Seth Rogen on The Oath: ‘It’s good to know that people I work with are committed to them’

‘The foundations of the film were set by Judd Apatow and Jason Segel, with writing by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen’

America runs on laughter, and it’s a good thing, too: otherwise, we’d be so anxious about crime that we’d miss our opportunities to laugh while we can. One of the safer exceptions to the rule is Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill’s new comedy, The Oath, and Vinay Menon – who plays Mickey, a police officer forced to make the opposing choice that’s anathema to most in this taut, mordant comedy – has agreed to swap views with us.

In our film, what follows after a shootout is standard in most crime stories: the victim – the remaining or dead cohort of the shooter – will be arrested and charged with the crime. Mickey is worried his accomplice may be a reluctant informant who plans to snitch on him. But the rights lawyer has other plans – to force Mickey to declare his support for what he views as the sacred rights of the police.

When I read this synopsis, I understood what would follow – a stream of forced confessions from friends and family, followed by delayed incarceration and consular visits by loved ones. I didn’t have high hopes for the film. How silly to compromise one’s beliefs like that, and why now? But the foundation of the film was set by Judd Apatow and Jason Segel, with writing by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen.

Menon: It’s good to know that people I work with are committed to them. If it wasn’t, it would be easier to question everything they believe in. It’s important that they say what they believe because we’re not that smart.

It’s interesting that you mention belief. Perhaps its purpose isn’t to drive the story but to counterbalance the cliché of shock at revelation.

The idea of revealing is a crime itself. But it’s important to say what we believe because we’re not that smart.

It’s funny – what I’m meant to be on the phone with is somebody who’s on their way to commit a crime.

I don’t know if you can get away with honest pain. We had an intensive casting process – we got an accurate picture of what our characters were like. I don’t mean that as a term of endearment. The movie is about one person, but there are all these interesting voices. I don’t think you can get away with honest pain. If you could, it’d be great. But I think the more things are honest, the more tension you create.

You’re also a producer on the film, with James Weaver directing. How has your roles changed?

I go where the scene calls for. When the producer gets on a plane, the costumer’s ready. It was a great opportunity to dig deep and stop everything.

Rogen: It made us all sad to watch that clip, but it was also a reminder of the brutality we rarely see [the clip from Scarface where Vincent Vega rides around the world on a horse]. We were discussing that with Apatow.

But from a comedy standpoint, it was perfect. You wouldn’t know you were seeing a slapstick scene, that there was a tragic undercurrent. From an actor’s point of view, it was great. I met with Apatow for that scene, and he was like: “I’m so glad that you were the guy in that scene because you were going for it.” I went the other way. I wanted it to be way more dramatic.

The Oath opens 18 June

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