This Is the End: Casting–Franco Plays Franco???

For a film about the group dynamics among a group of friends, it’s no surprise that the characters in This Is The End were tailor-made for the actors playing the roles.

They would all play horrible “versions” of themselves, says Goldberg. “Seth isn’t a duplicitous coward, but he plays one in this film,” he says. “Danny is a delightful sweetheart, but his character is a maniac. Franco–the things we mock in Franco in the movie are real, but Franco in real life is nothing like the way he acts in the movie. He genuinely does like art and weird stuff, but it’s not pretentious and he’s not in-your-face about it. He doesn’t care what others think about his art. He just likes art.

The only exceptions are Jay, who is more like his character than anyone else in the movie, and Craig, who isn’t a jerk like his character, but is a guy who carries a towel around to wipe sweat off his face.”

James Franco

Franco says that he didn’t hesitate to sign on for the project, even though he wouldn’t have even considered the project if it had been with anyone other than Rogen and Goldberg. “We’re playing extreme versions of ourselves, and I would really only trust Seth and Evan to depict me in an outrageous way,” he says. “Their take on me is funny–of course, I don’t think I’m really like that, but yes, it’s a version of me, it’s their version, and it’s funny. But going back to Superbad, through all their movies, they put in a level of heart, or emotion, that grounds the characters, and that’s in this movie, too. I was game for it because the way they make movies, their sensibility is just so solid.”

“The way my character is on the surface, he’s a pretty shallow person,” says Franco. “He’s a guy who thinks that Seth can’t be his friend and anybody else’s–like sixth grade behavior. So that’s where we took the character deeper. In real life, Seth has been there at important points in my career –‘Freaks and Geeks,’ ‘Pineapple Express’–so we took that and decided that the character of James Franco would have this affection for Seth and need to connect with him. Really, he’s obsessed with Seth.”

Jonah Hill

One of the main attractions for JONAH HILL, like the other actors, to join in the film was the chance to work alongside his close friends. “I trust, love, and respect Seth and Evan, wholeheartedly,” he says. “I’m always going to be there for them, no matter what. I’d have hated myself forever if I’d missed out on their first directorial effort.”

“I hope that people understand that we are taking shots at ourselves by playing such awful versions of ourselves,” says Hill. “Actors are easy targets to make fun of, so I think it’s good to show an openness, a sense of humor about what you do, and try not to take yourself too seriously. My character is really is kind of a douche-y, overly pretentious version of myself. That’s why I wanted to wear the big diamond earring that I wear in the movie – it’s part of this famous-actor persona we’re creating for ourselves.”

Seth Rogen

Rogen says there is more to his character than appears on the surface. “He seems super nice, but all he does is try to make everybody happy – he’s full of BS and very duplicitous,” he says. “He’s spineless – he tells everybody what they want to hear and wants everyone to get along for his own benefit. He’s definitely the least fun character in the movie – everybody else gets to act crazy in one way or another. I’d have rather have played a crazy dude, but it was right for me to play the emotional core.”

At the heart of the film is Rogen’s relationship with Baruchel. “Jay is Seth’s old friend, and the other guys are his new friends,” says Rogen. “He hates my new friends, and frankly, they don’t like him that much. So Jay and Seth are at odds over why they’ve drifted apart. It’s this moment in their lives when they’re trying to figure out if they’re going to be friends in the future.”

Danny McBride

McBride says, “I heard they were working on this movie, and it sounded like one of those ideas that was so crazy that you never really knew if it would come to fruition. So when I got the call that it was actually going to happen – and not only that, but they had found the time that everyone’s schedules lined up – it just seemed like something you couldn’t miss.”

How different is the character of Danny McBride from the real Danny McBride? “In real life, I’m married and have a kid. In the movie, I wake up in a bathtub and smoke a lot. Slightly different.”

And what does McBride think of his character–a completely self-involved person who begins by eating all of the supplies and ends by turning to cannibalism? “I don’t think the character of Danny McBride has any flaws at all,” he says. “He’s just trying to survive. You can’t fault him for that.”

Jay Baruchel

Baruchel was involved in the project not only from the beginning – he was involved before the beginning, taking part in Jason Stone’s short film that would precede the movie. “Back then, we had $2,000 and two days and a neat concept of two angry Canadians stuck in an apartment together during the apocalypse and an amazing set that the film students at USC had built. It’s amazing to see talented film students do their thing,” he says. “It’s a thrill to have been a part of something like that years ago, and watch it come to fruition with these filmmakers.”

While most of the characters are awful versions of the actors playing the roles, Baruchel sees his part a little differently. “I think I stand in for the audience,” he says. “My character has a chip on his shoulder – he rolls his eyes at all of the LA nonsense and has nothing but unpleasant things to say about show business. You could say he’s the voice of reason, but he’s also just a wet blanket. I wish I could say that I didn’t think my character was better than the others, but I can’t help it. I’m a Montréaler, we’re raised to be holier than thou.”

On working with his co-stars, Baruchel says, “I don’t think you could find six actors with different energies and different takes on life, but because we all have a shorthand with each other, we work pretty well in concert. I think the combination leads to funny stuff.”

Craig Robinson

Robinson takes some exception to how his character has been drawn: “The real me,” he says, “would be a lot smarter in this situation.”

Still, there are some similarities. “I do say the silliest, stupidest stuff,” he says. “I’m sitting at a piano and the whole party comes around singing ‘Take Yo Panties Off’–That’s the real me.”

“Craig is really the only character with a clear transition in the movie–the character starts out as kind of a jerk and gets nicer through the movie. In fact, Craig getting Raptured at the end of the second act was the key to figuring out the movie,” says Rogen. “We weren’t sure how to end it until we came up with the idea that Craig does something good and gets redeemed. That creates the ultimate plot of the film: you have to be a good person, and you can still get redeemed. It’s not over.”

Michael Cera and Emma Watson round out the cast. Like most of the other characters in the movie, Cera is “playing himself” while playing a character that is nothing like himself. But with Cera, the filmmakers took the character to extremes. “Michael Cera is nothing like that,” he says. “We thought it would be funny to see him play not only against type, but so far against what he was like in real life. And it was – he took it way beyond where we thought it could go.”

Watson was attracted to the project by the chance to make her first out-and-out comedy. “My agent called me and said, ‘There’s this movie, it’s about the end of the world, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are making it, everybody’s playing themselves, and there’s only one major female part in it, and they wrote it for you,’” Watson remembers. “I was taken aback – why did they think of me? – but then I read the script, and it was so funny. I’ve never done a comedy like this one, and to have the chance to work with one of the greatest lineups of comedians working right now – how could I miss out on that?”

The film begins at a party at James Franco’s house, and any party at James Franco’s house would–by definition–be celebrity-studded. It’s here that the Apocalypse begins to go down, and most of Hollywood’s best and brightest aren’t long for this world. “Martin Starr and David Krumholtz are old friends. Kevin Hart, I’ve known forever. Mindy Kaling. Rihanna. I loved working with them and yet we killed them all. Every last one of them. Nobody gets out alive.”