Vanity Fair released an article yesterday which features Dave (and with it, we got a brand new photoshoot). In the article which you can read bellow, Dave speaks about The Disaster Artist, working with brother James, their production company and much more!
At one point while making The Disaster Artist, Dave Franco filmed a scene in which he had to calm down his brother, James Franco, who was—in character—thrashing around a film set nude, save for a small, strategically-placed piece of cloth; a wavy black wig; and enough facial prosthetics to make him look like “a vampire Frankenstein.”
“That was a strange scene to shoot, for obvious reasons,” laughs Dave, 32, as he leads me up Griffith Mountain on a hike he regularly takes with his wife, Alison Brie. “My brother was only wearing a cock sock throughout the entirety of the scene. That was actually the first day that Alison came to set, so that was the first thing that she witnessed. In that moment, she kind of succumbed to the fact that this movie was going to be strange and like nothing she had ever seen before.”
The Disaster Artist, which is directed by James and out in wide release Friday, is a comedy chronicling the making of 2003’s The Room—the film written by, starring, and directed by Tommy Wiseau, which has been christened both the worst movie ever made and, in the years since, a cult classic. The Disaster Artist recasts The Room as a triumph of the human spirit—proof that two wide-eyed dreamers can make a movie, no matter how nonsensical the plot, how disjointed the dialogue, and how inexperienced its filmmaker.
In The Disaster Artist, James plays Wiseau—a real-life enigma who claims to be from New Orleans, despite his thick Eastern European accent, and who believed The Room to be such a masterpiece that he screened it during the Oscar consideration window. Dave plays Wiseau’s best friend Greg Sesteros, a naïve actor swept up in Wiseau’s deluded optimism, who helps make The Room. (After seeing the film, the real Wiseau told Dave that Greg was “20 percent dorkier” than how Dave played him. “I don’t know exactly how to interpret that, but it’s a good note,” grins Dave.)
Though James has the flashier role, Dave has the more difficult one—keeping a straight face through his brother’s in-character hysterics and tethering Planet Tommy to reality, acting as Tommy’s go-between to less-deluded characters and the audience’s sympathetic stand-in. Because Dave finds this tricky balance, in his best performance to date, The Disaster Artist lands as the rare comedy that is as heartwarming as it is hilarious. And because of A24’s canny distribution strategy, the film is getting a glossy December 8 rollout—after earning rapturous reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival—and being positioned as an awards-season dark horse.
“When we first started making it, we knew that there was a chance no one would ever see it because it’s based on The Room, which most people in the world have never even heard of,” Dave says. “The fact that people are responding the way they have been, it’s surreal. We couldn’t be happier.”
Though Dave can’t quite process The Disaster Artist’s early awards hype—USA Today published a piece last week titled, “Why James Franco and Seth Rogen’s biggest gamble yet might send them to the Oscars”—the actor admits that one aspect of making it to the ceremony is incredibly tantalizing.
“Honestly, what excites me most is the idea of getting Tommy Wiseau to the Oscars,” says Dave, taking a minute to imagine the scenario: Wiseau finally getting the outcome he envisioned for The Room after it suffered nearly 15 years of ridicule and so-bad-it’s-good notoriety. “What a beautiful story that would be,” says Dave. “It just makes me smile thinking about it.”
It would have been easy for the brothers Franco to ridicule Tommy and The Room in The Disaster Artist. But James and Dave didn’t want to tell the story from the obvious perspective—which is part of the reason why Wiseau himself has been so on board to help promote The Disaster Artist, participating in press interviews and public appearances.
“The first time we met Tommy face-to-face was about halfway through production . . . and he was so sweet, and kind of shy in an endearing way,” says Dave. “I think he recognized that we were treating his story with respect, as opposed to taking the easy route, where I think many people would tackle this type of movie and try to make fun of Tommy and The Room and everyone involved. That was never our intention. We wanted this to be a love letter to him and to people who go after their dreams and don’t take no for an answer.”
In typical Wiseau fashion, though, the oddball filmmaker was not merely satisfied having his story recreated for mass audiences by well-known actors—he demanded, in his contract, to act opposite James at some point in the film. Hence the post-credit sequence in which real-life Wiseau bumps into James-as-Wiseau at a rooftop party and makes hilariously stilted small talk.
“It’s fully improvised,” explains Dave. “Tommy ended up hitting on my brother in the scene, and inviting him to go home with him. When you take a step back, that’s even weirder because my brother is playing Tommy, so he’s essentially hitting on himself.”
As is the case with the movie itself, Dave explains, “There are so many levels of meta and bizarre.”
Another layer to the meta-ness is that the film, about a brotherhood of sorts, features the Franco siblings as co-stars for the first time. Dave had been resisting a collaboration for years. So it seems somewhat poetic that, when the brothers finally teamed up, the partnership yielded the best reviews either brother has ever received.
“From the beginning of my career, I made a conscious decision to separate myself from him work-wise because I didn’t want to be referred to as James Franco’s little brother for the rest of my life,” explains Dave, who is seven years younger than James. (They are also separated by another brother, Tom who has a secret cameo in The Disaster Artist). Though James approached Dave over the years offering him parts, Dave consistently turned down the roles, mostly over text message. With The Disaster Artist, though, Dave says, “it was the right time, the right project, and the right character. We both really relate to these guys, as weird as they may seem. They kind of represent all actors coming to L.A.”
Like Greg, Dave says that he spent his first few years as an actor in Hollywood under the impression that each project he booked would be a success.
“I’ve been on sets where we thought everything was going smoothly to the point where people were talking about awards for the movie,” Dave explains. “I bought into the hype and then the movie came out and not only was it not good, it was a full-on piece of shit.”
As Dave adjusted to the regular heartbreaks of the industry, his naïveté wore off.
“As an actor, I read probably 100 scripts a year, and there’s maybe two or three that I really responded to, and I wanted to fight for, but every other actor in town was also responding to those two or three scripts,” says Dave. One of those roles was the part in Little Miss Sunshine that ultimately went to Paul Dano—as it rightfully should have, adds Dave, who says that Dano was “way better than I would have ever been.”
Since making The Disaster Artist, though, it seems as though both Dave and his brother have undergone an artistic reawakening. They co-created a production company called Ramona Films, named after the street they grew up on, and have begun developing films that range in genre and budget but all represent “something we’ve never seen before on screen.”
After finishing the hike, we relocate to a picnic table in Griffith Park and order peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (“I know it sounds weird, but they’re really good,” Dave tells me at the park’s café.) Visibly excited when discussing Ramona Films, Dave explains that before The Disaster Artist, he and James never talked about work. They are only just now realizing that they complement each other’s artistic tendencies. “In general, James is prone to say yes to everything and I’m prone to say no,” explains Dave. “I think the influence I had on him is to make him slow down and be more conscientious about what projects he decides to take on. On the flip side, he’s made me not be so quick in my judgments and realize the potential in certain projects.”
Currently, Dave’s seems to be as fulfilled personally as he is professionally. He and Brie (who plays Greg’s girlfriend in The Disaster Artist) married in a low-key ceremony at the end of February, and are enjoying quiet nights streaming movies with cats Harry and Arturo—“I thought I could get through this interview without bringing up my cats,” Dave laments—at the Los Angeles home they are renovating. Speaking about married life, Dave says, “There is something that just feels better—more settled. I have my person now, and there’s something very comforting about that.”
Dave was the first to marry amongst his siblings, and admits that the milestone might have had an impact on James: “I know it inspired somewhat of a change in him, where he has started to slow down and start to value his personal life a little bit more.”
It helps that Dave and James intend to blur the lines of their professional and personal lives slightly with Ramona Films. Says Dave, “People ask what I want to be doing 5 or 10 years from now, and the truthful answer is that I hope to be doing exactly what I’m doing right now—working with my friends and family on projects.”
Dave tells me that his first job was stocking shelves at a mom-and-pop video store in Palo Alto when he was 14. Because it was illegal for him to work so young, he was essentially paid in free rentals—and remembers films like Stand by Me and Fight Club igniting the realization that he wanted to make movies. Acting just happened to be the fastest route into the filmmaking business.
“I just wanted to find a way into making movies,” says Dave. “But it could have been any number of different routes.”
That Dave is finally making movies, in any capacity, is all he ever wanted. And Dave is so thrilled with how The Disaster Artist turned out that he is not concerned with how long it lasts in award conversations. “I swear, if everything ended now, I love the movie and that’s all I could ever ask for.”