SETH ROGEN on 'KNOCKED UP' Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for Radio Free Entertainment
May 18, 2007
In the comedy Knocked Up, a couple that is seemingly mismatched on every level (Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl) try to make the best of things after a drunken one-night stand results in an unexpected pregnancy. The film reunites many of the creative forces behind The 40-Year-Old Virgin and TV's Freaks and Geeks, including writer/director Judd Apatow and several actors who have worked with him on previous projects, such as Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Jason Segel, and Jonah Hill.
Like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up blends a decidedly R-rated brand of humor with a few heartwarming, sentimental moments. Seth Rogen steps up into a lead role and carries the movie well, and the supporting cast is as strong as fans would expect.
In this interview, Seth Rogen talks about the making of the movie, and also discusses his early days as a teenage stand-up comic in Canada.
MEDIA: How did you feel about doing all the fake movie sex scenes with Katherine Heigl?
SETH: It's really kind of nerve-wracking, you know? If I was 18 years old, I would have been literally as far as I'd ever been with a girl. You're essentially dry humping. I don't know if you can say that or not, but I'll say it: you're dry humping a girl who you don't know very well. [laughs] And I was just afraid I was going to sweat on her. That was my major concern--that I was just going to drip a big gob of sweat onto her head. But luckily, they're comedic sex scenes, supposedly. So that kind of helps. It's not like I'm supposed to be acting sexy. There's lines like, "This is my new record" in there, so that kind of alleviates some of the pressure that would be put on me to look attractive and sexy, which is nice. [laughs]
The birth scene had a few brief, graphic moments. Why did you guys decide to go that route with it?
I was always a big proponent of showing "the whole megillah," as they say. I just thought it'd be funny and shocking, and it kind of reminded me of Something About Mary, where you see Ben Stiller's zipper and the crotch. It just seemed like something that is always implied in movies, and never really 100 feet tall. So I just knew that that reaction would be fun from the audience. It's one of those things where I just couldn't imagine how people would react. [laughs] I assumed they would just scream, which is pretty much what happens. But it was stressful to shoot that scene. Katie actually pulled her back out, I think, like pushing and screaming so much. I just kind of had to stand there and hold her hand. I felt a lot like I imagine how a real husband feels during the birth, which is just kind of, "It's her show, stay out of the way and try not to ruin everything." [laughs] But it was weird to film, I have to say.
Were there any classic sex comedies back in the day that influenced you? Maybe Porky's?
Porky's! You mean the highest grossing Canadian film of all time? Yeah, Porky's is one of those movies. They'd play it in Canada, and I would tape bits of it, like the nude scenes, and compile them. So I've seen like the nine minutes of Porky's where people are naked like a thousand times over and over. The rest I've recently caught up on. But yeah, that introduced me to adulthood, I think. [laughs]
Any other films from the genre?
Bachelor Party is a movie I always really liked. It's pretty dirty for a Tom Hanks movie, especially. There's some bestiality jokes in there and stuff like that. That one always kind of shocked me. And Kevin Smith was an inspiration language-wise, I would say. His movies were some of the first movies I saw people cursing up a storm, and that was very amusing to me. [laughs] So I think we took a nod from that, definitely, when it comes to sexual language.
How did you get started in show business?
I started doing stand-up in Vancouver when I was around 13, and then I got cast on Freaks and Geeks by Judd when I was 16, and I moved to LA and sunk my claws into him, and haven't let go ever since. [laughs]
Were you very outrageous and R-rated in your act as a young teenager?
I was not. I was clean. I didn't work blue back then, mostly because my mother came to a lot of my shows. I was just embarrassed. My life wasn't that R-rated back then, I guess. [laughs] I mean, I always try to be truthful to kind of what's going on with my life and my friends and my experiences. So then, it was more about my grandparents and playing video games and my Bar Mitzvah and stuff like that. It hadn't yet delved into the filthy world that I now occupy. [laughs]
Where did you do your first stand-up?
At a lesbian bar in Vancouver called The Lotus. [laughs] I just thought it was Ladies' Night. I didn't really get what was happening.
So how does a 13-year-old comedian get a gig at a lesbian bar?
You sign up. The first time, there was actually like a workshop that was being held out of the bar, where you basically go in and learn--like they kind of tell you the loose format for writing a stand-up joke, and then you get up at the end and you perform it in front of everyone. And then, from there, you just kind of start getting invited out. "I know this guy who runs this other comedy room. Why don't you come out and do 5 minutes?" And then after that, you get invited to do 10 minutes, and then you kind of are making 50 bucks every few weeks, and you don't need to work at McDonald's. [laughs]
Knocked Up makes it a point that your character is also Canadian...
Well, having no real skills, I always try to play characters close to myself. I say "sorey" instead of "sorry," and Judd's just tired of editing around it, I think. So we embraced it on this one. [laughs]
What were your responsibilities as an executive producer on this movie?
My duties are basically just "be near Judd at all times." I always tell him, "I'm just going to give my opinion until you tell me to shut up. And take what you will and don't take what you won't." Basically, I'm just kind of there throughout all the casting and all the meetings with the studio about the script, and I help as much as I can in the writing process and the re-writing process. There weren't many on this movie, but on days I wasn't acting, I would come to set and just kind of help think of jokes for the other scenes in the movie and the other characters. And kind of throughout editing, I'm involved, giving notes and going to the preview screenings. Just doing what I can, keeping off the couch.
Did you and your co-stars do a lot of improvisation?
Yes, there was tons of improv in all the scenes, especially the ones with me and my friends. You know, we hired my actual friends because we always hope that those dynamics kind of show on film, and our hope was that you'd be able to tell that we were actually friends and that we actually all know each other really well. And kind of the best way to get that stuff out is just through improving and being loose, and letting the actual dynamics play out a bit...You know, generally, we shoot the script once or twice, and then we just kind of go off. Harold Ramis put it really well. I was talking to him about it, and he said, "When we did Ghostbusters, we would always say, 'The script is the worst case scenario. The script is what we have if we can't think of anything better.'" And that's pretty much what we do. And it was a great script to begin with, so it was a pretty good worst case scenario, we all thought. But, yeah, we basically just kind of see what else will come up, you know?
What strikes you most about Judd and the environment he establishes on set as a director?
What's amazing about Judd is how open the set feels--you can do no wrong, which is nice. He'll never tell you not to say something. He might tell you not to say it again, but he won't tell you not to say it in the first place. [laughs] You know you can do whatever you want, and he gives you the time, and the film, and the focus to really get the best out of people. I mean, people who had one line in Knocked Up would say how "it was the best acting experience I'd ever had" because they would have gotten a whole roll of film to find the funniest version of that one line, you know? Everyone kind of gets their moment in the sun and the opportunity to do whatever they think is funny. And it's just amazing. It feels very communal, and you really feel like you can mine the humor out of whatever it is that you're doing.