Their voices and faces are so familiar it's almost surreal sitting in a room with them. James Franco, who we've seen float around New York in a green muscle suit, and Seth Rogen, who we've seen pretty much naked, sitting in a room and looking like two guys sorry to be awake this early in the morning. In what they call a "love story between a stoner and his dealer," Rogen and Franco play an unlikely action duo who get into gunfights, car chases and explosions, despite the fact that they're just two stoners with pretty much no goals. Franco promises he doesn't actually smokes pot, but he also says he doesn't want to play any character but Saul for the rest of his life. And Rogen, well, he's a bit more well-versed in the history of stoner comedies. But I bet you'll be shocked at which stoner classic he doesn't like at all.
James, I understand there's a bit of a price on your head from Rosie's cousin Six Dollar?
James: We did a fight scene together. Like, on Spider-Man we usually had two to four weeks to do an action scene, and on this one we had like two hours. We did most of the scene, and then David Gordon Green said let's just do one take where you kind of wrestle, see what happens. So we were doing that, and the opportunity arose where I had a shot to bite her ass, so I took it. I think it was very funny. It's not in the movie—I think the reason is that Rosie was laughing when it happened. Then I heard the next day, she said that her niece loved the idea that I had bitten her ass, and I guess her cousin was upset. But I'm also told that if he thinks the movie's funny then I'm OK.
Had you guys been planning to work together after Freaks and Geeks.
Seth: I wouldn't say that. I always liked James, and I was always definitely open to working with him again, but it didn't really seem like there would be any real way that that would happen.
James: I was always trying. I wanted him for my sidekick.
Seth: I auditioned for Sandman. And I, what is it, Annapolis?
Seth: I auditioned to play Annapolis.
What are your memories from working on the show?
James: It was one of the first good things that I did. At the time we had a feeling it was good. it was only subsequent to that, that I did something that wasn't as good as that, that I realized how special the group of people was. It really was a unique experience, I've learned only after it was cancelled.
How do you get into the mindset of being a pothead?
Seth: It was really hard for me. I moved to Holland. Yeah, it wasn't that tough for me. Franco, I introduced him to some pot.
James: I don't smoke weed. When I say it you can really believe it. I certainly have, but I never sold it or anything. I went and met pot dealers, and I found a guy I thought was a particularly good model. So we got him a job on he crew, so he was around all the time if I needed any weird pot names or anything like that.
How did you envision the action scenes as being both exciting and funny?
Seth: We always thought that the violence and humor could work really well together. Judd was a little wary of that, I would say. He wasn't confident you could do things as graphically as we do them and still maintain humor. And I thought we could. These are the people who go see Hostel and stuff like that. This is not outside of the realm of what's seen. I think it turned out great. You've seen a lot of scenes where three guys are fighting, but you haven't seen one where none of them are able to knock each other out, because they're not that good at fighting.
Do you have any particular favorite stoner movies?
Seth: I honestly don't love the Cheech and Chong movies, I've got to say. But The Big Lebowski is probably my favorite movie of all time. Friday I watched around 100,000 times in high school. When you're young and just starting to smoke weed, and then, "There's whole movies about this?!" [Making this movie] we realized the ones we really like aren't just for people who are stoned.
What did you learn about yourself playing this character, James?
James: I never want to do a drama again, I guess. So serious, and this was so fun. I basically don't ever want to play a different character again.
No more Spider-Man?
James: If they let me play Saul, yeah.
Were you aware of the homoerotic, romantic side of the story between Saul and Dale?
James: Yeah, especially because David would say, like, "You're in love with Dale."
Seth: Yeah, "Look at him like you love him."
James: It seems like Judd didn't even realize it until... I remember watching some dailies with him, and he was like, "Oh my God, it's a love story between a dealer and his client." I really like that. That's what kind of transcends the genre. It's not just two idiots smoking weed and being high. It's a relationship movie.
Were you worried about writing it too fey?
Seth: There's no such thing as too fey on our set. Yeah, to us, that was the joke. We knew the anchor of the movie was the fact that it was about this relationship, and not just about murders and machine guns and all that. the challenge the goal was to combine this relationship movie with this crazy action movie. We knew that was going to be the thing that made it or broke it.
James, have you given Seth some advice from the superhero world, now that Seth is stepping into it with The Green Hornet?
James: I hear he's been working out quite a bit.
Seth: I've been telling him. He doesn't believe me.
James: It's so unnecessary, because they just give you a muscle suit.
Seth: It's true. But there's a lot of shots of me coming out of pools in slow-motion. There's like 13 shots of that. What can I tell you? We've written it. We're meeting with directors right now. We have a release date of June 2010, so you can teleport to the theater, or get there in your flying car. If there's still a world in 2010. But yeah, we're looking to make it in February or March I think.
Is Stephen Chow Kato?
Seth: No, not right now. Until we hire a director it's kind of hard to cast the entire movie.
What are the scenes that make Zack and Miri Make a Porno NC-17?
Seth: One of them literally has to do with the amount of thrusts in a sex scene. Apparently seeing 13 thrusts is OK, but if you see 17 you're going to fuckin' murder someone. The other I don't want to ruin, just for sheer comedy's sake. To me, I honestly don't feel like it's anything I haven't seen some version of in a movie before. When I watch the movie, I'm honestly shocked that of all the movies I've been a part of, this is the one that got an NC-17. I mean, we sell weed to 10-year-olds in this one, and no one gives a shit. All this movie has to do is with sex and shit. To me it's completely hypocritical that this would get an NC-17 rating.
Seth, you've made a lot of movies that have this huge appeal to twenty-something guys. Do you and Evan, when you're writing, try and stick to something that feels true to you?
Seth: Yeah, I always say, the only thing we think of when we're writing these movies is what do we want to go see. That's 100% of our motivation. Really no thought goes into what do other people want to see. It's what do we want to go see right now. That's really all we do. Right now I'm 26, and Evan's 25, and we're making movies for 26 and 25-year-olds. Maybe when we get older that sensibility will change.
We hear David gives some weird directions. What were some that the two of you had?
Seth: One of his favorite directions was "Do it like you're taking a shit." A lot of those got into the movie, I'll say. "Do it like you're an old British lady." I think he just tries to take you outside of what you planned.
James, where did some of your comedy training come from?
Seth: Well, he's half-Jewish. A lot of people don't know that.
James: My mom is getting into comedy too, so maybe it's some of that.
Seth: Our moms got along real well at the premiere.
James: Yeah, I heard that.
Seth: My mom said she wanted us to get married, so they would be in-laws.
James: I wish I had more comedy after Freaks and Geeks. I guess I thought being an actor you had to be serious.
Would you do a sequel to this?
James: I only want to play Saul, so yes.