It's not exactly the sort of slogan you'd put on a license plate or town stationery but Monroeville is "the last place in the world you'd imagine someone would make porn."
And that is why Kevin Smith's $25 million comedy, "Zack & Miri Make a Porno," is set in Monroeville, where shooting wraps up today. It's about a pair of cash-starved friends, played by Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks, who decide to make a porn flick.
"In terms of the stuff I've done in the past, it's probably closest to 'Chasing Amy.' It's very frank, it's very dirty but it's very sweet," Smith said, calling it a very touching love story.
"We shot a scene yesterday that was about as dramatic a scene as I've ever shot in anything I've ever done," Smith said, with his star confirming it. "This is in the same movie as all that other stuff?" Rogen said.
Yesterday, Smith and Rogen sat down with two reporters and a radio team to field questions on everything from driving in Pittsburgh (GPS is invaluable for newcomers) to strippers (hired locally) and Pittsburgh as a winter wonderland (how Smith sold the city to his 8-year-old daughter, who loved her time and uniform at Winchester Thurston).
The director and actor took two of the seats at a big round table at Tolerico's, a real Monroeville restaurant down the strip mall from the fictional Bean-N-Gone Coffee Shop where Rogen's character works.
Smith, layered in a hoodie and long black coat, smoked throughout and Rogen, unmistakable with his loose corkscrew curls, dark-rimmed glasses and distinctive hearty laugh, sampled the sugary fried dough the restaurant placed in the center of the table.
Tonight, if all goes well, Smith will trade his rental bed for his home model, and Rogen will prepare to fly to Las Vegas to receive the ShoWest Comedy Star of the Year Award. He's one of the go-to guys for comedy, with "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!" "Superbad," "Knocked Up" and "40-Year-Old Virgin" among his credits.
In a relaxed, good-natured, 30-minute session, here is some of what they had to say:
On the stars' chemistry: "They had crazy, sick chemistry, it was really nice," Smith said of Rogen and Banks. "There was a familiarity there, but beyond that, their performances read like they're lifelong friends who slowly kind of realize they've fallen in love."
On picking Pittsburgh: Smith said, "I spent a lot of time here," after high school because a then-girlfriend went to Carnegie Mellon University. He shot "Dogma" in Pittsburgh in 1998 and that positive experience, along with the state's tax incentives for filmmakers, helped to lure him back.
On shooting here: "It went so swimmingly, it was crazy," said the director, who finished two days early.
"We were fighting weather issues at the beginning because we tried to do most of our exteriors up front," Smith said, as Rogen added, "The weather was too nice." But some of the real snow allowed Rogen to fishtail as he drove, lending authenticity to the wintry setting and man-made white stuff.
On navigating the city: Rogen got lost a lot at the beginning but said, "I slowly narrowed down where I go to a few places. Now I get to the Waterfront easy," to go to the movies, eat at Red Robin and -- like all the out-of-towners -- shop like mad at Target.
Off-set diversions: Smith favored NHL 08 (he also went to a couple of New Jersey Devils games at Mellon Arena, clad in his home-team colors) while Rogen is a "pretty mean drummer" on Rock Band and pretty good at Guitar Hero. "I'm like your utilitarian game player."
On casting: Smith wrote "Zack & Miri" with Rogen in mind. "I saw '40-Year-Old Virgin,' and I was, like, that [expletive] dude's hysterical." Steve Carell? "No, the other guy." Then Rogen got famous and Smith worried he might lose him, but he didn't.
Sneak preview: Smith has been editing as he's shooting and recently hosted an early rough cut for cast and crew in the Strip District. "We set up two big monitors, two big flat screens, and I think 80 people came over and watched 80 percent, 85 percent of the movie. ... It's pretty watchable."
Release and rating: Smith said the movie is expected to be released in November and he's "praying for an R rating. ... the initial porno scene that they shoot in the movie is one of the funniest but most graphic."
When studio chief Harvey Weinstein visited the set, he asked Smith if he was shooting "TV coverage as well," which would allow the movie to air on television or in other tame outlets. "I was, like, dude, I'm having a hard time shooting an R-rated movie, let alone a PG-13- rated version of the movie."
The story is set at Thanksgiving-Christmas, and the fall release prompted Rogen to say, "We'll get that 'Enchanted' audience." And then let loose with a big laugh.
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