Seth Rogan Interview MONSTERS VS ALIENS

     January 11, 2009

Written by Steve ‘Frosty’ Weintraub

Movie studios are a funny thing. Sometimes they offer the online community almost nothing in terms of interviews and advance screenings for their upcoming projects. Other times, they make their production almost transparent – meaning you get to visit the set, interview all the people involved, and they get you really excited to write about the production.

If you’re thinking it all depends on the quality of the movie…trust me, it doesn’t. I’ve been offered amazing interview opportunities for the worst movies ever made, and when I want to land an interview for some Oscar film, I’m turned down. I’ve been doing this for a long time and I still haven’t figured out why certain things happen.

But for the most part, getting advance interviews or an early look at footage usually means one thing…the film is going to be really good. The studios know when they have a winner, and that’s when they really ramp up the promotional machine.

Which leads us to the next DreamWorks animated movie “Monsters vs. Aliens”. Since before last year’s Comic-Con, the studio has been pushing this film aggressively. As you might remember, I got to see a bunch of footage from the movie and interview Jeffrey Katzenberg last July. Back then, what I saw from the film looked fantastic, and I left the presentation feeling like the studio was sitting on a massive hit.

Recently it’s come out the studio will be airing the first 3D commercial for the movie during this year’s “Super Bowl”. As you all know, those commercials are quite expensive, and you only do it if you are extremely confident in your film.

So you may be asking yourself, what is “Monsters vs. Aliens” about? The first thing you should do is watch this trailer.

As you can see, the premise isthe government has locked up all the various monsters that have been on our planet and hidden them away. But after an alien invader arrives to try and take overthe government is forced to release the monsters to protect our planet. Think 1950’s sci-fiin modern day. Oh, I’ve left out the best part…the President is played by Stephen Colbert!

Anyway…enough of my intro…let’s get to the reason you’re here.

Before Chirstmas I was invited to a long lead junket for “Monsters vs. Aliens”. While there I got to participate in roundtable interviews with most of the cast and the interview below is with Seth Rogen. In the movie, Seth plays a monster called B.O.B. Can you guess which monster from the 50’s inspired his character?

During our interview, Seth talked a lot about making “Monsters vs. Aliens”, all his future projects like “Green Hornet”, “Observe and Report”, “Funny People”, and we talked about a lot of random things like 3D and Comic-Con. It’s a great interview and one worth reading.

As always, you can either read the transcript below or listen to the audio by clicking here. Finally, if you want to read my interview with Rainn Wilson, Kiefer Sutherland or Will Arnett, just click on their names.

Question: Okay, when they told you that we want you for The Blob basically…

Seth: The brainless mass? I said perfect. Written for me.

Were you an old 50’s movie fan or had you like freaked out over Steve McQueen in “The Blob” or anything?

Seth: I mean I was a fan of those movies. I wouldn’t say I was like insane for like the B-horror movies of the 50’s. I’m more kind of like 80’s “Dead Alive” and “Army of Darkness” and that kind of stuff. But I was always a fan of the kind of monster movie genre if you will. And yeah, I was thrilled but more than anything it was just the…that wasn’t what got me to do it, I mean, just the story seemed really funny and the directors were really cool and it just seemed like a really cool idea. I mean, Monsters vs. Aliens. I was like does it live up to its title? And they said yes, and I say oh awesome. I’ll do it.

What would you really do for hanging out with the 49-foot woman?

Seth: I don’t know. Something dirty I’ll tell you that right now. Something real dirty that Jeffrey Katzenberg will get mad at me for saying but I’ll leave it at that.

How do you feel about a world with Stephen Colbert as President?

Seth: I think it was great. I thought that was one of the funniest ideas of the whole thing. I mean, yeah it’s a funny character, too. He was perfect. It was one of those things you’re just like of course, Stephen Colbert as President. One day. Hope.

When you’re recording a voice-over that they shoot you kind of the face…do you see yourself as The Blob?

Seth: Yeah, oh I no. I couldn’t. Yeah they do actually, yeah they do record your face and they say they use some of your kind of some of the mannerisms. They say—honestly I don’t remember—hey I did that hand gesture six months ago in Burbank. I don’t remember necessarily what hand gestures they use specifically but they claim that they use the little video of us to inspire the animation. But I was like I’m sure the animators will come up with something way funnier than what I’m doing, you know? I mean, I’m just kind talking into a microphone and they’ve done amazing stuff. It’s incredible with how the character moves and all that. I think it’s so much fun to watch.

You have played many characters. My first question is how do you feel playing Bob and did the directors let you change something about the character to make it more your own?

Seth: Yeah, I mean it was a lot of fun. They described the character as this Blob with no brain and I thought that’s funny. You know? That seems like there’s a lot of comedic potential there and they really encouraged me to kind of help develop the character with them and to improvise and to add whatever I wanted really because that’s great about how these movies are done. It’s just like you alone in a room with a microphone and there’s no other actors. There’s no real crew. There’s no lighting guy. There’s no D.P. It’s just you and the microphone so you can spend an hour doing one line if you want, I mean, you can just come up with a million different things and they would encourage it and they use a lot of it which is always nice. And it’s a lot of fun. It’s a very performance focused process which sounds strange for movies that are so technically impressive ultimately but when you’re making them it’s very performance focused. It’s just you and the performance really and I look forward to doing this every time. It was really fun. Again, they would encourage me to kind of make stuff up and I feel like, yeah, like we really found the character as we slowly recorded it.

So you too didn’t not ever get into another room with another actor?

Seth: No I’ve never really seen Reese Witherspoon in real life. (laughter)

So do kids recognize your voice? Because you have such a distinct voice that…

Seth: I don’t talk to kids, so no. (laughter) Want some candy? It’s Mantis! (laughter)

I have to ask you the prerequisite Green Hornet question of the day.

Seth: Yeah? (laughter) Good. (laughter)

I have no choice. No, but is there going to be anything in it about him…I don’t know if this has been asked before but he’s supposedly the grand-nephew of The Lone Ranger.

Seth: Yeah. John Reed being the Lone Ranger. We had written in like some kind of subtle reference. I honestly don’t remember if it’s currently still in there. I think mostly because a different studio owns The Lone Ranger than owns The Green Hornet. Like Jerry Bruckheimer owns The Lone Ranger or something weird like that, but in our script that’s really not a significant plot point in any way. I mean, maybe we’ll say the line and if they let us keep it, we’ll keep it. If they don’t, we won’t. You know? But honestly I don’t know if it’s in the script anymore.

I have a few things, but I’ll start with the update on “Observe and Report”.

Seth: Yeah.

The test screening process has been going on.

Seth: Yes.

Have you heard if Warner Brothers is going to release the film the way you guys did it? Because I know you guys have tested it a number of times and has the test screening process—have the scores been going up, have they been staying the same?

Seth: We did one version at the request of the studio that was slightly more–I don’t know if neutered is the word—but toned down at times. And it actually dropped in its scores so the final version of the movie is almost done now and the final version is pretty much exactly how we would want it. I can’t think of one thing really that they made us change that we didn’t want to. I mean, I’ve not seen…Jody’s made some changes…just actually I might go in tomorrow and record some more voice-over stuff for one part of it, but yeah, they’ve let us do it. It’s crazy. It’s happened. (laughter).

There’s been a lot of talk about it maybe not making…well a lot of internet chatter of it maybe being neutered a little bit.

Seth: Yeah. Un-neutered. Completely un-neutered. Exactly what we would want. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing but for me when I watch it I can’t believe it. I mean, it’s a marvel. To me it’s a marvel that a studio let us make that movie. And they really like it. To their credit like they really like the movie. They can appreciate it, you know? I mean, it plays well. You watch it in a theatre and like people go crazy. It’s an insane movie. You see people looking at each other going “What the hell? How did they get away with this?” And that’s what I love, you know? And yeah, they’re letting us do it. It will be an uncompromised version.

And if I can also ask you’ve been shooting “Funny People” with Judd Apatow.

Seth: Yeah, yeah.

Have you wrapped on that and how was that process as compared to some of this other films that you’ve worked with him on?

Seth: We’ve not wrapped. We shoot kind of halfway through January and it’s been great. It’s been a lot of fun. Janusz adds an entirely different element to the filming process as the D.P. He’s just a real presence on the set and the way he films things actually makes the entire process different in a lot of ways, you know? He’s able to set up multiple cameras. 3-5 cameras at times on scenes so we can really improvise to a level that we haven’t been able to in the past and it looks beautiful in a way that it never as before really and we’ve been shooting stand-up comedy in actual clubs with real audiences with 5 cameras with 2,000 foot rolls of film on them and we film them as though there actual performances. We tell them to laugh if it’s funny and not laugh if it’s not funny and it looks incredible and to me that stuff is what seems truly kind of new and to actually have the actors performing with actual stand-up comics and actual audiences and to use it in the movie as part of the narrative is exciting to me. I mean, that’s the stuff that I think is really cool.

You guys play stand-up comics. Have you guys incorporated or gotten any real stand-up comics to come into the movie and have scenes with you guys? People that the audience would recognize?

Seth: I’m not going to say who, but I can say yes. There’s a very large amount of actual stand-up comics in the movie. And a lot of them have performed for us in the movie. I mean, when we do these comedy nights we don’t just have us perform. We invite…we do it like it’s a comedy show. We have an emcee. We have opening acts. We invite people we know to come and just perform. We film all of it but we tell them you know maybe we’ll use some. Maybe we’ll use a joke. Maybe we won’t use any of it. We’ll just put it on the DVD, but we like to warm up the audiences like it’s an actual comedy club, you know? So their reactions are real, so when the joke bombs they react exactly like the joke is bombing and when a joke kills you really feel like you earned the laugh and we’re not just inserting it, you know? And it looks like a real comedy performance. What I kept saying to Janusz is people are so familiar with seeing comedy filmed like on HBO and Comedy Central, they’re like they’ll be able to tell if it’s fake. They’ll be able to tell for making people laugh when they’re not actually laughing and all that. So, when I watch it, it looks like any comedy you’ve seen but Janusz Kaminski filmed it so it looks a lot better.

Andy Dick is listed as himself.

Seth: Yeah, he came in. (laughter). IMDB cheated us out of that reveal. Yes, Andy Dick is great in the movie actually.

(Note: This interview was conducted prior to Stephen Chow possibly leaving the Green Hornet project)

I have a Green Hornet question. I wanted to know when are you guys actually starting to film it and how has Stephen Chow and you and Evan been working together to fine-tune to the vision that you guys all share together?

Seth: We should ultimately start shooting in May and the process has been very collaborative. It’s been very good. He’s given us a lot of ideas. His English is-you know-we keep saying when we all come out of this we will be great communicators. (laughter). And he’s made great strides I will say and it presents its own challenges at times but we get along really, really well but we’re really just starting the process. I mean, very little has actually been done. I mean, he hasn’t even come here full-time from Hong Kong yet, so I mean we’re actually in the very preliminary stages right now but everything’s been going good so far.

I’ve got to ask you about this 3-D. Have you seen some of your scenes in 3-D yet?

Seth: Yeah.

And what do you think of how it looks?

Seth: It looks amazing. It’s crazy. I mean, it looks like you could reach out and touch it. I mean, it’s incredible. I mean, it looks so good that you almost don’t even think about it. You just kind of feel like you’re watching, I mean in a good way I feel it’s almost not gimmicky anymore. It’s just immersive, you know? It doesn’t feel like there’s people pointing at you with little things, you know? It’s just kind of part of the movie going experience. It’s seems like it’s very organic to the movie. But I think like we’ll see what happens with 3-D. I think the most important thing is that it’s a good movie and 3-D, I don’t think, will save a bad one, but it looks cool. For someone who just likes looking at cool shit, it’s awesome. (laugher)

How do you feel wearing glasses wearing those things over your glasses or can you see without glasses?

Seth: No, yeah. It’s a little…it depends. Different theaters have different 3-D glasses. I actually don’t know if we have actually seen the 3-D glasses that probably will be used by the time this movie comes out so who knows?

When you were recording the voice, how did you move around to play the character?

Seth: I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do anything. I have no process. I have no method way of doing it. I would just think what funny things to say. I honestly put very little thought into the physical aspect of it. I mean, they have animators. I know animators. I know it’s their job to literally sit there and think of how people can move funny and how things can create and exist in this world in a humorous way and so I felt no pressure to add to that in any way, you know?

Did you watch any animated family movies to see what your parameters of ad-libbing was or…?

Seth: No, I just knew if it was too much they wouldn’t…I mean I’ve seen them all though pretty much, I mean not all of them but I go see like the…I have seen “Madagascar 2” but I’ve not seen the 1st one. But yeah, I generally see these CG movies as they come out. Pretty much every CG movie I feel like I’ve seen eventually, you know?

Could you talk about your 3-D movie experience in the past?

Seth: I’ve always loved 3-D movies, you know? I remember I saw “Chicken Little” in 3-D when it came out and that was the first one they really like pushed. It was like the first CG 3-D movie I think really.

You went to the theatre?

Seth: I went to the theatre and saw it. I got the green glasses. I still have them somewhere probably because I don’t throw shit out. But yeah, me and Evan went. We still talk about it. We loved it. I brought him to DreamWorks last week and we watched a bunch of this in 3-D and he couldn’t believe it either so yeah, it’s cool.

What draws you to animated movies because what you do most of the time is like the raunchy stuff that I love but…?

Seth: Yeah.

I mean not that I don’t love…

Seth: I mean, I like these movies. I actually go see them, you know, and my only rule is would I go see it? Would I be psyched to go see it? I know like this movie in particular like if I saw that I’d be like man I’d like to be in a movie like that. That looks awesome. So, that’s really it. I go see these movies, you know? Yeah.

I was going to say are you surprised at the success…I think you were the biggest Weinstein movie…

Seth: Ever maybe. (laughter)

I think they need to put the title porno in all their films.

Seth: I think they should. I don’t know. I mean, I think…I’m happy. I mean it’s amazing that a movie with the word porno in it made any money at all to be totally honest. Yeah, I mean I think it turned out good. I honestly don’t know how much money they spend promoting these things. I don’t know how the end financial situation is. It seems like a good number to me, you know? And no one…I was about to say no one looses their job but 11% of Weinstein just got fired so I take that back. But I had a good experience. I think it’s a good movie.

I actually have one other thing. You said you might start filming in May?

Seth: Yeah.

Do you already think in the back of your mind with Comic-Con being such a presence nowadays, do you already think like shit, maybe we might want to get something…?

Seth: Oh yeah. Literally having that conversation this week. Yeah.

I was going to say do you think there’s anything that you….so you think that the fans could look forward to something?

Seth: I hope so. I mean, yeah ideally I mean, I love Comic….I mean Comic-Con is my favorite like event of the year like it’s more fun to me than our movie premieres than like anything. I mean, I love Comic-Con. Like all of our friends come down for it and we just have a really good time. I mean it’s always a lot of fun so yeah, I would love nothing more than to be able to show something at Comic-Con. I mean, who knows. I’ve not had one conversation with the studio about this but me, as a person, I would love to give the people what they want! And you can blame Sony if they don’t. (laughter) Thank you guys.

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