We caught with the actor/writer/producer who's about as funny as cancer (which is funnier than you think).
ESQUIRE: Your new film, 50/50 — in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a guy with a tumour in his spine — was nearly called I’m with Cancer. What other titles did you try?
SETH ROGEN: There were a lot of bad ones. Live with It was one we had for a while. Get Well Soon we tried. Hairless in Seattle was my favourite. I don’t think anyone would have gone for it though.
ESQ: It was written by your friend Will Reiser based on his own experiences. When you found out he was ill, would you say your reaction was good/adequate/poor?
SR: I think I reacted adequately. I still hung out with Will all the time. It made some people so uncomfortable they just went away altogether, so I think the fact I didn’t disappear got me out of the “poor” category. I made a lot of jokes about it; I tried to cheer him up. I took my cues from him: he had a sense of humour about it.
ESQ: Some of the jokes in the movie are pretty on the edge. Like when your character, Kyle, starts listing celebrity survivors and name-drops Patrick Swayze...
SR: We went there. We weren’t sure that would fly. We test the movies with real audiences and there was more we expected people to react negatively to, but they didn’t, so we left it in.
ESQ: You’ve recently shot scenes for a film written by your fiancée (Lauren Miller). Have you done anything like that together before?
SR: No. She’s had some little parts in our movies. She’s actually in 50/50: she’s walking the dog that licks the testicles of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s dog. Which just happened. We did not train the dog to do that. She wrote this movie called For a Good Time, Call… about two girls who start a phone sex line, and I play one of the callers, an airplane pilot. We were figuring what kind of people would actually call phone sex lines and we thought airplane pilots probably do. They’re on the road a lot. She was very nice to me on set. She didn’t yell.
ESQ: You’ve got another film in the works called Jay and Seth vs the Apocalypse. Now that’s a title.
SR: The premise of that one is a bunch of actors — who play themselves — get trapped in a house together as the Apocalypse happens. It’s not shot, but we’ve written a script, we’ve got the actors: me, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, James Franco and Jonah Hill. None of them have actually signed anything yet, but I’ll take their word for it.
ESQ: There was talk Daniel Radcliffe might be in it, too...
SR: It seems like we may have pushed the limits of good taste a little beyond what Mr Radcliffe might want to participate in. Which I can’t honestly blame him for.
ESQ: You were a very grown-up kid — stand-up at 13, acting in Judd Apatow’s Freaks and Geeks at 16. Did it lead to regressing as an adult to try and balance that out?
SR: I probably just haven’t changed much in the last 10 years. I peaked early. I heard someone say once that you stop ageing at the age when you got famous. So I don’t know, how old is that? I was maybe 24 or 25? That’s not bad. I think I heard Ian McKellen say that and he was 85 years old at the time. [For the record: he’s actually a sprightly 72 today.]
ESQ: Bonus question: tell us a secret about Paul Rudd.
SR: In public bathrooms, he likes to pull his pants down all the way to his ankles like a little boy to pee in the urinal. I’ve seen him do it.
50/50 is out on 25 November