CULVER CITY, Calif. — Compared to most people who undertake a big-screen adaptation of a comic book character, actor and writer Seth Rogen was able to breathe easy when he and his writing partner, Evan Goldberg, took on “The Green Hornet.” Because the character and his faithful sidekick, Kato, predate most iconic heroes in the genre, Rogen could reshape Britt Reid in his own image. “We kind of 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,” Rogen said during a news conference on a soundstage at the Sony Pictures studio lot in Culver City, Calif. “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. We kind of wanted to dance on the line of being a comic book movie and commenting on a comic book movie.” But Rogen, the star of Judd Apatow comedies such as “Knocked Up” and “The 40-Year-Old-Virgin” who collaborated with Goldberg on the scripts for “Superbad” and “The Pineapple Express,” did not want to run roughshod over the Green Hornet or insult those viewers with lengthy institutional memories of the character. He had to do his homework. In significant ways, Green Hornet was the forerunner to the modern vigilante crime fighter, a pre-Batman figure whose exploits often openly subverted the law. Created by Fran Striker and George W. Trendle as a radio series and later adapted for comics, Britt Reid was written as the great-grandnephew of The Lone Ranger, fighting crime in the big city while often coming across as a criminal himself. Rogen said he went back to the original 1930s radio serials for inspiration but soon realized that the early storytelling style would have little impact on his own “Green Hornet.” “In the beginning phases of writing the script, we did a ton of research — just to accumulate ideas,” Rogen said. “We started by making tons of just lists of ideas and thoughts and things we’d like to include in the movie. “We tried to listen to almost all of the radio serials — they’re a little outdated, I guess. I guess back then, just hearing footsteps for 30 seconds straight was really suspenseful and interesting,” he said, letting out the first in a series of big, gregarious laughs. “It’s a little hard to sit through hours of it at this point for me, but I’m very stupid.”Comments
Past versions haven’t come to fruitionThat level of self-deprecation crept into Rogen’s modern reimagining of the Green Hornet. In the new film directed by Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”), Rogen’s Britt Reid is the slacker playboy son of newspaper publisher James Reid (Tom Wilkinson). When his father dies, Reid must reassess his life’s trajectory. He takes control of The Daily Sentinel by day, but at night he ventures into the streets of Los Angeles with Kato (Jay Chou), a martial arts wunderkind and builder of the duo’s extraordinary armored car, “Black Beauty.” Fortunately for Rogen, the Green Hornet does not maintain a fan base equal to many of the characters it inspired: the short-lived 1960s television series featured Bruce Lee as Kato, but it was canceled in less than a year. Since 1992, several studios, directors, writers and actors have attempted to make “The Green Hornet” fly — Gondry was originally signed to direct a version of it 13 years ago — but each run at the project ended with actor exits and scrapped production. Finally, Rogen and Goldberg were brought in by Sony and producer Neal Moritz, who acquired the rights after writer-director Kevin Smith’s Miramax production of “The Green Hornet” fell apart. Rogen said the basic DNA of the character and his origin story are there, but he wanted to have fun, not faithfully re-create 75-year-old ideas. “I would have no real interest in just doing a very literal interpretation of pre-existing material,” he said. “You know, 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 a comic book, 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,” Rogen said. “We really wanted to inject our own sensibilities into it and our own sense of humor and, at the same time, the things we love about superheroes and comic books.” While the script certainly leaves an open door for future adventures, Rogen said he wants to see just how audiences receive “The Green Hornet” before banking on sequels. Besides, Rogen said that he and Goldberg didn’t hold any ideas in reserve for “Green Hornet 2.” “We’re not the kind of writers to save ideas,” he said. “If it’s remotely good, we shove it in there.” Travel and accommodations provided by Sony Pictures.
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