Seth Rogen, James Franco, Amber Heard, and Danny McBride on 'Pineapple Express'

Behind the Scenes with the Cast and Director Evan Goldberg

Columbia Pictures Presents A Screening Of 'Pineapple Express'
Actors Seth Rogen (L) and James Franco arrive at the Columbia Pictures screening of 'Pineapple Express' presented by Three Olives at the AMC Loews 19th Street August 5, 2008 in New York City. Bryan Bedder/Getty Images Entertainment

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the guys behind the Superbad screenplay, wrote the script for Pineapple Express but according to the writing duo it was Judd Apatow who came up with the idea for the film. "Judd Apatow was watching, I think, True Romance," said Goldberg. "Brad Pitt plays this like lazy stoner in it. He kind of had the idea, 'Well, what would have happened if that guy was the center of the story instead of the action star guy?' So, he told me and Seth and we thought it was the sh-ttiest idea we ever heard.

And then eventually we discussed it and realized if it was good, it would be great."

The film centers around Rogen as a process server who witnesses a murder and has to go on the run. James Franco makes his return to the comedy genre playing Rogen's pot dealer, a sensitive guy who considers Rogen not just a client, but a real friend.

At the Los Angeles press conference in support of the film's August 6, 2008 release, Rogen, Franco, and Goldberg joined director David Gordon Green, Danny McBride (one of Franco's suppliers) and Amber Heard (Rogen's character's 18 year old high school senior girlfriend) to talk about working on the pot-centric action comedy.

Pineapple Express Press Conference

What was the idea behind writing this?

Seth Rogen: "The original idea came from Judd [Apatow] actually. He just kind of had the loose notion of like, 'What about a weed action movie?' Me and Evan thought that could be rad.

And, basically, we started thinking about making a movie that was kind of a weed movie and action movie and had a real kind of friendship story to it, then that would be our favorite movie ever. We originally actually wrote Franco's part for me and the part I ultimately played just for someone else in general.

Then when we got Franco involved we thought it was a good idea to switch the roles. I think it worked really well."

James, this isn't something we'd normally expect to see you do. How did this come to you and why did you say yes?

James Franco: "I hadn't done a comedy for a while. I had directed a very low budget movie called The Ape and it was playing at a festival in Austin. Judd was there and he came and saw it and it's kind of funny."

Seth Rogen: "I think it's funny."

James Franco: "Thank you. After he saw it he said, 'I miss the funny Franco.' I hadn't really done a comedy other than The Ape since Freaks and Geeks. S o then we started talking about ideas and he said, 'Well, I'm going to do this movie Knocked Up with Seth, but after that you guys should do a movie together.' I read it and thought that it was very funny. But I said, 'Oh, Seth, you get to play the good role, or the role that I want – Saul.' They were like, 'Nah. You can play Saul.' I think around that time I met David [Gordon Green] or, well, we all met at Superbad and Judd said, 'I'm thinking about having him direct.' Sounded like a good idea."

Your character in Knocked Up in some ways is pretty similar - with all the pot smoking…

Seth Rogen: "Yes."

Is this method acting for you?

Seth Rogen: [Laughing] "I guess so. I mean, no. I don't smoke weed on set all day. I just want to say that, you know, not all day. After lunch you get tired. What can you do? To me, the fact that a character smokes weed isn't really what I hang my hat on necessarily. To me Arthur and James Bond aren't the same because they both drink. So I would kind of equate it to that. They're different guys who both have a similar habit. To me they're very different guys though."

When you guys were filming the scenes where you're getting high, what were you actually smoking?

Seth Rogen: "It's this s--t called Wizard Smoke. I didn't like it. Franco didn't have that hard of a time with it. Franco will smoke anything."

James Franco: "Whatever. Any plant."

Seth Rogen: "One thing about this guy, if you put it in front of him he'll smoke it."

James Franco: "It tastes like near beer for weird."

Seth Rogen: "It is. It's like non-alcoholic weed. It's like the O'Doul's of weed."

Seth, can you talk about the action scenes which aren't what we really expect from you? Did you fracture your finger?

Seth Rogen: "Yeah. We really wanted it to be an action movie. Those are the movies that we love. We're big fans of like Shane Black movies, when we were younger – me and Evan. Die Hard and Paul Verhoeven movies. S--t like that. So those are the movies that we always wanted to make. Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, the kind of movies where violence and comedy and characters kind of work together really well."

"It was a great time. We did hurt ourselves. Franco cracked his face open. McBride cracked the back of his head open. I punched Amber in the face just to get her in the mood for things. 'Welcome to the set!' But it was a lot of fun. I loved it."

Amber, how was it working with this group of guys? Was it ladylike on the set?

Amber Heard: "I would say that it was exactly as it seems it might be. I mean, look at them."

Did they tease you?

Amber Heard: "Well, they thought of this brilliant pot, or whatever, movie, an action movie and I guess they figured in a small role for a blonde. And they say that I did my part well. I added tears to the movie."

Seth Rogen: "It's true."

Amber Heard: "But it was really fun. I mean, how could I not have fun? It was exactly what you think it would be."

James, your outfit was amazingly accurate. How do clothes affect your performance and did you base this guy on anyone that you know or have known?

James Franco: "I guess that it was originally based on someone that I wasn't allowed to meet."

Seth Rogen: "We were trying to keep a distance. There were set boundaries."

James Franco: "We don't have any changes in the movie and so picking the right outfit was fairly important. So I wasn't a fan of the Guatemalan pants, but I was convinced that I should wear that. Then the T-shirt is a special creation by David Gordon Green. It's a kitten sitting in a shark's mouth, but he's happy about it."

Seth Rogen: "A kitten getting eaten by a shark."

David Gordon Green: "No. The shark is rescuing the kitten."

Seth Rogen: [Laughing] "In its mouth!"

Page 2: Stoner Characters, High School Girls, and Action Scenes

Page 2

Pineapple Express Press Conference

You said Saul was the character you wanted to play. Did you take any inspiration from the great past characters who were similar, like Jeff Spicoli?

James Franco: "Yeah. I watched a lot of pot movies before we did this. My favorites were always the characters in movies that weren't necessarily in stoner movies. So, Spicoli in Fast Times, which isn't exactly a stoner movie, or The Big Lebowski, which I think is more than a stoner movie or Brad Pitt in True Romance.

I don't know. Somehow they're like goofy stoner guys, but there's something more going on, I guess. So maybe that's the kind of inspiration that they gave me."

Are you intimidated by high school guys in real life and have you ever dated an 18 year old high school girl?

Seth Rogen: "I would only date a 15 year old high school girl. 18? Come on. I'm an actor. No. [Laughing] I actually live right near a high school and I always walk by…I live in a high school. I actually live in the boiler room of a high school at night. When I see high school guys now I'm actually like, 'Thank f--king God I'm not in high school anymore because they look like they could kick the living s--t out of me.' I'm soft compared to these guys. Maybe it's just L.A., but they look like men, like they would have kids and s--t."

David, you come from the indie world. Can you talk about your experience in making this in the Hollywood system and what it was like working through that process?

David Gordon Green: "Making it was a blast. I'd kind of gotten to the point professionally where I was pretty emotionally exhausted from making dramatic films. I was looking to do a comedy and found a group of guys that were really supportive of my interests in it, though it was a little outside of my wheel house.

Strangely, I visited the set of Knocked Up and met Seth and Evan and Judd and Shauna [Robertson]. It was amazing how much their process seemed familiar to me, translating that into the work that I had done and giving actors a lot of freedom and doing a lot of improvisation and a total respect and collaboration with all the department heads and all the crews, and just really making it an enjoyable industry rather than just clocking in and doing a job which a lot of movies are. We really decided to blend the two teams and see what would happen, and it was a great opportunity for all of us to do something outside of the expected and contrast and push each other to do our best. We had a lot of fun."

What was the biggest challenge?

David Gordon Green: "Honestly, the biggest challenge was that we had a comedy budget. We really got excited the more we got into the development of it about blowing stuff up and having shoot outs. That stuff costs money. When you want to have a car chase and they give you a day to do it and you say, 'Well, we need like a week…,' and then you compromise and do it in four. It's all the kind of negotiating the financial things. But we were really fortunate to work with a studio that was really supportive of these guys.

It was before Superbad and Knocked Up had even come out, but everyone just felt really great about them and the energy surrounding Seth and Evan and Judd – all of these guys – and the idea of getting Franco back into comedy as well. Then, also, it was bringing in Danny who I went to college with, and a few new faces like Amber and Gary Cole and Rosie Perez. It was just making a lot of friends and trying something new. The challenges were just hilarious things to confront anyway. Everyone just kind of looked at each other and would shrug and say, 'Lets just jump into it and do our best.'"

Seth and James, all of your big scenes seemed ad-libbed. How much adlibbing did you do and how much did you stick to the script?

Seth Rogen: "I'd say that we always kind of like to keep it loose. I don't think that any scene is word for word how you'd find it in the script.

Some of it was much more loose than others. The last scene with me, Danny and James in the diner - there was never even a script for that scene. Usually we write something, but for that scene we literally wrote nothing. We wrote like, 'They talk in a diner.' We just kind of shot stuff. The scene with Danny and the cake and all of that, most of that is improvised, I would say. But you would never know, to me anyway, and that's what is always amazing. Some of the scenes that seem scripted or written are improvised and some of the scenes that are improvised seem scripted. I'd say that nothing is word for word how you would find it in the script. That's always just a blueprint so that people get the point of what we want."

Danny, can you talk about that fight scene in the house and talk about what you were wearing?

Danny McBride: "Yes. One of the first things when David asked if I wanted to do this movie he said, 'The first thing is that you're going to have to shave your armpits.' I was like, 'Why, David?' He said, 'Well, that's what you're going to need to figure out.' The fight scene was actually a lot of fun. We spent like a week doing that, right?"

Seth Rogen: "That was like five days of shooting. We just beat each other up. It was a good time."

Danny McBride: "It was pretty hardcore. We would just beat each other all day long. Break fingers, yeah, it was fun."

Evan Goldberg: "I remember standing there watching as they ran through it the first time. It was like, 'Wow, okay. We're doing this.'"

How was getting hit with a bong?

Danny McBride: "That was great. Franco is a dedicated actor and he obviously didn't pull anything. It was a breakaway glass bong, but it was actually filled with water and so it had a little weight to it."

Seth Rogen: "So it broke his head open. He wasn't all there after that."

Danny McBride: "I got a little concussed."

Page 3: Injuries on the Set and Freaks and Geeks

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Pineapple Express Press Conference

James, two people have talked about this concussion…

James Franco: "Danny got the concussion. I took a head shot but I’ve got a hard head. In the woods when we're running around like morons there's a shot where I run into a tree and that's actually me hitting the tree and I make a sound like that. [Rogen makes a bizarre noise] That's the sound that I actually made.

My head got cut and I got stitches. Evan took me to the hospital."

David Gordon Green: "That's why he wears a headband after that scene. He had stitches in his head."

Seth Rogen: "We had to cover it up."

James Franco: "But you can see that I finished the shot. I got up and ran off-camera."

Seth Rogen: "He stayed in character."

James Franco: "Then I looked around and everyone had very wide eyes because blood started pouring down my face. If you buy the DVD I'm sure it'll be on there in the behind-the-scenes."

David Gordon Green: "You just said, 'Am I okay?' No one wanted to be like, 'No.'"

Seth Rogen: "'No, dude. You f--ked yourself up.'"

James, it was cut from the movie but can you talk about what inspired you to bite Rosie Perez' butt?

James Franco: "We were kind of just [riffing]. We had a fight scene and it was kind of unusual, a male/female fight scene, which is fairly unusual. Then we had one take where we're like, 'Let’s just wrestle and see what happens.' I had my shot and I went for it.

I didn't think I bit her that hard, but she said there were teeth marks. I think that one of her cousins was after me after that she said, one of her family members. I'm joking."

You met as young actors on Freaks and Geeks. Did you bond then?

James Franco: "Yeah, we hung out quite a bit with Jason [Segel]."

Seth Rogen: "We all hung out. I think at that point in our lives the age gap was a lot more significant. James is a few years older than me."

James Franco: "I’m not that much older."

Seth Rogen: "You didn't hang out that much with me, dude. You would bail. You bailed a lot. I remember we'd all hang out and order steaks and sandwiches, and you'd order like a chicken breast and vegetables. That's when we were like, 'This is never going to work.' But yeah, we did hang out a lot. We were saying this while we were shooting [this movie] too, like, ‘Who would've thought when we were doing Freaks and Geeks that one day we'd get to make a movie.'"

So this was a nice reunion?

James Franco: "Yeah. There was one episode of Freaks and Geeks where his character and my character had a thing where he had a crush on a girl and he got advice from me. For me, that was one of the cooler episodes. That kind of dynamic was great; getting to work together again is cool."

You and Kevin Smith are in your own ways king of the vulgar comedy. What kind of stuff did you guys come up with when you got together to make Zack and Miri Make a Porno?

Seth Rogen: "What kind of stuff do we talk about? A lot of comic book stuff.

The nerdiest s--t that you can ever imagine in the entire world."

How dirty is Zack and Miri Make a Porno?

Seth Rogen: "I would say that it's pretty dirty, language-wise. To me it literally doesn't even register in my brain anymore. It doesn't seem that dirty to me. I actually just saw it at a test screening about a week ago and it was really like a romantic comedy to me. Yes, it is dirty, but more than anything it's like a romantic relationship movie with a lot of porn and balls. I said balls."

Your balls?

Seth Rogen: "No. My balls are not in it."

Is it true that you were having trouble getting an R rating for that?

Seth Rogen: "It is true. That's all there is to it, really. We live in a world where you can disembowel someone in a youth hostel in Romania, but you can't show people having sex. I think it's weird.

I don't know what to do about it. I'm taking suggestions. But I mean when I watched the movie part of me felt like, 'Yeah, let's go for an NC-17 rating.' But when I watched it I honestly don't think it deserves it. We've done some dirty stuff and this isn't anything outside of what we've done before, I feel like. I just feel like since the word ‘porno’ is in the title and that kind of freaks people out, even though it is like the number one industry in the universe."

"It's weird. I don't know why. To me it's a mystery that you can show these horrific things, but not some sexual stuff which everyone does."