It's the end of the world and Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg feel fine.
The childhood friends and longtime writing partners ('Knocked Up', 'Superbad', 'Pineapple Express', 'Funny People', 'The Green Hornet') make their directorial debut with 'This Is The End', an apocalyptic comedy that suggests the safest place to spend the end of days might just be James Franco's house.
Rogen, Franco, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Emma Watson, Michael Cera and dozens of other actors play themselves in the audacious comedy. None of the celebrities come off too well in the film, but when we caught up with Rogen and Goldberg in real life, both gents were warm and witty.
Though it's yet to be released here, the film is already a monster hit in the US, where it came second only to 'Man Of Steel' at the box office. Now that it's a success, it's easy for industry observers to say they knew the metafictional comedy would work, but Rogen and Goldberg admit they had their doubts.
“We knew that the stupid people would think it was self-indulgent,” Rogen laughs, in that over-powering way that only he can, “the people that didn't want to take the time to really try to read into what we were doing in any way, shape or form. I mean, it's self-referential, more than it is self-indulgent. It's all done with the goal of entertaining the audience and telling a story. It's not just so we could hang out with each other. There are much easier ways for us to hang out with each other than to make a movie!”
“I don't know if you can call it self-indulgent,” Goldberg adds, “when everybody's making themselves look absolutely terrible.”
Each actor plays a caricature of themselves, and like all caricatures, there is some basis in reality for their heightened portrayals. Rogen really is a nice guy, Baruchel really is a Hollywood outsider, Franco really is a renaissance man, Hill really is proud of his dramatic roles, McBride really is a straight-shooter and Robinson really does sing 'Take Your Panties Off' at Hollywood parties. If any of them had dropped out of the production, they'd have been impossible to recast.
“Oh, we would have had to completely re-write the character,” Goldberg says, confirming how exposed the production was. “All six main characters are completely designed for these actors, and we did it with the actors. We worked on it with them, so... that would have sucked.”
“We really put on as much pressure as we could,” Rogen laughs. “We really tried to get across to them, you know, that if you tell us you're doing this, it would put us in a really weird situation if you then decided not to do it.”
'This Is The End' showcases Rogen and Goldberg's comedic sensibility in its purest state, a far cry from their watered down work on 'The Green Hornet'. When asked if they'd ever take on another big-budget franchise like that, they admit they prefer to work without a filter.
“Honestly, I think the 'PG-13-ness' of it all is the most off-putting thing for us creatively,” Rogen says. “It's just so frustrating when you're making a movie and you know it could be funnier than what you're doing. That was the thing we encountered a lot in 'Green Hornet'. There were so many times when we were like, 'oh man, if they could just say this, it would be so fuckin' funny'. But you just can't do it, you know?
“That's what's so much fun about a movie like 'This Is The End'. You can do anything! Those crazy ideas? You can do them! For us, honestly, for how we want to spend our days... it's so much more fun to spend your day doing what you really feel is the funniest thing you could possibly be doing, as opposed to doing what you know is a muted version of what you could be doing.”
'This Is The End' lays waste to Australian cinemas on July 4.