Inside the House Cafe on Beverly in L.A., Seth Rogen watches with great speculative interest as an e-joint rolls across the table and comes to rest an inch or two from his fingertips. One of his furry eyebrows hoists itself up, and if he suddenly latched onto the black THC-filled cylindrical object, it would certainly be no surprise. He's one of Hollywood's biggest potheads, gifted with the enviable ability to buckle down at work (acting, directing, writing, producing, everything, amazingly) while still consuming extravagant quantities of weed. He's also got a terrific fondness for starring in movies, among them Knocked Up, Pineapple Express and 50/50, in which weed plays a central role, either thematically or recreationally, with him shuffling through, always the goofy but lovable "stoner idiot," as Rogen likes to say.
The latest of these is This Is the End, which is destined to become the greatest spiritually uplifting, drug-and-Milky-Way-bar-drenched, end-of-the-world movie of all time, if not the only. It's about a bunch of hard-partying actors – besides Rogen, there's Danny McBride, James Franco and Jonah Hill, everyone going by their real names and playing weirdly misshapen, exaggerated or totally falsified versions of themselves – who come face to face with the apocalypse. The movie features lots of boozing, lots of talk about jizz, lots of references to Franco's ambiguous sexuality, lots of limbs being hacked off, and lots of great cameos, from Emma Watson, Paul Rudd and Rihanna, among others. At the party to end all parties, Mindy Kaling says, "Oh, my God, if I don't fuck Michael Cera tonight, I'm going to blow my brains out." Shortly thereafter, Cera flings a pile of coke into Christopher Mintz-Plasse's face and is seen getting all kinds of great oral sex. Meanwhile, The Office's Craig Robinson belts out a heartwarming song called "Take Yo Panties Off," squeals like a frightened poodle with every new horror and utters one of the movie's central truths: "We're actors. We pretend to be hard, man. We soft as baby shit." And then there's Jay Baruchel, who can't stand any of best-friend Rogen's celebrity pals. The film itself is based on the 2007 short Baruchel and Rogen made called Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse, from a screenplay by Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg, who are also making their directorial debuts here and taking some pretty big chances. "A month or so before shooting started, the studio called and said, 'We're uncomfortable with you guys playing yourselves,'" says Rogen. "Evan and I said to them, 'We'll shoot a version where we're not ourselves.' And then we just didn't do it. We were like, 'It has to work, it has to work.' We just thought that we were right." Obviously, a lot is riding on the movie's success, and no wonder a drifting, nerve-calming, stoner-pleasing weed-smoke haze hangs withal.
"Actually," Rogen says today, stroking his chin, "I consider myself more of a pothead than a stoner. A pothead has the connotation of being someone who just smokes a lot of pot and has stopped thinking about it. For the first few years that people smoke weed, they're always trying to classify it and qualify it: 'Is this bad weed, is this good weed, what is it doing?' Then, eventually, it just is what it is, and I've been there for, like, 10 years. It's so stupid, but I don't think about it anymore."
Right now, however, he is thinking about it. More specifically, he's thinking about the alluring e-joint on the table in front of him. "I love these little things," he's saying. "I'll be honest with you, I actually have one – but not on me." His fingers stretch out, hover over the joint, seeming even to tremble. He wants it. It's obvious he wants it. But then he shakes his head and shoves his hands into his lap. "You know," he says, firmly, "I really am averse to being one of those guys who would use one of these things in a public place."
Coming from Rogen, 31, this is an astounding thing to hear and suggests that he must be a changed man, more mature, more considerate, more able to take a stand contrary to his nature. It's wonderful to behold, really, because, if anything, it means that should some apocalyptic-type shitstorm actually rain down tomorrow, Rogen, despite his easygoing, somewhat schlubby looks, may not be as baby-shit soft as all that. Maybe he possesses a whole panoply of hidden strengths and untapped talents and virtues. Maybe he's exactly the kind of guy you'd want to hole up with when Beelzebub comes to town.
And, come to think of it, maybe the same could also be said of co-star pals McBride, Franco and Hill, all of whom have been friends for years. And yet so much about them, and how they might behave in a dire crisis, and what it might be like hanging in their orbit during such a crisis, is a question mark. It could be great or it could be dreadful, and there are certain things worth knowing in advance. Like, who among them would be most likely to turn tail and flee, leaving you to face the terrors alone, and who has actual acts of heroism in his past? Are any of them given to excessive farting or occasions of Tourette's? Could one be more apt to forthrightly announce that he is going to go jerk off now and would one not be able to countenance such talk? Who would be happy to smoke a joint with you and who would suggest, almost pre-emptively, that there'll be no pot smoking with him? Who's stiff? Who's loose? Who's got a good joke to tell? To one contemplating a calamitous future, these seem like important questions. One does not want to spend one's final hours in the company of a drip. Needless to say, interviews and interrogations are in order.
Here comes Danny McBride now, ambling in through the back entrance at the Musso & Frank Grill, the oldest restaurant in Hollywood and a chophouse currently best known for its ancient, spectral waiters who ignore patrons with slippery, wraithlike sang-froid. Taking a table, McBride, 36, finally manages to order a Heineken and the ground-beef steak – "I never get it anywhere but here, because it's just bloody and good!" he nearly shouts – and then looks over at us.
We blink, momentarily distracted by the dude's wobbling, spongy puddle of dark-brown hair and what an unlikely miracle it is that he should so successfully escape the wilds of redneck-y Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he was not only a theater geek in high school but also the president of his class and the homecoming king. He arrived in L.A. wanting to be a writer, only to make his mark first as a loud, obnoxious karate instructor in 2006's The Foot Fist Way and most recently as a loud, obnoxious former baseball pitcher on HBO's Eastbound & Down, which he also writes. In fact, when it comes to loud and obnoxious, McBride has a lock on the franchise, and in This Is the End, he's more wacko bombastic than ever, yelping, "James Franco didn't suck any dick last night? Now I know y'all are tripping!" You'd think he'd worry about typecasting, but he fears not. "I don't take my acting career seriously enough to ever feel trapped," he says. "I think of myself as a writer and can always write myself out of any hole I put myself into as an actor."
Like he did with Your Highness, the sword-and-sorcery fantasy-stoner comedy that he co-wrote and starred in (with Franco) that was a big box-office bomb?
"Yeah," he says, laughing and snorting. "I can make classics like that."
We relax. If McBride can shrug off those kinds of rotten, sucker-punch jabs, we're totally in his corner. He's got a nifty sense of humor. But, of course, we must press on, to find out what else he can bring to the survivalist's table.
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