Pineapple Express by Producer Judd Apathow

Pineapple Express” is the new comedy-actioner produced by Judd Apathow, Hollywood's King of Comedy.

“Pineapple Express” uses comedy to say that nothing good comes from getting high, says Judd Apatow, producer of the new action-comedy. All these guys lives are a mess, they are going nowhere and, hopefully, almost getting murdered makes them rethink their current way of life. I always want the movies we make to be hilarious and thoughtful. I want to feel good about what we are saying.

As funny as the movie is, the filmmakers were also very aware that they had to put their characters in real peril to trigger the high-stakes action that fuels the movie. If you dont believe that these guys are in danger of getting killed, you wont believe that they would ever change, says Apatow. So, we looked at other action comedies that we liked Midnight Run, Pulp Fiction that had a common thread of just enough silly, over-the-top violence to show that the characters are in way over their heads.

The idea for the film was one that Apatow had hidden away on a file. As Apatow tells it, Many years ago, I thought to myself, What would an action movie be like if the leads were chronically stoned It seemed funny to me, and I was even sober at the time.

Apatow wrote the story with Seth Rogen and Rogens writing partner, Evan Goldberg, and then Rogen and Goldberg wrote the screenplay. At the time, the team had already written Superbad, and Rogen had also penned several episodes of Apatows series, Undeclared. At the time, I was trying to get Superbad made, and failing at every turn, says Apatow. So I said to Seth and Evan, maybe you need to write something a little more commercial. Looking back now, I wonder if this idea was really the most commercial idea I could have given them, but thats what I thought at the time.

The writing team was intrigued by the chance to write an action movie and explore the comedy of the characters situation. The hook for us was to create characters that are so stupid and lost, itd take someone trying to murder them for them to realize that they need to get their act together, says Rogen.

And so, Dale and Saul were born. In writing the screenplay, Rogen and Goldberg were careful to craft a story with a truly endearing core that audiences have come to expect from Judd Apatows comedies, and helpful comments from friends showed them the path. Table reads are a common practice in television and motion picture production, but they often take place weeks or even days before shooting beings, as a means of the actors familiarizing themselves with the characters.

Apatow makes a practice of table reading material very early as a way of testing the screenplay whats working, whats not, which ideas could be developed, which pulled back. As Apatow recalls, We did a table read a few years ago with Seth and James Franco and it was hilarious. A bunch of friends came to give notes, and our buddy Ian Roberts, the actor from Talladega Nights, said he thought the most interesting part was the idea that Seth and James did not know whether or not they were really friends or just business associates. So Seth and Evan went further with those moments and the scenes which focused on their developing friendship, and it got much funnier and sweeter.

That unlikely friendship is the heart of the film, says producer Shauna Robertson. When you see their friendship forged by fire literally you get why they would start to see each other as more than just a buyer or dealer.

Of course, the other great way for the films sweet nature to come through is in the casting. Originally, we wrote Saul for me, Rogen states. We just assumed Id be the funny stoner buddy and wed get some kind of leading man type to play Dale.

Enter James Franco. Now well-known for his more serious role in the Spider-Man series, Franco first gained acclaim starring with Rogen as a regular on Apatows television series Freaks and Geeks. Franco and Apatow had hooked up at the Austin Film Festival, where Franco was screening a dark comedy short film he directed called The Ape and invited Apatow to take a look. Franco recalls, He really liked it and afterwards he said, You know, I really miss the funny Franco.

Rogen recalls, So, we talked about Franco and thought, What if we flipped it What if he was the stupid buddy and I was the leading hero straight man, uh, so to speak It just started suddenly seeming different which was good. Anything that kind of set ourselves apart from how these movies are usually done was valuable to us.

When Apatow sent Franco the script for Pineapple Express, They didnt tell me which role, the actor recalls. I thought they wanted me to play Dale. And I was thinking, Gosh, I really like it, but I really wish I could play Saul. And then they said, We want you to play Saul, so it was perfect.

As the idea of Seth Rogen, leading man, took hold, so did his character. Dale is a giant loser, he says. Hes a process server, dating a high school girl, not going anywhere in life and not really all that unhappy about it.

Not all that unhappy, that is, until he unwittingly witnesses the one hit that changes his life forever. With a drug lord and a crooked cop on his tail, he gets unhappy about his directionless life in a real hurry. These guys are forced to realize how pathetic they are they dont have anyone that they can connect with emotionally and they realize that theyre each others best friend, says Rogen. They need to get their acts together, not just to live through this situation, but to live happy lives when its all over.

It was great that Seth and James were friends before we shot the film, says Robertson. They have a shorthand that pushes them both to be funnier. They really are genuinely amused by one another, and we got to exploit that.

With the two main characters set, the producers next considered the director. After a successful collaboration with independent film director Greg Mottola, who helmed the hit film Superbad, the filmmakers again looked outside the box. They found their man in David Gordon Green, best known for such thoughtful, character-driven independent films as George Washington and All the Real Girls.

Again, though the collaboration might not seem like a natural one, Green says that he shared with Apatow a similar approach to filmmaking. I had just finished a real heavy dramatic film and was thinking I wanted to aim in a lighthearted direction, says Green. As we started talking about the way we like making movies, we found we had very similar sensibilities. They do things in a more broad commercial comedic genre and Ive worked more in a low-budget, independent, dramatic genre. But stylistically, we both look for the same kind of natural inflections and have very similar senses of humor, and we have similar theories of how to have a good time making a living.

Apatow had heard that Green was looking to direct a comedy, and the director got a recommendation that sealed the deal. Danny McBride whos as funny as they come, thinks David is funny. I like Davids films and we know hes a good director, and if Danny thinks hes funny, he must be.

McBride, who went to film school and lived on the same dormitory hall with Green, says that although the director is known for his dramas, he cut his teeth on comedies. In film school, he was insanely funny, says McBride. His first-year movie was called Will You Lather Up My Roughhouse, about two guys who lived together and made soap. It was ridiculous but also very, very funny. His dramatic work is, obviously, very impressive, but his comedic work is also amazing.

Rogen says that Greens approach is what they needed to help Pineapple Express stand apart from the pack. David has a great sense of how to tell character-driven stories. We thought thats what would make this movie different from other comedies of this kind: get a director who, in a way, works against that. His main focus is how to tell the story well and the character work and the acting. That way, we would do what we could to make sure the film has all the emotional relevance that people are used to from an Apatow comedy, but with action and excitement and drugs.

According to Robertson, Green was the ideal choice to add the unexpected element. David looks at things in a way that is really fun to be around, she says. He is very creative and shows up ready to get a lot done in a short amount of time. He is always prepared, but also always prepared to throw all those preparations out the window if something funny happens in the moment. David wants people to be totally committed to the process. One time, he told me he only wanted to hire extras who would shave their sideburns totally off. He didnt actually want a sideburn-free movie he just wanted folks who were that committed.

For his part, Green had no reservations about working with guys with a really wonderful reputation within the industry of delivering projects that made sense commercially but also pushed the boundaries a little bit. People are willing to take a chance with them.

Once on the set, the actors found working with Green an unusual experience. The best word I could use is different, says Rogen. One of his favorite directions is, Say it like youve got ear wax in your mouth. Do it like a drunken sailor on leave. Do it like a frustrated nun. He throws you curve balls he takes you out of your comfort zone and do something youd never have thought of doing on your own.

Together, the filmmakers rounded out the cast with Danny McBride playing the third-wheel Red, Gary Cole as the suburban drug lord Ted and Rosie Perez as the dirty cop and Teds partner in crime, Carol.

McBride had acted in Greens independent films before staking his own comedic ground in The Foot Fist Way, an independent comedy that found fans in some of the worlds biggest names in comedy after its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006. The film was released in theaters earlier this summer. Says Rogen, Danny is hilarious. Wed never met him when we wrote the script, but once we did, it was like wed written the role for him. We were like, You gotta play Red if they ever make Pineapple Express.

Reds a slippery fella, says McBride of the middleman between drug lord Ted and local dealer Saul. Hes really a jerk. But he gets whats coming to him, and in the end, he comes to realize the power of loyalty to his friends, even if it means getting shot several times by Rosie Perez.

When McBride says that Red gets whats coming to him, hes not kidding around. The character gets the business end of a whack to the head by a bong and a vicious hit by Seth Rogen to the back. But the actor made it through okay. I did one day of yoga to prepare for the fight scene, and it was good it helped me recover though I did have bruises in weird places, like under the arms. I really dont think I would have made it through without the breathing techniques I was using.

Gary Cole, the character actor whose turns in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Office Space, The West Wing, Desperate Housewives, and countless other films and television shows have garnered a legion of fans quoting his lines, says that he was thrilled to join what some would see as a silly comedy. You make your choices based on the material and who youll be working with. Not only did I like the script, I liked these guys. I was a big fan of Seths from The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Coles characterization of Ted Jones fleshes out the villain in ways not normally seen in movies of this genre. David, Evan, and I talked a lot about what kind of villain Ted would be, says Cole. The most important thing to us is that he was not a clich drug lord. I like to put physical or emotional obstacles in the way of my characters they lend, for whatever reason, an authenticity.

But he also enjoyed the silly moments, like a shootout scene. They wanted me to do the John Woo-style double pistols. Hey, why not he says.

Gary Cole is a professional, says Rosie Perez, who takes on the role of the crooked police officer, Carol. Hes been around forever and done everything television, theater, movies and as a result of doing it all, seeing it all, hes so relaxed. I had most of my scenes with Gary and it was quite easy give and take, talk and listen, the fundamentals of great acting, which he applies every single day.

Green was thrilled to work with Rosie Perez again after having worked with her on stage with a reading we did. I remember seeing Rosie when I saw Do the Right Thing. I was immediately struck by her.

It couldnt have been easier, says Perez. I was just supposed to have a meeting with David to discuss if we were going to work together on this movie. I go to the meeting and we start doing scenes. We started working right away. I was thinking, This is going to be really good.

Perez says that her greatest challenge was learning to fire a gun. I do not like handling firearms, she says, but my character Carol is a sergeant, shes been on the force for several years, and she is a badass. Ive never sought out a role like this as I said, I really dont like guns but Im glad I did it, because I had a blast on this movie.

The films cast also features Amber Heard as Angie, Dales girlfriend, and Craig Robinson as Matheson and Kevin Corrigan as Budlofsky, two of Teds henchmen.