Having grossed $137 million and counting, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s “Neighbors” is the 11th highest grossing R-rated comedy domestically to date. Perhaps more importantly, its opening weekend was the 4th highest ever for an R-rated laugher. And with international numbers, it has grossed $223 million and rising (10th highest ever). Considering its budget was $18 million, that’s a whole lot of profit. And that’s exactly what Rogen and Goldberg were aiming for.
At the recent Produced By Conference in Los Angeles, Rogen, Goldberg and their producing partner James Weaver spoke about their new modus operandi after bad experiences like “The Green Hornet.” What’s their method? Make movies at a budget low enough that studios will leave them the f*ck alone. “Our overarching philosophy is to find out the most money they will give us and go away,” Weaver said. The idea is obviously: make movies for cheap to the point that studio notes and interference is negligible.
The problem with “The Green Hornet”? Budgeted at $120 million, the studio didn’t want to take too many risks in offending the audience, so it became a safer PG-13 effort rather than the R-rated outing the team wanted (and in homogenizing it, the studio lost anyhow, it couldn’t even crack $100 million domestic; not good for a movie budgeted that high).
Rogen said they had a more ambitious “Neighbors” film in mind initially, but when they cut the film down to its basic premise, not only did they get a green light, they got a studio that left them alone. “On 'Neighbors' we played the studio game, and continually received notes and waited for the call that the movie would go forward. We stopped, had a real moment, and cut the budget in half—which, it turns out, was the factor stopping the project [from proceeding forward] in the first place,” he explained.
In the meantime, Rogen said he and Goldberg were having “a lot of meetings” about a potential sequel to “Neighbors,” but they’re aware of that trap and how most “comedies tend to have shitty sequels” (indeed, we did a whole feature on good, or tolerable and pretty bad comedy sequels).
They’re also trying to get another project off the ground with “Neighbors” director Nicholas Stoller and now it apparently has the title of “Jazz Cops.” The movie is a pairing for Rogen and comedian Kevin Hart and it's about mixed-race detectives trying to infiltrate the jazz scene in the late 1940s amidst the backdrop of racism and anti-Semitism.
Rogen slammed the MPAA in their conversation, noting that trying to do PG-13 comedy simply doesn’t work with their brand of comedy. “The ratings system is so stupid,” Rogen said. “Why enter a system that's archaic and stupid?” Armed with an R-rating, “you can do pretty much anything you want, except penetration.”