A glance across the room at an awkward Hollywood awards show party first united Zac Efron and Seth Rogen.
"It was kind of a longing look," Rogen said, recalling their first conversation.
"You can't come out and say it, but I was like, 'Dude, I'd ... die to work with you,'" Efron said. "I was kind of imploring him. As a dude growing up in today's world, Seth is someone who I always really related to."
At 32, Rogen has built his career as an actor, writer and producer around an amiable slacker persona in such comedies as "Knocked Up" and "Pineapple Express." At 26, Efron built his as a heartthrob in the Disney Channel's "High School Musical" movies and in "Hairspray" and "17 Again."
In real life, these two young actors are also facing different stages of life: Efron, the buff, fresh-faced one, is recently out of rehab and trying to establish a career as an adult while Rogen, the R-rated comedy king and notorious pothead, is a busy, married producer of his own films.
Now (mostly) grown up and quite successful in their own ways, the two serve as each other's foils in "Neighbors," an "Animal House"-style comedy in which Rogen plays Mac, a sleep-deprived new dad forced to confront his changing lifestyle when Efron's Teddy and his hard-partying fraternity move next door.
The pair recounted their meet cute moment in an interview at the office of Rogen's production company, Point Grey Pictures, in a building on the Sony Pictures lot that used to house the studio classroom where Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland once studied. A large sex toy that was a key prop in Rogen's previous film, "This Is the End," sat on a shelf.
It was a fitting location for a conversation with dozens of uses of the word "dude," umpteen F-bombs and a fair amount of candor on the subject of maturity. For Efron, working within Rogen's man-boy realm was actually an opportunity for growth.
"Everyone's getting old with me," Rogen said. "One of the things I'm most happy about with ["Neighbors"] is that I'm able to be true to who I am as a person who is maturing and at the same time make a movie that is as immature as the rest of my career.... In real life I relate much more to my guy than his guy, which is a sign of the times man."
Rogen produced "Neighbors," which is directed by Nicholas Stoller ("Forgetting Sarah Marshall") and written by Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien. The film — drawing positive reviews for the most part and expectations for fine business — also stars Rose Byrne as Mac's wife and accomplice, Kelly, and Dave Franco as Teddy's No. 2.
Initially conceived with Teddy as a clear-cut bad guy, the movie evolved to give the character more nuance, Rogen said, at Efron's behest.
"Zac was like, 'Frat guys have to like this movie,' and that honestly wasn't something that had occurred to us," Rogen said. "We were very much in the mind-set of, we're all nerdy, comedy writery guys. It's definitely in our instinct to explicitly villainize the frat. Zac came up with ideas of reinforcing brotherhood ... cause you know a lot of frat guys, right?"
Efron does, indeed, know a lot of frat guys, though neither he nor Rogen went to college. "I know a dude who is a lot like Teddy but who would take a bullet for me," Efron said. "And that was the fun part for me to examine was how seriously could I take these guys.... I wanted guys who are in fraternities to be like, '... yeah!' I hope every fraternity would be glad to see this."
On set, Efron slipped into the improvisation-based world of Rogen's films, where the director, writers and actors blurt out suggested punch lines.
"You have to be ready to hear brilliance and not break character," he said.
"Or not brilliance, mostly," Rogen said. "You just have to be ready to hear words and repeat them. Trust is the hardest thing people have with it. A lot of actors like to be really in control of their performances so even if the worst editor and the worst director of all time were making the movie, they would retain what they wanted to do."
"After the first scene we filmed I was like, I'm just gonna commit to something, but not know necessarily what it is," Efron said.
"Which is a good confident play," Rogen said.
Efron and Rogen both started acting as teenagers, and found fame playing characters on the opposite ends of high school's sociological spectrum: Efron, blue-eyed and square-jawed, was a jock heartbreaker in "High School Musical" and Rogen, Canadian-born, curly haired and doughy, a wisecracking outsider in the NBC teen comedy "Freaks and Geeks."
One of Universal Pictures' posters for "Neighbors" — the stars standing shirtless side-by-side — has fun with their dual images, one as the guy young women would love to date and the other as the guy young men would love to befriend.
Rogen's public persona is heavily intertwined with his recreational marijuana use. He has copped to smoking weed when he writes and appeared on stage at the 2008 MTV Movie Awards smoking a joint. But his career and personal life show no signs of having suffered for it. He is married to screenwriter Lauren Miller, his company has another film due this year, "The Interview," and he radiates a down-to-earthness that has eluded other comedians at his level of success.
"You have to participate in culture to participate in culture," Rogen said. "You have to watch the same shows people watch and go to the same movies and go out in the world and walk around and go to the grocery store and buy your own [stuff]. I'm very fortunate because I for whatever reason I'm not someone people are interested in from a celebrity tabloid capacity. I dodged that bullet completely."
For Efron, who was raised in central California, the public eye has been a more challenging place. Paparazzi have camped in front of his house for years, and that only worsened with his trip to rehab last year for drug and alcohol abuse. In March, he got into a fight with a homeless man in downtown L.A. in the early morning hours, an event he attributes to being "in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Working with Rogen, he said, had an effect he didn't anticipate when they met at that party, by challenging a single-minded career perspective that led him astray.
"I've learned a ton from Seth," Efron said. "A lot of the great things that happen around Seth are not performance. They're the kind of dude he is, the kind of friend he is.... Who you are is important. Very little of it has to do with your performance."
Herald Sun/News Corp Australia:
A STINT in rehab and a recent scuffle with a homeless man in downtown Los Angeles might have taken the sheen off Zac Efron’s celebrity profile.
But that’s not altogether a bad thing.
On previous visits to Australia, the High School Musical star has stuck so closely to the Disney publicity rule book, his answers have come across as scripted or rehearsed.
The 26-year-old actor’s current predilection for plain speaking — most dramatically illustrated in last week’s Hollywood Reporter interview during which he discussed his “never-ending struggle with addiction” — is probably a welcome relief for all concerned.
When asked whether his experiences as a child actor mean he would try to steer his own offspring away from a career in showbiz, Efron barely pauses for reflection: “I am so afraid of the first part of that question, I don’t even know how to answer the second part.”
Fatherhood is clearly not on the agenda for the foreseeable future then. “Some day, perhaps. I mean, my dad said it was nice. But I am not thinking that far ahead right now,” he says.
As the actor talks, it’s clear that the gap between his public and private personas has narrowed considerably in the past couple of years. And that must surely be a good thing for someone who began acting professionally at the age of 14.
Efron’s heightened media profile coincides with the release of the Seth Rogen comedy Bad Neighbours, in which he has been cast against type as a party-loving university student who spins dangerously out of control during an escalating turf war with the young parents who live next door (Rogen and Australian actor Rose Byrne).
The irony is lost on no one. Off-screen, the actor has been working hard to get his life back on track — joining Alcoholics Anonymous and signing up for a course of therapy.
On-screen, he has been similarly diligent — even taking a pay cut to get the $US18 million Bad Neighbours off the ground.
“Both Seth and I didn’t really take any money to do the film but we have some of it in back end. We wanted to work it together so that’s the way we had to do it to get the movie made. It’s more of a gamble but that’s the kind of gamble one has to make. Ultimately you want to make sure you do the work and make a great film and then you deserve it, right?”
Efron has had hits (Hairspray) and misses (Charlie St Cloud) in his attempt to make the notoriously difficult transition from child star to adult actor. Determined to get it right, he asked industry veterans such as Tom Cruise for their advice. “I won’t talk specifically about those conversations but I think they were pretty candid and common sense driven,” Efron says.
“You have to be aware — and I am — of who you are and what you bring to the table and even more importantly how you are perceived. You really have to take into account what your place is, how you can shape that to what you want it to be in the future and what the steps are to get there.”
One of those steps was Scott Hicks’ adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ novel The Lucky One, in which Efron played a veteran of the Iraq war struggling to come to terms with what he had seen on the battlefield. The actor has also earned himself a bit of creative wriggle room on quality independent projects such as Richard Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles, Josh Radnor’s Liberal Arts and Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy, in which he played Nicole Kidman’s love interest.
“I knew it was going to be outside my comfort zone and I did question whether or not I could pull it off, but it’s the sort of opportunity you don’t really pass up.”
Efron says he has yet to decide on his next project. “I don’t find myself in a position where I am like desperate to work right now,” he says. “I don’t see the value of rushing into anything. I would rather wait and find something that really speaks to me.”
Despite his former wild boy ways, Efron insists he is not a bad neighbour himself.
Having just moved in with his brother Dylan, he is hoping that current neighbour and fellow actor Charlie Day hasn’t been put off by the trailer for his latest movie. “I have hung out with people who are not good neighbours, and who have neighbour issues, and have witnessed first-hand what it’s like to not have good neighbours. It seems like a relationship that you really should nurture.”
Bad Neighbours takes a lighthearted look at the compromises that must be made when a person makes the pivotal transition from university student to member of the nine-to-five workforce… Efron’s character doesn’t respond kindly to their attempts to rein in his nocturnal activities — swearing vengeance when they call the cops.
“I think I relate a lot to both players in this movie,’’ says Efron. “Teddy is in that moment where he is afraid of the future and growing up. This is the world in which he feels very safe and the unknown can be frightening. Seth’s character has gotten to a place where he can accept the responsibilities of a family and yet (is) still managing to have fun.
“None of us want the party to end but the important thing, at the end of the day, is that you are with people you love and are living a good life and making each other better.”
Advertiser/News Corp Australia:
ZAC Efron has described Sydney as his second home.
But with the raunchy new comedy Bad Neighbours tipped to crash Spider-Man’s party in the US this weekend, the former Disney star couldn’t squeeze in a visit to Australia this time around.
“I hope to get to come out there soon,” Efron told News Corp Australia on the phone from New York. “I love Australia. I have sort of a second family out there that I love to visit.”
The 26-year-old actor says he made a bunch of friends during his multiple visits to promote Disney hit High School Musical and its sequels. And that he has visited the country privately on a number of occasions. “I spend most of my time in Sydney, still, if I can get away with it.”
“It’s one of my favourite places to go and relax and just get away. It reminds me of home, San Luis Obispo, sort of, only you can surf a lot more and my parents aren’t there.
“But if I come for surfing, I am not going to tell you.” Nor does Efron, whose drag routine with Bad Neighbours co-star Seth Rogen on the Jimmy Fallon show went viral yesterday, intend to reveal his favourite spots. “Absolutely not! I will tell you I have got them. Let’s just say they are on the coast.”.
“I want to go back to the Philippines!” That’s what Zac Efron, 26, said when we interviewed him for his latest movie, “Neighbors,” at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York.
“I really had so much fun there,” added Zac, who visited the Philippines for the first time two years ago.
He admitted that it was his dream to visit the country after hearing so much about it from his father David, a former merchant marine. “He always talked of the great food and the friendly people,” Zac said.
Among things that the former boyfriend of Fil-Am actress Vanessa Hudgens tried while in the Philippines was balut. He loved it.
He also enjoyed his trip more because his dad went with him. “He showed me the ropes,” he said.
“It’s just fun to be out of your element,” he explained. “It’s amazing to see how different peoples’ cares and concerns can be. I found it really just profound that at the end of every trip I was on a completely different mindset than when I showed up at the beginning of the trip. It reminds you of what’s important. You’re only in the present which I found to be beautiful.”
In “Neighbors,” which also stars Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne and Dave Franco, Zac portrays a fraternity leader, Teddy Sanders. He moves in, together with his frat brothers, into the quiet family neighborhood where the Radner couple (Seth and Rose) and their newborn baby live.
Although he confessed he is still discovering his comedic side, Zac revealed that he has learned a lot from Seth, who is also the producer of the film.
“People often ask if it was a party on the set and the answer is ‘no.’ At no point was it really a party on set. These guys are incredibly focused and that’s one thing I learned from Seth,” Zac said.
The actor, who also has his own production company, Ninjas Runnin’ Wild, added, “As a producer, I’m starting to produce my own stuff. The capacity with which he (Seth) is involved behind the camera as well as in front of the camera constantly in keeping the production moving forward and keeping the cast corralled, keeping everybody motivated and making sure that nobody’s wasting time at any given moment – it was fascinating. I learned so much from working with these guys. It was really inspiring to me but no, we didn’t screw around at all. If they needed us, we were there 100% of the time.”
Zac spent some time in rehab last year. Of the experience, he shared, “It just makes you think. It’s a lot of time to sit there and to really confront the present moment like what you want to do and where you want to be, how to feel comfortable in this moment. It’s a lot. So the press used to make me nervous and stuff like that. Now, I’m more comfortable than I’ve ever been. I think a lot of it had to do with the timing of this movie, too. I learned to take myself a lot less seriously and that was a pretty valuable lesson.”
Asked when he decided that it was time to seek help and do something about his drug and alcohol addiction, the former “High School Musical” star said, “It’s a combination of several things. It wasn’t one incident. There wasn’t one thing that happened. It was just a period of time where I was feeling down…
“I thought it was the work that was driving it. I had this excuse that I made to myself. I’m unhappy because I’ve been working too much. Then when the work stopped and for a couple of weeks I just wasn’t feeling any better, that’s when I decided it was time to figure out a plan, like really get to the core of what was wrong.
“It turned out to be a combination of things that I was able to really focus on, and meditate on a couple of adjustments I was able to make that have really panned out well.”
New Zealand Herald:
With his now six-pack almost as recognisable as his face, Zac Efron is stretching his acting muscles in the comedy, Bad Neighbours.
The boy next door is playing a different kind of boy next door - a party animal head of a frathouse living next door to Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne. That's not the kid from High School Musical.
"I loved the opportunity to play against type and do something completely different," Efron says, flashing his blinding white smile.
"I think I'm finally discovering my comedic side."
Efron jumped at the chance to join the world of gross-out comedy. Especially one with Rogen, a master of the genre.
"Seth is my hero. I couldn't believe he was willing to work with me. It was literally a dream come true because I grew up watching his movies; I see a lot of myself and my friends in his characters. Seth says things that I think but am too afraid to say," he says. "And working with these guys was incredible. It wasn't about ego; it was just about bringing your A-game."
The film is directed by Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Five-Year Engagement). Australian star Rose Byrne shows impressive comedic chops as Rogen's wife and the harried new mother of their infant.
Outrageous gags and silly pranks are unleashed on this suburban couple who find themselves under siege from Efron, his frat-buddy partner-in-crime played by Dave Franco (Warm Bodies) and many willing student helpers.
That put Efron in a cast of experienced comedy improvisers.
"The pressure would hit the night before but once you'd get to set, if you're truly in the moment you're not thinking about it because you have to listen and react. Guys like Seth are great for a reason, and they make you better."
Rogen smiles when the compliment is relayed to him later.
"I was surprised at how funny Zac could be but I was more surprised at how much people were willing to accept him in the role. Although the part was developed for him, I was a little worried I have to admit; because I know that there is a direct conflict between my fans and his fans. My intuition would suggest that people who like me might specifically not like him," he says. "But I was thrilled when we started showing people the movie and everyone just thought he was funny; they were fully willing to buy into him as this villainous and arrogant guy. They were excited to see him like this, which was nice."
Efron knows well not all his fans may take the leap with him. "I'm sorry if they don't like it," he shrugs. "I hope they'll get it, but if not, I'll catch them on the next one." And on the flip side, he'll be introduced to a new audience, or at least in a different way. He says, tellingly, "Hopefully people that didn't know me or did know about me and hated me will hate me less after this movie."
The role required Efron to convincingly portray a hard-partying lifestyle. This could have proven difficult for the former teen heartthrob whose well-documented struggle with alcohol and drug addiction led him along that much-trodden young celebrity path to rehab.
'It wasn't one incident. I was in a funk and I couldn't get out of it. I was feeling down. I'd always thought that I was unhappy because I was working too much, but then I stopped working for a while and I wasn't feeling any better." He pauses. "I've realised that an important part of growing up is learning and making mistakes and growing from those mistakes which I've hopefully done."
A member of Alcoholics Anonymous, he has been clean and sober since December 2013. He confides, "It was a bit of a nightmare at times filming those scenes, but then again I was able to draw on those experiences of being in that 'party dude' mode. I have to say, as soon as we were done with the big party scene, it was a weight lifted from my shoulders."
Says director Stoller, "I had a similar experience directing Russell Brand on Get Him to the Greek. He's a recovering alcoholic and narcotics anonymous guy in real life and I could tell that sometimes it might have been difficult for Russell and Zac in certain scenes, but in both cases, they kept it very, very professional. I'm sure it's hard to drink fake beer and smoke fake joints but I made them do it. Maybe I'm just heartless."
Efron's rise to fame began with High School Musical on the Disney channel in 2006, followed by the sequel in 2007. The third instalment, High School Musical: Senior Year, was released as a feature film due to the international phenomenon that it had become (it grossed an enormous US$252.9 million worldwide). He also starred in Hairspray (2007), 17 Again, (2009), The Lucky One (2012), and The Paperboy (2012).
Unlike many Disney stars, Efron grew up in a stable home environment near San Luis Obispo in California with his younger brother Dylan, 22, with whom he currently lives in Los Angeles.
His father is an electrical engineer and his mother a former secretary who shuttled him around to auditions that led to appearances on ER and CSI: Miami.
"My parents were always unconditionally supportive, although they didn't know anything about this industry. I still go to them for advice and guidance, even though I might not agree with them. My dad still reads my scripts," he smiles. "We're a close family."
These days Efron is excited about taking on new challenges behind the camera as a producer. His first outing, That Awkward Moment, was released this year, and he recently bought the rights to John Grisham's The Associate.
He and his producing partner Michael Simkin will next produce spy thriller, Fire, partnering with heavyweight producer, Neal Moritz (from the Fast and the Furious franchise).
"I learned a lot from watching Seth who was a co-producer on the film; just from seeing how he kept pushing the production forward. He'd corral the actors and keep them motivated.
"It was fascinating. That's where I see myself."
First Showing with Seth:
Zac Efron is awesome in this movie, and you guys went to him with this role. What is it about his talent that drove you to want him in this movie? I've been a proponent of him since 17 Again and Me & Orson Welles, it ruined any skeptical idea I had of him becoming a big actor as he aged after High School Musical. So what was it that drew you to him for this role?
Rogen: When Andrew and Brendan brought us the idea, he was always their first choice. I met him a few times and Leslie Mann is in that 17 Again movie, and I remember her talking a lot about how funny she thought he was, and how talented she thought he was. He was just always something that I thought was really good. I thought he was kind of like a young Tom Cruise. He can kinda do anything. He can be in action movies, he can be in comedies, he can be in dramatic movies, and not a lot of guys can do that. So he was just someone I always thought was one of those rare breeds of handsome movie star guy.
Is there a period where you guys have to adapt to each other with you acting styles or anything like that? I'm sure it can be kind of overwhelming for someone to come into this world where there's a lot of imrpov. How difficult is that?
Rogen: It's not like we do it without any instruction, so we understand that we work differently than a lot of people. We don't just like to say, "Now make up stuff!" We throw out lines, the writers are on set all the time coming up with new lines. As long as you're open and confident and trusting, then it's really easy. And Zac was very much all those things. He didn't get too in his head about it. He had a thing he wanted to do, but he was still willing to experiment and do other stuff. He was very open and would say the stuff that we told him to say without needing to have a whole conversation about it. As long as you do that, it's very easy. When actors start to say, "What's up with that? I don't know if I want to say that," that's what it starts to get weird.
Playlist with Seth:
When we spoke to Rogen's producing partner Evan Goldberg, who worked on "Neighbors," he said that when they were brought the idea, the immediate response was, "Oh, it's the greatest idea ever, we're in," although the initial pitch was slightly different. It involved a small squadron of dudes up against the frat, which was deemed too similar to "Old School" – although one thing remained, Goldberg said. "The initial idea was frat war with Zac Efron," Goldberg explained. "Maybe Seth, but definitely Zac Efron." It's a good thing Rogen signed on, because the two make perfect comedic foils.
This was something that was brought to you, not something that you wrote yourself. What was the appeal for you?
First off, it was just funny. Usually our ideas are the type of ideas when you first hear them, they aren't that good. I remember when we explained "This Is the End" to people before we made it, we would get a lot of looks like, What the fuck are you talking about? But this is one of those rare movies where the idea was good and made sense and it wasn't as far of a leap as some of the stuff we were doing, which was very appealing to us. And at the same time, it was really relatable to us, which in a way is the most important thing when you're looking for the types of movies to make. We are getting older and a lot of us have kids and we're all married pretty much and we're always looking for ways to creatively write about wherever we are at in our lives. And it seemed like the idea of exploring a couple that is really struggling with their kid and the fact that they want to party more was something that we haven't really seen in a movie before and it seemed like a cool thing to explore.
Originally it was you and two other dudes and director Nick Stoller changed it to you and a family. How did that change your relationship with the material?
Yeah, to me that made it even better because it became less about me and some guys fucking with a frat. It was much more about me and my wife, which was way more interesting. My wife was actually one of the first people to read the script and she was the one who said, "You really have to make her cool and not a stick in the mud." Which I also think is one of the best parts about the whole movie.
Can you talk about what Rose brought to that role?
There's a ton of improv in the movie, so obviously whoever is saying what is being said had some influence on the movie and the character. She's so cool and likable and we had a good dynamic and in some weird universe I think we look and behave like a married couple. And that's just a testament to her skills as an actor.
What about Zac Efron? Did you always think about him for this role?
Yes. Right after we got pitched the movie, we went to Zac; Zac has been attached to the movie longer than Nick has. We were attached as actors even before we pitched the movie to the studios. And then we pitched it and Universal bought it and they wrote a script and we helped them.
Was he able to go with the flow in terms of improv?
Yeah. I think he hadn't done a lot of it before and it's kind of a unique situation to be told you can do whatever you want to make the scene better, as it's happening. And he did a great job. He's a really great actor. That's probably what surprised me the most – he took acting really seriously. But I hadn't seen that much that he had been in to be honest with you. "17 Again" I watched but that might have been the only Zac Efron movie I'd seen the entirety of.
The movie looks amazing. Was that something that you guys talked about from the beginning?
We pushed [director Nicholas Stoller] really hard to have him hire our cinematographer from "This Is The End," Brandon [Trost]. He's just so awesome and our age. I've seen a generational gap between cinematographers and directors. For some reason it's not generally a job that a younger person has on set. So when we met Brandon, it was really exciting because had all the same references we had – videogames, movies, books, comic books. There was no gap in how we talked about movies and how we would talk about the look of things, so we just pushed Nick to hire him. He's so willing to make comedy not look like comedy. That was a conversation that we just had on this new movie that we just had. We would always marvel how most DPs have a really hard time wrapping their head around making a comedy not look like a comedy, just making it look like a regular movie that has comedy in it. And Brandon is very in favor of that and still can't believe that we're doing that. He's made other comedies and other people don't want to do that either. But it's not just us. I think Adam McKay's movie's look incredible and Judd Apatow has worked with some incredible cinematographers but generally, when you watch a lot of comedies, it's very lit and there's a lot of contrast and hard shadows and the camera movement's not too active. So yes I am very happy that Nick took such an aggressive approach to the look of the movie.
refinery29 with Ike:
Had you met Seth and Zac before you did the movie? How did your impressions of them change?
"I had met Seth; he did an episode of The Mindy Project awhile back. So, I had heard about Neighbors and I really wanted to get it but I was sure that other names were going in for it. So, I went in and auditioned and met all the guys and it went very well.
"My first impression of Zac Efron was 'I'm gonna kiss you, dude. I'm straight, I'm married, but I'm gonna f*cking kiss you.' And then, by the end of the movie, I just loved the guy. For a kid that had a crazy huge level of fame to really be a nice humble kid is crazy. His life is insane — he gets approached so much. Every single person that sees him comes up to him and says something creepy. And, Zac is so nice; he's just like, 'Oh, hi, nice to meet you.'
"There was not one asshole on the cast or crew and I think that was by design. Seth and Evan have a no-asshole policy — all it takes is one huge prick to mess up a shoot."
The parties in the movie were really epic — did it ever feel real? How do the frat scenes compare to your own experiences?
"They were beyond epic. Besides the fact that we weren't actually f*cked up, it felt like we were really partying. There was a really strong vision for the parties — you would walk into the frat house where we were filming and the way the black lights were all set up just got crazier and crazier. It's terrifying to see how college kids are partying — I thought I was crazy in my twenties! Compared to now, I was a priest!"
What was the funniest scene to shoot, and which was your favorite scene to watch once you had the finished product?
"The craziest scene to shoot was an incredibly graphic sex scene between Christopher Mintz-Plasse and his movie parents. It got cut out because it was so graphic. In the movie, Chris' character has sex with my ex-wife, and in the original script, the last scene is him getting back to his dorm and he gets a video and it's his mom — played by Megan Mullally — and I start having sex with her. And, then his dad walks in and it's Nick Offerman, and I start having sex with his dad, too. We had a four hour-long shoot with me having to hump poor Ms. Mullally — that was definitely the craziest scene.
"After the first test screen, the producers decided they couldn't do it; it was just too shocking. And then, as far as watching the movie, that last scene where Seth and Zac are fighting and I jump off the balcony — that was shot over three days in bits and pieces, and you can't really see the cohesiveness of it, so when I saw it together, it was really a funny scene to watch."
Were there any scenes that you were worried might toe the line of appropriateness or would go too far?
"Look, any time you have to impersonate Barack Obama and say the N-word, you're dealing with an unknown factor. So, I was most certainly nervous about that. As we shot it, it got a big laugh, but I didn't think it would end up in the movie. And, then [director] Nick Stoller texted me after the first screening and he said it killed. I was like, oh great, I was looking forward to the Secret Service following me for the rest of my life.
"Because, in the wrong context, that joke doesn't land. But, I feel like my character is so stupid and gets so caught up in the moment that he can kinda get away with stuff like that. At least I hope. I guess we'll find out soon. I'm already getting a couple tweets from people telling me it's inappropriate — I'm like, yah, I know, I apologize."
thefilmstage with evan and james:
The Film Stage: Can you talk about bringing on new cast members who are not usually in comedies like Neighbors? For Zac Efron, Craig Roberts, what’s that process like getting them in the rhythm or cadence of that kind of comedy?
Evan Goldberg: There was no process. Everyone just came and understood. We let everybody know that this movie is so cheap that you can do anything and that’s there’s no-holds-barred. Everyone should go ballistic. In the pre-filming meetings, once we acquired the cast we wanted, it was evident when we were fitting Christopher Mintz-Plasse for a 13-inch dick, and working on an erection rig for Dave Franco, and telling Craig [Roberts] we’re going to literally haze him for a day.
James Weaver: That was crazy. We actually just hazed him. It was for a movie and it was legal but we hazed the shit out of him.
Goldberg: I put him in a dark room and had a strobe light going, I had people bang pots and pans over his head for ten minutes, he almost freaked out there. Anyone would have. That was Zero Dark Thirty shit.
Weaver: That one was wrong. That was just for our own entertainment.
Goldberg: The original intro to the movie was that Zac [Efron] goes through the frat getting everybody because they’re in a race to beat another frat so they can get a bunch of fireworks from them. He goes and Chris Mintz-Plasse is jerking off, Jerrod Carmichael is on special K and can’t move, Dave Franco is studying, and then Craig, Assjuice, is duck-taped way up on the wall and Zac just ripped off the wall and slammed him on the ground. And then Craig was forced to fall down a staircase.
What’s your own experiences with fraternities and what do you believe this film’s outlook on frat life is?
Weaver: I was in a fraternity, and I think, I was the president of my fraternity, and it had that classic thing about it. It was really fun, we partied too much. Zac reminded me, when we conceived the movie we thought of the frat guys as the bad guys and Seth and his wife are the good guys who will overcome them. Zac brought it back and said we got to make sure this movie is for frat guys too, which is ironic he had to say that to me, but he’s 100% right. We captured it in a lot in the script and a lot in the casting. You love Dave, you love Jerrod, you love Chris, and you love Zac, and you love them together. And they’re good to each other until narratively we need them not to be. I think that’s the biggest thing — we embraced what they’re doing and what they’re going through is valid and true for them even if it totally fucks with Seth and Rose’s character.
And how much of that is discovered in post-production or test screenings?
Weaver: I remember Nicholas Stoller very smartly during filming was like these frat guys are really likable. This is going to be an interesting part of the movie because you want to spend time with them. In post, the biggest choice we made was to keep the point of view through Seth and Rose’s character. That intro scene Evan was talking about, we got rid of that, and you meet that frat through Seth and Rose’s point of view.
Goldberg: So much money we could have used elsewhere.
Weaver: That drove the movie and point of view.
Golberg: Sorry to interrupt. [Evan points across to the building across the street.] There’s kids on a bouncy castle on top of that building. That’s the worst fucking idea I’ve ever seen in my life. This won’t be funny when we read the news tomorrow. Six children bounce off building.
Speaking of the director Nicholas Stoller, can you talk about his work here? What most struck me are these in-camera gags, most notably an airbag, or gags during the climatic fight scene. There’s a lot of stuff that happens in the frame.
Goldberg: A big thing we all talked about was that we wanted physical comedy because we don’t want to make a movie that only plays in America. We were determined to make a movie that plays everywhere. At first, well we can’t do that it’s about a frat. But frats are something that internationally, people find fascinating, because people are like “Those crazy Americans.” I’m very proud of Superbad, but internationally, it didn’t destroy, same thing with Pineapple Express, but This is the End did better than those movies, because it had physical gags — people getting hit with bats and falling down stairs. And in frat houses people are riding bicycles down staircases and throwing knifes into a dartboard, they drew on the wall with paint. They’re doing crazy physical gags.
Weaver: In Neighbors, you could do it for the sake of the gag. That was so fun. When we’re making our other comedies it’s supposed to be part of the narrative, justify the story or the character. In a fraternity if a guy needs to bounce down a staircase on an exercise ball that’s fine. The genre of this film allowed for that. Nic does have a particularly good sensibility for that stuff.
Goldberg: If you watch his old movies, there’s a lot of physical gags.
The Seven Sees with Dave:
THE SEVEN SEES: By the looks of the first time we hear from you in the movie, you are quite good at baby talk. It looked like you really enjoyed little Stella.
DAVE FRANCO: (Laughs) Yeah, I think there was entire B-storyline that got cut out of me being obsessed with the baby. I would say more of a D-storyline, maybe E even.
THE SEVEN SEES: Was it written that way or just manifested on set?
DAVE FRANCO: It did, it came out naturally. And then everyone thought, Maybe there’s something interesting there. We shot a scene during the first party where Rose goes back to the house to check on the baby and I go with her and play with the baby. Ultimately, it doesn’t serve the story at all, but yeah, now all it seems like is I’m just this creep with the baby.
THE SEVEN SEES: Do you know if we’ll end up seeing any of that on the DVD?
DAVE FRANCO: That’s a good question. There’s so much stuff that got cut out, really funny stuff that, again, just didn’t serve the purpose of the story. For instance, we shot an entire Civil War re-enactment party scene where we put firecrackers in the butts of the pledges and shot them at each other. We filmed that probably for three days, and none of it is in the movie. So that will be an epic deleted scene.
THE SEVEN SEES: Well speaking of those themed parties put on by the fraternity, the one we do see if the Robert De Niro party. Are you dreading that he will see that and your impression? Do you know if anyone sent him the clip?
DAVE FRANCO: You know…it’s a good question, and weirdly, that thought hasn’t crossed my mind ‘til this moment.
THE SEVEN SEES: My bad.
DAVE FRANCO: (Laughs) I don’t think I do anything that would make him feel upset. I think there are so many De Niro impersonators out there; it would be one thing if I were the first to ever exaggerate his features and the way he talks. But I’m hoping he would be more flattered than anything…that I put as much work into it as I did.
THE SEVEN SEES: I really appreciated that there was more to your character than just being some partying frat guy – he’s really focused on his architecture degree and getting a job after college. We also learn more about him personally, that his parents are divorced, which really affected him, and that he considers the fraternity the family he got to choose. Do you make any comparisons to fraternities and Hollywood in the sense that you were in control to an extent of choosing your family within the industry?
DAVE FRANCO: Definitely. This movie is a perfect example. You’ve got Seth [Rogen] and all these people he’s worked with over the years, and when you have the power like Seth does now to continue to work with the people you like, that’s incredible. Why not do that the rest of your career? The fact that I can sneak in every once in a while into that family, I feel so fortunate and I would be an extra in these guys’ movies. I had more fun working on this, I think, than anything I’ve done up to this point in my career not only because of the freedom they give you and how collaborative they are, but they just make you feel safe; if you’re having an off day, they have so many writers pitching you jokes and giving you funny things to say. It just makes it so you can’t fail.
THE SEVEN SEES: Summer movies are so often now these superhero characters, and what we found so interesting is that your character I guess you could say has a superpower of his own.
DAVE FRANCO: Right! (Laughs)
THE SEVEN SEES: I’m not sure what you’d call it, maybe his ability to “spontaneously erect”?
DAVE FRANCO: I like that. I’ve heard whispers that there’s going to be an entire Marvel spinoff trilogy for my superhero from this movie – Instant Erecto is his name. I’ve heard they’re already in for the trilogy, so we’ll see how that works out.
THE SEVEN SEES: I suppose it’s fitting that your character’s name is Pete, which is undoubtedly short for Peter, so there’s that.
DAVE FRANCO: (Laughs) There you go! I haven’t thought about that until now, too. You’re opening my eyes to a lot of things.
THE SEVEN SEES: Well, Pete really got his eyes opened during that scene with Rose Byrne and Halston Sage. Our audience literally erupted in cheers as Rose turns around and there is that slow-motion walk away.
DAVE FRANCO: That’s consistently the moment in all the screenings where, even if you hate the movie up until that point, you can’t help but clap. First off, I’ll just saw real quick how amazing Rose is in the movie where she’s just toe-to-toe with Seth the whole time. She just goes for it. When I first read the script and read the “milking” scene, I was like, how are they going to do this and how are they going to get a credible actress to agree to do this? And she just went for it, man. She crushed it. I think she’s my favorite part of the movie.
THE SEVEN SEES: That kiss leads to a scene where we end up seeing quite a bit of you. In movies like this, I think it’s expected we’re going to see some skin and there could be a lot of naked debauchery. Here, it’s you. So what happened — did you draw the short straw or lost at rock, paper, scissors?
DAVE FRANCO: That’s a good question. Clearly, for the sake of the story, we needed that sex scene in there. But then it was a last-second decision about how…my…I guess the style in which I would have sex, which was described to me by Nick Stoller as more ‘jack rabbit.’ So we liked it, we thought it was funny. If you look closer at the scene, there are candles lit all over the room, so they had enough time and felt the need to set the mood, but then once they actually get into having sex, it’s just, let’s make this as raw and nasty and quick as possible. So, we thought, for the sake of humor, let’s just go for it. I’m sure it’ll be something that comes back to haunt me as I get old and have kids or whatnot. It is what it is.
THE SEVEN SEES: The scene where you and Zac spew out all these variations on ‘Bros before Hos,’ how long did that actually go on?
DAVE FRANCO: Phew, we had a list of probably 20 pages of alternate lines for that scene. That was actually my first day filming, and in the weeks leading up to it I was talking to all my friends trying to compile a list of the best possible lines. Ultimately, I think we each say maybe five, and on the day probably each say 150. Yeah, so we wanted to make sure we maxed out and got the most out of that comedic moment.
THE SEVEN SEES: Did your own personal favorite make it into the movie?
DAVE FRANCO: Yeah, I was always pretty partial to ‘Bert & Ernie before Squirt & Spermy.’ Yeah, I think that was always a favorite.
THE SEVEN SEES: (Laughs) On a slightly different topic, we got a glimpse earlier this year of Zac’s comedic talents in That Awkward Moment, but I think he’s really going to surprise people here. What was your impression or perception of him in those regards going into the film, and how did that change?
DAVE FRANCO: He’s incredible [in the movie], I’ll say that up front. I don’t want to sy I was surprised that he was cast in the role, but I knew that it was a different type of choice, which is sometimes a great thing, and it ended up being a great thing. But what I’ll say is that, at first, I think most people will be excited at hearing Zac Efron swearing and being debaucherous, but that shtick can only go on so long; you have to then carry it by actually being funny, and he is. He really threw himself into this. Again, I don’t want to say I’m shocked at how well he comes across, but he absolutely crushes it in this movie. I’m so happy for him, and I hope it helps him crush the teenie-bopper image that everyone has bestowed upon him.
Inquisitr with Chris:
Well aside from that, you, Dave Franco, Zac Efron and Jarrod Carmichael captured the brotherhood of a fraternity.
Awesome. We definitely hung out a lot before the movie because we wanted to make that real.
I know you and Dave are close, so how was it integrating Zac Efron into that natural back and forth?
It was nice. I’ve known Zac. I met him years ago and he was a sweetheart. Dave, Zac and I realized we were doing this movie together so then we went out for a couple of nights and had some drinks, and got to know each other. He’s a super, charming, funny, and down to earth guy. People obviously see Zac and the paparazzi is chasing him and everything.
People see the image.
Yeah. I’ve never been on a movie set where there were more paparazzi around. I would always walk out of a car and people would just be waiting and I would be like, “Sorry guys I’m not Zac!” I’ve never understood that world. It’s a really intense world for him. It can take a toll on someone but he really handles it well. He’s a very smart guy about it.
I heard you were involved in a promotional college tour for Neighbors. Is that still happening?
It was Dave Franco, Jarrod Carmichael, and I. We went on a crazy trip. Dave and I kept on saying how insane it was.
Did you guys know what you were getting into?
We had no idea! We had thought, “Okay Dave has been in a few movies and I’ve been in a couple. It’s going to be easy, maybe a couple of hundred people.” There were lines like it was Zac Efron there. It was insane! Dave and I kept on saying, “What would happen if real actors came?” It was really fun.