Anyone who has seen the trailer for Sausage Party – whether it interested them or not – must have asked themselves one question: How did this movie get made? The animated film aimed at adults is by far the most unorthodox film written by the superstar writing team of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. However, taking a look back at the duo’s previous works, is it really that more bizarre than a teenager obsessed with drawing anthropomorphic penises? How about a former criminal that becomes a holy man possessed by the spiritual offspring of an angel and a demon? Or maybe a cannibalistic Danny McBride ruling over post-apocalyptic Los Angeles with a pet Channing Tatum at his side? When you think about it, Sausage Party is really just the logical progression of Rogen and Goldberg’s twisted and hugely popular brand of entertainment. Critics seem to agree, with the film currently holding a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes before the film has even been released. In this latest installment of Eventful’s Director Series, we’ll take a look at how these two writers managed to make weird the new cool.
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg first met as kids growing up in Vancouver, Canada. They both attended Point Gregory Secondary School, but met while attending bar mitzvah classes together. When they were just thirteen, they began working on the rough draft of a movie script that would later become Superbad. Rogen’s professional career took off first, when he was chosen as one of the titular freaks in Judd Apatow’s cult TV series, Freaks and Geeks. Although the show – along with Rogen and Apatow’s next collaboration, Undeclared – only lasted one season, the working relationship between the teenage actor and Apatow would prove to be a highly hilarious one. In the meantime, Rogen and Goldberg were hired as writers for the final season of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Da Ali G Show, for which the pair received Emmy nominations.
Rogen’s breakout roles in Apatow’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and particularly his starring role in Knocked Up, catapulted the actor into a level of stardom that afforded Rogen and Goldberg bigger opportunities for their writing projects. Suddenly, the semi-autobiographical teen comedy that once seemed too raunchy and dissociative for the big screen was becoming one of the greatest comedies of the 21st Century. While Superbad was making celebrities out of everyone involved, Goldberg was already hard at work on another passion project: a short film featuring Rogen and his Undeclared co-star Jay Baruchel, titled Jay and Seth Vs. The Apocalypse.
The very next year, Rogen and Goldberg once again collaborated with Apatow on another film that could’ve only been made due to the trio’s overwhelming success at the time. Inspired by Brad Pitt’s bit part as a stoner roommate in True Romance, Pineapple Express surprised audiences with something beyond the typical stoner films that had been released at that time. Full of poignant observational comedy, insightfully choreographed action sequences, and both a compelling and realistic dynamic between the main characters, Pineapple Express obliterated conventional genre tropes and stereotypes.
Even though Rogen had clearly become the public face of the writing duo, that doesn’t mean that Evan Goldberg was sitting idly by; even if he wasn’t writing. While Rogen was center stage in films like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Funny People, Neighbors, and 50/50, Goldberg was behind the scenes, producing. While Rogen was starring in the remake of The Green Hornet written by the pair, Goldberg was busy producing the film, as well as collaborating with Jay Baruchel on the script for the indie comedy, Goon. However, Goldberg’s reluctance to the limelight and Rogen’s surprising charisma have somewhat diminished his achievements in the public eye; especially during their next project, which was conceived by Goldberg.
Co-written and directed by Rogen and Goldberg, This Is the End not only stars Seth Rogen; it stars Seth Rogen, along with all the Hollywood friends he and Goldberg have made over the years. While initially supported by the terrific dynamic between Rogen and Jay Baruchel, adding more of Rogen’s celebrity friends not only multiplied the hilarious interactions between the film’s stars, it highlighted the divide Rogen and Goldberg experience from the varying degrees of celebrity possessed by their pals. Whereas their previous films made audiences wonder why someone would make them, This Is the End had audiences wondering why no one had made a film like it before. Goldberg stated that he and Rogen had always been fascinated by the concept of real actors playing over-the-top versions of themselves, and cited Being John Malkovich and The Larry Sanders Show as influences.
Unfortunately, with so many hit films allowing the writers to take as many liberties as they wanted concerning the subject matter of their work, they were bound to hit a wall eventually. That wall’s name was North Korea. In the late 2000s, Rogen and Goldberg had an idea for a movie that involved journalists assassinating a world leader. While screenwriter Dan Sterling initially used a fictional leader in early drafts of the script, Rogen and Goldberg desperately wanted to use North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. After he passed away, and noticing that they were close in age to his successor, Kim Jong-un, they decided to use the dictator’s son as the target of their satire. When the North Korean government found out about The Interview, it quickly condemned the film as “an act of war” and promised retaliation if the film was released. In response, Sony Pictures heavily edited the film, including Jong-un’s death scene. It wasn’t until an anonymous hacker group called “Guardians of Peace” (which has alleged ties to North Korea) infamously hacked the computer networks of Sony Pictures, and threatened to violently attack any theater showing the movie, that the studio decided to completely cave in to the demands. The premier was cancelled, all press tours were aborted, and The Interview’s nationwide release was rescinded. In response to criticism from audiences, the White House, and the film industry at large, Sony eventually decided to release the film digitally.
While the success of Rogen and Goldberg’s movies allowed them to get away with more and more on the big screen, their most bizarre and personal project was yet to come. Unbeknownst to audiences, since early in their careers, they were telling anyone who would listen about how they wanted to adapt one of their favorite childhood comics: Preacher. Even after years of talking about it to anyone and everyone in the industry, the film rights to the comic bounced around to seemingly everyone but them. Even when producer Neal Moritz snatched up the property after hearing Rogen talk about Preacher incessantly while filming The Green Hornet, two other writers were chosen to develop it. But while writer after director failed to successfully adapt the book, Rogen and Goldberg kept campaigning until their shot finally arrived. With a little help from television, the popularity of The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad writer Sam Catlin, and the comic’s creator, Garth Ennis, Rogen and Goldberg miraculously created a cable-friendly hit out of one of the most bizarre, offensive, and underappreciated comic books ever created.
This week’s release of Sausage Party proves that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have no plans of reigning in their eccentric and uproarious sense of humor any time soon. In fact, the duo is currently adapting another Garth Ennis comic book for Cinemax: the ultra violent tale of government-sponsored superhero corruption, The Boys. Each time they create a movie or show, it seems crazy or absurd to the average viewer when they first hear about it. Then, after taking the time to view it, most people end up loving it. When you look at that cycle as a whole, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg aren’t weird; they’re reinventing normal.