The Sci-Fi Side of Seth Rogen You Never Knew About

Canada-born actor Seth Rogen started his career at age 13 as a stand-up comedian at local clubs in Vancouver where he would crack jokes alongside performers more than twice his age. Rogen made the trip to the US several years later to audition for a role in Freaks and Geeks, a comedy-drama produced by Judd Apatow. It was a successful attempt and Rogen won the role of Ken. While the series itself only aired 12 episodes from 1999 to 2000, Apatow took notice of the actor’s improvisation skill and confidence in front of the camera. About a year later, the producer hired Rogen again as both a writer and an actor on a new sitcom, Undeclared. But like what happened with the previous series, Undeclared was short-lived.

Seth Rogen took his first step into the Sci-Fi entertainment industry in 2001 with a minor role as Ricky in the psychological thriller Donnie Darko, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, and Jena Malone. Rogen’s more serious sci-fi venture arrived with Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse in 2007. It was not a big-budget feature, but a short and sweet 10-minute film about two people who locked themselves in a filthy apartment to hide from an unspecified end-of-the-world event happening outside.

In 2009, Seth Rogen was cast as the voice actor of B.O.B. in Monsters vs. Aliens. There is no sequel to the film despite its Box Office success, but it started a franchise comprising two television specials, a TV series and the short film B.O.B.’s Big Break in which Rogen reprised his voice role.

Rogen’s biggest sci-fi credential yet came with The Green Hornet (2011) where he played the role of the titular character/Britt Reid. The superhero comedy film received mixed reviews, but was a Box Office success with a revenue of $229 million against a production budget of $120 million. In addition to an actor playing the major role, Rogen also served as an executive producer and a writer. Rogen, naturally a comedy actor, was up for a real challenge with the film; not only did he bring his acting skill to the screen, but also put his reputation as a comedy writer on the line.

One of the first things to do was to shed some weight for the role. He lost some, but not to where he transformed into the typical muscular hero figure. There was no intention to wear tight costume in his role as both Reid or the alter ego Green Hornet. Similar to most of his previous projects, the film involved an extensive dose of improvisation and “loose” approach. Many of the conversations did feel natural, as if the actors in the scene were having real interactions with each other. Even the script only had to be acceptable to get approval from the studios. It was only a guideline instead of a precise line-by-line narrative.

The Green Hornet doesn’t actually have superpower. He is a Batman-type figure, fighting crimes and injustices as a masked-vigilante using a wide range of gadgets and a modified car. It is not much of a sci-fi if not for the superfluous weaponry installed in the vehicle and high-tech devices his garage. Rogen said that The Green Hornet was much more complicated than any other film he had worked on at that point. The $120 million budget added few more layers of complexity as well. In an interview with stand-up comedian Marc Rocan in 2013, Rogen went as far as describing the film as a nightmare.

Within just a few months after The Green Hornet was released, Seth Rogen was in another sci-fi film titled Paul as the titular character although he only provided the voice this time. Paul is an alien trying to find a way to his home planet after a crash landing on Earth about 60 years ago. It was mostly a parody of sci-fi, more specifically of the works of Stephen Spielberg. Compared to The Green Hornet, which received mixed reviews, Paul was a critically acclaimed work.

The 2013 apocalyptic comedy This Is the End turned out to be Rogen’s most praise-worthy science fiction film. It is based on Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse, so there isn’t much sci-fi except for the end-of-the-world scenario used as a backstory. It was Rogen’s directorial debut, and he also played himself in the film. Probably over 85% of the movie was unscripted and improvised on the spot.

In An American Pickle (2020), Rogen played as Herschel Greenbaum/Ben Greenbaum, a Jewish immigrant who had been accidentally preserved in a vat of pickles for a century and was finally rescued in present-day NYC. Rogen received positive reviews for his roles as two different characters and ability to present unique energy and personality to each. Another notable performance by Rogen was in the renewed Twilight Zone series, Season 1 Episode 10 “Blurryman” as himself/Adam Wegman. 

We think Seth Rogen has indeed turned out to be the talented actor and writer that Judd Apatow first saw in Freaks and Geeks. After a start in two unpromising TV series, Rogen’s journey whether as actor, director, or producer in small and big screens has finally brought him to comedy stardom. It is pleasing to know that some of his best works are of sci-fi nature, but no one can deny that Rogen has always been a flexible performer with a real power to shine in various film genres thanks to his improvisation skills and memorable voice.

Can you name any other sci-fi films starring Seth Rogen? Are you a fan of improvisational films? We’d love to hear from you.

Other things you might want to know:

Films directed by Seth Rogen:

  • This Is the End (2013), also writer and producer
  • The Interview (2014), also story writer and producer
  • Bananas Tows (2017)
  • Dumpster Diving (2017)

All four movies are co-directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.

Films in which Seth Rogen plays as himself:

  • Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse (short film, 2007)
  • Paper Hearts (2009, Rogen appears as a cameo)
  • This Is the End (2013)
  • Being Canadian (documentary, 2015)

Seth Rogen’s upcoming film:

Being Mortal, a comedy-drama starring Aziz Ansari (also the writer, director, and producer), Bill Murray, and Seth Rogen is, currently in suspended-production following a complaint of “inappropriate behavior” filed by a crew member against Murray. The film remains an on-going project, but words are scarce regarding its current development stage.

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