Seth Rogen is going from pothead to patriarch. Louise Donovan meets a (mostly) new man
“I have made a career out of working with people much better looking than me,” says Seth Rogen, ruefully. “It’s kind of my schtick.” The 32-year-old Canadian writer, actor and director’s latest brush with the conventionally beautiful is in riotous new film Bad Neighbours, a comedy in which he plays Mac, a thirtysomething parent battling against teen hunk Zac Efron’s next-door frat house Delta Psi Beta. ShortList grabbed some time with the man himself to discuss popularising big guys with beards and spoofing Kanye.
Bad Neighbours sees you furiously pranking a college fraternity that has moved in next door. Did any pranks go wrong?
Zac Efron [playing head frat boy Teddy] broke his hand during a fight scene with Dave Franco [a fellow frat brother] when they were grabbing each other’s balls. Thank God he got surgery that night and was at work the next day – it was f*cking crazy. He didn’t have to wear a cast, but if you look closely it’s kind of puffy.
How much of the film is improvised? There’s a memorable breast milk scene involving you and your on-screen wife Rose Byrne…
A lot of the movie was improvised. We make sure the structure of the script is really sound, the characters’ stories all make sense, and then we try to come up with funnier stuff as we’re filming. One of the things I like the most about the movie is the relationship between Rose and me; it really feels like we like each other. I had the distinct feeling that normally she’d be yelling at me in this scene, but instead we’re doing the same thing. It was fun to do.
What’s the most un-neighbourly thing you’ve done in real life?
Oh man, I hate my current neighbour. He sucks. He’s been doing construction on his house for almost two years now, and it starts every morning at 7.30am. There’s no end in sight. And it looks exactly the f*cking same as it did two years ago. I regularly scream at him. He probably thinks I’m psychotic because I scream at him so much.
Does it feel strange playing the responsible role now, while a few years ago you were the stoner, frat boy type?
No, honestly it feels totally right. I’m 32 now; if anything, it would be weird if I was still trying to play an 18-year-old. I’m just not that age any more and I don’t really relate to it as much as I used to. Because I star in a lot of the movies I produce, write or direct, I have to make movies about people my age. We’re not making movies about 50-year-olds or 12-year-olds, we’re making movies about 32-year-olds, because that’s how old I am and I’m in the movie.
Zac Efron plays the (frequently shirtless) alpha-male frat leader. Did you have to block off all nearby roads to keep out his screaming fans?
Not really. We shot the movie on two streets in Los Angeles and there was a lot of paparazzi, especially on days when he didn’t have his shirt on. But I thought, “These guys are giving us free publicity”, so we just kept coming up with ways for Zac to not have his shirt on.
Did you feel the need to touch him?
Yes, I touched him quite a bit. You have to touch [his six-pack] just to make sure it’s real. And it is real. I think he works out.
After 17 Again and The Lucky One, Efron seems to be trying to reinvent himself as a grown-up actor. Did he ask you for advice?
Not really. He’s very good in the movie and funny in a way that I assume he’s never been funny before. I say “assume” because I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen all of his other movies. If I didn’t know any of the stuff he’d done before I’d just assume he was a very funny, handsome, talented actor that was going to be incredibly successful.
As a lifelong weed smoker, how do you feel about the current ‘green rush’ in the US – businesses turning healthy profits from selling legal weed in states where marijuana has been decriminalised?
I think it’s great. It shows how f*cking weird America is, that in some states you can legally walk into a store and buy weed with no prescription or anything, and in others you can go to jail for years [laughs]. It says a lot about the massive discrepancy between the ideologies people have and the weird ways they enforce their laws. But overall, it’s a step in the right direction towards sanity.
As a proudly bearded man, what are your thoughts on this idea that the ‘beard trend’ has peaked and men should shave them off?
Beards are hip now, and so are thick-framed plastic glasses. I’m not saying I had something to do with that, but I might have done [laughs]. I remember after Knocked Up came out, I was watching a cell phone commercial and there was a guy who looked just like me in it. I thought, “Oh man, that guy – it must have said ‘We need a f*cking Seth Rogen-type guy’ on the casting sheet.” I do think that since then I’m seeing a lot more big dudes with curly hair, beards and plastic glasses…
We read that you’re going to be starring in a buddy cop film with Kevin Hart. Can you tell us any more about it?
It’s not officially getting made, but we’re working on the script now. It takes place in the Fifties and it’s about the first ever black and white cops that go undercover together. They infiltrate the jazz scene and try to bust people for smoking marijuana.
Your next two films – The Interview and The Sound And The Fury – see you star alongside James Franco again. What is it about him?
We get along really well, first and foremost. Also, I think we’re very funny together, for whatever reason. We have good chemistry on screen, and because we’ve developed our working style in a similar way for so long, we improvise well together. He also has a very good technical understanding about filmmaking, which is helpful. He always gets what we’re trying to do. But more than anything, we just like spending time together.
You’ve recently worked with the likes of Michelle Williams, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emma Watson and Barbra Streisand – who else is on your wish list?
That’s a good question. I’m fortunate that I get to work with a lot of the people I really enjoy working with. I like The Rock, so I’d like to work with Dwayne Johnson – I think he’s awesome.
Finally, we have to ask about the video that you and James Franco made, spoofing Kanye West’s Bound 2. Was Kanye a fan?
I’ve actually talked to him about it several times since that video came out. He’s not some mysterious guy who’s impossible to communicate with. He’s a huge comedy fan. That’s one of the reasons we made it in the first place, because I knew he wouldn’t hate me afterwards [laughs]. But yes, he thinks it’s funny, thank God. We have no ideas for more spoofs yet, but I plan on milking it for as long as humanly possible.
Bad Neighbours is at cinemas nationwide now