By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor Seth Rogen and writer-producer Evan Goldberg, known for R-rated stoner comedies such as "Superbad" and "Pineapple Express," make their debut as directors this week with "This Is the End."
Rogen, 31, and Goldberg, 30, told Reuters that they wanted to push the boundaries of comedy by having actors play themselves dealing with an apocalypse in the film, which will be released in North America on Wednesday.
"It always seemed weird for all of us to all be in a movie and not acknowledge that we all somehow know each other, because we've been in so many movies together already. To me it was almost distracting that we didn't play ourselves," Rogen said.
"We've never seen it in a movie done like this, so it was exciting," he added.
In the film, a group of Hollywood's top young comedy actors including Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Mindy Kaling, Jason Segel, Michael Cera, Emma Watson and Danny McBride come together at a wild party at James Franco's house.
The revelers are interrupted by the apocalypse. Fireballs ravage the Hollywood Hills, leaving a trail of destruction and a giant fire pit that swallows up many celebrity guests, including pop singer Rihanna, in front of Franco's house.
Rogen, Franco, Baruchel, Hill, Robinson and McBride survive by locking themselves into Franco's house and proceed to engage in absurd survival stunts.
Hollywood has a long-standing fascination with the end of the world such as 1998's space fantasy "Armageddon" and 2004's environmental disaster film "The Day After Tomorrow."
"This is The End" takes a unique twist by giving the topic an R-rated comedy treatment with celebrities playing themselves.
Goldberg said Rogen, Baruchel and Robinson play characters similar to their real identities, while Franco, Hill and McBride play a version of themselves far removed from reality.
"We're friends with all (the cast) so they trust us ... I think the fact that we knew all the guys really well made it so we could do what we did," Rogen said.
ASSASSINATION AND ANIMATION
Rogen, with his curly hair, thick-framed spectacles and unique rumbling laugh, has become a Hollywood poster boy for slacker films. Behind the scenes, both he and Goldberg are fast becoming big names in movie comedy.
Rogen and Goldberg said their biggest challenge for "This Is the End" was securing funding and convincing studios to come on board with the film's premise.
"All the studios were against the idea of (the cast) playing themselves, which if you've seen the movie, seems preposterous. That's the best part of the movie, without a doubt, but they were afraid of it," Goldberg said.
Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures Entertainment, took on the project, giving the duo "a few million dollars," Rogen said, with less than $3 million for visual effects.
After surviving the apocalypse, Rogen and Goldberg are moving onto their second directorial project "The Interview," where Rogen and Franco will play journalists on a mission to "assassinate the president of North Korea," Rogen said, calling it their "comedic 'Argo.'"
The duo will also be making their animated film debut with an R-rated comedy "Sausage Party," about sausages in a grocery store, teaming up with producer Megan Ellison of Annapurna Pictures, the company behind "The Master" and "Zero Dark Thirty."
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; editing by Eric Kelsey and Cynthia Osterman)