some ways.
JAMES What do you mean? And did you believe that?
SETH Yeah, I thought it was.
JAMES Until you did it.
SETH Until I did it? No. Before we did it, we had cracked the code, and maybe it’s that we had just slowly learned more and more. We had enough of our movies that we had written and made, and we’d been on set for a lot of movies, but we never talked about directing any of our movies before This Is The End. It was honestly during Green Hornet that we realized that we could have directed it, because we really had a front-row seat to everything, we saw it all happening, and that was as complicated a movie as you can humanly make. It has visual effects, it has huge sets and set pieces, car chases, two units going full-time.
JAMES So that’s when you realized you could do it.
SETH That’s when we realized we could probably do it. We at that point had no scripts that we had written yet. As we started to write This Is The End, we realized that it was going to be about our friends and that is when we were like, We should direct this one. So we started trying to get the concept art together, we talked to visual effects companies, and we started putting it together and we slowly realized we could do it. You see, it’s all tricks. You learn how to deal with a logistical complicated sequence, where you figure it out shot-by-shot. It seems impossible. And then you know. You sit through hours and hours and hours of meetings, where you talk about every shot in the sequence and how it will be achieved. But we never sat in on those meetings before, so we didn’t really get how it happened, and how you have a team of people who help you figure it out and you, as the director, are the one that says “here’s how we do it.” You can potentially say nothing, the whole thing just kind of comes together if you have good people, but you do and it helps. The more behind the scenes we were, the less mystical the process seemed. Much like Oz, your character in the film. Once you look behind the curtain, you see that films like Pineapple Express or Superbad were not complicated movies.
JAMES So The Interview is your second film. How did it come about?
SETH I feel like it came from one of these jokes you always hear. Dan Rather interviewed Osama Bin Laden, you know, why didn’t he kill him? If he killed him, everything would have been over.
JAMES Yeah, I just went on Charlie Rose and I asked him if he was ever approached by the CIA or anyone to kill anybody that he’s interviewed.
SETH And what did he say?
JAMES He was like, “Oh, no, no.”
SETH “No, I was too drunk to do that.” I do a lot of those shows; the backstage of them was always fascinating and hilarious to me. They are such bullshit. We do them and contribute to them, and we’re doing it to help sell our movies, which I don’t think are bullshit necessarily, but in order to sell them you have to participate in this massive bullshit machine. So the idea of entertainment journalism in general was interesting to me.
JAMES Now that you’ve gone from teen stand-up kid to actor to writer-actor to producer-writer-actor, to director-writer-producer-actor, is there another step?
SETH I think we can do more as producers.
JAMES Do you think you would ever direct a movie that you didn’t act in, or is the acting still essential?
SETH No, not at all. Currently we’re signed on this Preacher comic book that we’re attached to write and direct the pilot, and I wouldn’t be in it at all.
JAMES I guess the last question is how important is comedy and do you see yourself moving in directions that are not strictly comedy? Preacher maybe?
SETH Preacher is still comedy.
JAMES Preacher is comedy?
SETH It’s all how you view comedy.
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ARTWORK JAMES FRANCO