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Seth Rogen Has Spent Five Years Planning ‘Big Action Film’ Inspired by Buster Keaton, Jackie Chan

Rogen is drawing inspiration from Paul Thomas Anderson and Alfonso Cuarón to become more experimental in his film work.

Seth Rogen and Buster Keaton

Seth Rogen and Buster Keaton

Everett Collection

In a new profile published by The New York Times, Seth Rogen reveals the existence of a passion project he’s been working on for at least the last five years titled “Escape.” Rogen has been writing the movie with longtime collaborator Evan Goldberg and said he hopes to film it next year. “Escape” is being touted as “a big action movie” that is “heavily inspired by Buster Keaton and Jackie Chan.” Rogen is eyeing a starring role, but he’s not giving up any plot details other than saying the project was originally conceived without any dialogue.

As The New York Times reports: “‘Escape’ grew out of a challenge the duo set for themselves to try and make people laugh without using dialogue. In ‘Pineapple Express,’ Rogen explained, ‘the scenes people remember are the fights, the foot through the windshield and, like, with “Neighbors,” you think of the airbags’ — moments, that is, of outsize physical comedy. ‘We were like, Why are those just the supporting things? Why are those, amidst a sea of talky jokes, these things that pop up once in a while? Why don’t we make a bunch of these jokes and not rely on verbal humor?'”

Rogen’s “Escape” folder on his laptop dates back to January 2016 and now includes an entire digital flip book that storyboards the whole movie. “We need to know if these jokes are working, and if the timing is right,” Rogen told The Times, “and you can’t do a table read and see if people laugh or not, because that would be me saying, like, ‘He throws the thing, it bounces off the door, it hits him in the face.’ We need to be able to see that!”

While Rogen would not provide any more details about “Escape,” the project falls in line with the writer-director-actor’s new mentality to be more experimental with his film work. Rogen has gone viral over the last year for sharing his ceramics projects and pottery creations on social media, and he told The Times he’s been attracted to that art form because it provides the chance to experiment in a way film has not allowed him to over the years.

“There’s too much money involved [in making movies] to be truly experimental,” Rogen said. “When someone’s given you $40 million, is that really the time to be trying things you’re not sure are gonna work? But what pottery has shown me is there is actually a lot more experimenting we could be doing.”

Rogen cited Paul Thomas Anderson as an inspiration for his newfound “be more experimental” mentality, saying, “I was watching the making of ‘Phantom Thread,’ and Paul Thomas Anderson is trying out 300 different film stocks — it’s not like Evan and I don’t want to do that, but they don’t let us do that. And we’re probably not fighting hard enough to do that.”

Rogen also cited Alfonso Cuarón, who appeared virtually during the pandemic at a digital movie club Rogen was hosting for his employees at his production company Point Grey. “He talked about making [‘Y Tu Mama Tambien’] after he’d made some big studio films,” Rogen said of Cuarón. “And he said: ‘With this one, we wanted to make the movie we would have made before we even went to film school, as though we knew nothing. Any idea we had, we would do it, even if it seemed crazy or stupid or pretentious or whatever. We wouldn’t think about, Oh, it’s been done, or people will hate that, or that’s too weird.’”

“It was so cool to hear him talk about that,” Rogen continued, “because — speaking to experimentation — he’d been locked into this thing where he was making big, expensive movies very early in his career, and then he kind of went back and said, No, this is what I want to do: Reset what I’m known for and take insane swings.”

Head over to The New York Times’ website to read Rogen’s latest profile in its entirety.

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