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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Judd Apatow's indie auteur gets stoned

July 16, 2008 |  6:10 pm

David_gordon_green You would only know David Gordon Green's name if you were a hard-core indie film fanatic. Full of lost love and wonderful characters who make bad choices with tragic consequences, his movies are beloved by critics but hardly seen by anyone outside the art-house circuit. Green's most recent film, "Snow Angels," grossed $400,000, a small tick down from his most accessible film, 2003's "All the Real Girls," which earned rave reviews and made $549,000.

But that's all about to change. Green's new film is "Pineapple Express," the latest knockabout comedy from the Judd Apatow assembly line. Due out on Aug. 8 on several thousand screens across America and full of stoner high jinks from James Franco and Seth Rogen, it should outgross all of Green's previous films by sometime early Friday afternoon. In the past, Apatow's comedies have been helmed by guys like Greg Mottola ("Superbad"), Jake Kasdan ("Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story") and Nicholas Stoller ("Forgetting Sarah Marshall"), who became Apatow pals while working on "Undeclared" or "Freaks and Geeks," his under-appreciated TV series. So how did David Gordon Green get a gig doing stoner comedy?

Calendar reporter Chris Lee tracked down Green and files this report:    

The notion of David Gordon Green pulling off an action stoner comedy is about as logical -- at least at first blush -- as a fish riding a bicycle. I did a double take when I first heard the indie auteur behind the downbeat art house dramas "George Washington," "Snow Angels" and "All the Real Girls" was directing a goofy Seth Rogen-starring movie for producer Judd Apatow with Sony’s blessing.

Pineapple_onesheet Turns out Green was an inspired if not altogether obvious choice. He more than capably pulls off the kind of improv-heavy, zeitgeisty, male bonding comedy for which Apatow productions have come to be known. At a screening packed with teenagers I attended earlier this summer, "Pineapple Express' " bong-hit humor and bloody, surrealistically funny action sequences were killing.

I admitted how surprised I was to Green in a phone conversation earlier this month.

"I go out to make and produce stories I’m obligated to," Green said. "It got to a point where I have money and a cool girlfriend. I said, 'Let’s blow up stuff and have a car chase!' Seriously, for a number of years I’ve been trying to make a comedy."

Danny McBride costars in "Pineapple" and has been Green’s buddy from the time they went to film school together at North Carolina School of the Arts. When McBride got cast in the film by Apatow, he put the bug in Apatow’s ear about Green’s comedy skills -– in college, all but one of Green’s student productions were "wild comedies." "His first-year film, it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen," McBride told me. "Then he got out of school and directed 'George Washington.' It was a change of tone and he followed in that genre."

"Pineapple Express" costar James Franco admitted that Green was "an unusual choice" for the job but praised the writer-director’s “improvisational approach.” As well, Franco outlined Green’s comic horizons. "I think Dave wants to do bigger comedies," Franco said early this month. "Still action, but a ‘meta’ take on the action movies of the '80s. That’s what came out on 'Pineapple Express.' He was referencing 'Tango & Cash!' "

Photo of David Gordon Green by Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times