Set Visit: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg talk Green Hornet!
He wears a little green mask and a dapper outfit. He's got a sidekick named Kato and a car named Black Beauty. How could Seth Rogen not play the Green Hornet? I got a chance to visit the set in Los Angeles and chat with Rogen and co-writer Evan Goldberg, which was like watching great stand up. They told us a bit about how the project came about, Rogen's fancy costumes, having Oscar nominee Christoph Waltz as the bad guy and casting Jay Chou as Kato. It's not your usual superhero/sidekick relationship. (By the way, we got to talk to Chou. His English is pretty broken so we can't really bring you the interview, but he was incredibly charming, even telling us jokes. Can't wait to see what this guys does!)
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg
So can you talk about the genesis of your take on the GREEN HORNET? Were you always GREEN HORNET fans? Was this something that you guys came across later on?
Evan Goldberg: Yeah, we both have always been GREEN HORNET fans. We all watched the show and read a couple of the comics and, you know, watched the old serials.
Seth Rogen: But I wouldnít say like we would sit around and be like ďmaybe one day weíll make a GREEN HORNET movie.Ē That was not howÖ
EG: Yeah, I watched it with BATMAN in the hour stretch of television. But it was just the appeal of a giant action movie about a sidekick dynamic, really.
SR: Exactly. To us, this was more like a format to make a movie weíve always wanted to make. And this is what would let a studio give us enough money basically to do it in a way we would want to do it, you know?
EG: And itís a cool name and cool costumes.
SR: Itís a cool nameÖand there are several things about it that are wonderful. And several things that are somewhat not very thought through and I feel like we addressed those things well.
EG: Of a different era.
SR: Exactly. Of a different era. Thatís a good way of putting it.
Like your wardrobe.
SR: Yeah, exactly. The vest, itís nice.
I mean no oneís wearing this around now.
EG: Oh, they will be.
SR: Oh, they will after this. (laughter)
Itís what Prince is to purple.
SR: Exactly. Itís a Prince vibe. It has a Prince thing to it. I mean itís a costume. We make no illusions of the fact that this is a costume.
Is everybody getting Hornet cufflinks for the wrap party?
SR: No, not everyone. Britt Reid is a very good dresser though. That I can tell you. The devilís in the details when it comes to that.
Is there a mask?
SR: There is a mask, yeah. Yeah, it looks very similar to the original GREEN HORNET mask. We decided to wear masks in the movie. Yeah, we go for the mask.
So now Silent Jay (Chou), we hear he doesnít say much but what he says is cool?
SR: He talks.
EG: He talks more than youíre thinking probably.
SR: Yeah, but heís definitely the strong-but-silent type but that makes up for me because Iím the weak-but-loud type, so I think together we complement each other very well. Yeah, the scenes seem really funny between us, you know, and itís notÖ As you can see in that little thing (they showed us a trailer) he gets a lot of the laughs. Itís not just me, you know? I mean he has great timing.
EG: Yeah, like the ďI donít want to touch youĒ thing.
SR: He just improvised that like heÖ.yeah, I mean we encouraged him to improvise. He totally gets it. I mean, itís not always as 100% understandable as it could be or needs to be, but that is something that is very easily fixed in post-production.
EG: And we donítÖ.itís not like in the movie heís this man who speaks flawlessly.
SR: Exactly. In the movie he doesnít speak perfect English, yeah. Weíre not trying to sell him as a guy who speaks perfect English.
What is it about Jay that you saw in him where you thought he could play Kato?
EG: That little rump.
SR: Yeah, exactly. No. (laughter) Heís just unbelievably cool. I mean, heís like Steve McQueen kind of. Itís like everything he does he does super cool. And heís funny. Thatís the other thing. Whatís funny is we actually auditioned for the first time with each other over Skype and I think he was in Taiwan and we were in L.A. and it was very awkward and the timing was off and there was a delay, but it was funny. He was just funny you could tell. And we flew him here and we auditioned together and he just was super cool. He was everything Iím not and it was very clear that - and it plays in the joke that we like - he should not be the sidekick. Like itís coolÖitís clear when you put the two of us together that like he is the leader. Like he is the leader. He is cooler, he is smarter, he is much more physically adept than I am and it played into the whole joke that we have for the movie, basically, that he shouldnít be the sidekick, you know?
Could you talk a little bit about your original intentions for Kato and then how those things in the different iterations of casting sort of changed and then once Jay came to the picture how now the character cemented?
EG:I mean - to be honest - it didnít ever change that much. One thing that has always been the same - because thatís why we took the project initially - is we wanted a sidekick/hero dynamic.
EG:And you know the amount he spoke changed here and there.
SR: Thatís true. There was a version where, you know, at one point we were like what if Katoís American? Like we literally wrote a version of the scriptÖ
EG: Where heís a punk rocker from Santa Monica.
SR: Yeah, like a skater from Santa Monica.
EG: We have that version.
SR: And the dynamic in the actual story is not really that different from what it ultimately is now, but that was a version that we experimented with and we explored because again, ultimately we werenít sure who we would wind up with. And there was a version where Kato was older, you know? Obviously with Stephen (Chow) we talked about that earlier when Stephen was going to it, Kato was much older. So, you know, Kato could literally have been my father in that circumstance. But the dynamic, the general story, the hero/sidekick story that weíve always wanted to tell has always been the same Iíd say from the first pitch we did for the movie to now. This scene weíre filming today, this was in the first pitch we had for the movie and the scene leading up to it was in the first pitch we had. Like this has existed for over 2 yearsó this scene, you know?
Does it fall like somewhere in the middle of the movie, this fight? Itís the big falling out. ItísÖ
SR: Yeah, itís somewhere, yeah probably closerÖ.yeah around the middle.
EG: Later 2nd act.
And does the fighting get stronger after that fight? Or is that pretty much the peak of your fighting skills?
EG:In the sequel heíll be dynamic.
SR: No, exactly. Iíd say my fighting gets somewhat stronger than that. That fightís not over. You should wait. (laughter)
As one of the writers, did you ever make it easier on yourself or make it harder on yourself in terms of like putting yourself in the action.
SR: No, you canít think about that.
EG:I very specifically, and Iíve never said this to you, tried to write in more like running and stuff. I constantly wanted to get a scene where he had to run like for a very long time. I donít think there is one.
SR: One continuous shot.
Can you guys talk a little bit about Christoph (Waltzís) character because he wouldnít tell us anything?
SR: Well then we shouldnít either.
Well, thanks for saying that.
EG: I can tell you that he was integral in making the character. He really helped us a lot and brought a lot to the character and itís a lot of him.
We all have crushes on him now.
SR: My girlfriend has a crush on him. Heís a handsome guy.
And he has a crush on you actually. He was just telling us.
SR: Heís a wonderful guy. But I will say our intention with the movie was to kind of deconstruct these movies in a lot of ways and I will say, you know, to the best of our ability we deconstructed the villain role in these movies as much as anything else, so our hope is that itís a very unconventional villain.
When you say that about the deconstruction, by focusing on the hero/sidekick dynamic, thatís almost exclusively not in this new wave of superhero films. Spider-man doesnít have a sidekick, and theyíve really gotten away from that with Batman. So itís something that is unique in the marketplace right now because we donít see that dynamic at this point.
SR: Yeah, itís true. And I think they mustÖ.itís so hard now to do straight I would imagine, no pun intended, but and I think that isÖ that anyone thatís seen ďBatman & RobinĒ can tell you firsthand itís inherently a funny dynamic. I mean, itís weird. Just the term sidekick is ridiculous. And the fact that theyíre a team but one guy is inherently above the other guy is ridiculous and I think the fact that weíre part of a ripening partnership is part of the reason we were able to explore that idea because we know inherently you canít be partners if one guy is above the other guy. And so I would imagine that thatís why it hasnít been done because no one has done this tonal approach to one of these movies and I imagine itíd be hard to really accurately explore their relationship without it getting somewhat funny because the most realistic version of that is funny. I mean, itís justÖitís ridiculous.
In the way you guys write, which one of you is more of a Kato and which one of you is more the Green Hornet?
SR: According the Kristoff, Iím the Green Hornet and heís my sidekick.
EG: Kristoff said I was the sidekick.
SR: But itís not at all like that actually. Iíll tell you itís completely equal. And if anything, he touched more so he probably gets the lead.
EG:And if it started to get disbalanced, our writing would suck. We counterbalance one another quite well.
SR: Yeah, thereís no leader obviously.
How difficult is it to keep from falling into parody when youíre writing this type of thing? Where youíre trying to write a comedy, like an action comedy, but do you ever find yourself going for a joke and being likeÖthis is turning into parody?
EG:I mean if we took out all the jokes, it would still play straight. Thereís no scenes that hinge on any jokes like that.
SR: Yeah, I think thatís a good way of gauging.
EG:We leave them cut-able. If something seems like it might go there.
SR: Yeah, exactly. But I think you just have toÖyou know we approach it like a real movie. We donít approach it trying to parody things. Thereís definitely a lot ofÖI think if youíre very familiar with a lot of superhero movies, youíll notice a lot of references and subtle homages to those movies in this movie. Thereís a lot of them. If you werenít looking for them you probably wouldnít notice them in a million years, but if you knew they were out there we put it in there because we think itís funny. We think itís interesting to reference these things. But I think as long as youíre making a real movie with a real story then it just wonít fall into spoof as long as youíre careful the jokes arenít just for joke sake, that theyíre all inherent to your story and your characters and you know what youíre trying to do, you know? Thereís no AIRPLANE type jokes in it. I think thatís what you just have to make sure of is youíre not doing something to just be funny. Youíre doing it because it plays into what the whole scene is and the whole movie, you know?
What about sort of the buddy-film and the action comedies that may have inspired you for this particular movie? Were there any ones that you were looking to sort of emulate? Like you know, obviously MIDNIGHT RUN, 48 HOURS films like that, that sort of era of the buddy-action comedy?
SR: HARD BOILED, yeah. RUSH HOUR. No. (laughter)
SR: Yeah, exactly. BULLETPROOF (laughter). We talked about BULLETPROOF sometimes.
EG: I liked BULLETPROOF. (laughter) Very casually.
SR: ďNo, you shot him in eyeball.Ē That partís funny. Thatís a good question. I mean there was not a lot specifically that we talked about with this one. To us, it was always THE GREEN HORNET. That was what we were trying to emulate in a lot of ways. I mean, we watched the show as we were preparing to pitch the thing and it was like, it was all there, you didnít need to try to base it onÖ I mean it was based on THE GREEN HORNET. relationship. It was based on the Kato/Britt relationship. The hero/sidekick relationship. I mean, I think like for PINEAPPLE EXPRESS for example, we did look more like these 80ís action movies and try to play into that, but for this it was all very inherent in the source material and in pretty much every hero/sidekick relationship in every comic book every basically. So that, if anything, is what we talked about and looked at is all these hero/sidekick relationships and how they play out and do how you expect them to play out and whatís so just ridiculous. So I mean, other than the first time we watched the show and the first thing is Kato doesnít have an alter-ego name. Heís just Kato. I mean, itís so ridiculous. Like they didnít even give him a name? Like he doesnít have a name?
EG: Like he never calls him in the...battlefield they neverÖ.
SR: He never calls him anything. He doesnít introduce him to people. Itís not like ďthis is Kato, also known as KatoĒ. So itís just little things like that like we didnít even have to make it up. Like it was just there. The fact that when you watch a show like Britt Reid sits in the back seat and Katoís in the front. Itís just so disrespectful. AndÖ
EG: And Katoís constantly getting him beverages.
SR: Heís always getting him coffee, you know? Heís like heíll save his life one moment and heís serving him coffee in the next scene. And so it was things like that and like when you watch the show without thinking about it, it doesnít even seem that weird because itís the hero/ sidekick relationship and the alter-ego has this man-servant and itís not weird. Itís just how it is but then when we really started to think about it like how would you actually feel in that circumstance if you were both these guys, you know? And how would that play out in the middle of this really stressful situation of trying to be a superhero like thatís what really just seemed endlessly entertaining to us and the movie really was notÖthat aspect of it was not difficult to write. I mean as soon as we started watching it, we were just like thatís clear what this movie is, you know?
How much room was there to play? Because I think most of us have been on a Judd Apatow set and youíll see 2 hours of shooting end up as 30 seconds of film or less.
EG:No time whatsoever.
SR: It depends actually. I mean not no time. We find itÖ
EG:Relative to what they see.
SR: Relative to what youíve seen, thereís very little time. Iíd say relative to your average action movie thereís a thousand times more improvising that goes on here than you would get on like a Michael Bay set, but itís pretty rushed, you know, in general. We just generally timeís the enemy, I mean itís really complicated what weíre trying to shoot andÖ
EG:Once we get like a joke or two, theyíre like ďwe have to go. We have to dump a dump truck on top of someone.Ē
SR: Exactly. (laughter)
EG: We donít have time for this.
SR: Yeah, exactly. But we pick our moments, honestly.