Having established their screenwriting talent with heartfelt dude comedies like Superbad and Pineapple Express, childhood buds and longtime artistic collaborators Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are getting their directing careers started with a film about the end of everything—even famous people. Set during the earth’s final, fiery days, This Is the End grew out of Rogen and Goldberg’s 2007 short, Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse, and stars Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride as warped and often viciously self-deprecating versions of themselves who have no choice but to bicker their way through Armageddon from the appropriately surreal setting of James Franco’s mansion. In the lead-up to their directorial debut, Rogen and Goldberg shared some insight into making their first feature, their horror-movie influences, and getting the CG monsters’ anatomy just right.
Deciding to direct
Evan Goldberg: When we made the short, there was no intention to direct it whatsoever. And then over time we kept talking with Jason Stone, who made the short with us, about doing some apocalypse thing, and then we had our idea to have stars play themselves. And when we realized that together they would be great, and that our six guys would be the best guys, we were like, “Well, who would be the best director?” And that was the first time ever where we were like, “Maybe us?”
Jonah Hill is kind of an asshole
Seth Rogen: Originally in the script, we had it that Jonah was obviously an asshole from the beginning, and then he had the idea, “What if I’m the kind of guy where you can’t tell if I’m an asshole or not? And you could make the case that I’m really nice, and you could also make the case that I’m fucking with everybody I encounter.” The guys themselves had a lot of input, and I think because they were playing themselves, they didn’t care if they played bad versions. They just wanted to be interesting bad versions.
Making fun of Moneyball
SR: If anything, the guys were more antagonistic with each other than we wanted. We’d often have to stop Jonah and Franco from going at each other and be like, you guys like each other in this movie. We get it, you can make Moneyball jokes all day. In this movie, though, you guys wouldn’t be doing that. People would just get wrapped up in the joy of being able to make jokes slamming their friend’s movie.
James Franco’s pretentious art projects
EG: Franco has, like, infinite thickness. I literally went up to him and was like, “I wanna do an art project with you. Let’s do an art project about how stupid your art projects are.” And he was like, “Great, I love that!” You can’t faze the guy.
But Franco’s not that weird
SR: As people who are his good friends who see him in his natural day-to-day environment all the time, he really is just into that stuff. If anything, he’s almost embarrassed to talk about it. Like, when we ask him about it, he’s like, “Oh, you guys are just gonna make fun of it.” But he’s genuinely into it. When I met him when I was 16 years old he was into it. I literally have a painting hanging on my wall that he painted for me in 1998. It’s not a new thing for him. I think just now, as he’s more famous, it gets more attention. When you’re friends with him it doesn’t seem that weird. If anything, it’s entertaining how it’s perceived. The fact that people think it’s so weird is weird.
“Gangnam Style” is the perfect song for a drug sequence
SR: Once we had “Gangnam Style” in our drug sequence, nothing could replace it. And we tried like 20 other songs, and every time we were like, “None of them were as good as ‘Gangnam Style.’ What do we do? They don’t get the same reaction that ‘Gangnam Style’ gets.” And now we’re the assholes with “Gangnam Style” in our movie.
On parodying horror films
EG: Those ones were the ones that people just knew. We watched The Thing a lot, and had a moment to us that was from The Thing, where the matches are being passed around, but the exorcism and the demon-rape thing, you know what it is instantly. And I think even young kids have seen those movies.
SR: We watched War of the Worlds to get ideas for running from 7-11 back to the house. Sam Raimi was a big influence on us. The way that he has this over-the-top gruesome horror, but it’s funny still. That was a big influence. We kind of just mentally noted what movies we really loved that scared the shit out of us.
Those crazy special effects
EG: When it came to the monsters, we, in our amateur directors’ move, did what everyone does. We were like, “We’re gonna use real shit, we’re not gonna use computers.” So we had guys in suits and the whole time the VFX guy kept looking at us and being like [shakes his head]. And we were like, “You don’t think this is going to make it into the movie.” And he was like, “Just do what you want, it’s fine. I budgeted for this, don’t worry.”
SR: And then you watch it and you’re just like, “Yeah, it’s some dude in a suit chasing us.”
Making monster dicks
SR: At first we didn’t give the big monster a dick. And then we gave him a little dick. And then we were like, “Just give him a big, giant dick.” And then have it get chopped off and crush a building. “Floppier” was the direction we gave a lot. We’d always talk to our effects house over the phone because they were in Montreal, and we’d be like “floppier!”
EG: And they were so obsessed. They were like, “A penis would not go like this!”
SG: And we were just like, “Who cares, make it floppier!”