The Green Hornet’s origins stretch back to the thirties, when loyal listeners huddled around their radios to hear the latest adventures of masked crime fighter Britt Reid. Decades later, the Hornet is enjoying a 21st-century upgrade, arriving in theaters in a 3-D Imax action thriller starring Seth Rogen as the superhero lead. Rogen recently spoke with FilmCritic.com about updating the Green Hornet for a new generation, balancing action with humor, and his plans for a Green Hornet sequel.
Q: When writing this origin story, did you save bits for a
potential sequel? And if so, is it possible James Franco survived the
opening scene and that he might return?
A: [Laughs] Exactly. He’s like Darkman. He gets blown out
into the river. But no — we’re not the kind of writers to save ideas.
[Laughs] If it’s remotely good, we shove it in there. Nor are we
remotely confident to believe that there will be a sequel. So anything
that seemed good we put it.
Q: Inglourious Basterds standout Christoph Waltz was an inspired choice to play your chief villain.
A: We wanted the villain to be a character more than anything. We
wanted him to be sympathetic. Our fixation wasn’t on how to make this guy
scary. We wanted, more than anything, to intellectually understand why
someone would be fascinated with killing another person, basically.
That’s really how we approached it. But we wanted it to be funny, and
when we saw Christoph’s previous work it had elements of danger but at
the same time it was very entertaining and had very funny parts.
That’s really why we thought he would be a good guy to do it.
Q: Did you go back to the Green Hornet radio programs and the television series to cherry-pick ideas?
A: In the initial stages of writing the screenplay, we did a ton of research to accumulate ideas. The way we write is to create tons of lists of ideas, thoughts, and things we’d like to include in the movie.
We tried to listen to almost all of the radio serials, but they are
kind of outdated, I guess. [Laughs] I guess back then just hearing
footsteps for 30 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, anyway, but I’m very stupid. But we did go back to the radio
show and the serials that ran in movie theaters and the TV show, and we
really tried to include ideas from all of those things. The Zephyr is
in there. Just tips of the hat to previous incarnations of the Green Hornet.
Q: The movie’s tone seems to embrace the existence of comic-book storytelling and the awareness of comic-book-movie clichés.
A: We wanted it to exist in this comic-book world. [Young Britt] is
a comic-book and superhero fan. To us, the simple thought was, Who is
the kind of guy who is likely to become a superhero? Probably somebody
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 movies — the things you’d find in the origin
stories of comic-book characters. In order to play with those ideas,
though, you have to be very aware of what they are in the first place and to acknowledge them to some degree. But to us we wanted to dance
on the line of being a comic-book movie and commenting on being a comic-book movie.
Q: Traditional Green Hornet fans might be surprised by the film’s high body count, though.
A: Yeah, you know, we thought that it’s an action movie. I always
thought it was funny in the old A-Team how they would shoot
400 people and none of them would die. I think that if you are going to
make a violent action movie, you might as well go for it. It’s not
explicit. It’s not in any way meant to inspire people to do anything
crazy or instill any horrific images or anything like that. It’s all
for the point of fun and just being big action more than anything.
It’s funny that we watched a lot of old action movies leading up to it
thinking, Can you kill people in one of these movies? What we were
fascinated by is how many people die in your average [movie]. Like in Transformers Optimus Prime getting thrown through one building would kill 4,000
people. [Laughs] There’s no mention of it at all. No one cares. No one
says anything. I don’t know if that’s the best logistical cue to take,