You may best know Dave Franco as “James Franco’s little brother,” but it’s time to move beyond that. Though Franco shares his sib’s chiseled features and surname, Dave’s out to make a name for himself. Between a hilarious turn as a cool kid-turned-con in “21 Jump Street” and his most recent role as a gun-toting tough guy in the post-zombie apocalypse rom-com “Warm Bodies,” in theaters this weekend, there’s a new Franco on the block, in a big way.
“It’s all been going somewhat smoothly, so don’t f*ck it up,” Franco told NextMovie during a recent interview to promote his new zombie rom-com. Beyond that helpful advice, Franco also spoke to us about his zombie survival strategy, playing drunk and the status of the “21 Jump Street” sequel.
“Warm Bodies,” both the movie and the book it’s based on, is hailed as a different breed of zombie story than we’ve seen before. What drew you in to the project?
I hadn’t read the book but I think the main draw for me was the director, Jonathan Levine, who is this young, smart, awesome director who’s done “The Wackness” and “50/50,” which I loved. I just knew that he was going to take this movie, a movie about zombies, and do something special. We’ve seen zombie movies before, but I knew he was going to take it and make something new and fresh, and that was the main draw.
Are you a big fan of traditional zombie movies?
I can’t say I was like die-hard zombie fan, but I’ve definitely seen a few different zombie movies and tv shows. Specifically, I think my favorite is “28 Days Later,” mainly because I’m obsessed with Danny Boyle, and I kind of think he recreated the genre with that movie, where he changed it so that the zombies aren’t these slow movie creatures. Now, when they can run almost faster than the humans can, it kind of ramps up the intensity.
You were a human in this movie, against Nicholas Hoult’s zombie. Were you bummed you didn’t get to be a zombie?
I can’t say I was bummed, just cuz, yeah, I guess it would have been kind of fun to just, you know, act like a zombie for a week, but at the same time, I don’t envy Nicholas Hoult for having to go through hours of zombie makeup every morning.
Now that you’ve done this movie, can you do a good zombie impression?
Not as good as [Hoult]. He killed it, right? He’s just such a strong and subtle actor that he really grounded that character and made you believe that — believe that he was a zombie that was becoming more like a human. You really empathize with this guy who kills ME almost immediately. You really empathize with him, and you’re like, “F*ck Dave Franco.”
He ate your brains!
Exactly, and you just sympathize with this guy! I give Nick Hoult total credit, he’s just a very likable guy.
A lot of actors say that playing drunk is the hardest thing to do on screen, but it seems like playing zombie wouldn’t be the easiest either. Which do you think would be harder: Drunk or zombie?
I’ve got nothing really to base this on, but I’m gonna go zombie. I’m gonna go zombie, just because I feel like there’s a lot of method actors out there who will actually get drunk for their drunk scenes. You can’t really be a zombie for zombie scenes, so I’ll go with that.
There have been talks of a “21 Jump Street” sequel. Any thoughts on that?
I’m into it. I don’t know how they’re gonna spring me from jail or if I’m even gonna be in it, but we had a great time on the first time, and I’d love to reconnect with all those guys.
We’re in the middle of awards season. Of course, your brother hosted the Oscars two years ago. Would you ever try your hand at hosting the Academy Awards?
I don’t think that’s really my personality, to be honest. I think the best hosts are the ones who are huge yeomen, you know? They can do the whole song and dance number, they’re very funny and charismatic. I think that whathisname, Seth MacFarlane, hosting this year, he’s gonna be perfect because he embodies all of those characteristics that I just said. I like to think that I have some ability to entertain a huge room, but nothing like that. I’m not the package like Seth MacFarlane.
What difference, if any, does it make to have such a well-known family member in the same business as you?
It’s a blessing and a curse. He definitely helped me get a manager at first, which I don’t take for granted, because it’s crucial to not only have a manager, but one that cares about you and is smart. But from there on out, no one is going to hire me just because I’m James Franco’s little brother. I have to prove myself. Of course, it was tough kind of finding my way out of his shadow, but I’m doing my best to separate myself in terms of work, where I’m trying to do my own stuff, create my own projects and make a name for myself.
In “Warm Bodies,” we see an interspecies romance of sorts. Could you, as a human, date a zombie or former zombie?
You’re saying every other aspect of her is perfect, but she used to be a zombie? I mean, I can get past that. If everything else is perfect, then the past is past!
Your movie is post-zombie apocalypse. How do you think you would fare if the undead took over in today’s world?
I’m a small shifty kind of guy. I think I would be up in the hills, Legolas style, shooting from up above, while the big guys are going at it from below. But you know, I’ve played sports my whole life, I think I could be a good asset to the humans.
Would you use an actual bow and arrow?
Yeah, if I’ve got it. I mean, how fun would that be?
What did you buy with your first Hollywood paycheck?
I think my first big purchase was actually for my mom. She had one of those ’90s TVs in her living room that’s like a 10×10 brick, so I purchased her a flatscreen for her living room.
And if you went into adult entertainment, what would your porn name be?
I wish it was more exciting. It would be Lincoln Ramona.