Early Drafts Of An American Pickle Were ‘More Wild’ Than The Film Hitting HBO Max

Seth Rogen as Herschel Greenbaum in An American Pickle

In Brendan Trost’s An American Pickle, Seth Rogen gets to play one of the craziest and funniest characters in his career as Herschel Greenbaum: an early 19th century European immigrant who gets trapped in a pickle barrel for a century and awakens to discover a whole new world. Herschel’s philosophies in many respects don’t quite line up with modern morality and progressive thought, and it results in some over-the-top consequences.

As it exists, the movie takes some big comedic swings – which is why it was surprising to recently learn that early drafts took things even further.

I had the pleasure of catching up with Seth Rogen earlier this week via video chat to talk about An American Pickle, which is set to drop on HBO Max this Friday, and our conversation began with a question about the movie’s evolution. Per Rogen, the original version of the script written by Simon Rich went a bit bigger in some respects, and over the course of development that was changed as the filmmakers worked to emphasize what they felt was most important in the material. Said the actor/producer,

The early drafts were much different and were a little more wild, I think, in some ways. Honestly we tried to drill down on the emotional core of the movie as much as possible and really try to focus on making it about legacy and family and grief and loss and moving forward and needing one another. Those themes were there all the time, but there were things that we worked hard to kind of bring more to the forefront in the film.

What really provides all of these key things for Herschel in An American Pickle is the presence of Ben, Herschel’s great-great grandson who agrees to take care of his ancestor when he wakes up from the brine (and who is also played by Seth Rogen). Having grown up in modern society, he operates as both the straight man and grounding device for Herschel… while also getting sucked up in the whirlwind of chaos created by his time displaced relative.

Ultimately the hilariousness of the film is wonderfully balanced out by its heart, and seeing how it all unfolds makes you appreciate the specific effort that was made molding the script to make it just right. An American Pickle is a crazy funny movie, but it’s special and stands out because it also has something to say about our connections to the past, where we come from, and how things in the world have evolved in last 100 years.

It’s a film well-worth checking out when it lands this weekend, made all the better by supporting performances by Sarah Snook and Jorma Taccone. Watch An American Pickle when it launches as the first HBO Max exclusive feature this Friday, August 7, and be sure to stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more from my interview with Seth Rogen!

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.