In Neighbors, the frat comedy starring Seth Rogen and Zac Efron, out tomorrow, fans of Dave Franco get their money’s worth. The actor—and younger brother of selfie connoisseur James Franco—plays an amiable, surprisingly intellectual frat boy named Pete who finds himself pretty naked (and pretty horny) at one point in the film. Franco, who has previously starred in flicks such as 21 Jump Street andWarm Bodies, is one of the best parts of Neighbors–and not just because he has a nice butt. We’re all up on the Dave Franco bandwagon after seeing it (sorry, James!) and got to chat with the actor about filming with Seth Rogen, picking up girls with magic, and just what is going on with the Franco family.
Why did you want to be part of this movie?
Well, I honestly didn’t feel that initially. The way my character was originally written there wasn’t much to do. It was another generic frat boy, and I just blended into the background and there was nothing distinguishing about him. So I met with the director and the producers and we talked through that. They said, “Okay, what would you want to do with this character?” Two days later they sent me a new draft incorporating all the ideas we talked about. That’s what I love about these guys: how collaborative they are and how much they want to cater the character to who you are.
How much experience had you had with frats and frat boys before this?
I went to USC where there’s a huge Greek system. The school is in a pretty seedy area so the only social life is at these fraternities. I never joined one myself, but I had a lot of friends who were in frats and I would go to those parties. I had a healthy dose of being around frat life while I was in school. As crazy as it looks in our movies, it’s not a complete departure from how it actually is. I remember there being foam parties where all the rooms were filled with foam and half the rooms were filled with naked people rolling around in foam. It got pretty debaucherous.
What was the craziest thing you ever did in college?
I burned down my dorm room freshman year. I was that kid. When you live in small quarters with two guys, the smell in the room starts to take over a little bit. So we decided we wanted our room to smell like fresh baked cookies. So we order a cookie dough scented candle off eBay and then we accidentally burn our room down with that candle. I had to sleep under my buddy’s bed on top of his dirty laundry for the next two weeks while they fixed our room.
At least you got rid of the smell?
Yeah, so mission accomplished in the end.
You’ve been in a lot of comedy movies lately. Did you always know you were funny?
I still don’t consider myself a comedian. My brand of humor is trying to play the situation as real as possible because I’m not the type of guy who is a joke a minute. When you’re working on a Seth Rogen comedy, there’s a ton of improvisation, which at first can be really intimidating because you don’t want to be the person who is slowing down the scene. But when you’re working with a genius like Seth Rogen, it doesn’t matter what you say—no matter how dumb you are in the scene, he’s going to turn your dumb jokes into gold and make you seem a lot funnier than you naturally are. My secret is just surrounding myself with people who are a lot funnier than me.
What was the most uncomfortable scene to shoot?
I think you’re leading me to say the sex scene that I have. That definitely was not the most comfortable day on set. And of course I woke up that morning with a nice fresh pimple on my butt. The first time showing my butt on camera, of course that happens. I had to ask the makeup artist, who I had met the previous week, to take me in the other room and cover up my butt pimple. And on top of that, the director directed me to basically thrust my hips as fast as humanly possible. I’m glad it’s done. I’m sure it will come back to–pun intended–bite me in the ass at some point in my life.
Had you ever done a movie sex scene before?
Yeah, but nothing as raw and graphic as this. It was the first time showing my butt on camera.
My friend recently suggested you refer to your fanbase as the “Dave Francophiles.” How do you feel about that?
I feel mediocre-to-good about that. I’m at a 6.3 on that. I don’t think I could ever personally say that about myself, but I’ll let you deem me and my fanbase whatever you want.
Are you aware that you have a serious fanbase?
Serious is a very strong word.
You’re so humble about everything.
Honestly, without sounding too pretentious, I feel lucky to be working on projects I’m excited about and that I want my friends and family to see. That’s all I’m really focusing on is continuing to work on cool projects.
What are you working on next?
I’m about to film the sequel to Now You See Me. It should be fun. I think most of the cast is coming back. We had an incredible time on the first one where I got to learn magic, which is cool. For our rehearsal period, rather than breaking down the script and going over who these characters are, we got to learn magic.
Have you ever used those magic tricks to pick up women?
Not once! I don’t want to say coolest trick, but the trick I spent the longest trying to perfect, was trying to cut a banana in half by throwing a card at it. I managed to succeed at doing that, but if I was the guy who carried around a banana and a deck of cards to parties then I wouldn’t want to hook up with a girl who wanted to hook up with that guy. You know what I mean? So I can confidently say I’ve never tried to pick up a girl with magic.
I also wanted to ask you whether you share your brother’s love of the selfie.
I can say no. I don’t have social media really. It seems like that’s becoming his thing and what he’s known for more than being an Oscar-nominated actor. He’s just “James Franco, the guy who does the weird selfies.” You have to admire his doesn’t-give-fuck attitude. Like, he’s going to do General Hospital because why the fuck not? He’s going to post weird selfies. I have to admire him for that.
Have you done anything you think is equally weird to what James does?
If you watch any video I’ve done for Funny or Die you’ll probably say, “Why would he ever expose the world to this?” For example, I did a short film where I asked my real mother to watch me pretend to masturbate. That happened. So, yeah, I guess the Francos are as bizarre as advertised.