Now that we can safely look back on the 2012 non-apocalypse from the comfort of 2013, directors Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen are ready to deliver a humorous look at what could have been – from the perspective of a not-so-down to earth group of Hollywood stars. Based on the 2007 short film, Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse, Goldberg and Rogen have been hard at work on a feature length take on the story – chock-full of celebrity cameos, CGI effects, and outrageous comedy moments.
However, long before the official titling of This is the End, and six months before the impending Mayan apocalypse, we attended a set visit event when “The End of the World” was still shooting outside of New Orleans. The filmmakers had built a near-to-full size house interior on a Louisiana sound-stage, where a majority of the film would take place – since, as Rogen claimed, “It’s literally cheaper to construct Melrose in a parking lot here than to film on actual Melrose.”
That said, with other competing “end of the world” movies already out (Steve Carell’s Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) or set for a 2013 release (Simon Pegg’s The World’s End), expectations for Goldberg and Rogen’s film are running high – especially since they’ve been extremely tight-lipped about the supernatural creatures and events that will claim the lives of so many Hollywood stars in This is the End.
If you haven’t seen it yet (or want to watch the insanity again), check out the Red-Band trailer for This is the End below:
Leading up to This is the End‘s June 12, 2013 release, we’ll be posting individual interviews with the film’s cast and crew, including: directors Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen as well as stars James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, and Craig Robinson. Stay tuned for those but, in addition to roundtable interviews with the filmmakers and cast, we toured the main This is the End set – aka James Franco’s fictional Hollywood home. Aside from scattered scenes outside of the house in the film’s first and third act, most of This is the End occurs inside the Franco’s place – as the group of friends attempt to wait-out the supernatural occurrences tearing Los Angeles (and possibly the world) apart.
We toured the halls of the fake Franco abode – which was beginning to show signs of post-apocalyptic wear and tear. As seen in the early moments of the trailer, the posh living room is a fitting spot to party with Hollywood elites: spacious modern architecture and lavish furnishings – complete with expensive paintings, film one-sheet posters, and abstract sculptures. However, after an enormous sinkhole opens up – complete with nondescript creatures (who kill-off a number of Hollywood stars), the guys barricade themselves inside the house, smashing-up Franco’s art collection, tools, toys, and other decorations in an effort to secure the home from intruders.
At the time of our visit, the house was a mess – skateboards and splintered works of art haphazardly nailed or duct-taped over windows and doors. It was a fitting visual since, at that point in the film, the group is holed up with no intention of leaving – until they run out of food and water. Inside the New Orleans sound stage, the actors spent a significant portion of the day shooting a “short straw” scene – drawing matches to see who would have to venture out for bottled water. We won’t spoil which of the cast members is charged with stepping into the wilds of burning L.A. – but will say that a follow-up sequence plays humorous homage to the rope scene in Frank Darabont’s The Mist.
While Judd Apatow is not directly involved with This is the End, his influence is apparent – as a number of his frequent collaborators are working in front of and behind the cameras. As a result, dialogue is highly improvisational. The guys start with core plot details and test out new one-liners with each take – building on jokes that are especially funny as they flesh out the placeholder script with memorable dialogue and actions.
Speaking about their filmmaking process, Rogen gave credit to the cast and explained why adherence to a script is less important than on-set spontaneity.
Rogen: I mean, we have a script, yeah. I’m sure we got a take of it here and there but it’s so silly to have all these guys in a movie together and not let them riff-off each other. You know, that was always our plan. It’s not that different then from capturing stunts at times. We put as many cameras on it as we can and we hope something f***ing awesome is going to happen – and that is kind of what it’s like. So it would be silly for us to be too, strict with the lines because these guys – most of them are movie writers in their own rights. So it’s silly to not get their ideas.
[Usually] the director won’t just suddenly say like, “Throw out all the f***ing lines go crazy!” But since we’re both [director and writer], we can do that, which is nice and there have been some scenes that we’ve done one take of and it’s like “This isn’t right” and we’ll literally, completely, re-write all of it in a few minutes. Or we’ll just improvise for an hour and see if something better comes up and it usually does and then we’ll just go with that version.
In This is the End, the actors aren’t just playing Hollywood celebrities, they’re playing exaggerated versions of themselves. Each one has an embellished function in the story (i.e. Emma Watson’s nose-cracking cameo) but cast members still pull from real-life as well – even ripping on their own failed movies and personal tabloid disasters. For example, Jay Baruchel serves the part of Hollywood outsider (making the shenanigans a bit more accessible for everyday moviegoers) – an element that stems from his actual disinterest in Los Angeles living.
Addressing the challenge of actors playing themselves – and how they used their friends to flesh-out the details of the story, Goldberg and Rogen said:
Goldberg: We definitely started off with everyone being full-blown assholes and then realized that it was too silly and we kind of give them each more realistic characters.
Rogen: Gave them different type of assholes! [Laughing]
Goldberg: Strengths and weaknesses.
Rogen: But not everyone is an asshole. I mean Jonah. Different people have different shades in the movie. I don’t think any of these guys are really playing themselves in any real way, but I think every character is rounded to some degree within the reality of the movie. I wouldn’t say, it’s necessarily like any of us, but everyone has their own little part to the story.
In spite of the numerous celebrity cameos, the real star of the film is the apocalypse – which, based on sizzle reel footage that we saw on set (along with a few added shots in the now released trailers) includes a head-scratching combination of extraterrestrial-inspired abduction rays, four legged abominations, and an ominous lava-filled hole in the Earth. Anyone following the film knows the apocalypse isn’t just window-dressing either and that the group isn’t just tasked with scavenging for supplies – they also come face to face with the true horror of the situation (along with a few monsters).
Nevertheless, the co-directors wanted to save a few details for opening day and were intentionally evasive about exactly what kind of threats the group faces outside:
Goldberg: I’m not really enlightening people as to exactly how that goes down, or what happens. It’s just the “End of the World.” [Laughing]
Rogen: Be nice to try to have some mystery. Other people seem to do it well.
Screen Rant: You have some kind of creature in there though, right? Because we saw that in the sizzle reel.
Rogen: You saw some creatures? Who knows if that’s a place-holder creature or what? Jay could be a demon this whole movie.
We didn’t get to see uncover the full mystery behind the creatures and supernatural evildoers that cause the apocalypse in This is the End, but the filmmakers promise answers in the final movie. That said, we’re pretty sure it’s not caused by rioting Laker fans.
In the mean time, a few fun facts about This is the End:
- Rogen and Goldberg looked to films like Chronicle and Cloverfield when planning their approach to visual effects: affordable but high-quality.
- The phrase “More Blood” is heard often on set.
- The co-directors gauged interest from all the principle actors before starting to write the movie.
- No one that was sought for a celebrity cameo turned down a part based on content – only scheduling conflicts.
- Franco and Baruchel were both reading during breaks – This Is Not a Novel by David Markson and the Necroscope series by Brian Lumley, respectively.
- Baruchel described the balance between his “character” and real-life as “Curb Your Enthusiasm”-ish.
- Despite the set-up for the film, the real James Franco doesn’t like houses. He lives in a small apartment in the Lower East Side, NYC – and does not throw star-studded parties.
- Craig Robinson’s towel is an inside joke. He owns custom G in real-life.
- More than one cast member said that, comparatively, Danny McBride’s character is the closest to real-life.
- Jonah got the idea to wear a diamond-studded earring after having dinner with an actor friend that wears diamond studs.
- When it came to poking fun at each other and their careers, nothing was off limits to the cast.
- Franco spent two days working with artist Josh Smith, helping to paint pieces of the movie-themed art used on set – including a Pineapple Express and Freaks and Geeks painting.
- Producers could not clear the original Apocalypse title because Fox owns it and would not give it up.
- At the time of the set visit, over an hour of the film was already cut together and ready for testing.
- New Orleans tax credits made recreating portions of L.A. less expensive than actually shooting in L.A.
- If there were ever disagreements between Rogen and Goldberg on set, they’d shoot both versions – and the decide which one to use later on.
- The original short film was a favor to Jason Stone – who was graduating from USC and wanted a calling card for potential directing jobs.
- Last up, just for giggles, check out the original Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse short film trailer.
Based on our time on set, This is the End could easily be a major box office hit this summer – as counter-programming to all of the gritty superhero and sci-fi action films set to hit theaters. Rogen and Goldberg have positioned their end of the world movie as a smart marriage of outrageous storytelling and Apatow-like improvisational comedy (that made the cast household names in films like Knocked Up and Pineapple Express). It’s easy to imagine the most memorable moments, the ones that Rogen referred to as “f***ing awesome,” will have come from the generative and spontaneous approach to humor that was evident on set. Of course, a star-studded cast of supporting cameo players (that die horrible deaths) certainly won’t hurt the film’s chances.
Check back here at Screen Rant for more on This is the End. As mentioned, we’ll be publishing a series of interviews with the cast and filmmakers in the coming weeks leading up to the film’s release. However, if you’re eager for more This is the End info right now, make sure to check out our This is the End news archive – which includes the following featured articles along with much more:
- ‘This Is the End’ Red & Green Band Trailers: Celebrities Die by the Dozen
- ‘This Is the End’ Red Band Teaser Trailer: Raunchy Comedy Stars Take on the Apocalypse
This is the End releases on June 12, 2013.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more on This is the End as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.