Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
I want to embark with you on the first of several reports I'll have over the next few weeks having to do with my visit to New Orleans last June to the set of THIS IS THE END, written and directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and based on the short film JAY AND SETH VS. THE APOCAPLYPSE, which might give you some idea of the magnitude of destruction this film contains. Let's revisit the original short that started fans wanting this movie so much…
For years, whenever Rogen was interviewed by any member of the geek press, inevitably the question of "When is JAY AND SETH VS. THE APOCALYPSE getting made?" What finally happened is Rogen and Goldberg put their heads together and build a very promising story about Jay Baruchel coming from Canada to visit his old pal Rogen in L.A. (in case you hadn't heard, every famous actor--and there are dozens of them--in this film is playing a variation of themselves using their own name and mixing in a bit of the public perception surrounding them).
Seth decides to take Jay to a celebrity bash at James Franco's house, where all hell breaks loose (thanks in large part to the biggest douche there: Michael Cera). But as the party goes on, all hell starts to break loose outside and the end of the world goes into full effect. I don't want to say too much about the nature or source of the destruction, but it's ugly. What eventually happens is a lot of partygoers die in the night, leaving Jay, Seth, Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, and Jonah Hill in the house trying to figure out what to do next. The film promises to be bloody, funny and loaded with end of the world special effects.
Our visit to New Orleans (subbing for L.A.) took place on Day 35 of the 50-day shoot. The soundstage we were led into was an old warehouse where coffee beans were once stored. It was a hot day in the Big Easy, so in between takes a powerful (and quite loud) air conditioner was turned on to keep things bearable. But they had to be shut off during shooting. The enclosed set was the inside of Franco's house, whose decorations might be one of the funniest things in the movie (more on that later). Since we couldn't see inside the house set, we were escorted to a video village to watch the current scene, which has all six men around a table drawing matches to see who would venture outside the house to get fresh water.
The shot is basically a camera in the middle of a table going around and getting the reaction of each character when Franco asks, "Who want to draw first?" They go through the scene several times, each time with the actors saying variations of the same lines, or sometimes just making funnier stuff up. As we watch and listen to the scene, I started to notice little things. Robinson's shirt says "Take Your Panties Off!!!" in big letters; lights shining through the windows make it appear that the world outside is ablaze.
I won't say who draws the burnt match, but the reactions from the other guys is priceless. "That sucks, dude," "You're the toughest," "We're with you! Well, not with you…you'll be alone." When the poor guys with the burnt match says, "Best two out of three?", no one agrees to which one of the more fortunate characters ad libs, "I'd be down with it, but they don't want to." And everyone breaks down laughing. Maybe they do decide to do best 2 out of 3, because at one point someone ad libbed, "Meat Loaf was wrong--two out of three is bad."
More close ups are done of people reaction to the match drawing and the improv never stops. McBride is practically praying when he draws as someone whispers to him, "Pick the second one." "Fuck you." When someone is spared, the simply say, "Thanks Jesus." Two character get into a yelling match about the person that picked the burnt match: "Now he's going to die." "Now he's going to get his head ripped off." Before the drawing begins, Hill gives his reason for not simply volunteering to go outside: "I would go out, but I'm a light-skinned dude, and it's really light outside." Rogen: "Jonah is the most reflective of all of us."
The next set up involves the scene right before the drawing of the match, during which Rogen suggests that whoever pulls the burnt match has to get water. The entire shot is of Rogen face (I noticed at this point he has a bloody bit of tissue up his nose) as he attempts to light a match. At one point, a dog starts barking off camera but loud enough to be heard, to which Rogen yells, "That's my dog! Stop her!" As much as a shot may break down because of laughing and giggle fits (often by Hill and Rogen) or dog barking, there were funny moments when distant music could be heard or a phone went off or someone launched into fits of the loudest snoring I've every heard.
At various points during the day, we spoke to all six principles (Goldberg was paired with Rogen, as it should be). If I'm not mistaken, Jay Baruchel wasn't the first actor brought over to our group (I think he was the second, after Danny McBride), but he was the person that talked most about the connection between the short and the feature I'm not sure the order matters, but I'll try to keep it as it was that day of many laughs, which included a look at a ton of raw footage and a tour of "James Franco's house" (he made it clear he does not own a house in L.A.). The film is set for release June 12, and I'll have all of the interviews posted between now and then. Please enjoy Jay Baruchel, who spent much of his downtime reading, and was rarely without a book in his hand or nearby…
Question: What are you reading? Anything good?
Jay Baruchel: I think it’s good. Book 2 of a 12-book series, the Necroscope series, by Brian Lumley.
Q: Sounds intense.
JB: It’s my bag. It’s vampires and psychics and spies and all sorts of crazy nonsense.
Q: We’ll ask you the same questions, we just asked Danny, and it’ll be like “The Newlywed Game;” we’ll see if you give the same answers. This was originally going to be “JAY AND SETH VS. THE APOCAPLPSE, so you knew about this a long time ago. When was the first time you read the script and knew what was going to happen?
JB: In this? In the feature incarnation of it? I probably read the first draft of it last spring, about a year ago, yeah. And it’s been six, seven years that I’ve been waiting for this thing to finally get going, and I’m still blown away that people think our little short can be a movie. So it’s pretty neat to see it come to fruition.
Q: How did whole thing begin? How did the short happen?
JB: The short happened because a friend of ours named Jason Stone, who is over there at video village. He was graduating from USC and he wanted a calling card for potential directing gigs. So he and Evan came up with this silly idea of me and Seth being stuck in an apartment together and just bitching at each other. So we went to USC and shot for two days on this awesome set that these kids built and, yeah, that was it.
Q: Was there ever a point when the feature version was just going to be the two of you or was it always going to be more people?
JB: Oh, I have no idea. I think maybe at the very beginning, but I think that would have limited the scope of the thing and the voices that could be in it. I think just him and I made sense for seven minutes or a trailer, but for a whole movie people would probably get sick of just the two of us.
Q: Just getting ready for you to be killed off.
JB: That’s exactly right and that’s the last thing we want. Yeah, the two of us in a house for two hours is not nearly as entertaining as however many of us there are… five? Six? Six!
Q: I can imagine you and Seth Rogen and James Franco together, but what was Rihanna doing in that meeting? She’s in one of the scenes, right?
JB: Yeah, she comes as a guest to the party. There’s a lot of famous people at the party. There’s a party at Franco’s house that starts it off, and she’s just one of the guests.
Q: Does she meet a grisly death? Danny was telling us about some grisly deaths.
JB: Why would you think I would give that away? [laughs]
Q: I know you’re a horror fan, so have you been excited when they were shooting all of the horror elements? Have you been here the whole time, even when you don’t have to shoot?
JB: Especially because some of the people involved are KNB, and I’ve been a fan of all the shit that they’ve worked on. I was a big Fangoria kid all through high school; I still am a Fangoria guy and I’m well versed in their resumes--I’ve seen WISHMASTER even. So yeah, it’s the best when I get to see all sorts of arterial spray and all sorts of gross shit. Yeah, I’m a kid in the candy store.
Q: Have you been covered in any of their [makeup] yet?
JB: I’m not saying anything.
Q: Danny says you play heightened versions of yourselves.
Q: How close would you say you’re sticking to "Jay"? Are you playing a douchier version of yourself?
JB: Yeah, we all are kind of. I think they take the aspects of our personalities that are most conducive to punchlines and story arcs and exacerbate them; it’s a tightrope. There’s definitely some stuff I do or say in this movie that real Jay wouldn’t do or say. It’s strange. We are ourselves and we’re not. It’s kind of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”-ish in that respect.
Q: Is it hard to present yourself as yourself and have a different of yourself?
JB: I mean, it’s weird. I come up against conscience issues, like “Wait a second! How did I get here?” I’m Jay in name, but for example, one of the things we decided, because I’m getting married in September—Seth is married and Danny is married—but none of us have any significant others in this, because we just thought that would be entirely too much to explain, and who the hell really cares? Nobody cares that I’m getting married [laughs]. So yeah, it’s weird little things like that; it’s a bit of a tightrope and it’s definitely easier playing myself because I get to say whatever I’d say for the most part.
Q: What is the worst of yourself that comes out under this intense pressure of the end of the world?
JB: Well, without giving too much away, they definitely pounced on the self-righteous, holier-than-thou aspects of me. So there’s a lot of preaching in this.
Q: In terms of authorship, you guys have all come to the point where you’re being responsible for your own films. GOON last year was something you were heavily involved in getting made and writing, and it feels like you’re getting more personal in what you’re doing. Is that something that you feel on this film is an expression of the Seth and Evan you’ve known for a long time and you’re seeing more of them in what they’re doing?
JB: Yeah. Not in the sense of how Seth is playing himself per sé, but in the sense of the themes of the movie and the arcs and what they want to show the world. This flick is their voice, 150 percent. It’s obviously a collaboration—that’s not just lip service; they encourage it. You guys will see. They foster that atmosphere. That being said, this is Seth and Evan effectively given a blank slate to do whatever they want with. I won’t go so far as to say carte blanche but damn near close, as close as they’ve come so far. As a friend and a fan of theirs, that’s kind of exciting.
Q: I’m sure a lot of people assume that you’re a lot like the characters you play, but how difficult is it to play a person that is yourself without making them assume this is you?
JB: At this point, who the fuck cares? Like people will infer what they infer, I’ve learned that a long time ago, and if I got worried about people assuming I’m like the characters I play I probably would have quit 10 years ago. In those rare moments when I’m faced with that, I just remind myself that less than a quarter of actors can feed themselves from acting, and I’ve been able to have a career doing that for 18 years, so that trumps any of that stereotyping issue.
Q: Is there any reference to any of the other movies you’ve guys done? Do you throw out names of movies you’ve done?
JB: Oh, yeah, definitely. There’s a lot of shitting on each other’s work in this movie. [everyone laughs] Indeed, indeed, a fair bit, yeah.
Q: When you make a film with all of your friends, does the line between work and play get blurred? Does someone have to reel you guys in at times?
JB: Probably, yeah. It can probably get a bit too colloquial sometimes, but I’d be lying if I said I really want to work for strangers. Sometimes you have to I guess, and that’s part and parcel to doing any job, but anybody would prefer to work with people they’ve known a long time.
Q: Do you have input into your costumes, since you’re playing yourselves? Are you wearing what you would normally wear?
JB: I’m wearing the studio-approved version of what I would wear. [laughs]
Q: That’s fair. It’s close enough.
JB: It’s close enough. Yeah, exactly. Close enough.
Q: It looks like a Spider-Man t-shirt [which is obscured by a button-down shirt over it].
JB: No, it’s Zombie vs. Shark.
Q: With regards to shitting on each other’s work, has anyone said, “You can’t shit on a Sony movie?”
JB: Oh, no. Surprisingly not at all, no. Nothing seems to be sacred here. We’re just blaspheming constantly. Not at all. The sky’s the limit. The only concern with that stuff is, for my money, the average working-class person that buys tickets probably couldn’t care less about shit like that, so as long as it’s funny. Nobody goes to the movies to see a movie about people talking about movies, so aside from that, no, we’ve been able to say whatever we want. [Jay is called back to set]. Thank you, guys. Have a nice day.
-- Steve Prokopy
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