TORONTO — All Seth Rogen really wanted when he came to Hollywood was to make a movie with Kevin Smith.
His dream came true, and more: Rogen got to make a dirty movie with Smith.
Rogen stars with Elizabeth Banks in Smith's "Zack and Miri Make a Porno," a romantic comedy with a whole lot of skin showing.
The 26-year-old actor recalled a meeting nearly a decade ago with a prospective agent who asked what his career goals were. That's when he confessed his desire to work with Smith, whose profanity-spewing raconteurs were an influence on the sort of films Rogen eventually would make himself.
The agent "said to me that's probably easier than you think. I hadn't realized that Kevin Smith movies didn't make any money," Rogen said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. "To me, he was like Steven Spielberg. I didn't realize the difference between good movies and movies that make a lot of money."
With the "Clerks" movies and films such as "Chasing Amy" and "Dogma," Smith has built a huge cult fan base but has yet to break widely into the mainstream. Rogen, who has scored hits with the similarly adult-themed comedies "Pineapple Express" and "Knocked Up," thinks "Zack and Miri" could be the one that puts Smith in front of a broader audience.
"Zack and Miri" features Rogen and Banks as lifelong best pals and roommates who discover there may be something more to their relationship when they make a porn flick to pay off their debts. The movie premieres Sunday at the Toronto International Film Festival in advance of its Oct. 31 theatrical release.
Smith wrote the script with Rogen in mind, having seen the actor in the acclaimed short-lived TV series "Freaks and Geeks" and later in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." By the time Smith finished the script in spring 2007, Rogen was the cusp of leading-man stardom with "Knocked Up."
"I started seeing billboards going up with his face on them and I was like, we lost this guy," Smith said. "This dude was like a supporting actor in `40-Year-Old Virgin' and he's just waiting for somebody to give him his own movie."
But Smith said that when he sent an e-mail to Rogen asking if he would read the screenplay, the actor shot back an answer within 2 minutes.
Rogen read "Zack and Miri" on the beach in Australia while doing press for "Knocked Up" and was eager to sign on from the start.
The comedic sex depicted in "Zack and Miri" is tame by hardcore pornography standards, and the subject matter never gave Rogen a moment's pause.
"I love porn. I watch tons of porn. The Internet speeds have evolved directly with my sexual drive," Rogen said. "I almost did it purely based on the title."
That, and the chance to work with one of his idols.
"Without Kevin Smith movies, I don't think I would be doing exactly what I'm doing now," Rogen said.