Continuing with the second of several reports I'll have over the next few weeks concerning 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. A couple weeks ago, I began with a look at one sequence being shot inside a set meant to be James Franco's Hollywood home, and I included This Interview with Jay Baruchel. Today, I'll talk about another scene that we saw shot, and conclude with an interview with the great Danny McBride, playing a version of himself that is somewhat arrogant, pompous, and front-loaded with asshole-like qualities. It's truly one of the great acting stretches in McBride's career.
I'd tried not to have any spoilers in the last scene description, but with this scene, that's pretty much impossible, so cover your eyes if you don't want any spoilers (from what I hear, this isn't as much of a spoiler as it may seem at first). The sequence follows the previous one we saw shot where the six players (Rogen, McBride, Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, and Craig Robinson) are drawing matches to see who has to leave Franco's home and head out into a the world outside that appears to have slipped into the Apocalypse, with flames burning everything and monsters flying about.
I don't want to say who wins the matchstick roulette, but in this scene Robinson has a rope around his waist as the rest of the guys hold on tight as he goes out the front door. For the first time, I notice that Franco is wearing a douchy track suit. The guys let the rope slowly go as Robinson creeps outside, and then suddenly it gets yanked out of their hands, giving some of them rope burns in the process. On the second take, the rope is pulled even faster out of their hands and disappears out the door. But it's their reactions that make the scene. We can hear Craig outside the door screaming, "Pull me back!" to which they respond, "We don't have the rope! Sorry Craig!" Rogen pulls an aside: "We totally fucked Craig." All the while, Hill is pre-occupied about his stinging rope burns.
On the third take, after Robinson begs to be pulled back in, Baruchel ad libs "You're tethered to us emotionally!" Someone else says, "I don't think Craig can move that fast." Franco adds, "It felt like he hopped on a rhino." Naturally McBride concludes: "Maybe we should close the door and consider him dead." I actually have no idea how much of this actually will make it into the final film, but the outtakes will be plentiful.
At this point, we're actually led into the house set. We haven't been able to see any of the rooms from out vantage point, but when we get into the main living room, it's kind of trashed--partly from the party that happens in the story the night before and partly because of what's going on outside. This version of Franco has original Shepard Fairey artwork on the walls, as well as paintings that Franco actually did himself, depicting representations of his career highlights, including painting of cast members of "Freaks & Geeks" and PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, as well as a pot leaf painting that says "Seth Rogen" on it. There's a coffee table nearby with oversized books with titles like "Big Butt Book," "Big Book of Pussy," and "Big Book of Breasts." Seems right. Some of the pillars in the room are cracked as if an earthquake has just hit.
Off by the front door from the scene, Robinson's stuntman is rehearsing getting yanking out the door by the rope, and it looks painful from the force of the yank. Craig returns with the rope on him and he repeats the line "There's something out there!" before getting yanked himself. More later, including a look at some edited scenes and a lengthy sizzle reel that reveals just how many cameos there really are in this movie.
In between takes, we had the cast members brought to us for quick interviews. Next up is Danny McBride. Enjoy…
Question: So who’s this “Danny McBride" guy you play?
Danny McBride: Well, I’m playing myself, so I’m an international superstar playboy extraordinaire. Yeah, I guess we're all playing heightened versions of ourselves.
Question: How do you prepare for something like that?
DM: These guys did a really good job of constructing these characters enough where you can kind of see the angles that they want you to explore. This movie doesn’t take a ton of preparation, I won’t lie. [Laughs]
Question: They all have been working on this for a while developing the script. What was your first reaction when you read the script and you read what they wrote for you?
DM: It’s insane. The script is absolutely nuts. It’s just another one of those movies where you get it, and you’re just pleased that someone is willing to pay money for something so insane, you know? It’s unlike anything that I’ve seen before or worked on before.
Question: How’s the dynamic now with Seth and Evan directing, really being the guys calling the shots in this movie?
DM: They’ve transitioned into it just flawlessly; it’s been super easy. All of these guys, from Jay to Franco to Craig, everyone has worked with these guys before, and they know the routine and how much improv is involved. So yeah, it’s just easy. You’re just in the scene and if you’re on a good run, Seth and Evan will encourage you to keep going or throw things your way if you’re going down the wrong path. It’s actually been very easy working with them as directors.
Question: It seems like they set the table really well for you, in terms of knowing your strengths already.
DM: Exactly. They know what you’re capable of and with that they know what they want to see from you that they haven’t seen form you before as well.
Question: When you say “heightened” versions of yourselves, do you mean “more terrible”? It seems like you’re all not good people.
DM: Some of us are good. Like Jonah’s character, for instance, is very nice. He’s extremely nice, and so they're variations on us and playing into the celebrity a little bit of each person. So they’re not necessarily terrible versions of us, but we are in very desperate situations, so sometimes the worst comes out of people.
Question: We noticed when we watched the scene that you guys are ad-libbing a lot and going off page, but when you have six of you going at once, is it really hard to get the ad-libs in and get things in without stepping on each other's jokes?
DM: It’s one of those things where you really have to be really paying attention to what’s happening in a scene. You’ve got to be able to feel those rhythms of when someone is going for a run, you’ve got to be able to step back and let them do it. It does become that game where you don’t want it to be like every single person is just trying to fill every blank space with a joke. I think all of these guys have been really good about that, and you can sense when it’s somebody’s turn to do something.
Question: How does the heightened version of you handle what’s going on outside?
DM: My character has a lot of disbelief, but then it becomes a survival movie. I would say that if this were like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, I’m the dude that’s definitely causing trouble and freaking out and wanting to make a lot of the wrong choices in the situation.
Question: Obviously when you’re dealing with the end of the world, things can get crazy and gory. Are you guys really going for that in terms of violence and the kinds of scares and things are built in?
DM: Yeah, it’s insanely violent. I’ve seen a lot of celebrities die very grisly deaths on this film, yeah.
Question: Who has the grisliest death? Can you tell us?
DM: That…you know what? It’s a great question, because everyone definitely… A lot of people in this movie meet an end that I would not wish on anyone. I don’t think I would choose one over the other, from people having their faces ripped off to arms ripped off to terrible things being put inside of them. It’s just that, yeah. [laughs]
Question: Where does this movie start off? Is there a reason why you guys are all together?
DM: This set that you’re on is supposed to be Franco’s house that he just built himself, he designed it himself. So this is set at his housewarming party.
Question: So we can assume all of the other guests have died terrible deaths?
DM: There was a little bit of a catastrophe, and some people ran, and some people weren’t so lucky, and some people stayed in the house. I don’t want to ruin anything for you guys.
Question: So the people that are left behind are bad or good?
DM: It’s not clear what sort of Apocalypse this is, you know. There are a lot of theories. Some say it might be the Chinese, some think it could be a series of well-timed earthquakes and wildfires. Yeah, it’s not 100 percent clear to us in the house what exact sort of Apocalypse we are facing.
Question: Do bath salts come up at all?
DM: Just when we work the night shoots. When we work the night shoots, the crew is on bath salts.They destroy the crafts service table.
Question: I understand this mainly takes place in the house. So when somebody goes outside, do we see that?
DM: A large portion of it takes place here, which is one of the things I really dug about it. I liked the idea that it was one of those old NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, where most of the survival is about the dynamic between the people who are stuck in the situation trying to figure out what’s going on, and it sort of paints this horrible picture outside. But we do go outside in it, so yeah you definitely see what’s happened to Los Angeles, for sure.
Question: Is there a bit of claustrophobic, cabin fever-inspired fun?
DM: For sure. You have a bunch of people in there that are supposed to be friends, and as time wears on, those bonds quickly break, and it just becomes every man for himself.
Question: In terms of playing heightened versions of yourselves, who would you say is the furthest from the real version of themselves?
DM: [Jay Baruchel is nearby] Jay, who do you think is the furthest from themselves? Jay is. Jay is the furthest from himself.
DM: You’re the furthest from yourself in this, right?
Jay: Sure, that’s my answer.
DM: Yeah, it’s hard to tell. Everybody is definitely portrayed in a way that is a little more grotesque than they normally are. Seth, oddly enough, doesn’t really have any negative attributes in this movie.[(Laughs] He comes off as courageous, bold. How did that happen? I’m not sure.
Question: How have Seth and Evan been dividing the directing?
DM: Yeah, it’s hand in hand; Seth will be in the scene and he'll yell stuff, and sometimes Evan is behind the monitors, and he can see things that we maybe can’t see in the midst of the scene. So yeah, we get direction from both of them fairly even.
Question: You’re saying how you can’t really see how anyone would put up a lot of money for this, but you’ve done a lot of that kind of stuff.
DM: Those are the kind of movies I like. [Laughs]
Question: What’s the secret to getting up there and being insane?
DM: You have to prep the movie very fast and just get them spending money before they know what they are doing. [Laughs]
Question: What is it about the Apocalypse that yields such comedic gold?
DM: I just think it’s not a scenario that you usually associate with comedy, and so I think it’s ripe. A lot of these situations that our characters are up against are things you would see if this was like 2012 or one of those disaster films, but it’s just a bunch of idiots dealing with it, so there’s a lot of new ground for comedy there.
Question: Now in terms of them writing this, they had to hope they were getting everybody or did they come to you ahead of time and say, “You're doing this. This is what we want to do. Are you in, so we can put you in it?”
DM: I had heard about this a few years ago they talked about it, and then finally they just said they had finished the script last year and they sent it to me, and I thought it was great and then they were fishing around for when was a window of time when everybody would be available, and this kind of was the time period when everybody was going to… somehow the continents shifted, and everyone could take off for these three months just to come here and have fun. Yeah, but it’s been cool. It’s been definitely a good time in New Orleans and it’s been fun to work with all of these guys again, for sure. It’s been awesome.
Question: Have you guys been able to enjoy the city?
DM: Yes, big time. This is a great city to shoot in. We love it down here.
Question: Was there any part of it that was L.A. for any of the establishing stuff?
DM: I don’t know if they’re getting plate shots of L.A., but I’ve seen the stuff that’s supposed to take place in Los Angeles of what they have done here, and they rebuilt Melrose Ave., and it looks awesome. It looks like Los Angeles. It’s great, and they’ve done a really good job.
Question: Can the six of you actually walk down Bourbon Street? Or is it just chaos?
DM: It depends on what time of the night it is. I was telling these guys, I went down to Bourbon Street when I first got here and was just like cruising around, and I had gotten pretty deep in and I felt like I was in "The Walking Dead," where it’s like one drunk guy who sensed I was there and then another, and it was like “Fucking keep moving!” [Laughs] "Pretend like you're one of them."
Question: Four of you were in PINEAPPLE EXPRESS. So have the four of you actually been in the same room together, other than the junket, since then?
DM: I’m trying to think of when we have all been in the same room together. Independently, we have all been together, but yeah, this is union hasn’t happened. I think my wedding was the last time all four of us were together, yeah, in a swimming pool filled with piss. [Everybody laughs]
Question: Since you're playing yourself, I would assume that you take more ownership over the character than usual. When you were reading the script, was there anything where you’re like “I wouldn’t do this”?
DM: No, it’s just funny, when you read it and you read the fate of your character, you invest a little more, like “Really? This is what happens of me? This is what these guys think of me?” Then you realize everybody gets shit on. [Laughs] Cool. Thank you, guys. It was good to see you guys.