Day 6: The Beginning of the End
How a ridiculous conversation developed into this year's funniest blockbuster.
Inspired by This Is the End – where five of Hollywood’s A-List comedy faces, Danny McBride, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson, wake up to find themselves high and dry with a front seat to the end of the world – VICE is spending a whole week exploring the hilarious side of the Apocalypse. If this is the end, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom.
Weed makes conversations better. Or at least it convinces stoned people that the conversations they're having are better, which is why a lot of us sit around for hours talking about weird shit, like whether we’d rather have sex with the entire population of London or get pissed on by the entire population of Japan. Or what it would be like if Obama was your dad.
For Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the idea for This is the End (at cinemas now) came from a conversation about weird shit, too. Apparently, Rogen wondered aloud what would happen if he and Busta Rhymes were directing a music video and “ant-men from the centre of the Earth attacked”. I can’t imagine how they could possibly have arrived at that particular topic, but it’s safe to say they must have been in a pretty creative mood.
That conversation would later prove to be the beginning for Goldberg and Rogen. Before it became a full-length film with face-melting CGI and an A-list of Hollywood’s funniest actors, the conversation first developed into a short: Jay Baruchel and Rogen Vs the Apocalypse. I guess from then on, it's not that hard to bump things up to: “What if me, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson were trapped in a mansion while the world ended around us?”
This got me thinking. I have hilarious conversations with my friends all the time when we’re high. Why don’t they ever turn into high budget blockbusters? Is it just that I've been unlucky in life? Or is it because Rogen and Goldberg are two of the best comedy directors working today while I come up with premises like "Edward Blunt-hands"?
I think it must all be down to one thing: group dynamic. It’s pretty obvious when you watch the film that a lot of it (like the entire Milky Way fight scene) is improvised. The Rogen generation of American comedians make funny look easy because their stories revolve around a group of guys, who are probably hilarious around each other off-screen too. These guys let the script guide them from beat to beat, but otherwise just follow their natural comedic timings.
The B-roll is full of conversations between Rogen and Goldberg that prove they aren’t sticklers for the script. “I feel like there’s nothing in the drink-spilling,” Goldberg said at one point, on set. “Yeah just cut it,” Rogen responded, without the kind of espresso-induced hissy fit you’d expect from a Hollywood director. In This Is the End, you can sense that transition from highly tangential post-bong conversation (“Dude, what if Jonah Hill got raped by an incubus and we had to perform an emergency exorcism on him?”) to professionally executed scene. (A demon-voiced Hill laughs at a crucifix-wielding Baruchel: “Oh does it? Does it compel me? Is the power of Christ compelling me – is that what’s happening? Guess what? It’s not that compelling.”)
On-screen and off-screen, Rogen is the same person. He makes you feel at ease with the characteristic “hurhurhurhur” laugh that we get to hear so often in the film, and in general just exudes an aura of chillness. He’s how I imagine the Dalai Llama would be, if the Dalai Llama grew up in Boulder.
The rest of the guys aren’t afraid to laugh at themselves either; like when McBride says, “James Franco didn’t suck any dick last night? Now I know y’all are tripping.” Rumours about Franco’s sexuality come from all those gay sex scenes he’s been in – or maybe it’s just wishful thinking because (I don’t know if anyone noticed this) but holy shit, he’s sexy. The internet is filled with tiresome debates about whether he fellated a real (or prop) penis in The Broken Tower, and I have to admit: I was a little disappointed when it turned out it was just a rubber dildo. Does that make me gay? No, it’s James Franco. Is it weird that I keep a picture of him next to my bed? You and my girlfriend should both just shut up about it already.
Anyway, it’s crazy to think that a ridiculous conversation can snowball into something as fantastic as This is the End. Without that group dynamic, such an outlandish idea would have never come about, and being able to imagine Rogen & co. laughing it up behind the scenes is one reason the movie is so successful. I hope it works out the same for "Edward Blunt-hands".
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At Cinemas Now