Posted by mike in Found Roles at 9:48 pm on September 29, 2009

This is the third entry in an ongoing series.

Everybody knows who Seth Rogen is these days, but his acting career got off to a relatively inauspicious start. After playing one of the “freaks” in Judd Apatow’s TV series Freaks & Geeks, his first feature film role came in Richard Kelly’s debut film, Donnie Darko, now a cult classic that is pretty widely loved (although I do know one guy who dislikes the film, probably because he finds the armchair philosophy distasteful; I think it’s similar to how somebody like me can’t watch a movie like Swordfish with a straight face, or why real-life doctors generally can’t stand House M.D.).

In this minor role, Rogen plays a high school bully named Ricky Danforth. I find it immensely amusing that not only is he a generic heavy, but he plays second fiddle to Alex Greenwald, whose acting career hasn’t exactly followed the same trajectory as Rogen’s from their common beginning (though his Wikipedia page informs me that he’s primarily a musician).

The following is a collection of three clips from Donnie Darko, which stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Jena Malone. They pretty humorously demonstrate what Rogen’s role in the film amounted to.

  • We see him as the sidekick bully, who gets to utter the timeless line, “I like your boobs,” before angrily flipping a cigarette butt at Donnie (Gyllenhaal).
  • We then see his classroom bully persona, taunting the new girl in school (Malone).
  • In my favorite part, at the film’s climax, Rogen gets to grunt and shout some of the most generic dialogue imaginable. “Don’t fuckin’ move—don’t fuckin’ move!”, “Get the hell outta here—now!”, and “Come on, let’s go! They called the cops!” are all somewhat cringe-worthy.

On the last point, it’s not just funny that the dialogue is somewhat cheesy, but Rogen’s delivery also does nothing to salvage it, adding an additional layer of cheese on top. He came a long way between here and his break-out role in The 40 Year Old Virgin, and today he’s one of the more recognizable big-screen stars out there. His most recent role was in this past summer’s Funny People, which I think is his best work yet, and a performance that’s leaps and bounds above what he was doing just 8 years ago.

Donnie Darko is actually pretty fertile ground for Found Roles. That’s Noah Wyle (from ER) as the high school teacher in the clip above, and Drew Barrymore plays his colleague. Then there’s the recently-deceased Patrick Swayze in a hilarious role as the motivational speaker with a deep, dark secret. Whenever I watch Donnie Darko, though, what seems the most out of place is Seth Rogen’s appearance and performance in it, and so it’s him who I’m focusing on here—though some of those others (particularly Swayze) may be worth returning to in the near future.

Note: I feel like I’d be remiss if I discussed Seth Rogen’s early career and didn’t mention his youthful aspirations as a stand-up comic.