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The Green Hornet – Seth Rogen and this tailor made project

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The Green Hornet - Seth Rogen
The Green Hornet (Seth Rogen) in action © Columbia Pictures

The Green Hornet made his debut on January 31, 1936 on WXYZ Detroit, the creation of the station’s George W Trendle, who also created the Lone Ranger.

Following the successful run on radio, the Green Hornet ran in several comic books. In 1966, the character made the jump to the small screen for one season on ABC-TV starring Van Williams as the Green Hornet and catapulting Bruce Lee, who played Kato, to stardom.

Now Seth Rogen puts his own unique stamp on the franchise, starring as Britt Reid, the son of LA’s most prominent and respected media magnate who is perfectly happy to maintain a directionless existence on the party scene. When his father mysteriously dies, leaving Britt his empire, Britt strikes up an unlikely friendship with one of his father’s employees, Kato (Jay Chou).

Together they see their chance to do something meaningful for the first time in their lives, as Britt becomes the vigilante Green Hornet, and he and Kato take to the streets to fight crime.

How did the project come about?

The Green Hornet - Cameron Diaz and Seth Rogen
Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz) and Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) © 2011 Columbia Pictures

Evan Goldberg and I were looking for a new movie to write. We had always been comic book fans, superhero fans.

For a long time we had been trying to write a movie about a hero and his sidekick. But nothing was quite right for us until we looked at the Green Hornet. Here was this famous character with a real legacy, but still a property that would allow us to put our own interpretation into the characters.

It was like this project was tailor made for what Evan and I wanted to do – we could explore the relationship between Britt and Kato around the framework of this kickass action-comedy. It was perfect.

Did you go all the way back to the radio serials and watch all the episodes of the show?

The Green Hornet - Cameron Diaz, Seth Rogen and Edward James Olmos
Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz), Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) and Axford (Edward James Olmos) © 2011 Columbia Pictures

In the beginning phases of writing the script we did a ton of research just to accumulate ideas. The way that we write is that we just start by making tons of lists, ideas and thoughts and things we’d like to include in the movie. We tried to listen to almost all the radio serials.

They’re a little outdated. I guess back then just hearing footsteps for thirty seconds straight was really suspenseful and interesting, the creaking of a door opening was real cinema at that time, but it’s a little hard to sit through hours of it at this point for me.

We went back to the radio show and the serials that were in movie theaters and the TV show, and we really tried to include ideas from all these things. The Zephyr is in there and little tips of the hat to the previous incarnations of it.

The whole notion of me getting shot and having to conceal that from the police is from an episode of the TV show. We tried to update that for the movie.

The characters in the film seem to be very aware of comic book style storytelling and clichés. Was that awareness important to you in the storytelling and in the performances and in the making of the film?

The Green Hornet - Seth Rogen
The Green Hornet (Seth Rogen) © Columbia Pictures

To us the simple thought was, ‘Who’s the kind of guy who’s likely to become a superhero? Probably someone who reads comic books and is a comic book fan, or is at least aware of them.’

But in the writing we wanted to subvert notions that are in a lot of these comic book type movies and that you would find in a lot of early origin stories of comic book characters.

I think in order to play with those ideas you have to be very aware of what they are in the first place and that they exist and to acknowledge them to some degree.

So, to us, we wanted to dance on the line between being a comic book movie and commenting on a comic book movie

Can you talk about your character, Britt Reid?

Britt Reid is famous for being the son of someone who did something great, but he’s just a dude who parties. He’s never once done anything meaningful in his life.

But when his father dies, he sees he has the opportunity to do something that gives his life purpose and direction – he decides he’s going to use his inheritance as a force for good.

The whole story of the movie is that Britt is an irresponsible idiot who’s trying to get his life together to do something worthwhile. As an irresponsible idiot, I’m quite good.

What was it about Jay Chou that you thought was perfect for Kato?

The Green Hornet - Jay Chou and Seth Rogen
Kato (Jay Chou) and Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) © 2011 Columbia Pictures

It was immediately clear that he was super cool. He’s really charismatic, he’s handsome and he has that cool hair. He’d never take orders from a guy like Britt Reid.

As a comic book fan, was part of the appeal to The Green Hornet that there isn’t a lot of mythology to it? It’s just a name that people recognize?

Yeah. I would have no real interest in just doing a very literal interpretation of preexisting material. I see a lot of these comic book movies that come out now and you almost feel like anyone could pick up the first few editions of the comic book and take it to a DP and say, ‘I want to shoot this,’ and then six months later you have the origin story of most superheroes.

That really didn’t interest us in any way. We really wanted to be able to inject our own sensibilities into it and our own sense of humor. So, yeah, it was very appealing that there were a few kind of benchmark, iconic things that people knew about The Green Hornet. Kato, the car, the gas gun.

That’s pretty much it!