Interview: Evan Goldberg on the Buzz and Non-Hero of ‘The Green Hornet’

By  · Published on January 18th, 2011

The Green Hornet hasn’t been treated all too kindly on the interwebs for a while now. Ever since the announcement of Seth Rogen starring in the film, overly sensitive message board regulars have been crying foul. There’s been less-than-flattering rumors regarding the film, most of which were untrue, but what does writer Evan Goldberg think of this? Well, he doesn’t spend a whole lot of time online, but he recognizes and knows the unfair buzz. Goldberg even name dropped an IMDB message board regular who he spent a lot of time antagonizing.

Now that the film is out, perhaps those skeptics will give the film a fair shake. The one thing about The Green Hornet that most will take notice to is how much Goldberg and Rogen did the opposite of standard superhero tropes. The lead, Britt Reid, isn’t your usual superhero and is a completely dislikable moron. The love interest isn’t even a love interest. The villain is more sympathetic than the idiotic hero. Britt Reid makes Tony Stark seem like a total boy scout in comparison. Rogen and Goldberg, without a doubt, have created one of the most unconventional and (lovably) unlikable superhero leads ever to grace the screen.

For a while now, the online buzz for the film has been really mixed. How much do you and Seth [Rogen] pay attention to online reactions?

I actually barely ever go on the internet. The only time I ever really do is to fuck with this dude on IMDB, srb-3. I can’t get enough of fucking with this guy. He’s got a vendetta against Seth and The Green Hornet. I just started emailing him directly saying, “It’s Evan Goldberg, really. I’m sitting here with Seth right now. We just wanted to let you know that you’re never going to stop us. We’re going to keep making movies. No matter how much shit you say on the internet, we’re just gonna keep coming. Enjoy The Green Hornet, dick.” We just keep sending him shit like that. He’s my perfect example, but we do look at some shit on the internet. All of us knew from square one when we took the project that people were not going to like this at first, but we can use that to our advantage.

How long have you been talking to srb-3?

I’ve only directly sent him three or four messages. I know other people, who are friends, that go on there to mess with him and to agitate him. He constantly talks about how Seth miscast himself, why did Seth hire Michel Gondry, and all this stuff. It’s like, Seth does not run the movie, dude. Neal Moritz is the producer. We didn’t just get to hire the director and we had to run it through the studio and talk with dozens of people. We chose several actors for roles that the studio said “no” to. This guy just thinks Seth is the God of Hollywood and that he’s ruining his life. I just like to mess with that dude. He started it, though [Laughs].

This has been a real learning experience for me when it comes to the online buzz thing. The hardcore fanbase of nerds that live on the internet are not nearly as powerful as I thought they were. They really, really aren’t. They also flip-flop like mad. There’s one guy who has hated us for months and months then he saw the Gangsta’s Paradise spot and thought we were all right; it’s just so bizarre. I’m not an internet person that reads behind-the-scenes stuff. I see a trailer, and if it looks good, then I go. That’s that. I feel like everyone has to have a personal story that motivates them to do what they’re doing. I don’t really get it. There are some people on the internet who are like heroes that battle those people, and I enjoy them [Laughs].

The internet doesn’t have as much impact as we thought. The way we see it is, they’re going to run through their cycle no matter what. I’m sure there’s people out there who are trashing the Green Lantern, then Green Lantern will look better later, and then they’re going to go see it. Or they’re just going to trash it, then go anyway, and then trash it some more. They’re going to do their thing no matter what. The wheels keep turning.

Were you guys at all surprised by the reaction, though? It seemed odd, because The Green Hornet and Kato’s dynamic fits in perfectly with what you and Seth have done in the past.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, we have some upcoming movies that are a little more ensemble and shit. When it comes down to it, most movies have two main characters. I mean, it’s our thing and it’s what we do, but we are branching out a bit. Most gigantic action flicks have that. I mean, there’s Justin Long and Bruce Willis, Bruce Willis and Sam Jackson, and Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. The duos work.

Also similar to Pineapple Express and Superbad is how you guys take professions, like cops and drug dealers, and show the most incompetent versions possible. Is that at all an intentional interest?

No, not really. It’s just a coincidence. I think what we like to do in general is take something we know and invert elements of it. In most films, someone has a job, so we’re going to take that and invert it. Usually it’s like, “I’m the best spy,” so inverting that you get, “I’m a spy and I’m really fucking stupid and need help.” I guess that’s just how the cookie crumbles when it comes to the formula.

Most superhero tropes are inverted in the film. While writing the script, did you and Seth look at all superhero cliches and just say, “Lets do the opposite of that”?

That was super intentional. We started doing that with Britt and Kato. We met with Shane Black, who is one of our idols and at one point maybe he was going to direct the film, and he said what we were doing was great and that we needed to flip every possible element. He really encouraged us to flip everything, so it was all fresh and new.

And when it came to turning those conventions on their head, can you talk about finding the tone and not making the film a total satire?

There was about seven different and distinct scripts for the film. One of them was ultra-realistic. One of them was way wackier. That wasn’t… well, I guess that was something that was on everyone’s mind at some point. We all understood, at some juncture, that we were taking the piss out of it.

I heard how one of those earlier scripts was actually not an origin story. Why did that change?

We tried, but it didn’t work. We wrote a whole movie that was a sequel. We were hesitant, but we just said let’s give it a shot. It was crazy, and they said it was crazy when they read it. They expected us to say, “Fuck you guys! This is awesome!” but we heard them and said we’d call them in two weeks.

Was it a complete revamp?

We had all these weird, different versions. We had a villain at one point named Doughboy. There was a version that had both Doughboy and Chudnofsky teaming up. There was one where it ended with a chase through the Hollywood hills. There was one that ended at Britt Reid’s house. There was a lot of different ideas.

Was there ever a note or talk when it came to Britt Reid’s likability? For a superhero, oddly, he’s basically a dick.

We did two different passes to fix his character up. We tried to make him less of a dick, because what you’re saying is dead on. He was too dicky in the first cut we had. We went in and ADR’D certain scenes, even when the camera is right on Seth’s face, to give him softer lines.

Can you give an example?

I can’t think of one off the top of my head, but it was little tricks. When he was at the funeral and the guy was saying how his father was a great man and he just goes, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,” we turned down his volume and raised up the music. It went from aggressive to defeated, and the audience liked that a lot more. Also, we had to be a little easier with Lenore and women in general, and that did not go well at all. We had to go through it and make him less sleazy and less of a dickhead.

Was it always your intention of making a jerk superhero?

We always thought it’d be funny to… I don’t know if you’re a club goer. I’m certainly not, but once or twice a year all my buddies and I think it’s funny to go. My girlfriend and her girlfriends dance, while me and my buddies stand by the bar. When we were at the bar looking at certain guys we’d think, “Yeah, that’s who Britt Reid is.” Britt Reid would think the coolest night ever is going to a club with Paris Hilton and picking up some hot girl with nothing between her ears. It was about: let’s take that guy and slowly take him to where a superhero needs to be.

How did Sony react to that take?

Look at Seth in Superbad. He’s a real son of a bitch and a mean guy. He gets away with it, because someone spits on him at the beginning of the movie. At that point in the movie, the audience thinks he’s just being mean because he’s defensive and is reacting. It’s the same thing for Britt Reid. We really wanted to make him not the right kind of person and not as likable as you need him to be, until his father dies. I think by the end, he’s kinda one of those dick guys you have in your group of friends, but you like him. We’re thinking for the sequel that he gets too nice. He starts to become a weak, little, sensitive person that gets over emotional. With that, Kato then starts to become a bigger dick. But I don’t know, because Kato is kind of a dick in this movie.

Were all those minor changes a decision made by Gondry, you and Seth? Or were those from studio notes?

The studio was really awesome during the making of this movie. They had really, really good notes. We were working with good people at the studio. A majority of the time they were good notes, every once in a while there was a bad note. I mean, we’re talking about a two and a half year process of us going back and forth. It was: we’re making the movie, then we’re not making the movie; we got a director, then we don’t; we’re making it with Nicolas Cage, now we’re not. I can’t really remember how it all went down. When it came to Britt Reid’s character being too much of a dick, we all agreed to cut some of that stuff out. There was no argument there.

My last question: When it comes to the world of The Green Hornet, how would you describe it? Would you say it’s grounded, but has small comic-booky aspects?

That’s a complicated one. When it came to the sets, we wanted them all to be very real. We wanted them to be good in 3D. We weren’t filming in 3D, but we were so confident that it’d be in 3D that we planned out the sets for 3D. We wanted it to look more like Lawrence of Arabia, like we shot it in anamorphic. When it came to the more comic-booky moments, we were very careful with them. I don’t know if anyone would want to see this, but we did a version of the car chase where they had plotted out a 26-step plan that went with the letters of the alphabet. Every action moment of the car chase correlated to a letter. It was kinda cool, but we didn’t do it. When it was “Plan B,” a giant “B” would slam onto the screen.

Was that one of Gondry’s other crazy ides that didn’t get used? The last time we spoke you mentioned how he wanted to a blowup a club with a foam bomb. What other ideas did he have?

When Britt and Kato get knocked in the hole, he wanted them to get covered in cement, so when it hardened, they could smash it into people’s faces. There was a lot. We have a DVD feature where we shot the foam bomb and a lot other things [Laughs].

The Green Hornet is now in theaters.

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Longtime FSR contributor Jack Giroux likes movies. He thinks they're swell.