After we talked with Funny People writer-director Judd Apatow, we stayed and watched them do a few more takes of the scene we had been watching. Not a whole lot was changed up, but they would shoot at different angles to maximize Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski's (remember him in the hilarious Oscar skit with Seth Rogen and James Franco?) scope in the scene. After a few more takes, the scene was complete and we ventured up the hill with the rest of the production as they moved to a scene... well, up the hill as they were taking a breather from their weary hike in the scene. However, while they were setting up the new shots, we were able to sneak in a few minutes with actors Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and Jason Scwartzman up by the crew area before they went back to work. We all sat around a nice shaded area and Seth Rogen sat down for a chat with us. Here's what this immensely-rising talent had to say.
So how's the shoot going for you so far?
Seth Rogen: It's going great, yeah.
How's the hiking scene?
Seth Rogen: It's pretty brutal (Laughs). No, it's not bad. Not bad.
You three guys, no offense, but you don't look like you'd really be at Runyon Canyon.
Seth Rogen: No, we don't, really (Laughs). You see the actual people that are here, and yeah. I've been forced to walk Runyon Canyon maybe twice in real life, and I haven't been back for almost six years, I don't think. There's a lot of very pretty people up here.
Tell us a little bit about your character and his relationship to George, Adam Sandler's character.
Seth Rogen: I play a struggling, up-and-coming stand-up comic, who really does not have a strong comedic identity or opinion, really. He's very naïve and not a very competitive guy, a very nice guy. I live with Jonah and Jason and Jonah is a much more aggressively-funny stand-up comic and Jason is on a TV show, so they're both much more successful than me. Then I meet Adam, who is dying and he kind of makes me his assistant/writer/emotional outlet and kind of makes me the person that he takes into the world of sickness with him, basically.
So could you relate at all to having friends that are in the industry like this? We heard that one of the friends has a TV show.
Seth Rogen: Yeah. I mean, definitely. The competitive aspect, I think, is a really interesting aspect of the movie, just the world of working in the same field as your friends and just being very aware that probably not all of you are going to do that well at it. Literally, some of the opportunities are only made for one of you and not the other ones and, if one of you does it, by nature, the others won't get to do it. This is stuff we all experience firsthand with our careers, with all these guys. Jonah, we've all been friends for years and we've been in direct competition with each other for roles in movies, so yeah, I heavily relate to that aspect of it and just the desperation of a comic and a person that's trying to find their comedic voice, is something I find really interesting and something you don't see in a movie that much.
You say your character is a little more naïve and not as ambitious as the other characters. Obviously, some of it is happenstance, but do you think that's what Sandler's character likes about you?
Seth Rogen: Yeah. I think he likes that I'm not like him, that I'm not this cutthroat guy who will do whatever it takes to succeed. I just seem like a nice guy, a normal guy and that's kind of what he needs in his life. He doesn't need a comedy writer, necessarily, he just needs a person to relate to.
And you don't want anything from him, necessarily, like other people do when they connect?
Seth Rogen: No, I would not necessarily say that. I mean, anyone in my character's position, when confronted with anyone in Sandler's character's position, is going to see that there is potential benefit there, and that plays into the movie.
Earlier you were talking about the competitiveness of the characters, so is there a little envy and jealousy when you start to become friends with Sandler's character?
Seth Rogen: Yeah, definitely. I mean, all of the sudden, yeah, he's kind of picked and whenever something like that happens, there's envy and jealousy, but there's also a real sense that sometimes people don't deserve the opportunities they get and maybe, one of the other guys might have been better suited to fit this role in Adam's character's life. Yeah, I get all that and it really plays a big part into it and it's stuff that we've all, literally, dealt with with one another, for the most part (Laughs).
How strained do those friendships get, in the story?
Seth Rogen: Pretty strained, you know. Again, just like in real life, there's literally people I don't talk to anymore over work-related issues. It's not my choice, by any means, it happens. When you have jobs that are personal and it is your personality and there is no separation between professional life and your personal life, those things can really affect friendships. The movie gets into all that stuff heavily with myself and Jonah's character.
You're a struggling comedian and not that funny, but you did stand-up for a long time and you went back to do it. So, how hard was it to play unfunny?
Seth Rogen: Not that hard (Laughs). It's been interesting because the real challenge has been that there are several phases of my character's stand-up. In the beginning, I'm supposed to be not that great at it, but you're supposed to see potential, you're supposed to understand why someone in Sandler's character's position would, maybe, hire me as a person to write jokes for him. That was kind of tricky, was writing jokes that do have good premises, but delivering them in such a way that you would think that I wasn't necessarily the right guy to deliver that material. Then, as the movie goes along, the character is supposed to start finding some comedic voice and start writing material that's more personal to him and a little more poignant and funnier which, it's not my life, for one thing, so to write personal material about someone that's not you, creates its own challenges and then to be very realistic about how funny every joke really is, knowing where they would fall into the movie humor-wise, knowing I'm supposed to be funnier at the end than I am at the beginning, really trying to categorize these things, finding out... it's really been pretty complicated (Laughs).
Judd said he wanted to do a movie about mentoring and I was wondering who have been your mentors in this industry?
Seth Rogen: I mean, in this industry, Judd is probably my biggest mentor, I would say. I mean, really him. These friends and all these people you see me work with, I definitely learn a lot from, but they have not had as clear of a guy in a power position, helping someone who is not in a power position, that's really what Judd did with me. I mean, he wasn't in the same position he's in now, by any stretch of the imagination, but in the television world, at the time, he was comfortable and he gave me a job and really took the time to teach me how to do that job properly, which is a whole other thing.
(At this point Jonah Hill walks past and says "Boring" which of course got some laughs).
Seth Rogen: This is like Jonah's third day on the movie (Laughs).
What's going on with The Green Hornet? When are you gearing up to do that?
Seth Rogen: No news there. Looking to start in May. Again, Stephen is just getting in gear and it looks like it's happening.
You look great. How have you been getting into shape for The Green Hornet?
Seth Rogen: I've been vomiting just all day. I don't know. I eat better and exercise. Lamest answer ever, but guess what? It works! ..... Is that it? OK, thanks, you guys.
At that point Rogen was whisked back to the set and within a minute or two we were joined by none other than the hilarious Jonah Hill for a chat. Here's what he had to say.
So what can you tell us about your character?
Jonah Hill: I'm a fellow stand-up comedian along with Ira, Seth's character, and we live, him, myself and Jason Schwartzman, all live together and Jason is on a sitcom called Yo Teach. He kind of becomes more successful and I'm kind of a slightly better comedian than Ira. He's kind of feeling low because I'm a better comedian and Jason is finding more success with his show and he's kind of feeling like the lowest of his group of friends. Then he meets George, Adam's character.
If you're a better comedian, why do you think Sandler goes to Seth's character?
Jonah Hill: Well, he asks... well, I don't know how much we're supposed to give away... but he's interested in both of us at first... romantically. I'm joking.
How long were you guys supposed to be friends for? Did you meet in L.A. or something?
Jonah Hill: Yeah. I think it's more of something that we met a few years ago, as opposed to childhood. It's kind of like how Judd made his friends out here and it's kind of interesting because it's kind of like how me and Seth and Jason, in that way. Except, I've actually known Jason for seven or eight years, since I was in high school. Like Seth and I, we were both friends when we were both starting to do stuff, as opposed to being lifelong friends.
Did you go back and do some stand-up to prepare for this as well?
Jonah Hill: I've never done stand-up in my life before Judd had asked me to be in this movie. I'm constantly terrified about doing it. It's been the hardest thing I've done as an actor so far, because most of my characters are unemployed (Laughs). So I had to, in three or four months, be a passable stand-up comedian.
How did you go about that?
Jonah Hill: Judd just booked us stand-up gigs. Literally, one day someone called me and said, 'You have a stand-up gig in two weeks. Write some material.' I wrote my material and got up and did it. Every one of our shows was documented for the DVD.
How'd you do?
Jonah Hill: I think, by the end, I think I was passable. I think I was pretty good. I mean, I would watch guys and I would study every stand-up. I would watch guys like Louis C.K. a lot, who is a friend of mine. These guys have been doing it for decades, some of them, and it's a real art form. I will never do it again after the movie. I'm not going to try to be a real stand-up comedian, but I think for the movie, it's passable that I'm a decent stand-up.
When they told you that you had to write for a few weeks, did you take stuff out of your own life?
Jonah Hill: It was basically that. It was basically observations I would have. It's not much different from writing a movie, which I have done before, so it's not like... I mean, it is way different. A lot of times, you'll have a scene that's about something when you're writing a movie and you'll just need dialogue for them to be bullshitting about before they get into the actual story of the scene. A lot of times, that will be just an observation you have, it will start with an observation you have on something then riff on it. That's kind of like what it is. My girlfriend would do something and I'd go like, 'That's funny that she does this' and you'd structure that and write that into a bit. It's not something I'm super fond of. I don't think I'll ever do that after the film is done. I'll let the professionals do it.
How intimidating was it when you first had to walk on the stage and actually do it?
Jonah Hill: It was pretty intimidating. I was at the UCB Theater though, which is really a good place and all the audiences are kind of comedy fans, so I think I got helped out a lot by the fact that people recognized me from movies. So it was like, 'I think his movies are funny. I like that guy.' It would be way harder, I'd be way more nervous knowing that they had never seen me before. Then I got freaked out because it was like, 'Oh great. They think I'm funny so they're expecting me to be funny,' so it got harder. But I just went out there and it was like, 'Who cares!' I just went out there and didn't care. The first one was probably the best one I ever did, I think.
Can you talk about relating these characters because, in the real world, you guys are all friends, and relating to these people that are struggling.
Jonah Hill: I think it really is not like a movie, it's not like a guy gets a girl pregnant on the first date. It's not really like something you can explain. It's really about these characters and what they're going through and just the fact that everyone is going through something in life, every one of you people and every person you know is going through something, so you just figure out what it is and we explain what our characters are going through and how they talk, how their motives are in every scene. Everyone is going through some sort of struggle in life and in this movie. That's the way I look at it. It's really a movie about all of these people, not about something in particular.
We were talking to Judd about all the different types of comedians you see. It seems like the field is really wide open because of the Internet. Adam Sandler is kind of considered an old-school comic at this point.
Jonah Hill: Well, the guy, yeah. I mean, Sandler's comedy records, to Seth and I, were hugely inspirational when we were young. I'm 24 years old, so when I was like 12, when I was forming my sense of humor and forming what I wanted to do, I was really listening to those records. Now, young kids who are 12 are watching some of our and our friends movies and kind of being into that, like we were with Sandler. It's funny now to see that it's something totally different than what we were doing, because a couple of years ago, what we were doing seemed kind of new and interesting (Laughs). Now there's Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!. That show is amazing, but it's nothing, absolutely nothing like what we're doing. There are all kinds of facets within the genre of comedy.
Do you find there are more people that are not really funny and are trying too hard, because it's so open?
Jonah Hill: I think a lot of people get competitive, like I want to be the only person doing something, but I think if comedy is doing well, then it's great for everybody. If more people are getting out there and trying to be funny, it's only helping. If the genre is popular, we'll all have a job, hopefully (Laughs), if everyone's liking it. I want everyone to be funny.
Can you say real quick what's going on with 21 Jump Street? Are you guys still doing that?
Jonah Hill: Yeah. We just finished the script.
Are you going to play the (Peter) DeLuise character in that?
Jonah Hill: Why would you say that? You'll see when it's on the screen.
Jonah was then sent back to the set to finish up a scene before lunch and we started to make our way further up the hill more towards where they were shooting up the hill, and more towards this old house/chalet thing that served as Craft Services for the set, apparently. We didn't get to get up close and see from the monitors on this scene, but it was Rogen, Hill and Schwartzman all resting and talking by one of the benches in the park. After watching a few new takes, we ran into the last actor we got to talk to that day, the awesome Jason Schwartzman. Here's what he had to say to our group of reporters.
So can you tell us about the scene we were just watching you shoot?
Jason Schwartzman: You were watching?
Jason Schwartzman: Oh boy. Thank God I know now. Had I known before, I would've been very nervous. Anyway, the scene you were watching, we're finding out for the first time that something might be wrong with Adam Sandler's character. He said he wouldn't tell anybody and then it cuts to this. Then the next part of the scene, Seth's character, who works for Adam's character, ends up telling us that Adam is sick. We're just shocked because we're such big fans of Adam's character's work in the movie, so we're a little bit shocked. But really, the main part of the scene that is about to be shot is we're smoking some pot, talking about life and death and it kind of puts the whammy on us and makes us feel paranoid and maybe we shouldn't be talking about this life and death stuff while we're all baked, so that's what is about to happen. Tears will be shed.
What about Yo Teach? Where does that fit in, as a show?
Jason Schwartzman: Where does that fit in? That fits in like somewhere between Dangerous Minds and The Cable Guy (Laughs). I'm a teacher, I teach some kids that have been written off... by society, but my heart is too big to let that happen. I want to make sure they're loved and treated like humans, and get an education on the way.
Will we get to see you on this show, Yo Teach?
Jason Schwartzman: Yes, you will. As of now, I'm a little nervous because it could end up on the cutting room floor or in the trash can, but, as of now, you get to see it.
Did you base your character on anyone you know? You don't have to name names, but, somebody who's gotten a show who's bragging about it to friends?
Jason Schwartzman: There are a couple of people who I've seen rise to fame right before my own eyes.
How has it been working with Judd?
Jason Schwartzman: It's been great. I've been a really big fan of Judd's for a long time, since Heavyweights, I don't know if you guys have seen that one or not. I'm not the kind of guy that watches these guys make all these kinds of movies and goes, 'Hmm, how come I didn't get invited to that party?' But, now that I'm here, it's nice to be around and included and it's nice to be surrounded by really funny people.
Had you met Judd back in the Freaks and Geeks days?
Jason Schwartzman: Yeah, he was there. I think he directed that episode, actually, so I've known him through the years. It is kind of a small world, that we're into the same things, so working with him is incredible. I worked on the Dewey Cox movie as well. I had a cameo in that, but this is really fun. It's like a whole different thing.
So are you still going to work with (Wes) Anderson again?
Jason Schwartzman: Yeah. I did a voice for his new movie called The Fantastic Mr. Fox. It's a stop-motion animated movie based on the Roald Dahl book. It's me and George Clooney and Meryl Streep. Wait. Let me reword that. It's George Clooney, Meryl Streep and me.
So does your character do stand-up like the other guys?
Jason Schwartzman: I'm beyond stand-up. I'm on Yo Teach (Laughs). They do stand-up to try to get on a sitcom, but I've bypassed it. My character is rubbing it in their faces, with all the Yo Teach money.
So Judd didn't force you to do stand-up like the other guys?
Jason Schwartzman: No, he was just joking with them to go do it. They just fell for it. I don't fall for that. He's like, 'Go do stand-up.' I'm like, 'Yeah, OK Judd.'
Did you go to their shows to see them do stand-up?
Jason Schwartzman: Yeah, I did. They're really funny, really funny. Seth is so funny and Jonah and Adam, of course. I actually saw Seth do stand-up nine years ago in L.A., during the Freaks and Geeks thing. It was really funny.
What's the most surprising thing you've learned about stand-up comics and what they're really like? There is kind of a dark side to them.
Jason Schwartzman: Yeah, it touches on that a little bit. Well, you're always learning about the creative process and how people come up with things differently. Have you seen Comedian? The Jerry Seinfeld movie? That was a very revealing, interesting movie about stand-up comedy, just the sheer work that goes into it, basically just the idea that you look like you are just talking about it. It's just distilled, years of thinking about something into 10 great minutes. It's kind of beautiful, like panning for gold.
This seems like it might be hard to market because it's a Judd Apatow movie but he wants it to be more serious and still just as funny.
Jason Schwartzman: Yeah, it's funny. It's funny.
So how would you go about balancing the drama and the comedy?
Jason Schwartzman: Well, if I was directing it... No, I don't know. I have complete faith that Judd is going to balance it perfectly, but already from what I've seen, it feels like it's serious enough and when it becomes to serious it gets jokey, and when it gets too jokey it becomes real again. I just think people would be interested in it... I would be interested in it only because it seems like something that's very personal to Judd and to Adam. So I'm most interested in people's work when it seems like... I appreciate movies where somebody invents a character, just as much as I really appreciate a movie that has no character and tries to do something completely personal and it's just like, 'Here it is. Here I am' and revealing themselves. I'd be most interested because it's like, 'Hmm, maybe this is some of what Sandler is like and what Judd Apatow is like?' I don't know, but I kind of make up my own backstory in my mind.
What about working with Adam? What has that been like?
Jason Schwartzman: I've barely worked with him, but I've been on set a lot, like our work will overlap or our schedules will overlap. He's just the nicest human being in the world and like the funniest person I've ever met. He's so sweet it's ridiculous.
After that we all made our way to lunch, an opportunity not to be passed up if you can on any movie set, and our day on the Funny People set had come to a close. It was quite an eventful day and after admiring the work of everyone I got to talk to that day, it was surely something else to see them all in person and to speak with them. That about wraps it up, folks and make sure to check out Funny People when it hits theaters nationwide on July 31. I know I will. Peace in. Gallagher out!