|Actor, Director, Producer, Writer|
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Born in Vancouver, BC on April 15, 1982, Rogen dropped out of high school and was instead educated by his time spent on stage. He landed his first big break when he joined a stand-up comedy workshop and performed his first standup gig at age 13 at the Lotus Club, a lesbian bar in Vancouver - hilariously, Rogen had just assumed it was Ladies' Night, not fully aware of the audience's sexual orientation. Regardless, he was hooked, and thereafter performed in the city's other comedy clubs - including the Urban Well, Yuk Yuks and Lafflines - doing routines about high school, video games, grandparents, Bar Mitzvahs and learning how to drive. Later, he landed gigs at the Improv and the Comedy Store in Los Angeles after relocating to Hollywood to pursue the dream. Being such a young kid, Rogen got his share of hecklers, to which he would often retort: "I'm 13. In 30 years, I'll be 43. You'll be dead." Because he was underage, some of the clubs not surprisingly kicked Rogen out immediately after finishing his set.
Along the way, a geeky, amiable fellow named Judd Apatow heard about Rogen and asked him to audition for his comedy series, "Freaks and Geeks." Nailing the audition, Rogen got the role of the acerbic Ken Miller - the show's resident rebel freak. Balancing Ken's overwhelming sarcasm with a charming, little-known soft side, the 16-year-old Rogen was well suited for his first big role. Apatow was particularly impressed by Rogen's sweet and funny rendition of an improvised scene in which his character questions his own sexuality after discovering his girlfriend is a hermaphrodite. The series was critically acclaimed but was famously canceled due to lackluster ratings.
After his first brush with cancellation disappointment, Rogen made his feature film debut by taking a supporting role in the teen drama-turned-cult classic, "Donnie Darko" (2001), starring Jake Gyllenhaal. However, it was not long until Rogen was back in the Apatow fold. The director wanted to cast Rogen as the lead in his new show, "Undeclared," but met resistance from the network who, understandably, failed to see Rogen as leading-actor material. Apatow compromised; instead hiring Rogen as a staff writer and placing him in a small, co-starring role as Ron. By all accounts, Rogen worked well with the team of staff writers. Only 18 years old, Rogen was already well positioned in a sought-after Hollywood job, even before he was of legal drinking age. Unfortunately, though the series was critically lauded, it also failed to score in the ratings department, being cancelled quickly thereafter.
Although Rogen did not get many auditions following "Undeclared," he was not particularly bothered about that fact, as he fancied himself more a writer than an actor anyway. In fact, Rogen long attributed his nervous laughter to his own awkwardness and discomfort with being an actor. (even years later, the crew of "Knocked Up" would assemble a reel of all his nervous giggles). While Rogen remained unattached project-wise, Apatow constantly subjected Rogen and his writing partner and childhood friend, Evan Goldberg, to impossible writing tasks. Like an extreme-style writers' boot camp, Apatow challenged Rogen and Goldberg to turn an idea into a movie in 10 days or come up with 100 one-page movie ideas. Their writing skills honed, both Rogen and Goldberg landed writing jobs on the last season of "Da Ali G Show" (HBO, 2002-04), starring Sacha Baron-Cohen. Although the job was short-lived, Rogen and Goldberg were part of an esteemed writing staff that was Emmy-nominated in 2005.
Rogen the actor returned to the big-screen with supporting roles as a cameraman in Will Ferrell's "Anchorman" (2004) - which Apatow produced - and as a misguided, sex-obsessed friend to Steve Carell in his star-making lead role in "40-Year-Old Virgin" (2005) - which, not surprisingly, the ever-loyal Apatow also produced, co-wrote and directed. As Cal, Carell's fellow stock boy at an electronics store, he stole scenes from his better known co-stars, including a hilarious bit with Paul Rudd, in which the two played videogames while baiting one another with "gay" insults. Coming off these two monster hits, Rogen scored a supporting role as a married character foil in the non-Apatow project, "You, Me and Dupree" (2006) starring Owen Wilson, Kate Hudson and Matt Dillon.
Though he played a slacker on-screen, Rogen was clearly hard at work off-screen, as made apparent with the number of releases in which he wrote, produced and/or acted. He voiced the Ship Captain in the animated feature film series "Shrek the Third" (2007), as well as co-wrote the screenplay based on a John Hughes scriptment of the high school comedy, "Drillbit Taylor" (2007) in which bullied kids unwittingly hire a homeless man (Owen Wilson) to protect them, believing he is a soldier of fortune. Rogen also co-wrote with Goldberg the screenplay to "Superbad" (2007), based on a script they wrote together when they were just 13 years old. Rogen and Goldberg also executive-produced the semi-autobiographical project about the misadventures of two high school buddies looking to buy alcohol and score with girls. Too old to play his younger self, Rogen appeared in the film as a Village People-esque mustached cop.
Fate took a turn in 2007 when Rogen - who also executive-produced the film - starred as lead in the highly anticipated and buzzed about Apatow comedy, "Knocked Up" (2007). Going against type, the rotund, Jewfro-sporting Rogen played the atypical Ben Stone. The pot-smoking, videogame-playing slacker Ben inadvertently gets the beyond-his-league beautiful, career-minded Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) pregnant after a drunken one-night stand. Once the decision to keep the child is made, the ever-adolescent Ben must now face the reality - and horror - of finally growing up. In part art imitating life, Rogen described his own girlfriend - writer Lauren Miller - as being prettier than he deserved and mused that they often ended up playing Nintendo instead of going out. However, unlike his onscreen counterpart, Rogen had no plans for fatherhood, as he was terrified when holding a baby for the first time during the film shoot.
Already lined up project-wise well into 2008, Rogen followed up his romantic comedy with a self-described stoner action comedy, "Pineapple Express" (2008), in which he co-starred alongside former "Freaks and Geeks" castmate, James Franco. In the film, which he also executive-produced and co-wrote with partner Goldberg, the mismatched pair played weed-smoking buddies mixed up with a drug gang. Rogen also voiced Morton the mouse in the animated "Horton Hears a Who," (2008), based on the Dr. Seuss book and featured a cast including Jim Carrey and "Virgin" co-star Steve Carell. He also appeared in the Star Wars-themed comedy, "Fanboys" (2008) which featured his former "Geeks" co-star and real-life friend, Jay Baruchel, and voiced the role of Hogsqueal the hobgoblin in the children's' fantasy-themed adventure, "Spiderwick Chronicles" (2008). Meanwhile, he starred in Kevin Smith's romantic comedy, "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" (2008), playing yet another slacker who is broke and faces a mountain of debit and bills with his lifelong roommate (Elizabeth Banks), which leads to the only solution possible - make a porn movie.
Rogen next explored some more serious material. He starred in a black comedy about a schizophrenic security guard, "Observe and Report" (2009), which was largely dimissed based on its surface similarities to the slapstick Kevin James vehicle "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" (2009). In Judd Apatow's "Funny People," he took on the seriocomic role of Ira Wright, a struggling young stand-up comedian whose life becomes entwined with that of an older, established comic (Adam Sandler) who has just discovered that he has a serious illness. Sickness was also at the heart of the comedy-drama "50/50," an autobiographical tale by screenwriter Will Reiser based on his own cancer diagnosis; opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the Reiser character, Rogen played his supportive best friend Kyle. Rogen next appeared opposite Michelle Williams and Luke Kirby in writer-director Sarah Polley's tender comedy-drama "Take This Waltz" (2011) as the affable husband of a woman tempted to stray by a handsome soulmate of a stranger.
The goodwill engendered by these indie stretches was almost entirely dashed by the big-budget flop "The Green Hornet" (2011), a superhero reboot directed by Michel Gondry from a script by Rogen and Goldberg that starred a newly slimmed-down Rogen as the Golden Age comic superhero. A tonal mishmash, the film was savagely reviewed and did not perform well at the box office. Rogen's voice roles in the CGI-assisted science fiction fantasy "Paul" (2011) and the animated sequel "Kung-Fu Panda 2" (2011) were more in his wheelhouse. TV guest roles in "Eastbound and Down" (HBO 2009-2012), "The League" (FX 2009- ) and "The Mindy Project" (Fox 2012- ) reunited him with old friends like Danny McBride and Mindy Kaling. "The Guilt Trip" (2012) partnered him with Barbra Streisand in a road-trip comedy about an estranged mother and son re-bonding on the highway.
"This Is The End" (2013), Rogen and Goldberg's first film as co-directors, starred Rogen and longtime pals McBride, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Craig Robinson and Jonah Hill as fictionalized versions of themselves coping with the end of the world while trapped in Franco's mansion in the Hollywood Hills. A critical success, the film also did well at the box office. His next leading role came in the Nicholas Stoller comedy "Neighbors" (2014), in which he and Rose Byrne played new parents in their 30s dealing with the frat house that moves in next door. It showed that Rogen was aging gracefully into more mature roles while keeping his gleefully anarchic edge. Rogen's next major project, "The Interview" (2014), turned into one of the most controversial films of the decade. An action comedy about a pair of hapless TV journalists asked by the CIA to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, "The Interview" became a political hot potato after it was implicated in a large-scale hacking of Sony Pictures that was claimed to have been carried out by a North Korea-backed hacker group. Following further threats, the studio pulled the film from wide release, then quickly allowed roughly 300 indie theaters to show the film beginning on Christmas Day 2014.