Lost Roles is a weekly column exploring “what might have been” in movie and TV comedy as we take a different actor, writer, or comedian each week and examine the parts they turned down, wanted but didn’t get, and the projects that fell apart altogether. This week, we turn our attention to Seth Rogen, an actor/writer/producer who got a series of early starts in his career. Rogen began doing stand-up at 12, writing movies at 13, starring in network TV shows at 17, writing professionally at 19, and becoming a movie star at 25. Like every actor, Seth Rogen has had his share of close calls with big movie and TV roles he either turned down or didn’t get. Let’s take a look in all the stuff Seth Rogen almost starred in over the years but didn’t, including Dude, Where’s My Car?, a movie about rapping lawyers, and the Superbad/Pineapple Express crossover that never came to be:
Dude, Where’s My Car? (2000)
The role: One of the titular dudes
Who got it: Ashton Kutcher/Seann William Scott
Seth Rogen mentioned in an interview with The AV Club a few years back that he auditioned to play one of the leads in the stoner comedy Dude, Where’s My Car? Rogen was starring in Freaks and Geeks at the time, but the Dude producers went with two young actors from better known teen franchises, Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott from That ‘70s Show and American Pie, respectively. Rogen would go on to make a more popular stoner buddy comedy in Pineapple Express.
Band of Brothers (2001)
Seth Rogen told a story on the DVD commentary of Superbad about auditioning for Band of Brothers, prompting Jonah Hill to quizzically respond, “You auditioned for Band of Brothers?” Sure, it seems silly to picture Rogen in a World War II drama, but comedy folk like Simon Pegg and David Schwimmer popped up in the critically-acclaimed miniseries and didn’t stick out too much.
Black Market Music (2003, unsold pilot)
Jack Black was producing this potential HBO series for Apatow proteges Seth Rogen and Jason Segel to star in and write together, about a pair of friends who run a hip L.A. record store. Describing the show to the press back in 2003, Black said, “It’s like High Fidelity with a pinch of Taxi. Jason and Seth are the best writers I know. You will see me in the pilot episode making television history.” Black planned on guest starring in the pilot and potentially in additional episodes of the show, and he wanted to bring in actual musicians to perform on the show and play themselves in storylines. HBO passed on the show and also passed on another L.A.-based comedy, Party Down, right around this time too.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
The role: Patrick
Who got it: Elijah Wood
“I auditioned for the Elijah Wood part,” Rogen told the press. He continued,”And I was telling Michel Gondry, ‘I fucking auditioned for you, dude’ and he’s like, ‘Oh, I did not know!’ But, yeah, that was just like one of a thousand movies that I did not get cast in.” Rogen was in kind of a lull in his career at this point, in between starring in those short-lived Judd Apatow series (Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared) and his breakthrough role in Apatow’s 40 Year Old Virgin in 2005, which ended up being a much better showcase of his abilities than a supporting role in this Charlie Kaufman/Michel Gondry collaboration would have been anyway.
The Long D (unfilmed, 2005-07)
Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg wrote this romantic comedy together, about a high school couple having a long-distance relationship while at different colleges, as a starring vehicle for Rogen. The trio ended up making Pineapple Express together instead and never went back to this one.
The role: Seth
Who got it: Jonah Hill
When he was originally writing Superbad, Seth Rogen wanted to play the character that he named after himself. Of course, that was because he was a teen when he was writing it and he was in his mid-20s when the film finally made it into production several years later. Rogen’s friend Jonah Hill was only a year-and-a-half younger than him when he filmed the movie but he looked much more believable as a high schooler. Rogen played a memorable supporting role in the movie as one-half of a pair of slacker cops with Bill Hader.
The Middle Child (2007-08, unfilmed)
Jonah Hill sold a screenplay for a comedy called The Middle Child to a studio, with Judd Apatow producing and Seth Rogen planning on starring alongside Hill. The plot followed a guy in his early 20s (Hill) who comes home from college to find out his family had a secret child before him (Rogen) who has returned, causing him to suffer from middle child syndrome as an adult. The project was scrapped when it was deemed too similar to another Apatow-produced movie, Step Brothers. Jonah Hill explained, “It was just too close in tone and somewhat in story to Step Brothers… So we just didn’t end up pursuing it cause we really liked Step Brothers a lot, I think it was hysterical.”
Attorneys at Raw (2007-08, unfilmed)
Jonah Hill wasn’t the only member of Judd Apatow’s repertory to sell a buddy comedy that starred himself in 2007. David Krumholtz, who appeared in Walk Hard, Superbad, and countless other non-Apatow projects, sold Universal a movie called Attorneys at Raw in 2007 with Apatow attached to produce. The film followed two lawyers who decide they want to be rappers, and he hoped for Seth Rogen to star in it with him. The movie never got off the ground and looks to be dead.
Pineapple Express (2008)
The role: Saul Silver
Who got it: James Franco
Seth Rogen and writing partner Evan Goldberg wrote the part of lazy drug dealer Saul Silver for Rogen when they were scripting Pineapple Express. They offered James Franco the part of straight man Dale Denton when they sent him the script, but they decided to switch roles and things worked out pretty well. Back when the movie was going into production in 2007, Franco had a reputation as a much more clean-cut actor and was best known for the Spider-Man films, so it was actually considered a departure for him to play a dumb stoner. After seeing him nail the part and become such a weirdo in the years since, the casting makes way more sense.
A Pineapple Express/Superbad crossover (2008)
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg “toyed with the idea” of making a Pineapple Express/Superbad crossover that paired up McLovin and James Franco’s Pineapple character Saul but nothing came of it. Franco told MTV back in 2008:
“Even before Superbad came out, I think the studio was trying to get [Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg] to write a sequel, but they really didn’t want to write a sequel. I guess the kids would go to college or something like that [that was the studio’s idea]. And so, an answer to that was to do a Superbad/Pineapple Express crossover, an unprecedented crossover movie with two directors, Greg Mottola and David Gordon Green, each directing half of the movie and somehow these characters get together, which doesn’t make sense at all, but could work.”
Evan Goldberg spoke on the matter in 2011, saying, “Well, we toyed with that idea right after Pineapple came out; we thought that people would enjoy McLovin and Franco together; but we’re never going to touch Superbad ever again, that’s a terrible idea. I’m even hesitant to make Pineapple 2.”
The role: Dr. Adrian Helmsley
Who got it: Chiwetel Ejiofor
“Just the other day I was offered a big part in the new action film by the director of The Day After Tomorrow. But I don’t want to become the kind of superstar who parties all the time, does coke and throws up in the back of a limo. And the idea of me being seen as a sex symbol makes me feel sick. For me, my main goal is simple, to write the kind of comedy that me and my friends would instantly throw money down to see.”
-Rogen talking about turning down the part of a geologist/presidential adviser in director Roland Emmerich’s disaster porn flick 2012.
This Means War (2012)
The role: Tuck Hansen
Who got it: Tom Hardy
Seth Rogen turned down a lead role in director McG’s movie This Means War, about a pair of spies competing for the affection of the same woman - by any means necessary. If Rogen took the part, he would have been starring with Chris Pine and Reese Witherspoon in a movie that ended up bombing with critics and audiences alike. Rogen opted to use this time to film a role in writer/director Sarah Polley’s romantic comedy-drama Take This Waltz instead.