Moriarty Boards PINEAPPLE EXPRESS! Set Visit For The New Seth Rogen/James Franco/David Gordon Green Action Comedy!
Producer Shauna Robertson takes great delight in finding creative ways to invite me to visit the sets of the various films that she and Judd Apatow have been busy making over the last few years. And if those invites manage to create some sort of controversy in my house, then even better.
For example, when I was in Vancouver working on the second season of MASTERS OF HORROR, a fairly hefty stack of mail accumulated. My wife opened the envelopes to make sure there were no bills and to see what DVDs showed up, and when I got back to town, she told me I should go through the stack. “You might want to start with this one,” she said, handing me an oversized manila envelope.
Inside, I found a pregnancy test. It was positive. And the enclosed note simply read, “I’m pregant! And it’s yours!” It was about a three day process to convince my wife that it was an invitation to visit a set, and not actual grounds for divorce. When I told Shauna this, she seemed delighted.
So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I was sleeping in one recent morning and woke up to the sound of my son running through the house bellowing “MARAWAMA! MARAWAMA!” like Steve Martin playing Ruprecht the Monkey Boy. When I got up and walked to the bedroom door, I was rewarded with the sight of Toshi toddling along at full speed holding a large pot plant. Not a potted plant, mind you, but a marijuana plant in full bloom, with giant green sticky buds perched on top. I relieved him of the plant and went to figure out what happened. On the kitchen counter, I found two bags, a card, and a pineapple. Evidently, one bag had held the pineapple, while the other held the pot plant. And the card was another invitation to a set, this time for the upcoming buddy comedy, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS. Thankfully, the pot plant was the creation of the film’s art department, part of a grow room scene, and not the real deal. Even so, Toshi’s vocabulary is off to a fascinating early start thanks to my mother-in-law’s shocked reaction to the delivery, and I once again found myself chagrined and, a few days later, on my way to see what madness Shauna and Judd and their cohorts were up to.
David Gordon Green has always been, in my mind, a serious filmmaker. When I first saw GEORGE WASHINGTON, I was moved by the deceptive simplicity of it, by the humanity of it. When he followed that up with ALL THE REAL GIRLS, I was equally blown away. I’ve heard people compare Green’s work to the film of Terrence Malick, and I think that’s an apt comparison. His collaboration with his cinematographer Tim Orr has yielded some of the most beautiful moments in American independent cinema in the last ten years. So when I heard that he was the director of PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, it seemed to be an incredibly odd choice, and I had no idea what to expect when I showed up on the North Hollywood location where they were shooting.
The strip mall at Laurel Canyon and Victory is one of those places that has been dying in slow-motion for as long as I can remember. There used to be a theater there; no more. There was a decent comic book store there; no more. There was a Macy’s at once point; long gone. Instead, they’ve now got a sleazy lingerie "modeling" place where I'm fairly sure you can get more than just a lap dance, a head shop, and a whole lot of empty store fronts. They’ve also got a pretty sizeable parking lot, which is where I parked, and where I first spotted Seth Rogen standing with a large group of people.
As he spotted me walking across the parking lot, he waved me over. “Oh my god, man, perfect timing. This is gonna be great.” I realized Evan Goldberg, Seth’s writing partner, was standing next to him and said hello to him. Everyone seemed to be waiting for something to happen, and both Seth and Evan directed my attention to another part of the parking lot. Not more than a minute after I walked up, a police car came screaming into the lot at full speed, then flipped upside down, tore the top off another parked car, and slammed into a dumpster before coming to a stop.
Right in front of me, a wiry guy in shorts and a t-shirt spun around, positively beaming. “That was perfect. PERFECT.” He bounced away, and Evan turned to me, smiling.
“That was David Gordon Green. Doesn’t he look like he just got his first handjob?”
Okay. So it’s obvious right away that this isn’t going to be like GEORGE WASHINGTON or ALL THE REAL GIRLS. Not a lot of cars flipping over in those film. Not a lot of car chases.
And Rosie Perez absolutely positively does not get kicked in the pussy in either of those films.
So what is PINEAPPLE EXPRESS? Well, it’s a crazy hybrid of a stoner comedy and something like DIE HARD. It’s the story of Dale (Rogen), a process server in Los Angeles who basically just wants to make enough money to support his very modest lifestyle. He sort of drifted into the job, and he’s got a bit of a knack for it. He doesn’t have any passion, though. He reserves that for Angie, his high-school-aged girlfriend and for smoking pot. Which he does a lot. His dealer is Saul (James Franco), an amiable goofball who genuinely thinks of Dale as one of his best friends. On one of Dale’s stops by Saul’s place, Saul sells him a bag of what he says is a brand-new strain that no one else in LA has yet: Pineapple Express. When Dale later witnesses a murder and drops his bag of weed at the scene, it sets off a chain reactions of events that leads to all sorts of mayhem.
Including, as I said, Rosie Perez being kicked in the pussy. And, really, isn't that worth your ten dollars all by itself?
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg co-scripted SUPERBAD, which you’ve probably read a bit about here on the site already. I visited that set as well, and as much as I liked that script, the finished film is a knockout. Low-key, charming, hilarious. It strikes me as one of the most natural comedies in a long time, self-assured and honest. Rogen and Goldberg were writing from experience. Their first draft was written when they were 13, and even though it’s been rewritten and revised since then, it doesn’t feel like a calculated Hollywood script.
With PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, Goldberg and Rogen have taken a fairly standard Hollywood formula -- the buddy comedy -- and they’ve twisted it into a new shape that’s all theirs. For one thing, they’ve defied conventional Hollywood wisdom by making this an unapologetic pot comedy. This film doesn’t just feature pot as a part of the movie... it wallows in it. It practically celebrates weed. It never positions Saul as a bad guy because he’s a pot dealer, and it gets the subtle dynamics of a relationship between customer and dealer right in a way mainstream movies never do.
The film demolishes stereotypical attitudes about pot, too. Even Cheech and Chong movies made sure to play into the entire notion that stoners are inherently stupid, and that’s where most of the laughs came from. That’s not the case here. This is a film that spends the time to carefully establish these characters as real and flawed and multi-faceted. On the page, it works really well, but the question is, of course, how it works onscreen. I was personally interested to see how James Franco and Seth were going to be together. I loved them on FREAKS & GEEKS, and since then, Franco’s been on this “serious” career path. It’s given him some box-office cred, but I’ve really wanted to see him try his hand at unabashed comedy again, and in many ways, he’s the real comic presence here, with Rogen almost playing the straight man. Saul’s certainly a more outrageous presence in the script, and I was curious to see how he’d be approaching the role.
I showed up just before lunch, and Shauna invited me to join them for dailies, which they always do as they eat. They’ve got a new dailies trailer, even nicer than the one they were using on the KNOCKED UP set, and after everyone got their food, we all headed over to the trailer where the DVD had already been put in the player. Once Saul and Dale are on the run from the crooked cops, including Rosie Perez, they have to figure out where they can go that’s safe for them. Saul has a fairly hefty bag of weed with him, but no cash, and so they decide to make some easy money by approaching a bunch of high school kids and offering them a simple trade. David Gordon Green intentionally found the youngest-looking kids possible, which makes the scene hilarious, although I can picture some studio executive getting a brain hemorrhage at the idea of the movie’s two stars selling drugs to kids for laughs. The kids were hilarious, striking a tough deal and negotiating with Saul over the price. After some back and forth, the kids throw in all their cash and some ninja throwing stars and some fireworks, and in return, each of them gets to take a giant handful of weed out of Saul’s bag. As is the habit on each of the films I’ve been to where Apatow and Robertson are the producers, there was a lot of latitude here for the cast to riff off of each other, tweaking the scene as they played it. Rogen and Franco seemed to be enjoying the kids and their energy, and in return, they kept throwing fresh curveballs to see how the kids would react.
After the kids leave, Saul goes to get some supplies, leaving Dale sitting in the back alley, high as a kite, feeling good for the first time since realizing his life was in danger. As he’s sitting there, Mo’nique rolls up in a cop car. She’s playing the officer assigned to the high school, and she caught the kids coming back onto campus. She’s on the warpath when she jumps out of the car, and Dale isn’t prepared for it at all. I know Mo’nique isn’t part of the ensemble that Apatow’s been putting together from film to film, but she came ready to play, and in the dailies we saw, she was in Seth’s face, frisking him, making him as uncomfortable as possible. In a couple of the takes, she managed to sexually harass him during the frisk, and it was obvious that Seth wasn’t ready for it. She ends up throwing him into the back of her car so she can run a search to see if he has any warrants out.
And, of course, he does. Which ends up leading into the scenes that we saw them shooting after lunch. As she leaves the alley with Dale in the back of her car, she ends up hitting Saul, who’s walking up the alley with munchies and Slurpees. The Slurpee coats the front window. She jumps out to investigate. Saul jumps behind the wheel and takes off with Dale, while Rosie Perez, notified by Mo’nique, shows up ready to kill the both of them. We saw dailies of some of the ensuing car chase, and it’s really kinetic, kick-ass footage. I was still having trouble believing how good Green is at shooting car chases, and I was even more impressed at the notion that he’s trying to use as little second-unit as possible. I always hate it when action films are directed by guys who hand off the actual action sequences to other people to shoot, so Green won even more of my respect when I saw how careful he was to shoot these as real scenes, and not just disposable action between the “important” moments. As we returned from lunch, Tim Orr and David were checking the monitor to see if they were ready to shoot some of the interior footage of Saul and Dale in the cop car.
The basic gag was simple. Because there’s no visibility, Saul tries to kick the window out while driving. Unfortunately, he gets his foot stuck, and for a moment, he’s stuck in the middle of a high-speed pursuit with one foot on the gas and one sticking out the front of the windshield. It’s a funny bit on the page, but watching Franco actually work it out and run through a few times, it was obviously a complicated joke to bring to life.
Franco tried it several times, but he kept hesitating, trying not to break the glass out too much. It was pre-scored to break with as little pressure as possible, and so Franco was telegraphing the moment. The other problem was that he kept putting his foot through in a way that would make it too easy to pull his foot back out. David and his cinematographer talked about what they were seeing, and finally they managed to get Franco to do a take where he pointed his foot as he put it through the glass, then turned it so it was convincingly stuck. Everything came together perfectly on that take. Seth’s ad-libs from the back seat, Franco’s freak out, the way the window broke... everyone in video village was laughing out loud, and it was apparent that this was the perfect take.
Satisfied, David led everyone around the corner to look at a small strip of park where he’d be shooting part of the chase the next morning. As we walked over, we talked about the car chase at the end of DEATH PROOF, since this was still a few days before GRINDHOUSE came out, and I was the only one onset who’d had a chance to see it yet. Whatever conversation I imagined myself having with David Gordon Green, it wasn't about the finer points of shooting car stunts. But that's what made the entire day such a great surprise.
Once David was satisfied with the location and how they’d be shooting it, everyone walked back to video village, then across the street to where they were setting up the shot where Mo’nique’s cop car was supposed to hit Saul. I saw someone walk by dressed exactly like Seth, and I asked him how strange it is to see Seth Rogen stunt doubles on set.
Both he and Evan were wildly enthusiastic about all the stunts and action and special camera rigs and explosives and everything else they’ve been able to use on this film, and I can totally understand the energy they could just barely contain. When you’re a kid, dreaming of making movies, you can’t help but imagine yourself making the sort of big Hollywood action films that are part of any film geek’s diet. Seth and Evan are both producers on this film with Shauna and Judd, and it’s obvious that they’re still having a hard time believing that anyone would pay them to do something they’re enjoying this much. The third act of the film goes from being a chase movie to being something even crazier, and I wish I’d had a chance to return to the set to see them shoot some of that stuff. As it is, I had to leave after the first few takes of Franco’s stunt double getting pegged by the cop car, and I never did find a day to go back down to see them shoot more of the film.
No matter. With guys like Danny R. McBride (whose starring role in THE FOOT-FIST WAY has become a full-blown obsession for Shauna) and Gary Cole and James Remar joining returning Apatow-production veterans like Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio, I am convinced this is going to be another genre-bending killer for these guys. The script is rock solid, but every single thing I saw makes me think that they’re going to make it work better onscreen.
Right now, I’m going to wrap this up. It’s 3:30 in Los Angeles, and in two hours, I’m leaving for the airport with my wife and son. We’re heading to the set of another Apatow/Robertson production, this one called FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL. This time, Jason Segel is going to be starring in a script he wrote, with Nicholas Stoller directing. I’ll be meeting people like Jason, Russell Brand, Nicholas and female lead Kristen Bell for the first time, and I’ll be seeing some familiar faces like Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, and Shauna. I’ll be gone all week, and I’m sure it’s going to be a difficult, punishing trip...
... oh, wait, no it won’t. Because the film’s shooting in Hawaii, and the entire crew is based at the Turtle Bay Resorts, where much of the film’s action takes place. While I’m there, I’ve got a lot of stuff to finish, but I won’t be online at all. As a result, you won’t hear from me again until next weekend, by which point KNOCKED UP will already be open. Not only is the film great, but the Loudon Wainwright soundtrack is one of the best things I’ve listened to all year.
I’ll be back on Saturday with reviews of MR. BROOKS, also opening this coming weekend, and PAPRIKA, which is open now in NY and LA, but which will be rolling out wider in the weeks ahead. I’ve got an interview with Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio that you’ll be able to read when I get back, and I’m getting ready to start the DVD coverage back up, including a special month-long series to celebrate the 100th birthday of film icon John Wayne, whose birthday (May 26th) I shared this past weekend. I just finished a creative project that’s occupied much of my headspace for the last seven months, and now that we’re done, I’m ready to dig in and really sort through some of the great stuff that’s stacking up here on my desk. I think it’ll turn out to be worth the wait, and I look forward to getting into it as soon as I’m back in town.
Drew McWeeny, Los Angeles
Drew McWeeny, Los Angeles
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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May 28, 2007, 5:56 a.m. CST
actually read it... sounds like another winner from the apatow camp. one of my good friends works for him. said this one is gonna be great.
May 28, 2007, 5:57 a.m. CST
maybe a little pineapple express first though
May 28, 2007, 5:58 a.m. CST
by drew mcweeny
... shouldn't you wait twenty minutes, to make it more appropriate?
May 28, 2007, 6:44 a.m. CST
...where can I get a job where people send me marijuana plants? Oh yeah and what did you reckon on that lost finale?
May 28, 2007, 6:52 a.m. CST
can we come?
May 28, 2007, 7 a.m. CST
Whatever. I'm there. His movies kick me in the balls, and I think it feels good.
May 28, 2007, 7:22 a.m. CST
by Bronx Cheer
Of all the people working in film, in front or behind the camera, I always get the feeling from Seth Rogen that he is having the most fun of anyone. Have a great time in Hawaii, Mori. Great set report. Mahalo.
May 28, 2007, 7:37 a.m. CST
And have fun in Hawaii, take it easy!
May 28, 2007, 7:52 a.m. CST
it could be a story about amish people building a barn if it was written by seth and evan it's automatic solid gold.
May 28, 2007, 8:44 a.m. CST
"MARAWAMA"? What the heck are you teaching this little guy? (Keep it up, by the way.) Glad to hear that Franco's doing (intentional) comedy, that Perez takes a size-10 slipper in the taco, that Green is broadening his horizons and seemingly doing so with aplomb. As much as I'm looking forward to seeing the upcoming Rogen trilogy on the big screen, I'm even more eager to bring 'em home on disc and view them through a sweet, sticky THC haze. Nice work, Mori.
May 28, 2007, 8:48 a.m. CST
That "taking it in the taco" line was solely motivated by my love of alliteration. It was not meant as a slight against Ms Perez's ethnicity. Still don't think she's much of an actress, though. But feel free to prove me wrong, Rosie!
May 28, 2007, 9 a.m. CST
getting back on track again. Oh and Freaks and Geeks forever!!! Hee hee. I'm so stoked to see these two working together again. Now we just need Martin Starr to show up with Cardellini in a tight catsuit. <br> <br> Cant believe it's been 8 years since that show. Crazy. Where has the time gone?
May 28, 2007, 9:03 a.m. CST
"You know, an unapologetic meth comedy. A film that doesn’t just feature meth as a part of the movie... it would wallow in it. It would practically celebrate meth." Set the movie out in the woods, in an old trailer, littered with Sudafed and Nyquil.
May 28, 2007, 9:10 a.m. CST
Just curious, can he say "Dwugs" "Hayuhwin" "Cwack" or "Meth" yet? Does he like his onesies with the pot leaves decorating them?
May 28, 2007, 10:06 a.m. CST
Great writing as always, the movie sounds both really fun and interesting. I just wish you guys would improve on the visual aspect. I see they even have one little picture up at the "comingsoon" site. The only lame thing about this piece was trying to blame your mother in law for your son knowing that name.....
May 28, 2007, 11:05 a.m. CST
Nice write-up; this one had been under my radar so thx. :^)
May 28, 2007, 11:07 a.m. CST
The female cop that arrests Seth after selling pot to the kids is not Mo'nique. It's a hilarious actress by the name of Cleo King.
May 28, 2007, 11:22 a.m. CST
by Angry Mean Panda
Yeah, I find that to be highly believable. At an age when most kids are just learning the concept of what the fuck a plant is, your kid is correctly identifying pot. What the fuck ever.
May 28, 2007, 11:33 a.m. CST
Seth Rogen, James Franco and David Gordon Green all being in the same bar, let alone the same movie.
May 28, 2007, 11:33 a.m. CST
Where's your Ted Elliot/Terry Rossio interview. I've been really looking forward to it.
May 28, 2007, 11:57 a.m. CST
I don't often post here, but 1) this is a funny story, and 2) I think it's just classic that this page displayed with an ad for McDonalds.com/careers ("Be a manager!").
May 28, 2007, 1:21 p.m. CST
...but he doesn't write comedy, nor does he come across as funny in any of his articles? Unless, of course, Mori, you are Neil Cumpston, as rumored, which means you ARE funny but are afraid to embrace it? So make up your mind, Mr. 40, are you going to pursue comedy or just watch from the sidelines? I ask with love, buddy.
May 28, 2007, 1:37 p.m. CST
by Birdys Piano Teacher
Nice to see Franco coming back to his F & G family.
May 28, 2007, 2:13 p.m. CST
"Including, as I said, Rosie Perez being kicked in the pussy. And, really, isn't that worth your ten dollars all by itself?" _____ That's about as reprehensible a piece of writing as I've seen all day. And it wasn't even in the Talkbacks.
May 28, 2007, 2:24 p.m. CST
and both are realy great, with Jason Segal standing out on both fronts. REALLY glad to see Apatow and friends getting recognition now and becoming really popular, it's nice to see that making a great comedy, that was well received can open up a lot of doors for you. That's how it should be.
May 28, 2007, 3:11 p.m. CST
by Lenny Nero
Again, I'm glad that the PR agents for some of the indie films around LA really find ways to get you to spend some quality one-on-one time with some great, underappreciated directors. This was for "Undertow," and while I was about 20 minutes late (damn L.A. traffic) and David was on his way out, he was kind, courteous, film geeky in the best way and probably the best interview subject I've ever had. I know this is a bit of ass-kissery, but he really was inspirational to an aspiring filmmaker such as myself, one of the guys who lets you know that with enough savviness you too could make a movie.
May 28, 2007, 4:21 p.m. CST
by vroom socko
... <p> ... <p> Okay, this sounds like my kind of insane.
May 28, 2007, 4:53 p.m. CST
after sitting through 'white men can't jump' and 'fearless' my ears were bleeding so bad i wanted to give ol' rosie a swift wingtip to the vagina. Glad to see someone's stepping up to the plate.
May 28, 2007, 6:41 p.m. CST
not just because it is a great movie, and I flat out have an obsession with Zooey Deschanel, but also because it got me laid once last year! (you want to watch a movie? OK, bring one over, OK, I have one you probably haven't seen, etc. etc.) it was glorious. <p>and I've liked everything Green's done buuuuuuut, Terrence Malick? take me from A to B on that one, cos I'm not quite following...
May 28, 2007, 6:55 p.m. CST
by heywood jablomie
And this proves it. For a guy with pretensions, this is like "From the director of BADLANDS and DAYS OF HEAVEN comes...JOYSTICKS!!!"
May 28, 2007, 8:46 p.m. CST
Trends That Must Be Immediately Stopped, Part 463: Independent filmmakers who suddenly think they can do a 360 degree turn and make whacky comedies. See Lars von Trier, "The Boss of It All;" David Gordon Green, "Pineapple Express," etc.
May 28, 2007, 9:11 p.m. CST
by Angry Mean Panda
What the fuck does that prove? Nothing.
May 28, 2007, 10:08 p.m. CST
You're too much idiot for one man to be. You want every director to stick to their initial pattern forever? Have a little more hope for humanity.
May 29, 2007, 12:37 a.m. CST
by Lenny Nero
...that children repeat what they hear without understanding it. Got it now?
May 29, 2007, 3:11 a.m. CST
. Ebert compared him to young Marty Scorsese, and with good reason.
May 29, 2007, 4:59 a.m. CST
Well, Vanderhost, I'd have a lot more "faith in humanity" if people didn't call someone else an "idiot" after one inconsequential post, but I guess we do live in a strange, uptight society. Anyway, back to the topic: no, I don't have any problem with filmmakers stretching the bounds of what they can do. But when the current atmosphere is pushing dreck like the fifth-rate "National Lampoon's Vacation" rip-off "Little Miss Sunshine" as an award-winning "independent film," and suddenly we're told independent filmmakers with other celebrated talents are producing "buddy comedies" with car crashes and variations on the BBC and NBC "The Office," it makes me wonder if this is a step forward--where a lightbulb goes on over the filmmaker's head and they're genuinely inspired out-of-the-blue to make a quality comedy-- or a step backward-- where filmmakers are consciously or not reacting to the current crappy shape of what gets attention as an independent film and (particularly) what gets adequate distribution. Much of the stuff that's currently being called "independent film" is in such a bland and sorry shape-- not so much because of the lack of directors as to what gets picked up and actually reaches an audience-- that I'd rather see directors like Green--those who actually have the talent to do it-- produce work that shakes things up or give us something new, rather than exercises in varying tired forms you can already get in heaps on t.v. or at the Multiplex. Green's film might be good, but does that really restore my faith in humanity, or really more my faith in what movies currently get seen? I mean, I know it's heresy, but does the world need yet another buddy comedy, even if it were directed by the best director who ever lived, whoever that might be? Right now, I'd trade that hypothetical best-buddy-film-ever for a flawed, but unique and interesting idea-- comedy or not-- that didn't just vary an old formula and helped put the "independent" back into indpendent film.
May 29, 2007, 8:07 a.m. CST
You would like Maltin wouldn't you? Fag!
May 29, 2007, 8:07 a.m. CST
You would like Pauly Shore wouldn't you? FAG!
May 29, 2007, 9:44 a.m. CST
Is Moriarty Asian or is his wife or does he just want his kid to have a "special" name? I'm not criticizing, but that just seemed odd.
May 29, 2007, 10:16 a.m. CST
It involves her crotch but my foot is no where near the area. She's been in alot of comedies so maybe she's a Monty Python fan,Rosie, Sit on my face and tell me that you love me. Life can be devine while we're in the 69........ comedy gold aside I love me that Rican. Her tits are the only reason to watch White Men Can't Jump.
May 29, 2007, 11:19 a.m. CST
It's not mine man, it's for a movie review I'm working on...about pineapples...
May 29, 2007, 11:22 a.m. CST
Seriously, there hasn't been one completed project that these kids have done (FREAKS & GEEKS, UNDECLARED, 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN) that I haven't enjoyed immensely & every one of their future ventures (KNOCKED UP, SUPERBAD, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, & now FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL) I am anticipating w/ sheer glee.
May 29, 2007, 5:24 p.m. CST
What the hell is DGG thinking? She ruins everything she touches with her tired fat, sassy black woman schtick.
May 29, 2007, 6:30 p.m. CST
Moriarty's son is named "Toshiro Kenobi", as I recall, partly after Toshiro Mifune. Hence "Toshi".
May 29, 2007, 6:42 p.m. CST
by Lenny Nero
Toshiro Lucas McWeeney.
May 30, 2007, 12:39 a.m. CST
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