Over the last few years producer/writer/director Judd Apatow has
made himself into a mini-mogul shepherding along a string of R-rated
comedies that have varied from brilliant to inane. Along the way he
has provided a platform for a crop of like-minded talents ranging
from Steve Carell to Seth Rogen.
With Knocked Up, Apatow cast Rogen as the slacker pot-head
who gets lucky one night and scores a drunken babe – only to find
out he's gotten her pregnant. Given that she's played by Katherine
Heigl, he ultimately convinces her to have a relationship and the
kid. For Rogen, it was a benchmark, establishing him an a new star
and über sex symbol in reverse. Once Rogen had scripted last year's
sleeper hit, Superbad, it looked like he and Apatow could
slip any offbeat concept past the studio and financiers.
So that's the case with Pineapple Express – a stoner flick
with a twist; process sever Dale Denton (Rogen) and newfound pal,
street-level dealer Saul Silver (James Franco) get caught in the
middle of a drug war between the established smuggler Ted Jones
(Gary Cole) and the Korean gang who is trying to take over his turf.
With this synthesis of action flick and slacker comedy working,
Rogen is beginning to look like he can do no wrong.
So stars Rogen and Franco – his buddy from Apatow protean television
series, Freaks and Geeks and star of straightforward action
flicks like the Spider-Man trilogy and Flyboys –
joined a small roundtable to trade off truths and quips about this
riotous headbuster of a film.
On paper, a stoner action flick doesn't seem like the most
appealing proposition, so how did you pitch this script to Sony?
Seth Rogen: We went to them with this pretty soon after we
went to them with Superbad. I think we literally started
shooting this around three weeks after we finished shooting
Superbad. And Superbad was getting made and it was
looking good, and they pretty much just wanted a Superbad
sequel and we were like, "No, but we have this other movie if you
really want to make one."
And they really gave us no notes, and it's a cheap enough movie
[with a budget of $25 million] that they kind of just let us do
whatever we wanted. Amy Pascal, the head of Sony, admitted to me at
the first test screening that she did not get the movie and wasn't
sure if it was a terrible idea or a good idea, but she just decided
to let us go for it. And now she loves it thankfully. But every time
I watch it I'm shocked we got away with it. To me it's crazy, and I
can't believe we had as little involvement as we did with the
studio, and they really just let us make a crazy movie.
James Franco: They had one note: "No blood on the face," for
Seth Rogen: And we ignored that pretty much! [laughs]
What are some of the stoner movies that inspired you to make this
Seth Rogen: Well, we were inspired by both good and bad
stoner movies; certain
things to stay away from, and certain things we like. The Cheech &
Chong movies were very cool when I first watched them, but they
don't have very good stories per se, and they don't hold up that
well. I think if you didn't smoke weed, you would not like those
movies at all, potentially. But movies like Friday kind of
transcend a little bit; they kind of have a plot that's more than
two guys just smoking weed the whole movie.
Movies like The Big Lebowski are just about stoners, and they
show that just because your main character's a stoner, doesn't mean
the movie is primarily for stoners. And movies like Half-Baked
were some interesting cautionary tales, because I loved that movie,
and then the end is like, "And never smoke weed again!" And it's
like, "What the fuck? What do you think I'm doing? You make me wanna
smoke weed for two hours, and then you make me feel guilty about
it?" So we didn't want to do that also. We watched them all, and
took good and bad lessons from them.
There are a lot of action movie influences in the film. How aware
were you when you were drawing up the script of these specific
elements from various genres?
Seth Rogen: Sometimes more aware than others, I think. We
knew we really wanted it to have this action movie feel which was
similar to the action movies we liked growing up from the late '80s
and early '90s. And David [Gordon Green] as a director is very
influenced by '70s filmmaking – like Robert Altman and [John]
Cassavettes. So the more '70s influences came from David, and the
more '80s action movie feel came from what we wrote into the script.
David isn't exactly the first director who comes to mind to make
this type of film. How did you go about choosing him to direct your
Seth Rogen: We were very aware from the get-go that there was
a very bad version of this movie [that could be made]. We could tell
just when we told people the idea, you know, it wasn't an idea where
people were like, "Oh, that sounds awesome!" It was, "You're writing
a weed action movie? That's the stupidest thing ever." So we knew
that we needed to hire someone that would elevate the material and
take it very seriously, and not make the version that everyone was
clearly picturing when we told them the idea.
We had met [actor/writer] Danny McBride after seeing [his film]
The Foot Fist Way, and he introduced us to David and told us how
funny he was. We had seen his movies and thought, "Well, he's
clearly a very thoughtful, intelligent person with a visual style
and emotional sense to these things," and we met him, and he really
liked the script, and we thought, "This might be weird enough to
How do you and writer Evan Goldberg collaborate on screenplays?
Seth Rogen: We really write together the same way we did when
we were 13-years-old; basically, we just sat in front of the
computer and wrote. But one of the luxuries of having a few movies
that did well is that the studio trusts you a little more, and they
did let us go into the shooting of some scenes without a script at
We know these guys are skilled improvisers and if you have enough
time, something good will come. And for the last scene in the movie
in particular [in the diner], we knew we wanted it to be very
organic and take it all back to the friendship that the audience is
tracking in the first place.
We knew it would be hard to script, so we just convinced them to let
us shoot for a day and not have a script, and just find it as we
went along. And I think it's one of the best scenes in the movie. It
really feels real I think, and when you watch it you think, "There's
no way this is written," because we're all talking at the exact same
James Franco: Like [the late seminal director Robert] Altman.
Seth Rogen: Exactly, he writes that stuff! This is our
You had mentioned Danny McBride; what members of the supporting
cast really surprised you?
James Franco: Then, a lot of Danny's movies hadn't come out.
I'd seen The Foot Fist Way and David's movie All the Real
Seth Rogen: He was very surprising constantly though. He made
up so much of his own stuff. The whole thing with the cake for the
cat – he made up all that. I can't imagine why you would write that
[laughs], but he's crazy. I'm glad he's on my team.
Was Danny the one who was the most prone to cracking you guys up
James Franco: David Gordon Green had to leave the set because
he was laughing so much and ruining all the takes during those
You flaunted social mores in the movie, like having a guy in his
20s dating the high school girl, and the whole "Bromosexual" thing.
Seth Rogen: That's just stuff we think is funny. We tend
towards the slightly more lowbrow, I guess.
James Franco: And the high school girl too is a way to show
the character's immaturity, like to grow from.
Seth Rogen: Exactly. We wanted a kind of a
reverse-relationship, you know? Normally in these movies it would
be: the guy has a girlfriend, she's disappointed with him, then all
this shit goes down with weed dealers, and he has to prove he's a
good guy. We were like what's the exact opposite of that. You're
praying for them to break up!
The whole movie is basically the exact opposite. You're not praying
that he's going to prove himself, you're praying that he's going to
realize that he's being a creepy douche-bag and that he should not
be dating a high school girl. And I related to it. When I was in
high school there's always that hot girl who's dating a 25-year-old
guy, and you're like, "What is it? That guy must be a loser, because
otherwise he'd be dating a 25-year-old girl."
Are you going to be the new model for the action hero?
Seth Rogen: I'd like to think [so]. I think The Rock will
soon be obsolete, and this will be the new mold of physical
Who is better with the guns?
James Franco: You kind of took to that pretty well.
Seth Rogen: I enjoyed it a lot.
James Franco: We did a lot of hand-to-hand action scenes
before the guns... And we all got hurt.
Seth Rogen: You throw a pumpkin grenade a lot better than I
do, but I shoot guns pretty good!
As the screenwriter, did you intend to make this film so much of
an action movie?
Seth Rogen: We love action movies. Those are really our
favorite types of movies. We make comedies, but I don't run out to
see The Love Guru. I run out to see Batman. Those are
the types of movies that I get excited about, and those are the
types of movies that I'd love to make.
Had you guys always been looking to star in a project together
ever since your Freaks and Geeks days?
Seth Rogen: I would not describe it like that to be perfectly
James Franco: I mean there wasn't really the opportunity. I
was dying to get Seth for Annapolis.
Seth Rogen: [Laughs] Exactly. I auditioned for Tristan
[in Tristan & Isolde], but I didn't get it. [Laughs
Do you guys see these characters as grown-up versions of your
Freaks and Geeks characters in a way?
Seth Rogen: Not really.
James Franco: I'd say those characters all smoked weed, but
that's about the only similarity.
You're not a huge pot smoker. What inspired this character?
Well I've certainly smoked my fair share when I was younger. It's
just not a part of my life anymore. But I met a lot of pot dealers
before we did the movie, and even hired one on the crew!
Seth Rogen: [Laughs] Which really was a pain in the
James Franco: He was a particularly good model if I ever
needed like a list of different silly pot names or something like
that, I could go to him and he had all that at his fingertips.
Is there a real Pineapple Express killer marijuana strain?
Seth Rogen: There probably is now, but at the time of the
making of the movie there was not. We just invented it for the
purpose of the movie, but it sounds like a weed. I'm sure there will
How much of the dialogue was improvised?
James Franco: The original script was very funny, but the way
that Seth and Judd [Apatow] had been working on the last few movies
is if an actor wants to throw anything in at any time, it's fair
game. I like it because it keeps the actors on their toes, and it
makes it more natural if you know that anything can come your way.
We usually do like a version of the script, and then keep the
cameras rolling and you can try whatever. And then there were some
scenes, particularly the last scene [in a diner], where there was no
script and it was kind of just talking.
James, did you approach the action in this film any different
than in your previous films?
James Franco: Well, it's like the most expensive pot movie
ever made, but the cheapest action movie ever made. The budget on
this was probably like a day of work on Spider-Man, so what
that translated to was doing the action scenes in a very short
amount of time, and the actors doing their own stunts – which was
also done for comedic reasons. We're not as skilled at fighting as
stuntmen, so when we fight it looks more awkward. But that also
meant a lot more injuries. I anticipated some injuries, and there
were some. I busted my head open [running into a tree], and Seth
sprained his finger, and Danny busted his head open [on a breakaway
bong]. I love the end result, but….
Seth Rogen: It looks like we're hurting ourselves, and that's
James, when you're sitting there in a car with your foot through
the window, and your leg sticking out there, did you think to
yourself, "This is the weirdest point in my career right now?"
That was pretty funny, because you couldn't take it out for a while
James Franco: It was actually kind of relaxing.
Seth Rogen: [Laughs] That was the least weird scene we
shot at that point!
James, did you use any of your
Spider-Man action expertise in the fighting scenes?
James Franco: Um, no. I pretty much was not thinking of
Spider-Man throughout filming. [Laughs]
Seth Rogen: My favorite thing though is the "Street Fighter"
punch that you did at the end.
James Franco: Yeah, that was Ryu!
Seth Rogen: That played great at Comic-Con. Tiger upper-cut!
James Franco: Doing this movie was a great experience for me.
Spider-Man movies aside, I was really unhappy with a lot of
the movies I'd done, and this was just a chance to have fun with
friends and have a good time, and I'm so happy that the movie's
turned out well. Who would've thought the movie I had the most fun
on would be the movie that people are responding to.
Is this movie's going to help with the legalization of marijuana?
That's a good question! [laughs] I think anything that throws
it in people's faces is probably helpful. It gets people talking
about it. The fact that you asked me that question now is a step in
the right direction I'd say…. But probably not – as long as Pfizer
has anything to say about it.
Is there a dichotomy between you and Judd Apatow on the marijuana
Seth Rogen: This is funny because these are conversations
that have been happening since we wrote the movie in 2002, and they
continue on through the release! [Laughs]
In Knocked Up, the protagonist turns his back on the
stoner lifestyle to settle down and get the girl.
Seth Rogen: Judd wrote that one [laughs]....
So do you guys balance off your sensibility about marijuana and
Judd's, and it sort of comes out somewhere in the middle?
Seth Rogen: I'd say with this one there was many discussions
about the exact lesson we were imparting on people, and I think it
came out somewhere in the middle. Some people come up to me and
they're like, "I can't believe there's no anti-weed message!" And
other people come up to me and they're like, "I can't believe how
strong an anti-weed message there is!"
It's really whatever you take from it, and it's really interesting
how that worked out. I don't think you get the sense that these guys
will stop smoking weed after this movie ends, but I also don't think
you get the sense that that's necessarily the smartest thing these
guys should do either.
James Franco: It's not like my character's the best role
model either. I think it just would've felt phony at the end too.
There was a version like that, but I don't think it would've even
been believable if suddenly at the end we were like, "We'll never do
We actually tried to shoot it just to make certain parties happy,
and it just didn't feel real. It didn't feel like there was any
context for anyone to even say anything like that.
James Franco: It would be like saying at the end of
Spider-Man, "And if you read comic books, you're a fuckin'
Seth Rogen: That's exactly it. You're alienating your core
audience. But I have no doubt that when you watch this movie you
will want to smoke weed! That's what I know I've nailed Judd on!
Whether it has a message or not, people will want to get high when
they watch the movie.
So you've chosen to adapt The Green Hornet? Most people
view The Green Hornet as the guy who popped up during the Batman
series, but it was more famous for the sidekick – Bruce Lee.
Seth Rogen: Exactly, yes. Batman is successful, and I
tried to have a cameo in the movie but they wouldn't let me in
So why The Green Hornet? To us, the idea of exploring the
relationship between a hero and his sidekick was very funny and to
us, The Green Hornet had the most famous sidekick ever out of any
hero. When you say The Green Hornet, nobody says, "Hey, Van
Williams was on that," they say, "Bruce Lee was on that!" To us, it
became the ideal outlet for exploring that kind of relationship, and
because there's some built-in fan base, Sony would give us money to
make a big, crazy action movie.
And there's a rumor you'll be starring in a Ghostbusters
film alongside Steve Carell?
Seth Rogen: No, I haven't heard anything. Me and Steve Carell?
Wow, that sounds fun! I'm psyched about it! Are you sure I'm not