The Cine Files: Seth Rogen
- Hannah McGill
- 28 April 2014
All you need to know about the Canadian funnyman, whose next film, Bad Neighbours, hits screens in May
Rogen is from Vancouver, the offspring of ‘radical Jewish socialists’ who met on an Israeli kibbutz. He began doing stand-up comedy in his early teens, when, he says, ‘there were a lot of jokes about my bar mitzvah and my grandparents, then when I got older, it became more about touching boobs and trying to get liquor’.
An open casting call won him a role in Paul Feig and Judd Apatow’s short-lived millennial high-school comedy show Freaks and Geeks. Rogen dropped out of school to join the cast, which also included James Franco, Jason Segel and – you can’t win them all – Shia LaBeouf. Apatow has said that he had to continue casting Rogen after Freaks and Geeks was cancelled, because he felt responsible for the cessation of his education.
Rogen went on to star in and write for Apatow’s next TV venture, Undeclared. It too died a swift death, but like Freaks and Geeks, sustains a cult reputation. Its lead, Jay Baruchel, a fellow Canadian and long-standing friend, has gone on to star alongside Rogen in Knocked Up and This Is The End. Sensitivities about Canadian identity form a running joke in the latter film.
The creative, commercial and critical failure of 2011’s superhero spectacular The Green Hornet, which Rogen co-wrote with childhood friend Evan Goldberg as well as playing the lead, convinced him that the big-budget mainstream film world was not where the pair belonged. ‘We can’t make a really edgy fun movie for our types of people for that amount of money,’ he later said. ‘We shouldn’t make expensive movies where we can’t make a million dick jokes.’
The 2013 This Is the End – a relatively cheap movie, replete with dick jokes, about actor friends facing the end of the world – got its title by default, after Rogen and Goldberg found that every other apocalypse-related title they could think of was already legally earmarked by a studio for an unrealised project. ‘Someone called us one day and said, “Your movie is called This Is The End,” and we said, “Okay.”’
This is the End’s apocalyptic imagery is closely based on scripture, and reflects Rogen and Goldberg’s shared childhood fears of the Christian vision of hell. The original script bore the tagline ‘based on the book by God’.
On a rare serious note, Rogen and his wife Lauren Miller set up the organisation Hilarity for Charity to aid Alzheimer’s research and care, after her mother was diagnosed with the disease in her early 50s. ‘The situation is so dire that it caused me, a lazy, self-involved, generally self-medicated man-child, to start an entire charity organisation,’ Rogen told a Senate committee hearing earlier this year.
A well-liked figure on the whole, Rogen did alienate a few million Justin Bieber fans when he called their idol ‘obnoxious and ungrateful and insincere’. ‘Your just a heater like eveybody eles’ (sic) was one of the impassioned online responses.
Bad Neighbours is on general release from Sat 3 May.