As the writers and producers of projects like “Superbad,” “Pineapple Express,” “This Is the End” and “The Green Hornet,” childhood friends Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have long let their fanboy flags with both direct and subtle references to the comics they grew up loving. And now they’re delivering the gospel of “Preacher,” the acclaimed Vertigo series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, in a new no-holds-barred television drama on AMC.
As executive producers, alongside “Breaking Bad” standout Sam Catlin, and co-directors of the initial two episodes, the comedy duo is venturing deeper into more twisted, pitch-black funny and hyper-violent territory than ever as they adapt the seminal comic book.
Rogen and Goldberg recently joined journalists to reveal exactly how and why the epic journey of Jesse Custer, Tulip O’Hare and the vampiric Cassidy was a road trip they wanted to take on television.
On the long Road to “Preacher”
Seth Rogen: The first time we had a meeting for it was as soon as we were able to have a meeting for something like this. I think it was when we were filming “Pineapple Express.” So it was before any movie we had made had come out, really …
Evan Goldberg: Which gave you little reason to go with us …
Rogen: Exactly. We were just kind of like picking up some momentum as writers. And so, we were like, “We’re writers now! We’re making an action comedy! Maybe they’ll let us do ‘Preacher!'”
I remember we actually showed them the fights from “Pineapple Express” in Danny McBride’s house, to show them that we could execute action … and I think they were like, “Oh, OK.” And then they gave it to, I think, Mark Steven Johnson or something like that around that time. And it passed through a lot of hands.
I know Sam Mendes was involved with it at some point. I think David Fincher was circling it at one point or another. Yeah, there were just a lot of iterations of it, and we just always were just very vocal to our agent or to whoever was around who would listen to us. But it was something we were big fans of and that we thought we could do a good job of adapting in some way.
And then we met [producer] Neal Moritz on “The Green Hornet,” and we actually developed a very good relationship with him. And he started controlling the property eventually. And he had heard us talk about it nonstop …
Goldberg: He still tried to make it with, like, two other people!
Rogen: Yes, exactly. Part of me thinks he only ever got the property in the first place because he heard us talk about it a lot, then still tried to make it with two other people, who then did not do it, and then eventually it still found its way back to us, which I’ve not called him on.
So then eventually it fell in our laps. By that time there is a thing called cable television that was very popular, and it allowed us to do that.
Goldberg: Yeah, we initially thought that it would be like a “Band of Brothers,” kinda 10-part miniseries, because that just seemed logical, because shows like this didn’t exist then at all.
Rogen: Yeah, there was just no giant but huge-scale show.
Goldberg: And then when it was in movie format, it was just too brief. It didn’t make sense as a movie and there was no time to jam it all in.
On the aspects of “Preacher” they first fell in love with
Rogen: It kinda reminded me of “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” which we also both love. It creates a world where anything is possible and anything can happen. But, again, it’s all very character driven and character based. And it’s very funny.
And it’s also very fucked up, which, especially at the time that we read it, we were obsessed with “Pulp Fiction” and Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers. Peter Jackson we loved, “Devil Eye” we would watch, and Sam Raimi’s movies. It just kinda had all that in one thing.
Goldberg: Part of the beauty of “Preacher,” with Garth Ennis, is he is not from America, but he loves America and is obsessed with it and now lives here. And it’s a lot of his childhood watching John Wayne and stuff like that impacted how he wrote the comic. And, for us, I think it’s a similar thing.
Rogen: It’s a similar thing. When you are Canadian, you kinda know America from movies … I think when you look at the comic, it very much is like a cinematic perspective of America. I think he picked a few American movies he loved and kind of used that as, “This is America.”
When we were growing up it was very similar. I think it was things like “Clerks” and “Pulp Fiction” and Wes Anderson movies started coming out when we were in high school, and we would look at those things and be like, “America …” [laughs]
Goldberg: And I think Garth captured it in the comic, and it’s something that I think most people would agree, that America is just the craziest place because there’s extremes of everything. It’s like Texas and New York are both in America. It’s just a crazy country with a lot of story to tell. I think that’s one of the reasons he’s gravitated towards it.
Rogen: But at its core it’s really a Western, which is funny. Before we started making the pilot, we didn’t really watch a lot of Westerns, honestly. If you asked us, “Are you fans of Westerns?” I would not have said yes.
But then you start watching all these old Westerns and you start realizing, “Oh, well we are fans of a lot of directors who rip off all these Westerns.” [laughs] And so, we very much understood the cinematic language of these Westerns and the look of these old Westerns as we watched them all. We were just like, “Oh, Scorsese does that. Oh, Tarantino does that. Oh, the Coen brothers do that.” As you start watching these John Houston movies, and “The Wild Bunch” could not be more out of some of the handbooks of some of the stuff that’s out there today.
And so, it was funny to look at that and be like … It’s like when we watched “The Last Detail.” We had already written “Superbad,” but we were like, “Oh, we somehow ripped off this movie, even though we had never seen it, just because we must have been ripping off movies from people who had seen it.”
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