When you take your seat for Tuesday’s midnight showing of This Is the End, take a quick moment to give thanks to Daniel Radcliffe.
No, the Harry Potter actor doesn’t feature in the uproarious dick-and-weed gag Hollywood brimstone romp, but he did have a hand in making it worthy of your bloodshot eyes.
“Two years before we brought it to anybody else, we brought it to Daniel Radcliffe and he rejected it because it was shitty, it wasn’t good enough,” Evan Goldberg, who wrote and directed the apocalypse comedy with Seth Rogen, told BuzzFeed on Monday in New York. “We got too excited, we jumped the gun on that. If we waited another year, I bet he would have done it.”
The former hero of Hogwarts “very respectfully explained that the material was not quite good enough, and he was right,” Goldberg added. “It was a bad early version. He taught us a lesson. We learned something from him that day.”
The cast, made up of Rogen and Goldberg’s buddies and frequent collaborators, more or less stayed the same. A motley crew of Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, and Jay Baruchel spend most of the flick holed up and fighting for survival as a demon with a wrathful phallus rains hell on earth, an assault that begins while Franco is hosting a housewarming party. The guys are playing heightened, bizarro versions of themselves, aping public perception and really indulging in their almost sociopathic fantasies, and Radcliffe’s rejection had something to do with that.
“The initial version was too obvious,” Goldberg explained. The script was based on a 2007 short they had made, Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse, but extended out to feature length, it wasn’t smart enough. “Daniel Radcliffe–Harry Potter jokes and James Franco [as a] fashion-snobby materialistic guy. Jonah Hill was being mean to everybody. And so we changed it all. We made Franco have this endearing love for Seth and we made Jonah turn into this big softy and we just mixed things up. We made it a little too obvious at first.”
Several other actors had to join Radcliffe in declining to participate, though it was scheduling — not script coverage — that kept Edward Norton, Bill Hader, and Elizabeth Banks from joining in on the self-parody party. Still, the roster of actors that did show up reads like a modern day stoner-comedy “We Are the World” choir, with supporting roles from many of Rogen’s friends. Emma Watson filled in for Radcliffe as the representative from Gryffindor.
Most of the cameos come during the all-important party scene that becomes bloody show-business schadenfreude given that the bit players are acting aggressively insane and/or terrible. Jason Segel, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart, and Dave Krumholtz all make quick appearances, as does Michael Cera, who acts like Bill Nye the Science Guy doing his best Scarface impression.
Rogen joked to BuzzFeed that of all the celebrities who meet their maker in the movie, it was Cera who was the most fun to see killed in the Judgment Day fracas — “he had it coming” — and it was a pretty graphic death, as seen in the film’s trailer. Goldberg, on the other hand, took most pleasure in offing Rihanna, who he said was game for anything.
“Michael Cera was fun because he was like kind of the star of the movie — he was the all-star, he was the guy all the other actors were looking at and saying this guy is out of control in the best way possible, but Rihanna is Rihanna,” he said with a laugh. “By Twitter account alone, she’s more famous than all the other actors combined. And the mere fact that she showed up and played ball with us is crazy.”