THE GUILT TRIP
Rogen Takes the Wheel
To bring to life the long, strange, ultimately life-transforming trip that Andy Brewster undertakes, the filmmakers chose one of today's most distinctive comic stars: Seth Rogen. Rogen has shown an unusual ability to be hilariously awkward, likeable and true-to-life all at the same time, coming to the fore in a series of films, several of which he wrote, for director Judd Apatow. He was most recently seen in Jonathan Levine's acclaimed comedy-drama 50/50 alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
But THE GUILT TRIP would give Rogen a role unlike any other: a down-on-his-luck scientist-turned-inventor and a son who is aggravated, annoyed, overwhelmed and then completely changed around by taking his mother on his last-ditch trip to try to make a success of himself.
Producer Lorne Michaels, who has worked with Rogen as a host of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE several times, notes that it was a bit of a leap into the unknown for the star. "Seth has been mostly writing and producing his own works, so to come into this as just as an actor took a lot of trust - and comedians are not really built to trust," he observes. "But he came in and was brilliant. He knows how to confidently riff on a character. And he and Barbra really made room for each other; and that's what people do when they are stuck in a tiny car. If you don't make room for each other it's going to get crowded. They both really did their part to make each other comfortable."
Michaels' partner John Goldwyn was also impressed with Rogen from that first read-through with Streisand. "You could hear a pin drop," he remembers, "and we all knew something special was happening, even though it would take more time before Barbra committed. Seth just has great comic instincts, but he also was very brave in taking on this role because it's the first time he's made a major departure from the kind of characters he's best known for," Goldwyn observes. "I think it is a break away performance from him. It's very fun but it's also wonderfully restrained and it presents him in a new way."
Anne Fletcher knew Rogen from choreographing him in his breakout role in The 40 YEAR-OLD VIRGIN - and she always felt he was a dead-on match for Andy Brewster. "I've loved Seth in all his movies," the director says. "There isn't anybody who can replicate him. He's brilliantly funny but he also has the right sensibility for this role because he's a good actor as well as comedian. And I think it's exciting that he hasn't done anything quite like this before."
Rogen might never have done a film like this before, but he felt an instant affinity for it - and especially for its playful honesty about family relations. "One of the things that made me want to do the movie is that I think it really taps into a lot of things all people experience with their mothers," he says. "I think we all find ourselves getting annoyed when we really shouldn't be, and then we feel bad about it, and then even that becomes annoying! But at the same time we really love our mothers and care about them. That's the relationship between Andy and Joyce and it's kind of like the relationship I have at times with my mother. It was a lot of fun to read the script, because I'd never seen a movie about how annoyed you can get with your mother while still wanting very much for her to be happy."
The more he thought about it, the more Rogen saw the film as the one kind of buddy movie no one has yet dared to make - about the very specific, and definitely complicated, buddy relationship of a grown-up guy with his overprotective, misunderstanding but kind of amazing mom. "I like making movies about relationships, and as I read this, I realized I'd never really seen a buddy movie about a guy and his mother, and that's what is so funny about it," Rogen observes. "It was like SUPERBAD, or PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, but instead of two dudes, it was Andy and Joyce, and that was such an interesting idea."
For Rogen, Andy's driving force throughout their trip is not just the mountain of guilt that's accumulated over the years, but a real desire to see his mother more fulfilled in her own life. "I think he sees Joyce as being a bit too settled, and not realizing that there's a lot of fun stuff that she could still be doing - and he also sees that this causes her to focus all her energy on him!" he laughs. "But the tricky thing is, that no matter how annoyed he gets, all he really desires is to see her being happy."
That's what leads Andy to try to finagle a meeting between his mother and what he assumes is her long lost love - though the outcome of that agenda goes in a direction he could never have foreseen.
As for joining forces with a global icon and cinematic powerhouse on the level of Barbra Streisand, Rogen says he went into their first meeting together essentially cold. "I really had no notion what Barbra would be like," he explains. "And when I met her, to be honest, she really reminded me a lot of my friends' mothers and my mother to a degree."
Rogen continues: "We read the script together and it came off really funny. I couldn't deny that it seemed like the two of us together in a movie was going to be a very comical thing."
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