Producer Evan Goldberg on wrangling the comic mayhem of 'Neighbors'
Evan Goldberg may not have the instant name recognition of his creative partner Seth Rogen, but he is every bit as responsible for "Superbad," "Pineapple Express," and "This Is The End," and like Rogen, he is now able to help shepherd younger comic talent through the studio system as a producer.
The two of them are playing that role for the new movie "Neighbors," which stars Rogen and Rose Byrne as a young married couple who spend their life savings buying what they hope is going to be a dream house, a place to raise their newborn child. Instead, they find themselves locked in a sort of comic "Straw Dogs" scenario when a fraternity buys the house next door and proceeds to terrorize Rogen and Byrne with sex and drugs and rock and roll.
On the day I visited the set, I watched Dave Franco, Zac Efron, Seth Rogen, and Rose Byrne all play a scene where the frat guys stop by to announce a Robert De Niro party they're holding. It was a preposterous moment, and director Nicholas Stoller, who I've visited on three films prior to this, was in a gregarious mood, laughing and enjoying each new take.
Towards the end of the day, I had a chance to sit down with Evan to chat with him about the project and his involvement, as well as the way he and Seth are able to help other writers now. I asked him how he's able to give each project the attention it deserves if he's juggling three or four films at a time.
"Usually when anyone asks anything about Seth and I working together, the answer is we do everything the same. We do everything together. That's the one area where we're kind of a little different. He's like bizarrely focused to a fault and I'm like scattered to a fault, but when combined it's really good because I'm excellent at like multitasking." That seems like a necessary combination of qualities, with Evan the one who changes from project to project, putting each thing in front of Seth that needs to be focused on at a particular moment.
"We just pull each other back-and-forth all day. I'll be like 'We've got to deal with that, we've got to deal with that.' And he's like, 'Yeah, right, but we should deal with this right now.' And I'll be, like, 'Okay.' So he'll pull me in and we'll deal with it, but then I'll be, like, 'We've been doing this too long. We have to go back to that.' And he'll be, like, 'Okay,' and so we just kind of tug each other back and forth and it tends to work."
I told him how impressive it is to see them juggle these projects this way, and he made sure I understood that there were more people behind that than just him and Seth. "James Weaver is no f**king joke, this guy we worked with. He will probably be my boss one day. He is the most, like, efficient producer in the entire universe and the most, like, passionate hard-working dude ever. So people just see it as me and Seth, but this guy Weaver… like on 'The Green Hornet,' he was Seth's assistant. He's so good at dealing with agents and studio people, and all the stuff that Seth and I are good at, we can do, but I prefer to talk to the writers and work on the scripts and that kind of stuff. He's taken a lot of that and he helps our focus also. He'll be like, 'We have to do these things today.' So we've got a better system than just two guys, and, like, Alex McAtee, who was my assistant and Seth's assistant who is now a creative executive, and we've got a new guy Josh, and we've got two writers from Canada, Ariel and Kyle. We have way more of an infrastructure then just me and Seth."
As I started to ask my next question, we could hear about ten guys at once from the side yard doing the Pacino "HOO-AH!" at top volume, one after another, despite the fact that they were all dressed as De Niro. It seemed like the noise was giving me a real insight into how it would feel to live next to the frat. I asked Evan how he felt after directing "This Is The End." Was it what he'd wanted it to be? How did it compare as an experience to writing and producing?
"Even if you direct a heaping pile of shit you still have a better chance of directing something else after that then a guy who's never directed anything. You just got to join the club. Once you're in the club, then it's all good. We just couldn't justify ever doing it on other movies because we couldn't justify that we were the best guys. But on 'This Is the End,' I actually think we were the best guys to do this."
I laughed and told him I think he and Seth stacked the deck by writing it about so many of their friends. He corrected me, though, saying that hadn't automatically made things easier. "The hardest part of my entire career was getting all six of those guys to come to that location at the same time. It was like impossible. They were friends, but they're also business people. You've got to satisfy their agents. You've got to make them the money they need to make, but some of them need to do you a favor but some of them, you need to do the favor for, and some of them have scheduled contradictions, and Franco has school, and, like, Jonah had some things on the weekends he had to do. That was a nightmare. Once they were there? Yeah, it was like we stacked the deck. It was just like, 'We're here with our friends.'"