Seth Rogen Deems Movie Ratings System 'Stupid,' 'Weird'
UPDATED: "There's nothing more frustrating than being on set and coming up with a joke and being told you can't do it because it's a PG movie," the actor says at the Produced By conference.
Don't look for Seth Rogen to make a PG-rated movie anytime soon. At the Produced By conference on Saturday, he attacked the MPAA ratings system, saying it was "weird" and "stupid."
The ratings system "is so stupid; why play that game?" said Rogen. "Why even enter a system that stupid?"
"There's nothing more frustrating than being on set and coming up with a joke and being told you can't do it because it's a PG movie," added Rogen. "It's like boxing with your hands tied behind your back … because of some weird ratings structure."
"It's just devastating," he said.
Rogen and Evan Goldberg, onstage with producing partner James Weaver, cited Green Hornet as a movie that they found frustrating to make.
"We learned not to make $200 million movies," said Rogen. "It's not fun."
Goldberg said that the film is a reason to stick with R-rated movies.
"Those things generally go hand in hand," agreed Rogen. "There aren't too many $20 million R-rated movies."
R-rated movies, Rogen and Goldberg agreed, allow them to play out their often raunchy type of humor as they wish.
"Once it's R-rated, you can pretty much do anything you want except penetration," said Rogen, adding with a smile: "Once it's R-rated, you're pretty much left alone contract-wise."
The ratings system isn't the only thing that places limits on Rogen and Goldberg. They spent years trying to get the movie Neighbors made. Rogen said he was so fed up with notes from others that he just shut down the comedic project at one point.
"Instead, we literally cut the budget in half [to $18 million] and made the movie we wanted to make," said Rogen, adding: "At least we didn't make a movie we hate and had to work on for a year and a half."
Goldberg said now they are in meetings to discuss doing a sequel to Neighbors, which they don't really want to do because he said most movie sequels are "crummy."
Rogen talked about how he got into movies after he and Goldberg moved to Hollywood from Canada, where they began making experimental films in their teen years. Rogen also started doing stand-up comedy then. He admitted it was terrible, but that was the way to learn.
Rogen's career started because he hung out in producer-writer Judd Apatow's office. He wasn't being paid, but he became part of the group. Then when Apatow got a green light on The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Rogen said he became an associate producer who would do anything to help, from an acting bit to attending postproduction and scoring sessions.
It was thanks to Apatow's success that the producer was able to sell Rogen and Goldberg's movie Super Bad to Sony, based on their own high school hijinks.
"It was our first experience, and we had a lot of control," recalled Rogen, adding with a laugh: "We just thought that's how movies were. They give you $20 million, and that's how it was. … We didn't realize Judd gave us this protective bubble."
They soon learned it wasn't always that way. Now they try to give the same kind of creative freedom to others when they act as the producers -- which both Rogen and Goldberg called the hardest job. "The hardest thing to do is getting to the point where they give you the money to make the movie," said Rogen. "Writing is fun. It's that step [raising money] that sucks."
"If we were just the director, we would tell ourselves to go f--- ourselves and deal with that," said Rogen. "Because we aren't, we can't."
Rogen said while a movie director is important, he thinks the job description has been blown way out of proportion. "A lot of directors like to portray that they are the single beating heart that makes the movie," noted Rogen, "but they are not."
Rogen and Goldberg said they have a similar sense of humor but occasionally do disagree. So they shoot both versions of a scene or a joke and then seek reactions.
"The biggest thing is we test the shit out of the movies over and over again," explained Rogen. "If the joke isn't funny, we generally have another joke. We test the movie so much, hopefully every joke works."
Asked about upcoming movies, Rogen and Goldberg said they are in final postproduction on The Interview (an action comedy for Sony, starring Rogen and James Franco); and are in preproduction on a Christmas eve movie directed by Jonathan Levine. They are also developing a series at AMC with Sam Kaplan, one of the producers on Breaking Bad.
They are developing a movie called Jazz Cops, which is about police in the 1950s who try to infiltrate the jazz music scene. Rogen said it is about the first white cop who works with a black cop, and Rogen is attached to star with Kevin Hart.
They are also in production on their first animated movie, Sausage Party, which they said is tedious and challenging and only bearable because they love what they are creating.
Rogen said it is not true that they get stoned on marijuana and then think up movie ideas -- except in the case of Sausage Party. He said that began during a session with Jonah Hill, as a joke. They thought about what a movie with that title would be like, and eventually it came to be real.
"We're literally just playing phallic symbols now," said Rogen, laughing.