Looking at the Script to Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen’s Long-Lost Long Distance Relationship Rom-Com
“The Script Pile” is a biweekly column on Splitsider that takes a look at the screenplays for high-profile movie and TV comedies that never made it to the screen.
Just prior to Judd Apatow rising to power as one of the most successful writer/director/producers in comedy, he was working with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg to write a movie called The Long D, an unproduced screenplay that I’ll be look at this week.
Written in the summer of 2005, in between The 40 Year-Old Virgin‘s production and release, The Long D is based on an idea by Rogen and childhood friend/writing partner Evan Goldberg, who were just coming off of writing on the HBO version of Da Ali G Show together. Rogen, Goldberg, and Apatow share credit on the screenplay, which is a romantic comedy about a pair of high school sweethearts struggling with a long distance relationship when they go off to college. “It’s more romantic than anything we’ve done,” Seth Rogen said, describing the movie at the time. “But actually these are our favourite types of movies. Those are the movies we run to the theatre to see.”
The Long D centers on Dave Hayworth, a kind-hearted, lazy young guy presumably to be played by Rogen, who falls in love with Rena Slawson, a hard-working, optimistic fellow high school student he meets at a school carnival. The script opens with Dave and Rena meeting and we see a montage of their cute teenagery relationship up until they get into colleges on opposite sides of the country and agree to a long distance relationship. Dave goes off to college with his bonehead best friends Martin Chudnofsky and Billy Fogell (who, like Fogell aka McLovin from Superbad, is named after Rogen and Goldberg’s adolescent friend Sammy Fogell) and drinks and ditches class, while Rena goes to school with friends Tristan and Alexa and gets really into saving a species of Fijian mollusk with the Advocates for Ocean Protection club. Dave’s irresponsible ways ’cause him to neglect Rena, who breaks up with him at the end of their freshman year of college.
Dave’s heartbroken his sophomore year and starts drinking and disregarding school even more, only spurred on by Rena getting a new intellectual boyfriend. He flunks out of school and spontaneously drives across the country to Rena’s school to visit her, barging in on her and her boyfriend, who’s she’s getting pretty sick of, and she kicks both of them out, upset. Having turfed out at college, Dave then heads to China to try to find himself. He spends three months there, having a difficult time at first but it soon matures him as a person. He calls Rena, who has another new dirtbag boyfriend, to apologize and they have a nice, warm conversation, causing him to once again spontaneously visit her, traveling by plane from another country this time. The script’s climax finds Dave, in the winter, trying to get to Rena’s place, but he slips on some ice and breaks his leg. He eventually hobbles to her door and tells her he loves her. The two rekindle their relationship while she has the guy she was dating, who she broke up with after her phone call with Dave, drive him to the hospital to treat his broken leg.
This draft of The Long D is by no means a finished product, as Apatow and Rogen moved on to other projects before proceeding with this one. Also, Apatow and Rogen’s movies are usually so improv-heavy that a script isn’t a strong indication of the quality of the end result, but The Long D has all of the elements of a strong Apatow movie nevertheless. The script is more sentimental than the writers’ other work and, although it is R-rated with plenty of nudity and swearing, it isn’t anywhere near as vulgar as other Apatow/Rogen/Goldberg efforts. In this draft, the female lead Rena’s arc is a little lacking, with her quest to find a major in the third act feeling a little dull compared to Dave’s antics in China, and other supporting characters like Fogell and Martin could stand to be fleshed out a bit more, although these are things I’m sure would have been worked out in future drafts if the writers and studio hadn’t opted to work on other stuff instead.
Rogen and Apatow are no strangers to college comedy, having worked on Fox’s Undeclared — which was Rogen’s first writing credit — together, so they’re in their comfort zone here with the bulk of The Long D covering Dave and Rena’s freshman, sophomore, and junior years at college. The story’s multi-year scope of the story is ambitious for a comedy, with them clearly aiming for a When Harry Met Sally relationship between the two leads. The part of Dave seems to have been written with Rogen in mind; he had just finished filming his soon-to-be-breakout role in Apatow’s 40-Year-Old Virgin so this was opportune timing. Instead, Rogen made his leading man debut with Knocked Up, which feels like a concept/script that was much closer to being ready for the big screen than The Long D. In fact, according to Rogen, Knocked Up had its genesis in a meeting about The Long D:
We were actually in a meeting [with Universal studio executives] about a rewrite that we had to do for that long-distance relationship movie, and Judd pitched Knocked Up all of a sudden. I’m like, ”Wow, that seems like an awesome idea.” He’s like, ”And Seth Rogen is the guy who gets the girl pregnant!” I was like, ”Sweet!” They pretty much bought it right then and there.