Seth Rogen tends to play characters who closely resemble … well, Seth Rogen. So does that make his modern take on Britt Reid—the masked vigilante newspaper publisher at the center of “The Green Hornet”—a Jewish action hero?
“Actually, Tom Wilkinson [who plays James Reid, Britt Reid’s father] is decidedly not Jewish,” Rogen told GeekHeeb at Comic-Con. “The Green Hornet is half-Jewish at best.”
Still, Rogen says real life does help inspire his Britt Reid, especially at the beginning of the action-comedy directed by Michel Gondry.
“We really wanted to show the journey of a guy from being very unheroic to ultimately being a hero. And so in the very unheroic parts of the movie I think I was able to inject a lot of my own personality in. And as the character evolves, he becomes more of what you would consider the traditional heroic type,” he said.
Rogen traces the inspiration for his big-screen “Green Hornet,” which co-stars Christoph Waltz and Cameron Diaz, back to his youth in Vancouver. After an episode of the campy 1960s “Batman,” Rogen and Evan Goldberg, his childhood friend/writing partner, would watch the 1966 “Green Hornet” series, starring Van Williams as Britt Reid and Bruce Lee as Kato.
“We wanted to write a movie about a hero and a sidekick and the relationship between them, and explore that. We just realized ‘The Green Hornet’ was the perfect movie to do that with, because of how famous Kato is in relation to the Green Hornet,” said Rogen, who describes himself as a big fan of Bruce Lee.
But calling Kato a sidekick in this “Green Hornet,” scheduled to open Jan. 14, is a bit of misnomer. In the script by Rogen and Goldberg, Kato (Jay Chou) is equal – if not superior – to Britt Reid.
After a reading with the Taiwanese superstar over Skype, Rogen said, “It was very clear that if me and him were a crime-fighting team, that he would not be the sidekick; he would be the leader. That was kind of a key part of the movie to us—that I put this guy in the sidekick role, when in reality he’s much cooler and more proficient than I am.”
Although Bruce Lee was an inspiration for the project, Rogen says Chou plays his own Kato. “We’re not really trying to specifically reference [Lee] as Kato right now. Jay did his own thing, and he was very clear that he didn’t want to try and do some Bruce Lee impression, because he knew how important Bruce Lee is.”
The one thing Rogen fought to keep the same from the 1966 series was the Green Hornet’s car – Black Beauty.
“It took a lot to arrive back at the original car, oddly enough. A lot of car companies made bids to design the new futurey version of it, and we had to convince the studio to turn down tens of millions of dollars in marketing money to use a 1965 Chrysler Imperial. I’m very glad we did, because it’s a kick-ass car,” Rogen said.
Created by Fran Striker and George W. Trendle in the 1930s, “The Green Hornet” radio series spawned film serials, comic books and the 1960s television show. But Hollywood lost interest in Britt Reid and Kato after ABC canceled the series in 1967. Director Kevin Smith tried to revive the franchise in 2004 with a “Green Hornet” script of his own, and rumors had Jet Li playing Kato and Jake Gyllenhaal as Britt Reid. But by 2006 Smith announced the film project was dead, and he has since gone on to adapt the script as a comic book series for Dynamite, featuring a female Kato.
“I’ve read a few of them. ... It’s cool to see other people do stuff with the character,” Rogen said.
A longtime fanboy, Rogen says he’s still thrown by how large of a role comic books are playing in Hollywood and pop culture today.
“It’s very weird that people know who Deadpool is,” he said, referring to the Marvel character who was played by Ryan Reynolds in the film “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” “It’s like when you like the band and then they got famous. That was like us and the X-Men. It’s cool that it’s out there and it’s fun to be able to participate in it.”
Rogen still counts himself among comic book faithful who visit stores once a week to get the latest titles.
“I read very few books without pictures of men in tights in it, which is embarrassing to say but true,” he said.