This is the End is not 2013’s first apocalypse comedy (see: April’s It’s a Disaster), nor even the first to feature Craig Robinson (see: June’s Rapture-Palooza). But this tale of a disastrous event, whose exact nature we won’t spoil, has a unique selling point. Nearly all the main actors in the star-studded cast — including James Franco, Robinson, codirector Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel, Emma Watson, Michael Cera, Jason Segel, and Rihanna — play versions of themselves attending a party at Franco’s L.A. home.
Much of the film’s fun derives from the jokes made at the expense of the actors’ professional and private lives, whether it’s rumors of Franco’s homosexuality or Rogen’s rather indifferently received performance in The Green Hornet. (”You really had to check your ego at the door,” says McBride, who’s depicted as particularly oafish, ”and be open to ridicule.”) Ironically, codirector Evan Goldberg says it was his collaboration with Rogen on the script for the F/X-heavy Hornet that persuaded execs at Columbia Pictures to greenlight the pair’s self-penned directorial debut. ”On The Green Hornet, we had a real long, complicated shoot,” Goldberg recalls. ”They saw us learn, so they knew we could pull this off.”
Many of the stars have known one another for years — Rogen, Franco, and Segel all starred on Judd Apatow’s now-14-year-old NBC show Freaks and Geeks — which helped lend both bite and a sense of authenticity to the lampooning. ”You have to be friends with people to make those jokes,” says Rogen. ”There’s a lot of real s— in the movie.” One aspect of the film that doesn’t jibe with reality? Cera’s portrayal of ”Michael Cera” as a sexually degenerate cokehead. ”When people are playing themselves, they either play into the idea you have of them or they really play against the idea you have of them,” says Rogen. ”Michael Cera is just literally nothing like that character.”