ShortList is supported by you, our amazing readers. When you click through the links on our site and make a purchase we may earn a commission. Learn more

Seth Rogen

His new film deals with a serious matter, but it’s OK to smile

Seth Rogen
21 November 2011

As we make our way to interview Seth Rogen, there’s an unmistakable sound echoing down the hotel corridor.

The 29-year-old actor’s distinctive booming laugh has propelled him to stardom via hits such as Knocked Up, and now it’s testing the sensitivity of west London’s nearby car alarms.

Not that he can be blamed for his current good mood, of course. He’s about to start work on his directorial debut, he married long-term girlfriend Lauren Miller earlier this autumn and, perhaps most intriguingly, he will soon be seen in 50/50 — an Oscar-tipped and surprisingly hilarious film, given that it’s based on his friend and colleague Will Reiser’s struggle with cancer. So he’s settling down, branching out and venturing into critic-pleasing cinematic territory. Is the eternally schlubby stoner-comedy king finally growing up? Er… Maybe.

50/50 tries to show the funny, absurd side of cancer. Not an easy task. Was it tough to get past people’s preconceptions?

Yeah, it’s a little bit like that. It hasn’t made as much money in America as our other movies have, but we made it for way less than our other movies. We never had any illusions that this was going to be Superbad, or whatever. We know it’s a lot easier to sell a story about teenagers trying to buy alcohol than it is to sell one about a dude in his 20s getting cancer. But what’s good is that people seem to like it. That’s the best asset the movie has — it’s not miserable and it’s actually good [laughs]. So the response has been really nice. It’s not the movie we’re retiring off the back of, but it’s been a very good movie to have made [laughs].

You’re a producer on it and the film’s been in the works for a while. Was it a labour of love?

It was. Literally, when Will [Reiser, 50/50’s scriptwriter and Rogen’s friend] first got sick, we [thought about it]. I think it was just a coping mechanism, really. Just us trying to drag something positive from the experience. Because we were comedy writers we thought, “Oh, maybe we can write something funny.” But after he got better we were like, “Seriously, we should do this.”

You play a version of yourself, the best friend to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s ill character, in the film. How close is it to your real-life persona?

I think I’m much more self-aware than that character is, and I’m probably a little quieter than him. He feels a lot dumber. But when I look at the dynamic between those two guys, it does feel similar to the one me and Will had at that time. He was very neurotic and I was kind of an asshole.

Do you feel more grown up these days?

I still feel pretty similar. As a writer, I feel like, in the past year maybe, the stuff I’ve been working on feels a little different. I think because Evan [Goldberg, 50/50’s producer and Rogen’s long-time collaborator] and I made this movie and we’ve written another couple of screenplays over the past year, it really feels like we’ve discovered what we enjoy. The Green Hornet was tough on us as writers. Just making a PG-13 movie was really hard, but I think as writers we’ve hit our stride recently.

Congratulations on getting married, by the way. Did you have a wild bachelor party?

I had no bachelor party. I was way too busy leading up to the wedding to have one, but one of my best friends had one a few weeks before my wedding, so I went crazy. I saw that as my opportunity to spend too much money in strip clubs.

And suddenly the cleaners arrive and the sun starts coming up…

Exactly [laughs]. Once they’re thumb-printing you for alternate forms of identification, you know you’ve been there too long. They were, like, logging me into the system… [Laughs]

Is it true that you smoke weed as part of the creative process?

Uh-huh. I smoke weed while I’m working. I think it makes it so that I don’t mind working. Some people will be like, “I’ll just waste time on Facebook for an hour and a half, then I’ll go back to work.” I don’t do any of that sh*t, so I guess it’s my version of that. Everybody has things they do throughout the day to make their work seem a bit less like a job, and [smoking weed] is my thing.

What are some of the strangest encounters you’ve had with fans? Offers of joints?

Yeah, all the time… I’ve [smoked] with people. But some people just think you’ll wait a long time somewhere for someone they know to turn up and see you. They’ll be like, “My friend is coming here in, like, 15 minutes.” Really? You want me to wait here for 15 minutes? [Laughs]

You’re not involved in Judd Apatow’s upcoming Knocked Up spin-off about Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann’s characters. Does that feel strange?

Not really, to be honest. I feel like Judd had so much he wanted to say with those characters that at times when we were making Knocked Up, I was like, “I’m just going to let you guys make a f*cking movie over there and me and my friends can make a movie over here.” [Laughs] I’m not in it and I have nothing officially to do with it, but I went to the table read and visited the set, and it’s great. It’s really funny.

Have you forgiven Katherine Heigl for her critical comments about the film?

I think that at the time I was offended about it, but since then… I mean, you do so much press that, odds are, you’re going to say something f*cking stupid every once in a while. Of the million things I say every day, 400 of them are stupid as hell [laughs]. And any one of them might wind up in a newspaper or a magazine at any given time. So at this point I’m much more forgiving of that kind of thing.

James Franco’s a friend of yours. Would you ever host the Oscars like he did?

Not now [laughs]. I think when you agree to do something like that, you put a certain amount of faith in the institution, hoping that they’ll take care of you, and I feel like they didn’t [take care of him]. Why hire James Franco and then give him Billy Crystal’s monologue? It was like, “Oh, we’ll hire these young hosts and then we’ll just do the same sh*t we do every f*cking year.” Which to me was really odd. I think they just approached it wrong. They didn’t think it through, and they were way underprepared. I think they hung him out to dry. So I wouldn’t do it unless they hired some better writers [laughs].

What can you tell us about your upcoming film Jay And Seth Vs The Apocalypse?

Well, me and Evan are directing it and it’s basically [about] a bunch of guys locked in a house together as the world ends. It’s a horror comedy but almost like The Mist or Tremors. And we all act as ourselves, so I play ‘Seth Rogen’.

Finally, you’re dabbling with more sombre films, but do you have a burning desire to do any Truman Show-style serious acting?

No. I just don’t think of it like that. I don’t shy away from things and I’d never turn down a serious movie for fear that people would view it oddly. But as an actor I don’t do any career planning in any shape or form. It might be evident… [Laughs]

50/50 is at cinemas from 25 November

Images: Allstar