Seth Rogen Interview, Green HornetPosted by: Sheila Roberts
Britt Reid (Seth Rogen), son and heir to Los Angeles' largest newspaper fortune, is a rich, spoiled playboy who has been happy to maintain a direction-less existence. When his father James Reid (Tom Wilkinson) mysteriously dies, Britt meets an impressive and resourceful company employee, Kato (Jay Chou). They realize that they have the resources to do something worthwhile with their lives and finally step out of James Reid's shadow. Kato builds the ultimate weapon, The Black Beauty, an indestructible car with every weapon and gadget imaginable and Britt decides that in order to be heroes, they will pose as villains.
With the help of Britt's new secretary, Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz), they learn that the chief criminal in the city is named Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz). He has united all the gangs under his power, and he quickly sees that the Green Hornet is a direct threat to the prosperous criminal underworld he controls. Directed by Michel Gondry from a screenplay by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg and produced by Neal H. Moritz, “The Green Hornet” is based upon "The Green Hornet" radio series created by George W. Trendle.
MoviesOnline caught up with Seth Rogen, Christoph Waltz, Michel Gondry, Neal Moritz and Evan Goldberg at Comic Con to talk about “The Green Hornet.” Here’s what they had to tell us about their upcoming action adventure film that will open on January 14, 2011:
Q: What did you do to get into shape for this movie, Seth?
Rogen: I dieted a little and exercised -- the most boring answer ever. It's an answer that's so boring I feel no need to even try to make it interesting. I'm playing a chef in the movie that I'm doing right now and so I'm kind of giving myself a little free reign which is nice. I've been eating a lot of sides of bacon. You can get a side of bacon at any meal in the day. That's what I've learned. Not just breakfast.
Q: What was your entry point into “The Green Hornet” and what made you want to bring it to the big screen?
Rogen: I think when me and Evan [Goldberg] were kids we'd watch “The Batman Show” and it was on after “Batman” often when they showed it in reruns. But honestly, more than anything, me and Evan always wanted to write a movie about a hero and a sidekick and the relationship between them and try to explore that and we just realized that “The Green Hornet” was the perfect movie to do that with because of how famous Kato is in relation to The Green Hornet. It just seemed like we could make a “Green Hornet” movie and tell this story that we've always wanted to tell about these two characters.
Gondry: I think you should quote Prince on this one.
Rogen: And Prince said that he was a pimp once. So we liked that, too.
Q: Christoph, this is your first movie since “Inglorious Basterds.” How carefully did you go about picking your next film and how did you end up doing this?
Waltz: I don't know. You have to ask Michel and Neal and Seth how carefully they chose me. I kind of fell into this because I got onboard very late and they asked me, “Green Hornet?" I said, “Oh, yeah, really?” I had no idea what it was. I'm not a comic culture person. So then, Neal explained it in a word to me, that they wanted a criminal in his midlife crisis. That I found interesting and then it was Seth's and Evan's script and Michel directing an action superhero movie. I had nothing against it anymore.
Q: How did you approach this character? What was your way into the villain?
Waltz: Well, I never consider so-called villains villains. I treat them just like a proper part. That's what we did in this case, too, because Michel told me that we were after the humanity and I thought, “Oh. Let me try to find out what that is.”
Q: Seth, The Green Hornet is kind of fearless. Is there anything that scares you? What’s your biggest fear?
Rogen: Spiders. Hands down. Just spiders. Cockroaches a little bit, but mostly spiders.
Q: Are you a comic book fan, Seth?
Rogen: Yeah. Me and Evan go to the comic book store almost every single week. We have thousands of comic books. I read very few books without pictures of men in tights in them which is embarrassing to say but true.
Q: Seth, is Green Hornet going to be a Jewish action hero? What of your own personality and sensibilities did you bring to the character?
Rogen: Actually, I think he's not. Tom Wilkinson is decidedly not Jewish I have to say. So The Green Hornet is half Jewish at best. We really wanted to show a journey of a guy from being very unheroic to ultimately being a hero and so in the very unheroic parts of the movie, I think I was able to inject a lot of my own personality in, and then kind of as the character evolves, he becomes more of what you would consider the traditional heroic type, I guess.
Q: Can you talk about casting Jay Chou in the film?
Rogen: Jay Chou was amazing. We first read with him over Skype actually and it was very awkward due to the time delay but it was clear that he was very cool. It was very clear that if me and him were a crime fighting team that he would not be the sidekick, that he would be the leader. That was a key part of the movie, that I put this guy in the sidekick role where in reality he's much cooler and more proficient than I am. So it was very clear that he was like that. When we got together, he was just very cool and charismatic and physically very coordinated and capable and the language barrier wasn't that bad. We acknowledge in the movie that he doesn't speak perfect English. We really tried to make it like us actually interacting which we did pretty well.
Q: Can you talk about writing this as a lighter superhero comedy than going really serious with it?
Rogen: It became clear that there was no way to do this movie seriously. It just seemed like if you were really going to explore the relationship between a hero and the sidekick and Kato and Britt Reid, it had to have some sort of lightness to it because The Green Hornet isn't even that dark of a character. He has no deep secret. His parents weren't murdered. He's not avenging them. It's a light character in general. It just seemed like it would be a good way to approach it, a kind of more fun direction as opposed to emphasizing the dark emotions that go along with it. We wanted to emphasize how much fun it could be to try to be a superhero.
Moritz: The situations are serious.
Rogen: Yeah, but at the same time to have the action play seriously and dangerously.
Q: Your co-star Cameron Diaz is kind of a tough chick. Do you think that she could take you in a fight?
Rogen: I think that Cameron could kick the shit out of me personally. She's extremely fit.
Gondry: And she does.
Rogen: She's very fit. She has long legs. She has reach, incredible leg reach. She surfs and she has great stamina. So she could whip my ass good, I'll tell you that.
Q: Will we see an homage to Bruce Lee in this film?
Rogen: It's a good question. We're not really trying to do anything specifically to reference him as Kato right now. We wanted to make sure that Jay did his own thing. He was very clear that he didn't want to try and do some Bruce Lee impression because he knew how important Bruce Lee is.
Q: Can you talk about why you wanted Cameron Diaz for the role?
Rogen: I think she's a really great actor. She's incredibly funny. Honestly, we have a little fun at the age dynamic that exists there and in the romantic situation that could potentially arise and it just seemed really funny. It just seemed like she could be the perfect person for the character and the character is very smart and articulate. Much more so than most of the other characters in the movie and she really just did it really, really funny more than anything and really well.
Q: You tend to direct non-linear types of movies. Is this type of film different or challenging for you?
Gondry: Well, every movie I direct is challenging for me. There is some element of imagination that you would have in a typical action movie, but I was very interested in the track that Seth and Evan took, the relationship between Reid and Kato and the fact that Kato was not a sidekick anymore but was a real character with complexity and everything. I really focused on that, but I think the way that I shot the action scenes and the use of imagery and space reflected a little bit more of my universe in a hopefully creative way.
Q: Seth, you've collected comics for a long time, back when it wasn't cool. Can you talk about what it's been like to see it go from being a nerdy thing to a cool thing? And being a movie star on top of that, do people treat you like a god here at Comic Con?
Rogen: I wouldn't use that word but it's great. It's very weird that people know who Deadpool is. It's weird that's a part of the culture now, that all the nerdy things that me and Evan talk about are the things that everyone talks about and it's weird that it's kind of a part of pop culture. I guess it was only a matter of time before visual FX caught up with some of these ideas but it's really gratifying and cool. It's like when you liked a band and then they got famous. It was like us and “The X-Men.” So it's cool that it's finally out there and it's fun to be able to participate in it.
Q: Seth, do you do all of your own stunts and fights in the film?
Rogen: I didn't really do any. I did as little as humanly possible. I did some but I feel like I move in a very specific and goofy way. So, as much as possible, I tried to do it but I didn't want to get hurt because that would ruin the whole movie. So I didn't want to do that.
Gondry: Seeing you on film, you did some butt kicking scenes.
Rogen: I kick a bit of ass at the end. So you'll have to wait to see that.
Q: Can you talk about whether or not you guys might put this out in 3-D?
Gondry: Well, Seth, Evan and I have been bugging the studio from the beginning to do 3-D. I really don't get the idea that it's a studio decision that they put on us. It’s really us forcing them.
Rogen: Yeah. The very first visual conversations that we ever had about the movie were for a 3-D one. Me and Evan just realized that we didn't have the power to make that promise at the time but we were like, 'Oh, yeah, we think we'll shoot it in 3-D,' and then the studio was like, “No, you're not.” But we really wanted to and the ways that we shot a lot of the action sequences and a lot of the fights was that we were hoping that we would get the money to turn it into 3-D if the studio liked what they saw. That's kind of what we were waiting for.
Moritz: The last thing we want is bad 3-D. We hate bad 3-D. So when we discussed actually turning this movie into 3-D, we went to a lot of experts and saw a lot of tests and we kept asking how long it would take us to have really good 3-D and not one of these eight to ten week, crank it out, turn 2-D to 3-D and that led to part of the reason why we moved our release date to later, so that we could actually have good 3-D versus just 3-D.
Q: Seth, will any of the action sequences in this film resemble what you and Evan did on “Pineapple Express”?
Rogen: Did you like “Pineapple Express”? Then, yes. Identical. I mean, I think for us as writers it was interesting to see how we were able to use some of the action to inform the characters and tell the story, kind of have the action scenes reflect the story and also play with some of the notions that you expect from action scenes to some degree, the leg through the window and stuff like that. So it was a good way of seeing what worked and what didn't in these kinds of movies. Obviously this movie is much bigger but I think we learned a lot from doing “Pineapple Express,” definitely, going into this one.
Q: Is it an intimidating experience coming to Comic Con for a press event because here you have fans that are so dedicated to certain characters that they might be critical of what you do?
Rogen: I guess that's one school of thought. I kind of have the exact opposite attitude, honestly. I think these are the exact people that we're making this movie for. I know they're the people that have been critical of it, but I think ultimately they could be the people that are most excited about it. So I think they're the people who deserve to see extra footage and the people who deserve to see the sneak peeks of stuff because they're the huge fans of the stuff. So I'm excited to show it to these people. I think they deserve to see it.
Q: What are your favorite cars in Reid's garage and what do you drive in real life?
Rogen: I drive a Lexus hybrid which is quite nerdy. It’s a very conservative car, very sensible. It's a sensible vehicle. I don't even know what those cars are. You'll have to ask Neal Moritz that one. The Black Beauty is pretty rad and I'm very glad that we wound up with that version of it. It took a lot to arrive back at the original car, oddly enough. Really, a lot of car companies made bids to design the new future version of it and we had to convince the studio to turn down tens of millions of dollars in marketing money to use a 1965 Chrysler Imperial. I'm very glad that we did that because I think it's a really kick ass car.
Q: Kevin Smith took his treatment for “The Green Hornet” and turned it into a comic book series that was published over the last few months. Have you checked it out?
Rogen: I've read a few of them. I think I'm on the second one. I haven't read them all. It's pretty cool. It's cool to see other people do stuff with the character. I think it's good, honestly, for the movie to get more “Green Hornet” shit out there.
Q: How many versions of the Black Beauty did you have? How many cars did you use in the movie?
Gondry: No. I think we had more. I think it was twenty three?
Rogen: But those aren't all represented in the movie. There aren't twenty three versions of the car in the movie. There are a few different versions.
Moritz: We had twenty-three because there were so many stunts in the movie that we had a graveyard of Black Beauty's.
Q: How many did you go through?
Gondry: Every time we were looking for the best looking one, we had to go to marketing.
Rogen: Yeah. Marketing always had the nice one, but we had some nice ones. We go through a few of them throughout the movie. That was kind of one of the ideas that we played with, that the cars were somewhat disposable almost and it's not this precious piece of technology that can never be replicated. They kind of make a bunch of them in case one gets trashed so that they have another one.
Q: Evan, can you talk about the writing process that you and Seth went through on this film?
Goldberg: The writing process was extremely different from what we'd done before. It was still similar. We started it the same way but then we got into a room with Neal and the studio people and Michel and we went through it line by line because when you're spending this much money, you can't just be like, “Oh, they'll get it.” It was extremely different but you move forward with great confidence because you know that everyone's seen it and everyone's checked it.
Rogen: The script faced a lot of scrutiny. You knew that if was moving forward, a lot of eyes had seen it and that it was worthy of moving forward.
Goldberg: Usually I’m used to being like, “No, Seth, you're wrong!” And he’s like “No, you're wrong!” We’d yell at each other and then we’d get over it. But when there are nine people yelling at you, it's a whole different story. We really went through the grinder because of that and it came out much better because of it.
Q: Christoph, can you talk about how this villain is different from your character in “Inglorious Basterds”?
Waltz: There is no such thing as a villain. It's the others who are wrong, as much as all villains are the same.
Rogen: There you go. You just got Christoph'd.
Q: Seth, you're known for being a great improv actor on set. Can you and Michel talk about that in terms of your working relationship on this film and any improv on the set?
Gondry: It's very handy to have the writer be the actor. There's some downside of that but if you want to make a revision, you don't have to call your writer in the middle of the night to get authorization to change it. What was funny as well is the fact that Jay is not very fluent in English and I had a good time watching Jay trying to catch up with Seth. One is really going off the track and the other is caught off guard so that gets better acting in a way.
Rogen: Yeah, and we were able to really get a lot of it in there. In the movie, it was important to us even though I think that a lot of these big action movies at times have a stiff feel to them and we wanted to try to add the more naturalistic conversational style to the movie that we have in some of our other movies.
Gondry: I asked Seth if ever Jay said something that wasn't easy to understand that he would have to repeat it, and I think it worked really well.
Rogen: We really tried to incorporate the fact that Jay's English was at times limited and we play it in the movie. Again, we're not playing him like a guy fluent in English. We're playing him like a guy that speaks some English.
Q: Now that you're well known to so many people, do you still walk onto the Comi-Con exhibit floor and try to buy stuff?
Rogen: I do but in my custom made “X-Men Origins” Wolverine costume.
Q: Since Jay is a musician, can you say whether or not any of his music will be in the movie?
Rogen: There may or may not be some Jay Chou music in this movie.
Gondry: I think there is.
Rogen: Okay, there is. You ruined the surprise, Gondry. He doesn't get suspense.
Q: Christoph, what's it been like since Oscar night for you?
Waltz: Very well, thank you. I'm currently working with an elephant and it's very gratifying.
Q: Where do you keep your Oscar?
Waltz: At home, behind some cupboard doors because I find it extremely intimidating.
Gondry: Can I talk about my Oscar? Mine is on the fridge and my son put a condom on it.
Moritz: His son is 26.
Rogen: I am his son. That would be awesome.
Q: There are parallels between The Green Hornet and Batman. In the writing of the script and the marketing, how are you planning to differentiate The Green Hornet from that when there are going to be some natural comparisons?
Rogen: It's true. I get mistaken for Christian Bale almost all the time. That was the first challenge. I mean, one of the things that we were very aware of is that since The Green Hornet is such an old character a lot of things have derived from “The Green Hornet.” The Green Hornet was the first character to have a newspaper involved and to have a car that shoots weapons and things like that. Since then, other comics like “Superman” and “Spider-Man” and “Batman” have taken those ideas and made them much more popular. So we really had to try to approach them all in a completely new way and try to make every one of those things feel like it serves a different role in our movie than it does in the other movies. “Spider-Man,” the newspaper is always damning him and it's always an obstacle that he has to overcome. In our movie, I used the newspaper as like a propaganda machine, essentially, to perpetuate the legend of how awesome I am. So we try to take the notions that you'd have of these things and be aware that you would have these notions and just try to play it a little bit differently.
Q: When you were writing this with Seth, were there certain directions you wanted to take your character?
Goldberg: I think it's a very unpopular thing to say at Comic Con but the studio was awesome. They really helped us. They didn't get in the way. They helped things move forward because it was so big, the production, that they were involved on every level. So if something went wrong and they said, “You guys shouldn't have done that,” I could go, “Well, you were there. We were all there.” They really helped. I know everyone wants to make them the bad guys but they were the good guys on this one.
Rogen: The good thing about making a PG-13 movie is violence-wise you can do whatever the fuck you want.