Q&A: Rogen enjoys making people squirm in "Observe"

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - On the big screen, Seth Rogen is more often than not a crass stoner with a heart. But the actor-writer is in the process of transforming that image with such roles as an unhinged security guard in “Observe and Report,” which opens Friday, and a bona fide superhero in Michel Gondry’s forthcoming “The Green Hornet.”

He also plans to star in and produce (with childhood pal Evan Goldberg) the comedy-drama “I’m With Cancer” (written by friend Will Reiser), and hopes to segue from that project to “Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse” opposite Jay Baruchel.

The Hollywood Reporter: There’s typically an underlying sweetness to the characters you play. What was it like playing a guy with no core of goodness in “Observe and Report”?

Seth Rogen: It was fun to be the guy that was causing the discomfort, you know? I think generally my characters are the guy commenting on the discomfort, or defusing the discomfort.

THR: How was it different working on a non-Judd Apatow project?

Rogen: It’s always exciting to work with new people, kind of get new experiences, to see how other people do it. I think that makes you a better moviemaker, ultimately, to work with as many different people as you can. There’s definitely a comfort level I have with Judd -- kind of a shorthand, if you will -- but I enjoy working with other people still. I’m sure he gets sick of me, too.

THR: What’s the stress level shooting something like “Observe” versus something you had a hand in writing?

Rogen: It’s way easier. I spent a lot of time in my trailer just watching movies and s--- like that. Every once in awhile I’d see (producer) Donald (De Line) and (writer-director) Jody (Hill) in these intense discussions, and I’d be like, “Man, normally I’d be one of the guys in that discussion. Now I can go watch ‘The Number 23’ in my trailer.”

THR: The movie is funny but also genuinely sad. What’s it like making a comedy where you’re playing such a dark character?

Rogen: It’s really not that different. We kind of approach it all the same. Maybe I just have a weird sense of humor, but to me, it’s all funny. To me, the scene where my mom passes out is just as funny as the scene where me and Aziz (Ansari) are telling each other to f--- off. They just kind of elicit a different type of reaction. But to me, it’s all comedy. As dark and sick as it may be, we’re laughing as soon as they said ‘Cut.’

THR: What comic books are you reading these days?

Rogen: I just read this comic “Nightly News” that was really awesome. I highly recommend it. “The Sword” I liked. “Old Man Logan.” I think Damon Lindelof finally wrote a third f---ing issue of “Ultimate Hulk vs. Wolverine” that he started around 4 1/2 years ago. I’ll read anything Garth Ennis writes. He’s my favorite.

THR: Was that love of comics what drew you to “The Green Hornet”?

Rogen: Yeah, definitely. Me and (writing-producing partner) Evan (Goldberg) always wanted to make a superhero movie about a hero and a sidekick. That’s the movie we’ve been trying to write for years, kind of like deconstructing the relationship between a hero and his sidekick. And we just couldn’t crack it. And then one day we got a call saying “Green Hornet” is up for grabs, and we realized that could be the perfect format for us to do our weird hero-sidekick movie. I mean, we liked the “Green Hornet,” but we were not particularly fond of the character or loyal to it in any real way. But it’s worked out well, and I think it has few enough fans that they won’t be disappointed because all people really know is that Bruce Lee was the sidekick. That’s all they really need to know going in.

THR: Is shooting still scheduled to start in June?

Rogen: Michel Gondry is literally in our office right now, working away. He’s awesome. He’s just like a magician. He filmed these fight scenes, and they’re incredible. They’re exactly what you would hope a Michel Gondry fight scene would look like. And then you think, “Wow, what’s a Michel Gondry car chase gonna look like? What’s a Michel Gondry f---ing explosion gonna look like?” He’s just so imaginative, and you just know he approaches everything differently than everyone else. As soon as he gets a feeling like anything he’s describing has been done, he immediately abandons it and tries to come up with something else.