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The Untold Truth Of This Is The End

2013's "This Is the End" imagines how some of the world's funniest people would react to the end of the world while simultaneously mocking their celebrity lifestyles. Dreamed up by longtime collaborators Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the film stars Rogen and his friends as fictionalized versions of themselves. When the apocalypse begins, Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, and Jay Baruchel are forced to hunker down in Los Angeles. A host of other actors appear in cameo roles, from Marvel superheroes to "Harry Potter" stars.

"This Is the End" kicks off with a party at James Franco's house, and the who's who of Hollywood is in attendance. Just as the party hits full throttle, the rapture begins, and a hailstorm of fire, explosions, and ferocious monsters engulfs Tinseltown. The group's last line of defense against the end of days is Franco's immaculately designed house. As outrageous and hilarious as the premise is, the making of the movie involved double the high jinks and triple the outrageousness. This is the untold truth of "This Is the End."

At least half the movie was improvised

With "This Is the End," Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg put out an Avengers-style call and gathered the strongest comedians of the day. Like the Avengers, they face the end of the world as they know it, but they're far from heroic in their approach. Locked up in James Franco's Hollywood mansion, tensions inevitably begin to rise, and some hilarious exchanges take place. It might surprise you to know that much of this was simply made up on the day.

With an all-star cast comprising some of comedy's funniest actors, the script naturally gets thrown out the window. Co-writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg could have written the script to end all scripts, but it still would have paled in comparison to the sheer caliber and scale of talent present on set.

While some interviews with the creators (such as this AMA on Reddit) peg the exact percentage of ad-libbing at 50%, others (such as this one by Entertainment Weekly) put it as high as 85%. In fact, some of the movie's most memorable moments were pure improvisation. Remember James Franco likening the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost as Neapolitan ice cream? Or when Craig Robinson, in the spur of a comedic moment, shortened Terence Peterson to Terry Pete? Such gems were all born out of the actors' powers of improv.

It's based on a short film

It might surprise you to learn that "This Is the End" is based on a short film. Well, perhaps the term "short film trailer" would be a more accurate description. In 2007, Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and director Jason Stone made a trailer for a fake movie called "Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse." They shared it online and people loved it. "Some real, live studio execs were apparently among the trailer's fans, because Mandate Pictures just greenlit a full-length feature version," Entertainment Weekly reported in 2008. "Yes, the same company that made 'Juno' is shelling out (presumably) millions of dollars to flesh out a minute-and-a-half YouTube clip for the big screen."

The premise of "Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse" is basically the same as "This Is the End," minus the ensemble cast. In the fake trailer, Rogen and Baruchel can be seen taking temporary shelter in an abandoned, roach-infested, cigarette smoke-smelling apartment as hungry beasts scour the city for humans to feast on. They play the comedy of the situation perfectly, but it's the effortless chemistry between the two that really makes it work, and the same can be said for "This Is the End." The relationship between Rogen and Baruchel is at the heart of the hit film. Watching them work through their differences and figure out how to get raptured together never gets old.

An earlier version of the movie involved Busta Rhymes and Ant-Man

As wacky as "This Is the End" is, early iterations of the movie delivered even more zaniness. The beloved film's road to the big screen wasn't exactly a smooth one: Despite the popularity of "Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse," Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen weren't entirely sure how to make it into a full-length feature. "We just couldn't figure out what the trick was that made it interesting," Goldberg told The Daily Californian. "And we always had this other idea to have actors play themselves, which started off as 'Seth Rogen and Busta Rhymes vs. the Ant Man.' That was our first idea." Of course, Paul Rudd would appear briefly in the movie as one of James Franco's guests, but this was before he began his tenure as Ant-Man in the MCU.

Later, Rogen and Goldberg flirted with the idea of pairing Rogen with a big Hollywood star, one of the biggest in the business. "We were like 'Ah, maybe Busta Rhymes isn't the right guy. Maybe like, (Rogen) and Brad Pitt together playing themselves.' And then we were like, 'Ah, let's just work with our friends. We like working with our friends.'" Before long, they realized that if they combined the idea of actors playing themselves with the world teased in "Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse," they were onto a winner. Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, and James Franco came aboard as co-stars while the likes of Martin Starr, Mindy Kaling, Jason Segel, and Aziz Ansari all agreed to cameo roles.

How the cast came together

Sometimes, all it takes to create comedy movie magic is a hilarious group of friends goofing around on set, and "This Is the End" is a testament to that. Getting such a large group of talented actors to be in the same place at the same time is no mean feat, so how did Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg pull it off? Simple: They pitched it perfectly.

Several actors recalled what it was like being approached to feature in the movie during a cast interview with GQ. "Seth and Evan said, 'Aziz, you want to die in our apocalypse movie?'" said Aziz Ansari. According to Kevin Hart, the jokes were flying from the get-go. "They said, 'Kevin, we want you to be a part of this project, and we promise we will break protocol and not kill you first as the Black guy in this movie.'"

Mindy Kaling summed it up best when she was asked about joining the film's dazzling ensemble cast, made up not just of comedians, but with superstars like Rihanna (the singer was a big fan of Rogen and Goldberg's "Pineapple Express"). Kaling said: "I was going to be paid to fake-socialize at a decadent fake–James Franco house party and then fake-die. I have one of the better bloodcurdling screams in Hollywood, if I may say. When am I going to be able to showcase that in my various observational-comedy TV programs? Never. I was psyched."

They play exaggerated versions of themselves

The cast of "This Is the End" essentially agreed to mock themselves for the sake of comedy when they signed on to do the picture. In the film, each actor's most humorous and obnoxious personality traits are cranked up to their comic extreme: Franco is as materialistic as it gets, protectively treasuring his art collection even as the apocalypse rages on. Jonah Hill's acute amiableness only runs skin deep, much to the irritation of Jay Baruchel, who doesn't get on with Seth Rogen's Los Angeles pals. Rogen is everyone's best friend, but James Franco likes to think he holds a special place in his heart. Craig Robinson is a big teddy bear with a dark past, while Danny McBride is surly and abrasive, punctuating every other sentence with a choice swear word.

"Everyone gets ripped apart in this movie," Jonah Hill told USA Today during a cast interview. "I don't think anyone was safe from getting made fun of." That was the general idea when they were formulating the film, Jay Baruchel added. It was about taking "the funniest/lamest (things) about each of us, and then magnifying that exponentially," the Canadian explained. Does any of the stuff we see on screen ring true? Not on James Franco's part. "I love Seth and I love working with Seth, but I don't really need Seth's approval to complete my life like the character in the film does," Franco said. "I like art, but I would never value art over the safety of my friends."

Only Michael Cera was cast against type

Michael Cera represents a deviation from the movie's general formula. While other actors portrayed the most heightened versions of themselves in "This Is the End," Cera was given the chance to play the "Bizarro World" version of himself. "We thought up the character first — someone who is just a cokehead, maniac sex-deviant — and then retroactively, we thought who would be the most surprising person to see in the role," Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg said from a joint account during a Reddit AMA. "So we chose the sweetest, most beautiful, innocent boy in the world, Michael Cera."

Cera, the antithesis of everything this character represents, proved perfect for the role. Given that Cera is known for his especially delightful, innocent persona both on and off-screen, nothing could more aptly signal the end of times than him portraying a demented drug user. Cera, on his part, was completely taken in by the script, with only one note of his own: He got to wear his own windbreaker. "It was something to hide behind, I guess," Cera told GQ. "It helped my body language to pull down on it and tug at it — you know, strange, jonesing behavior. I said, 'I really think that windbreaker is going to help me be a major a**hole.'"

Seth Rogen created a stir by saying Emma Watson walked off set

Emma Watson was a surprising addition to a cast of "This Is the End," which is composed mostly of comedy royalty. She wasn't actually the first "Harry Potter" star that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg approached about the movie — they initially went after the boy wizard himself. "Two years before we brought it to anybody else, we brought it to Daniel Radcliffe and he rejected it because it was s****y, it wasn't good enough," Goldberg told Buzzfeed. "We got too excited, we jumped the gun on that. If we waited another year, I bet he would have done it."

Watson ended up having some creative disagreements about a particularly explosive scene featuring cannibalism, leading to claims that she stormed off set. Rogen was quick to issue a tweet that put the rumors to bed, explaining that the scene went through several rounds of changes and improvements, the results of which Watson didn't find appealing or appropriate, hence her hurried departure. Rogen clarified that circumstances were to blame, not either party, saying (via the Los Angeles Times), "It was overall a s****y situation and it must have been hard for her to say something and I'm very happy and impressed that she did." Watson didn't leave matters unresolved, either, returning the day after the incident to amicably bid goodbye to the cast and crew.

Feelings were hurt on set

With "This Is the End," Goldberg devised a unique method of measuring how much he could push the envelope: The number of actors he could get to resist his brazen, wacky on-screen dialogue and antics. Goldberg's method, "Please don't make me do that!," is named for all the times actors would utter that very phrase to sidestep the comedic curveballs Goldberg threw their way. Danny McBride drew the line at dropping his pants on a whim, while Jay Baruchel's cop-outs were limited to potshots at Canada or his mother. Also below the belt were explicit religious jokes: Robinson wouldn't touch a Mother Teresa gag, and Jonah Hill pleaded his way out of a perverse God joke. Franco and Rogen were seemingly willing to push the boundaries — but that sometimes led to feelings getting hurt.

Speaking to GQ, Evan Goldberg revealed that sometimes the mean comments would get to the all-star friends. "I would be lying if I didn't say that a few people got hurt a few times emotionally, myself included," he said. "When you're making a movie like this, it's just impossible not to. People will prey on the other person's worst movie." According to McBride, this fostered something of a competitive atmosphere on set. He told the mag: "You're like, all right, what could they come after me about? What am I insecure about? What can I go after them about?"

Reality TV was a source of inspiration

"This Is the End" is built around the vanity of actors inserting their real selves into a story. As Goldberg revealed to The Guardian, his and Rogen's movie could largely be called a pastiche of those that came before it, particularly Charlie Kaufman's "Being John Malkovich," which depicts the story of a puppeteer transported into the head of John Malkovich. Kaufman's writing and the masterclass in the act of self-parody that Malkovich delivered helped inspire Goldberg. The sitcom The Larry Sanders Show, which made a staple out of self-parodying celebrities, also influenced Goldberg and Rogen.

Not only did the two draw inspiration from the realm of fiction, they looked to reality too — well, that is to say, reality television. The many self-portrayals in "This Is the End" emulate reality TV, in that they blur the fine line between fact and fiction. "The popularity of reality television now also feeds into that idea of whether what we're watching is actually real," Goldberg told The Guardian. "We thought working with our friends in that situation would be awesome because they're all comedians willing to take stabs at themselves."

The Pineapple Express sequel was a real idea

So self-referential is "This Is the End" that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote a whole idea for a sequel to their film "Pineapple Express" into the movie. A real sequel to "Pineapple Express" was once on the cards, Rogen and Goldberg revealed during their AMA session on Reddit. "We talk about it all the time," they said from a joint account. "The story we have in 'This Is the End' is the actual story we talk about doing." In "This Is the End," the bored gang films and splices together a trailer for "Pineapple Express 2: Blood Red," in which Danny McBride's Red tries to get Dale and Saul (Rogen and Franco) to assassinate Woody Harrelson.

Rogen and Franco actually discuss the idea of a "Pineapple Express" follow-up earlier in the film. Before Hell literally breaks loose, Franco tells Rogen that in his vision for the sequel, Danny McBride's character would eat him after he sacrifices himself to save Rogen. This is exactly what happens later in "This Is the End" — Franco almost gains entrance to Heaven with a selfless act, but then blows it and gets eaten by McBride's cannibals.

In the AMA, Rogen and Goldberg revealed that they are partial to original movies and that sequels play second fiddle — comedy sequels even more so. Yet, fan adulation and their own soft spot for "Pineapple Express" might just make a sequel happen one day. Until then, ardent fans will have to make do with the fake trailer.

There was brief talk of a sequel

Just like the long-awaited but long-suffering sequel to "Pineapple Express," a sequel to "This Is the End" has been discussed but never greenlit. As Goldberg divulged to Screen Daily, one iteration of the sequel begins at the "This Is the End" premiere, where Rogen and Cera swap roles to respectively portray the drug addict and the (comparatively) sober dude. Also back for the rollercoaster ride are Rihanna and The Backstreet Boys. In this version of the sequel, the group leaves Earth behind for Heaven, Hell, and even the Garden of Eden, where Adam happens to be none other than Danny McBride.

It seems like they have a concept sketched out, but Rogen and Goldberg have offered differing opinions on the chances of a sequel actually happening, with Goldberg in favor and Rogen apparently dead against. Undoubtedly, a major roadblock on the way to a sequel is the availability of all the A-list actors that populated the first film. The chances of a sequel lower with each consecutive year, especially since Seth Rogen has stated that he has no plans to work with James Franco again in the wake of allegations made against the actor.