Seth Green Spills All About His Directorial Debut, "The Freshmen"

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From his role as the as the unflappable werewolf Oz on Buffy the Vampire Slayer to his part in co-creating TV’s lo-fi nerd-satire Robot Chicken, Seth Green has almost effortlessly amassed an adoring fanbase. The actor hopes to expand on that niche appeal with his first directorial effort for the big screen, an upcoming adaptation of his popular comic book, The Freshmen. We spoke to the ever-amiable, indefatigable Green about tweaking the title for the big screen, seeking advice from George Lucas, and his upcoming cameos in Entourage and Heroes. Green conceived the story for The Freshman with Hugh Sterbakov, who penned the title with an assist from illustrator Leonard Kirk; Green and Sterbakov are currently scripting the film. Set on a socially stratified college campus, the Top Cow series follows the misadventures of a group of dejected students who acquire peculiar abilities after a lab mishap irradiates them. io9: How did you decide The Freshmen would make a good movie? Seth Green: Hugh and I conceived this a couple years ago as a film. What we found was the marketplace at the time was really unreceptive to comic-book properties. X-Men had just come out, and people were still hesitant to believe that a comic book could translate cause it had so much baggage [plot-wise]. So we had an opportunity to make a comic, and we said, “Well, fuck it. Let’s just entrench it in the marketplace.” Although the movie actually will be different than the book. io9: It would have to be. First of all, there would be a whole lot of vomit. Green: [Laughs] You know, honestly, Elwood [who can intoxicate others when he’s drunk] remains largely unchanged. He’s got it hard because he’s a straight-A dude who doesn’t really indulge in anything, and his views are so conservative. And the one night that he tries something new, like lets his hair down [by getting drunk], he gets fucked for life.

io9: So how will the movie be different from the book? Green: The kids aren’t going to wear costumes, obviously. Except for Paula [who can enchant anyone into falling in love with her] and [the group’s powerless leader] Norrin. Cause Paula makes her costume, and Norrin—the costume’s all he’s got. We also had to eliminate characters just for the sake of telling a story in the most concise way. I don’t want to really talk about who, but it’s a heartbreaking thing to do. io9: Is Ray, whose superpower is essentially having a huge penis, going to stay? Green: Oh yeah. What I’m touching on are these personalities, and what happens to kids and where they’re coming from and what they go through. And how they become who they are. And that kid, that path—oh my gosh! All I can say is it’s gonna be heartbreaking. io9: Not to be crass, but I just have visions of Boogie Nights. Green: It’ll never be that graphic. But he does use it as a weapon. You know, it’s long and indestructible. [Laughs] I mean, there’s a protective sheath constructed for him. io9: Clearly, this is an R-rated movie! Green: Yeah, definitely. Your college experience should be rated R. io9: Will the movie cover the origin story told in volume one, which also touches on the mad scientist’s evil plot? Green: Essentially. So much of what works well in a comic won’t work well in a movie. So thematically we’re just addressing it. The Beaver [a character who’s turned into the animal] is prominent in the film, but I don’t know that we’ll get into that dam. io9: You’ve said you’re looking at a $35 million budget. Green: Hey, it’s all estimations. We haven’t budgeted the script or anything like that. But I know that I need this Beaver to exist in real life. And I know that’s gonna be expensive computer-generated graphics, over like 15 percent of the film. This isn’t an effects driven movie, though. This is a character-driven movie. io9: Sort of like a purgatory tale. Green: It’s similar to that. We do play it for laughs, but at the same time this is a very grounded story about real kids dealing with something significant. The changes that you go through when you leave high school and go to college are huge. You’re embracing your own identity for the first time, telling the whole world who you will be for the rest of your life. This is a world where superpowers don’t exist. And I’m not talking first season of Heroes. This is today, this is actually happening, this is right now. io9: Did you go to college? Green: I did not go to college. (A) I had terrible entry scores—I’m a bad tester, and (B) I was already working professionally in the field that I was pursuing. So it just seemed silly for me to spend my time in a scholastic environment. [Instead] I went to the used bookstore and just bought a ton of stuff that I wanted to read. io9: Wouldn’t it be tough, then, to direct a movie about the college experience? Green: Oh, I spent a ton of time at colleges. All of my friends were in school, and that’s where I’d discuss with them what their experiences were. It was really just responsibility for the first time. For the first time in someone’s life, they set their own alarm; they do or don’t go to school; they do or don’t eat properly. You know? They do or don’t do all the things they’ve been instructed are crucial. That’s what I’m fascinated by. io9: How far along are you with the script? Green: Well, we wrote a script and we wanna take another pass at it, but we got it on paper.


io9: Have you sold it? Green: I spent a bunch of time talking to George Lucas about how he makes his movies. And I really like his philosophies. So we’re writing it, and we’re figuring it all out. I spent a good deal of time producing over the last eight years, so this kind of thing I can handle. We’re gonna partner up with somebody we believe in and who believes in us, and make the movie that we wanna make. At press time, we haven’t picked a producer. io9: Would you reach out to George Lucas or Joss Whedon for advice about directing? Green: Absolutely, yes, always. When you’re fortunate enough to get to work with masters, without being a nuisance, take advantage of that. io9: When would you ideally like to start production? Green: Um, well, schedule really becomes a product of availability. Hugh has a show that he’s sold to the Sci Fi network. He’s doing a bit of work on that right now. I’ve got Robot Chicken—we just wrapped [another] Star Wars [episode], which is gonna be out Nov. 16. Then I have a movie in April. So it always becomes about where do you put it? But what I will say is that I wanna make this movie. I’m really excited about it. I’m really excited to show it to people. io9: What do you think of Hollywood’s almost indiscriminate love for comic books now? Green: It’s making a universe. It’s creating, like, a taxable marketplace. I think that’s what Marvel’s been doing so succinctly: trying to combine all their franchises into something that’s just really serving the fan. What’s nice is that Hollywood studios are essentially banks and don’t really care what the content is as long as it’s turning a profit. They become more and more willing to trust these storytellers who’ve been telling good stories all along. io9: Yet if you talk to most comics creators and editors, they’d probably argue they’re more or less left out of the process. Green: Well, you know, everybody’s got their process. As a filmmaker I’m just excited by the prospect of a filmmaker putting their stamp on something that they already love. Jon Favreau was a huge Iron Man fan and look what he gave us. io9: But there are comic-book companies that solely want to develop… Green: I know. There is no such thing as selling out anymore. 50 Cent who is the hardest gangster—or at least sold as the hardest gangster around—made $50 million selling Vitamin Water. If you don’t have a clothing line and a record or a comic book or a scent, then you’re just not participating. And it’s a funny thing to accept, as a citizen of the world. I hope this doesn’t sound disingenuous, but I’m not driven by financial gain. All my life I’ve liked to make stuff. And I’ve found myself in a position of opportunity to make some of the things I’ve been wanting to for a long time. And I’m just taking every advantage of it, absolutely. io9: How big of a comics fan are you? Green: I think there’s a misconception about me and the size of my comic-book geekiness. I grew up reading comic books. My dad and I did together, and I learned how to draw and I got interested in that storytelling. But around ’96, I just flat-out stopped buying them. The whole collecting market started frustrating me cause all of these companies were doing these ridiculous multiple printings with different covers to gouge the average fan. And I just found the whole thing grotesque and turned my back on it. io9: Do you want to make anymore comics? Green: I didn’t write The Freshman. We co-conceived the characters and the stories. I haven’t really given [creating more comics] a lot of thought. You know Geoff Johns is a buddy of mine, and he writes comics all the time. Oh my gosh, that guy is awesome. He and Matt [Senreich, Robot Chicken’s other co-creator] are going to make a movie. But, no, I haven’t really thought about it cause I haven’t had a story I wanted to tell in that medium. io9: If Joss asked you, would you ever consider taking on the Buffy comic? Green: See, I don’t think I’m instinctive for those characters or that content. I always put myself in their hands. I was like, “Write me something awesome.” And they never disappointed. I don’t think I’d be a good candidate. I don’t think I have valuable instincts for those characters. io9: What was your costume this Halloween? Green: I’ve prepared a Dr. Henry Jones Sr. costume. I love Sean Connery in The Last Crusade. I was Axl Rose one year. That was a very strong costume. io9: Superficially, you’d appear to have a fascination with Amish people—what with The Freshman’s Amish character, Liam, as well as your role in Sex Drive. Green: I dressed up as an Amish person when I went with [actor] Todd Grinnell to the Playboy party a few years ago. But I don’t really have some kind of fascination. It’s just come up a bunch recently.

io9: Can you tell me a little about the upcoming Star Wars episode of Robot Chicken? Green: Oh my gosh, I cannot wait for people to watch this. It exceeded all of my expectations. We have a little bit of a linear story—we kinda discuss the bounty hunters. I’ve always been interested in those guys and who they are and how they got there. Do they have agents, or did they answer an ad? Do those guys compete all the time? Do they hate each other? Are there rivalries? What’s the story? So, start to finish, it’s the bounty hunters story. And mixed up throughout are channel flips that are all over the universe and timeline. io9: You’re all over the place lately. What can you tell me about your upcoming spot on Heroes? Green: Oh, I can’t [laughs]. io9: I know that you and your old buddy Breckin Meyer play comic-book nerds in Atlanta who help one of the Heroes. Green: You possibly know more than I’m allowed to tell you. Yeah, Breckin and I are both in it. And all our scenes are together. io9: And shots from the set reveal that you have a beard that sorta makes you look like Morgan from Chuck. Green: Oh. Wow. That hurts a little bit. io9: Oh, please. You know the girls love you, Seth. Green: [laughs] io9: Would you ever do another Star Trek spoof on Robot Chicken and have Zachary Quinto voice Spock? Green: Not for Star Trek, no. Zach came on and did a Sylar bit for us. And he did some other stuff. He is so funny. He has got to do a comedy, cause he always plays these really scary and serious characters and he’s so fucking funny. We don’t have any new Star Trek bits. We want to see the movie first. io9: The next episode of Entourage is intriguingly titled, “Seth Green Day.” Explain. Green: [Creator] Doug Ellin asked me if I wanted to come and do something. And I was like, “Of course I do!” [Laughs] And me and Kevin Connolly get to fight some more. That’s funny. It’s so silly. top Seth Green photo courtesy of bonniegrrl