It didn't dawn on me until prepping for a chat with writer and producer Evan Goldberg, but the man has, as far as I'm concerned, a perfect track record. "Da Ali G Show," Superbad, Pineapple Express, Funny People, The Green Hornet, and 50/50; all enjoyable films that have endured (and in some cases even improved with) repeat viewings. Having said that, his latest film, the hockey comedy Goon (available now on VOD) starring Seann William Scott and Jay Baruchel, is his strongest yet.
Having now spoken with Goldberg, who shares a screenwriting credit with Baruchel, there's no real surprise there. Even though he's not actually a hardcore hockey fan, Goon was a passion project because it meant he finally got to do something he'd been wanting to for years: Celebrate his Canadian roots on the big screen. (Though for someone who isn't a hardcore hockey fan, he still managed to write one of the best hockey films around.)
Below we talk about why it was so important for him to make Goon, what Canada's hockey mania is really like, as well as Goldberg's next film, The Apocalypse, starring Jonah Hill, James Franco, Seth Rogen and more as themselves, and possible sequels to Pineapple Express and Superbad.
Movies.com: How much of your recent successes do you weigh when you take on the next project?
Evan Goldberg: When Seth [Rogen] and I go to Vegas, he doesn't gamble at all and I like to gamble, you know, a nice little amount. But when it comes to making movies, we both like to gamble it all all the time to make it really exciting. We'll do something a little calculated every now and then. Like, when we did The Green Hornet, we wanted to do a big movie. That was a purposeful thing. But generally speaking, we just do whatever draws the most attention for us, seems the coolest for us. One day that will horribly explode in our faces and we're waiting for it, but I don't think it's happened yet and we've still got a lot left.
Movies.com: At what point did you put on your list of things to do, "Make the ultimate hockey movie?"
Goldberg: Well, I love my country. I love my hometown, I'm from Vancouver, Canada. I've always wanted to make a Canadian movie. We filmed 50/50 there, which was amazingly fun, but it was still an American production. So I wanted to get back to my country, which did me right in my childhood, and I've always loved Canadian entertainment, so I was meeting with Canadian people trying to get Canadian projects. I always have been. I have an agent up there, Ben Silverman, that's always looking for me. Some guys came to me and told me a bunch of ideas, and at the end of the meeting they had this idea.
Jay Baruchel, who is one of my best buddies, loves hockey. For me this came out of a passion of wanting to do something Canadian, and I realized that Jay and I could do this together, maybe. I knew Jay was a great writer, but he hadn't done anything like this. He'd written his first script, and I thought it was fantastic, and I knew he loved hockey, so I called him up and we decided to do this thing together. So for me, it was an urge to do something Canadian that slowly transformed, along with my shame of not knowing enough about hockey as a Canadian along with my desire to do something Canadian, into a very appealing project.
I'm a Stanley Cup fan, but that's it. It's a little embarrassing.
Movies.com: It seems like in popular media Canada's fervor for hockey has almost become a bit of a parody on the entire country, but I love how realistic and organic it seems in Goon. How accurate is your depiction of the fandom for hockey, where even the fans are so into it that they're ready to throw a punch, in Canada?
Goldberg: In Canada, in the NHL, they keep it proper and professional. But as you go down, down, down and get to smaller towns and smaller leagues, sh*t gets pretty wild. At the end of the film there's some footage of the gentleman it's based on, and it's real and almost as crazy. We added things, we throw in a little more blood, but the mania for hockey in Canada is real and intense.
Probably the best day in my entire life was when the Canadian team won the Olympics during the filming of 50/50. I went downtown and partied with every single person there, and it was just 300,000 people screaming and losing their minds. People in Canada are obsessed and proud of it.
Movies.com: When it comes to crafting a hockey movie, since most do focus on the coach or the team and yours focuses on the player and his devotion to both of those, do you start off by watching other hockey films and making a checklist? Were you watching Miracle or Sudden Death and taking notes?
Goldberg: Miracle is the only one I haven't seen, which is bumming me out because everyone keeps mentioning it as one of the best. We discussed hockey movies a bunch, but Jay and I definitely agreed that-- Jay and I wanted to make a great hockey movie, but we also just wanted to make a great story that was, irregardless of hockey, would be something people enjoy. That's why we put a lot of effort into the character of Doug, because we wanted him to be someone who was relatable and interesting, and we didn't want the movie to have to rely on hockey. But we did want to make sure that if it could work without hockey, we had failed in another way. So we had to make sure it could work both ways, and I think that's something people really connect to with the movie and the character.
Movies.com: I think such a strong character is why it is Seann William Scott's best role. He brings such sympathy and understanding to him, as does everyone else. There's an authenticity to the entire cast, particularly how you guys handle his relationship with Alison Pil's character. I'm curious how hard it was for you to craft Eva's character?
Goldberg: Eva is at least 80% Jay's creation. Jay was totally inspired when it came to that stuff, and really defended it strongly. Initially I disagreed with a lot of Jay's opinions about how that should go, and that was actually the thing we fought about the most in the script. That's not to say we fought-fought, but this was the thing we most passionately debated and in the end I think we found more of a happy ground than anything else in the film. It was a tricky thing to do, to make it something that felt fresh and interesting and still be a classic love story. It follows the path of a classic love story, only everything is ass backwards.
Movies.com: Moving on from Goon for a bit, since I am such a sucker for any film that evokes the apocalypse, I've got to know more about The Apocalypse. What exactly does bring about the end of the world in your film?
Goldberg: Well, it is the apocalypse.
Movies.com: So it's full on Rapture or Ragnarok-- everything is just ... ending?
Goldberg: Yep, yep. Exactly how most Christian people expect it to go down is how it goes down.
Movies.com: How has it evolved since the days you guys first created Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse? Is it now an adventure film or is it still just some guys sitting around shooting the sh*t while the world ends around them?
Goldberg: Well, the thing you saw is a seven-year-old USC Film project from the guy who came up with the story idea and is an executive producer, Jason Stone. In that we hadn't formed the idea of the actual apocalypse from the outside world. I'm literally missing a storyboard session right now because of this phone call. Seth's in the other room right now storyboarding, we've got the script and all of our actors locked down, and we're literally starting to create the universe right now, especially doing designs for some ... things. We're heading to New Orleans in two hours to start scouting. It's all going down.
Movies.com: Are you guys playing exaggerated versions of yourselves in a sort of parody of what would happen to Hollywood celebrities if the apocalypse happened?
Goldberg: We're not like intensely relying on that aspect in any way, that's just one of the cool elements to us. Much like with Goon, I could change it in a matter of hours and you would never notice the difference. Much like with Goon, where you could change it to a different sport and it would still function the same way.
That's an element of the film, it's not the entire film. The film would work without it, we just always had the funny idea to it. People are so interested in celebrities, and now there's reality TV craze and all that, so why not just go for it? We think this might be a cool movie for that to happen in.
Movies.com: By chance, have you seen a British miniseries called Dead Set from a few years ago?
Goldberg: Dead Set? No, never heard of it.
Movies.com: It was created by a British comedian named Charlie Brooker, and it's a zombie mini-series that takes place on the set of Big Brother. It's about the people in the house who don't realize there's a zombie outbreak happening while they're on air. It's a really great series.
Goldberg: Hold on, I gotta write that down.
Movies.com: I don't think it's on US DVD, but you can import the British set no problem.
Goldberg: You can find anything on the Internet.
Movies.com: Well, I assume The Apocalypse is consuming you right now since you're missing a storyboard meeting for it, but what else do you guys having on the horizon?
Goldberg: We're making some head way with our animated feature Sausage Party, which we've been working on for a long time. And what else, we've got a production company now, Seth and I, so we've got all sorts of stuff going on. There's a script called Townies we're working on that two of our buddies, Andrew Cohen and Brendan O'Brien, are writing. We've got a few deals with our old friends at Sony, with some of the guys we've worked with. We've got a lot of stuff.
Movies.com: And I've got to ask since I'm a big fan, are there any sequel possibilities still for Pineapple Express?
Goldberg: Pineapple Express is like the Anchorman sequel. It always seems like it's happening, but then it isn't happening, and everyone's confused why it isn't. One day it could still happen, so don't close the book on the Pineapple sequel. There will never be a Superbad sequel, no matter what, never, period. But the possibility of a Pineapple sequel is something we all think is very funny, and we have many, many ideas for a sequel already. And The Green Hornet, when you make a movie like that, it's just so God damned hard you've just got to take a break from it. It may happen, but not any time soon. We've got to go and make some much dirtier movies first.
Movies.com: And one last on-the-horizon question, how big of an element is the supernatural, end of the world, aliens, whatever element of Neighborhood Watch? Because the teaser trailer has absolutely no hints of that whatsoever.
Goldberg: Well, I saw the teaser, too, and I don't want to ruin the studio's tease to the world, but I'll just say, sh*t gets crazy.