Seth Rogen and producing partner Evan Goldberg explain why Hollywood is scared to make original comedies like 'An American Pickle'

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Seth Rogen Evan Goldberg Alberto E Rodriguez Getty

(L-R) Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty

  • Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg spoke to Insider about how they get their original comedies made.

  • The duo's production company, Point Grey Pictures, have created some of the best R-rated comedies in the last decade, including "Neighbors," "The Disaster Artist," "Blockers," and "Good Boys."

  • Point Grey also made TV shows "Preacher," "Black Monday," and "The Boys."

  • Their next project is the HBO Max movie "An American Pickle" (available on the service starting Thursday).

  • Rogen and Goldberg explain the challenges of the business, rebooting "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," and "Call Me by Your Name" director Luca Guadagnino wanting to work with them because he loved "Sausage Party."

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Seth Rogen doesn't care — he's growing a beard.

This is not some spontaneous stuck-at-home pandemic decision. It's something he decided to do back when making his new movie, "An American Pickle" (available on HBO Max Thursday), the latest project from his production company, Point Grey Pictures, which he created with childhood friend Evan Goldberg back in 2011.

Convinced fake beards look awful in movies, the comedian spent months growing out a bushy beard for the role of Herschel Greenbaum, a 1920s Eastern European Jewish immigrant who, thanks to being locked in a vat of pickles for 100 years, now lives in modern-day Brooklyn.

But that's not the only character he plays in "American Pickle." Rogen shaved his beard to play Ben Greenbaum — the great-grandson of Herschel who tries to help him get acclimated with the new world — essentially reshooting many of the scenes, this time as Ben, who stars beside Herschel in most of the movie.

Related: How this dog became a comedy star with a Vegas residency

What already sounds like an extremely daunting task to pull off a wacky comedy went a step farther when a new scene for the Herschel character was thought up after principal photography was complete.

"We thought of one 15-second thing to shoot and I grew a beard for 10 months in order to shoot that thing," Rogen told Insider in a Zoom interview with Goldberg last week, topping off the story with his unmistakable laugh.

This is just one example that when Rogen and Goldberg do a Point Grey project, they go full tilt.

Rogen is never convinced one of his movies will get made

For almost a decade, Point Grey Pictures (named after the Vancouver school where Rogen and Goldberg first met) has been creating some of the best original R-rated comedies around under the watchful eye of Rogen and Goldberg. Highlights include everything from movies like "Neighbors," "Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising," "The Interview," "The Disaster Artist," and "Blockers" to TV shows "Black Monday" and "The Boys," which both recently received Emmy nominations.

"An American Pickle" is the latest, a movie that on the surface sounds outlandish but is a touching story about grief and the importance of family. And that's the blessing and curse of a Point Grey movie: they are hilarious, unique stories often with deep-seated messages. Because of their originality, they are also often considered risky choices for Hollywood.

Case in point: "American Pickle." Financed by Sony, the movie was planned to be a theatrical release by the studio, and then Sony head Tom Rothman saw it.

An American Pickle HBO Max

Seth Rogen and Seth Rogen in "An American Pickle."


"The first time Tom saw the movie he said, 'I love this movie,' and he said he cried," Rogen recalled. "Then he was like, 'There's no way Sony can release this film.'"

"And usually you are disappointed, but we were like, 'Thanks for being honest, you're right,'" Goldberg added.

It led to Rogen and Goldberg selling the movie to HBO Max, through the full support of Sony, becoming the new streamer's first original release.

Rogen said this isn't the first time a Point Grey project has had to scramble to find a home after being made. It happened with "The Disaster Artist," too. The Oscar-nominated movie — about the making of the historically awful movie "The Room" — was produced by Warner Bros.' New Line Cinema but after being made, the studio sold the domestic rights to A24 (Warner Bros. released it internationally).

"Nothing is a sure thing with us," Rogen said. "We try to do original material and 'Pickle' is a good example, it's a big swing. That takes an imagination to see how it comes together. That's why I'm never convinced we will make a movie until we're like three weeks into production."

Goldberg said their projects get made thanks to a 'floor of quality' studios can depend on

Rogen and Goldberg have reason to be skeptical if their Point Grey projects will ever be seen, despite titles from the company having found huge success at movie studios and released by nearly every single streaming company. The simple truth is though there are more places than ever to get something released, there are even more people pitching those places than ever before. That leads to more rejection, which Rogen and Goldberg says happens to them. Often.

"You only see the successes," Goldberg said. "You never see in the trades, 'Pilot script not good enough, doesn't get made.'"

"Exactly," Rogen added with a laugh. "'Seth and Evan go to 400 pitch meetings over the course of a week and everyone passes.'"

The duo says it becomes even more challenging because the ideas they are pitching often aren't attached to an IP that will guarantee billions in a return for the studio or network they are meeting with.

neighbors universal.JPG

(L-R) Zac Efron, Seth Rogen, and Rose Byrne in "Neighbors."


But despite all that, Point Grey has held its own. Rogen, Goldberg, and president James Weaver have formed a company that has crafted modestly budgeted original comedies into money-makers like "Neighbors" (lifetime worldwide box office of over $270 million on an $18 million budget), "Blockers" (lifetime worldwide box office of over $94 million on a $21 million budget), and "Good Boys" (lifetime worldwide box office of over $111 million on a $20 million budget). All of these movies also won their respective opening weekends at the domestic box office.

Not to mention successful TV shows like AMC's "Preacher," Showtime's "Black Monday," and Amazon's "The Boys." And thanks to that, the company has gained a reputation in Hollywood as being a home for top-flight storytelling that — if teamed with a studio or network with a little bit of outside-the-box imagination — can hit pay dirt.

Or, as Goldberg put it: "There's a floor of quality that we usually can maintain, and I think that is helpful in our pitches."

"We call it the Point Grey floor of quality," Rogen joked. "Other guys look for the ceiling of comedy, we're looking for the floor."

Regardless, after years force-feeding Hollywood its unique brand of comedies, things are starting to finally get a little easier for the duo.

Rogen and Goldberg are rebooting 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' and making a movie with the director of 'Call Me by Your Name'

Rogen and Goldberg are currently hard at work reviving the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" franchise with an upcoming animated movie for Nickelodeon. It will be directed by Jeff Rowe ("Connected") and written by "Neighbors" franchise scribe Brendan O'Brien. It marks the first time Point Grey has a legacy IP to play around with, and it's all the more special for Rogen and Goldberg as they are big fans of the heroes in a half shell.

"When I look at 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' the teenage part was weirdly what stuck out to me the most," Rogen said. "I think one thing we've been pretty consistently good at over the years is creating material about teenagers, from 'Blockers,' 'Good Boys,' and 'Superbad.' That was really what became exciting for us is how do we make a great action-adventure movie that's also a great teenage movie?"

Goldberg said the duo's personal interest became evident to everyone on the "Turtles" project in a recent call when he and Rogen found out some story notes were given to O'Brien that they didn't know about.

"We freaked out more than normal," Goldberg said. "They were just shocked by that, but we were like, 'Guys, we just really care about this.'"

But in no way is Point Grey ditching its R-rated comedy roots.

Sausage Party

Director Luca Guadagnino wants to work with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg because he loved "Sausage Party."


There's the recent news that Rogen and Goldberg will write and produce the next movie from "Call Me by Your Name" director, Luca Guadagnino. It will focus on Scotty Bowers, a bisexual World War II veteran who became a legendary hustler and liaison for gay Hollywood stars for decades.

Rogen said the teaming with Guadagnino came completely out of the blue.

"We got a call that Luca wanted to talk to us because he was a huge fan of 'Sausage Party,'" Rogen said, referring to the raunchy animated movie centered around talking food that Point Grey released in 2016.

"Very specifically because of 'Sausage Party' and some of the messaged in it," Goldberg added.

"He thought we were the perfect guys to write the movie," Rogen said. "And clearly we are not uncomfortable with dealing with overtly sexual material."

The Scotty Bowers project is just one of several in the Point Grey upcoming slate. They have attached "Kong: Skull Island" director Jordan Vogt-Roberts to direct the limited series "Console Wars" about the rivalry between Sega and Nintendo in the 1990s, and Rogen and Goldberg are working on a script that they hope will be their first directing effort since 2014's "The Interview" (they are staying mum on the details of that one).

But the Guadagnino project was another landmark moment for Point Grey. They finally got a call instead of begging others to make their work.

"Literally after talking to Luca we were like, 'It finally happened, someone came to us!'" Goldberg said with pure joy.

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