Plenty of actors have played multiple characters that appear on screen together in the movies. Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor, Mike Myers in Austin Powers, and Michael Keaton in Multiplicity are just a few of the more famous examples. Traditionally this is achieved through a split screen process where the actor shoots the same scene multiple times as each different character on the same day and uses stand-ins for over-the-shoulder shots. But in the case of Seth Rogen‘s dual roles in An American Pickle, a revealing new featurette shows how director Brandon Trost took a far more ambitious route to pull it off.
Making of An American Pickle
If you watched An American Pickle, you might have thought that Seth Rogen merely wore a fake beard when he played 1920’s laborer Herschel Greenbaum, and then removed the beard to shoot the same scene opposite himself as his great-grandson Ben Greenbaum. But Rogen hates how fake beards look on screen, so he took the time to actually grow Herschel’s great big bushy beard himself. However, that made the process of shooting every scene with both of the characters on screen infinitely more complicated.
As you’d expect, Seth Rogen would shoot every single scene as Herschel first. Then, after all that was done, the crew had to return to the same real locations and studio sets to shoot the second half of the scenes with a clean-shaven Rogen as Ben. The lengths to which the crew went to ensure that the set looked exactly the same with the cameras placed in the right spot with the same lighting and props is insane. Yes, they used a double to help Rogen play against himself, but all the double did was react with his face and body while a recording of the previous takes played in his ear, and sometimes, the double wasn’t even in the scene, but would say lines off-camera and describe what the other character was doing for timing purposes.
This looks infinitely harder to pull off when shooting in front of real store fronts or places that actually exist. But there are also sequences where a green screen was used, making it easier (to a degree) to double Rogen in a certain environment. Sometimes on-location scenes utilized green screen too, such as when Seth Rogen has to ride an electric scooter around himself. It’s difficult as hell, but it looks like it paid off, because this is a wonderful movie in which Rogen gives a career-best performance.
An American Pickle, directed by Brandon Trost, is based on Simon Rich’s New Yorker novella and stars Seth Rogen as Herschel Greenbaum, a struggling laborer who immigrates to America in 1920 with dreams of building a better life for his beloved family. One day, while working at his factory job, he falls into a vat of pickles and is brined for 100 years. The brine preserves him perfectly and when he emerges in present-day Brooklyn, he finds that he hasn’t aged a day. But when he seeks out his family, he is troubled to learn that his only surviving relative is his great-grandson, Ben Greenbaum (also played by Rogen), a mild-mannered computer coder whom Herschel can’t even begin to understand.
An American Pickle is available now on HBO Max.
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