THIS IS THE END written and directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, with Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson and James Franco. A Sony Pictures release. 107 minutes. Now playing. For venues and times, see listings.
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have seen the end of the world, and it's full of famous people.
The pair have come to Toronto to promote their first directorial effort, This Is The End, a comedy in which the apocalypse strikes just as Rogen drags his old buddy Jay Baruchel to a party at James Franco's house.
The movie grew out of the 2007 short Jay And Seth Versus The Apocalypse, a no-budget goof in which Rogen and Baruchel - who'd co-starred in the 2001 Judd Apatow series Undeclared - squabble about the end of the world from inside a safe house.
"When we made the short, there was no intention to direct it whatsoever," Goldberg says, "and over time we kept talking with Jason Stone, who made the short with us, about doing some apocalypse thing. 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?' That was the first time ever where we were like, ‘Maybe us!'"
"We couldn't unleash these guys on someone else," Rogen says. "It wouldn't be fair."
Rogen and Goldberg say the whole point of This Is The End was to let their famous friends have fun with their various public personas, and the actors were more than happy to do so.
"The guys themselves had a lot of input," Rogen says. "They didn't care if they played bad versions, they just wanted to be interesting bad versions. They wanted to be interesting."
"Franco added the idea that he was in love with Seth," Goldberg notes, "which would have been a demented thing for Seth to have written."
"Yeah, exactly. You can't pitch that as the filmmaker," Rogen laughs. "‘How about you love me?'"
Once shooting started, Rogen and Goldberg found ideas coming at them from all directions.
"The guys were often more antagonistic with each other than we wanted," Rogen says. "We had to stop Jonah and Franco from going at each other. We said, ‘You guys like each other in this movie! We get it: you can make Moneyball jokes all day. But in this movie you guys wouldn't be doing that!' People would just get wrapped up in the joy of being able to make jokes slamming their friends' movies."
Eventually, they figured out a way to handle things.
"You kind of have to... I don't want to say ‘manipulate' them," Rogen says, "but find what gets the best performance out of them. You want to create an environment where we're fostering ideas, not rejecting them."
Sometimes, though, rejection is the only reasonable response.
"We had a never-ending argument with Jay," Goldberg says. "Jay kept doing this gagging thing when something gross happened."
"Yeah, he kept doing this dry heave," says Rogen. "‘We're just not going to use it, man!'"
"And he was like, ‘Oh, you're going to use it,'" Goldberg says.
Rogen snorts. "We don't use it."