Amid all the comic-book adaptations, giant monsters vs huge robots and novel-based movies being pimped at this year’s WonderCon, one of the craziest properties has to be Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s This Is The End, a ramshackle apocalypse comedy that features a bevy of their bezzies including James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson in a story of the end of the world as experienced by a group of actors in Los Angeles. Empire sat down with Rogen and Goldberg to talk Roland Emmerich, directing friends and Seth’s lasting contribution to cinema. Hint: it’s not Green Hornet.
This Is The End was originally birthed seven years ago when Rogen and Goldberg oversaw production of a fake short trailer called Jay And Seth Vs. The Apocalypse, which had Rogen and Jay Baruchel trading barbs and ideas about what to do when the world ends around them. “When we did it, we didn't think it would become anything,” admits Goldberg. “We just figured it would be a project for our friend's film class.” Still, the idea wouldn’t go away. When they finally gathered the resources to expand it into a feature film, it turned out the short was more influential than anyone expected - even Seth. “When you go back and watch the trailer, it looks a lot like the movie, in terms of its visuals and tone," he says. "They are very similar in a lot of ways.”
The pair got together and wrote the script, deciding to make their joint film-directing debut on the movie, which initially revolves around Baruchel visiting Franco and the rest just as the globe goes to pot. No, not that kind of pot. As in, starts to fall apart.
Thoughts of disaster specialist Emmerich have us discussing directors. The pair has worked with several over the years as writers and producers, and in Seth’s case, as an actor. So who did they learn from? And, more accurately, who did they steal from? “You learn from everybody, and you sometimes learn what not to do from people!” says Rogen, giving his trademark hearty chuckle. “If you're looking to, which we are. Everyone has taught us stuff and we wouldn't have done the movie how we did it without having worked with the people we did.” Goldberg is more specific: “I feel like I could go through it and go, 'David Gordon Green, Greg Mottola, Michel Gondry. Judd Apatow. Judd Apatow. Judd Apatow.'” Judd, you’re an inspiration. Or you should consult your lawyers...
Their years spent on film sets behind and in front of cameras clearly helped the guys when it came time to pop their directorial cherries. We had to ask how it went. "It hurt at first,” smiles Rogen. “But it felt good in the end. I didn't know you didn't have to shove a camera up your ass... But it was awesome. It was really great. It wasn't too stressful.”
With a cast made up of their friends, all playing versions of themselves, the other big question must surely be if anyone complained about how they’re portrayed. “It's an incomprehensible mishmash of what is fictitious and what is heavily based on them,” explains Goldberg. “Some of them have characteristics that they in no way have in real life and some are purely exaggerations of themselves. Since they're all actors, they're all aware of how they're perceived.”
A “favoured nations” deal in the contracts removed any possible diva behaviour because, as Rogen puts it, “everyone got the same shit. And it was all less than they're used to getting!” Using friends meant that while the cast could complain as much as they wanted, the directors were under no obligation to listen. Still, Goldberg credits Rogen with the best innovation on set. “Seth had this revolutionary idea to make an actor's lounge. We gave them a pool table, video games...” “People didn't leave, they hung out,” says Rogen. “They'd show up on days they weren't working.” “When you die, this will be your greatest contribution to cinema,” says Goldberg. Filmmaking may never be the same again.
This Is The End collides with UK cinemas on June 28.