High life: Why laid-back losers are actor Seth Rogen's stock-in-trade

Stoned father-to-be, pothead on the run from the mob...it's cool, he tells Gill Pringle

Seth Rogen may have become one of Hollywood's most bankable actors, but the last thing he sees when he looks in the mirror is a movie star. "And please don't insult my intelligence by arguing that fact," snorts the 26-year-old Canadian comic. "I certainly don't feel like a movie star – not in this body anyway," he continues, letting out a machine-gun volley of laughter. "I think when you do comedy, you play by a different set of rules. No one really wants you to be in that good shape. Being in good shape implies a level of vanity that isn't necessarily funny."

Rogen certainly can't level that accusation against himself – and Hollywood's casting directors seem to agree. The actor/writer/ producer has had a busy year, after being thrust into the spotlight only 12 months ago, starring in box-office hit comedies Knocked Up and Superbad.

Not that he appeared out of nowhere; he's been honing his comedic timing as a stand-up since he turned 13. By all accounts his humour wasn't subtle, responding to hecklers with: "I'm 13. In 30 years, I'll be 43. And you'll be dead." At 16 he attended a casting call for cult TV comedy Freaks and Geeks, where he was introduced to the show's creator Judd Apatow – a meeting that would change his life. Rogen immediately exchanged his Vancouver high school for Hollywood and, when Freaks and Geeks was cancelled a year later, Apatow hired him as both writer and actor for his next TV series, the college dorm comedy Undeclared, later casting him in small roles in the movies Anchorman and The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Recognising how audiences empathised with Rogen, Apatow then took his protégé mainstream, casting him in the lead role as Knocked Up's hapless father-to-be and producing Superbad from a script Rogen wrote with school-friend Evan Goldberg some ten years earlier.

"The success of Knocked Up hasn't really changed my life," Rogen insists. "I look exactly the same on screen as I do in person. I didn't go through an Ugly Betty-type transformation. If my career has changed then my actual day-to-day life hasn't. I've been living with my girlfriend for three years, and I really don't go out to bars or clubs much. It's not like I'm getting mobbed – I'm not Tom Cruise. The good thing about LA is that there's always someone more famous 100 yards away from me."

Apatow was not alone in recognising Rogen's talents: Sacha Baron Cohen hired him as a writer on Da Ali G Show in 2004, a job that Rogen was tailor-made for: "They were mostly British writers but us Canadians are pretty similar and that's one of the reasons we got along so well. As a Canadian, it's almost the best of both worlds. We know all of America's culture but we view it as outsiders the same way as British people, only we grew up with all-American TV shows, all-American movies and all-American news, even. But instead of watching it and thinking: 'Man, I can't believe our country's so messed up!' we watch it as: 'I can't believe their country's so messed up!'"

Rogen claims to have contributed to the Borat script also, despite not receiving any credit for it. But ask if he's offended at being omitted from the credits of one of the decade's biggest comedies, and he merely shrugs: "We're not credit-hounds. That's their thing, man. I helped them out. I didn't make that movie. That was their movie. I know I helped, you know I helped. I don't care if your average viewer doesn't know that I helped. Who watches the credits anyway?"

In any case, argues Rogen, Cohen is the funniest person in showbusiness. "Sacha is the only guy I've worked with who really invented a new kind of comedy. He thought of something no one else was doing, and he's the only guy that can do it. It's amazing because when you're writing this stuff, you forget that he also does it. He's such a good writer you forget that he's also able to pull all this stuff off."

Modesty aside, today Rogen is arguably more recognisable than Cohen, to the point where he runs the risk of over-exposure. Having penned the screenplay for the Owen Wilson vehicle Drillbit Taylor, released earlier this year, he also lent his distinctive deep voice to animated characters in Kung Fu Panda, The Spiderwick Chronicles and Horton Hears a Who!. In addition, Rogen recently featured in cameo roles in Step Brothers and Fanboys, and stars in the upcoming comedy Zack and Miri Make a Porno; plus the stoner movie, Pineapple Express, for which he also wrote the script, hits British cinemas this Friday.

Filmgoers are, of course, already familiar with Rogen in pothead roles, but in Pineapple Express there's a twist: Spider-Man's clean-cut James Franco has been cast as the unkempt drug-dealer opposite Rogen's own recreational pot user. If the history of comedy demonstrates that humour and good-looks rarely go hand-in-hand, then Rogen insists his co-star breaks the mould. "[James] kills me. He's so funny and he's handsome. Pineapple Express completely destroys people's image of him. He's by far the funniest part of the entire movie and there's a lot of funny stuff."

Unlikely to win approval from anxious parents, the film's slogan is: "Put this in your pipe and smoke it", while the New York Post captioned its review, "Romancing the Stoned". "I play the straight man. I'm stoned but I'm the smarter of the two idiots," explains Rogen. "When we wrote the movie, originally the roles were the other way. It's about these two guys who witness a murder and one's a process server who's a pothead and the other guy is his low-level dealer. When we first approached Franco, he was going to be the process server/straight guy and I would be his idiot pot-dealing buddy. And then we realised it wasn't as interesting as if we just switched it. You've seen me be an idiot pothead and you've seen Franco be a straight leading-man guy, but to reverse it instantly made it more interesting."

Rogen makes no secret of the fact that he smokes pot in real life, declaring: "More people I know smoke weed than don't, although maybe that's just the group of people I surround myself with. Its not like an integral part of my creativity or lifestyle – it's more like just having a beer.

"When you're from Canada also, it's viewed much differently there than it is in America. To me, the fact that a character smokes weed is not what I hang my hat on. Like when people see that I play a pothead in Knocked Up and I play a pothead in Pineapple Express and say, 'Aren't you sick of playing the same character over and over?' And to me they're completely different characters who both just happen to smoke pot. I would never say James Bond and Arthur are similar characters because they both drink! And maybe that's a more progressive view of weed, but it's how I view it."

The son of retired non-profit worker Mark and social worker Sandy, Rogen characterises his parents as socialists: "My dad worked for the British Columbia Coalition of People With Disabilities for most of my childhood. They're both amazing and have always been incredibly supportive. The only reason I'm here is because they always told me I could be. They moved to LA with me when I was 17 because legally they had to. I didn't live with them for long before they were able to move back to Vancouver, but I couldn't imagine how it would have been moving to another country without them."

Today, Rogen shares a Los Angeles mansion not with his parents but with comedy writer Lauren Miller. In keeping with his characters, he says: "I'm not the most romantic guy, although I do try. Before we met, I'd never really had a proper girlfriend and I thought it would somehow masculinise me, although it's actually done the opposite. Now I know about accent walls and the whole world of throw pillows."

It's a far cry from high school, he says: "I was definitely aware that any girl who gave me any interest, it was only because I was funny. But girls always say they want a funny guy – like you read an interview with like Jessica Alba and they ask 'What do you look for in a guy?' And she says: 'Oh, a sense of humour.' That's not true! What she means is: 'I want a guy with a good sense of humour, for an incredibly handsome guy.' That's what she's forgetting! They all say they want a funny guy but what they mean is: 'We want a funny guy who looks like a model...'"

Not that it puts off Rogen's fans: "They're all 20-year-old dudes," he says. "It seems I only relate to nerds in high school who can't get laid. I don't even have a stalker. I'm just not the guy that people stalk."

'Pineapple Express' opens on Friday

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

    Tribal gathering

    Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

    Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
    Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

    Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

    No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
    How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

    Power of the geek Gods

    Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

    Perfect match

    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
    10 best trays

    Get carried away with 10 best trays

    Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
    Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

    Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

    Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
    Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

    Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

    He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high