Over the past few years, Dave Franco has shown he’s a lot more than just James Franco’s brother with great work in films like 21 Jump Street, Now You See Me, and Neighbors. And now in director Ken Scott’s (Delivery Man) Unfinished Business, Franco shows he can hold his own with Vince Vaughn and Tom Wilkinson. As you probably know from the trailers, the film stars Vaughn as a man who starts his own small business after being fired, only to find himself up against his old boss (Sienna Miller) during a business trip to Europe. Franco and Wilkinson work for Vaughn, and the pic also stars James Marsden, and Nick Frost.
Last week I landed an exclusive interview with Dave Franco. He talked about getting to work with the great cast, what it was like filming in Berlin, what the last few years have been like for him, if he’s going to be involved with the Neighbors sequel, the Now You See Me sequel (which is called Now You See Me: The Second Act), working with his brother on Zeroville, and a lot more.
Collider: How much fun did you have making this movie?
DAVE FRANCO: We had a great time. We filmed the majority of it in Berlin, which is now one of my favorite cities in the world. It’s just weird and artsy and progressive, and it feels like anything goes and there’s no judgment. It’s one of the few places that I’ve visited that I could actually live.
I’ve been to Berlin a few times, and I also have the same opinion. It’s a huge, amazing, off the wall, “holy shit” city.
FRANCO: Yeah! What I love is that they really encourage the arts, as opposed to many places around the world where the arts are kind of frowned upon, where people think you can’t really make it. They kind of set up the city in a way where artists can live cheaply and artists really encourage each other and help each other. It’s just a good vibe.
Not to put myself in this, but there are parts of East Berlin that I went to years ago that reminded me of downtown Los Angeles that had no money, no anything, buildings being covered by graffiti artists, and just amazing stuff. Now there’s a lot of money in the city so a lot of those areas are being pushed even further outside.
FRANCO: Right, exactly. It does seem like one of those cities that literally changes every single year.
You got to work with Tom Wilkinson, who is a very serious, great actor. How much fun was it getting him to break on camera?
FRANCO: [Laughs] I love Tom Wilkinson. I was so excited when I first heard that he was coming on board. Just because, like you said, he’s a two-time academy award nominee, and in this film he’s taking bong hits, he’s participating in pillow fights with naked women, and he’s involved in bondage situations. So I think people are going to be excited to see a different side of Tom Wilkinson. What I love about him is that because he’s such a great actor, he’s able to take moments in the film that could have otherwise been very broad, and he is able to ground them and make it feel very real. He’s just a pro, and he’s genuinely very funny and very dry. I could spend every day with that guy.
I think that the people that understand movies, who have seen his work and see him do crazy shit, are going to laugh for a completely different reason than other people.
FRANCO: Absolutely, absolutely.
The other thing about this movie though is you have a great supporting cast, like James Marsden and Nick Frost. There’s just a ton of people in this thing. When you got involved, did you know that all of these people were going to be a part of it? Talk a little bit about how this all came together for you and the great supporting cast.
FRANCO: I think when I came on board, Vince was the only one who was cast at that point, so it was a very welcome surprise when all the other amazing actors started trickling in. It’s necessary for a comedy these days to have an entire ensemble that is genuinely funny. You can’t make a comedy work just with one or two funny actors. Again, with all the people you mentioned, Marsden, Nick Frost and Sienna Miller, they are all, like Tom Wilkinson, legit actors, not just funny actors. They were able to bring real humanity to these characters, and even though some of them aren’t on screen for a significant amount of time, they really make it count.
Obviously, projects change along the way. From when you got attached to what people are seeing on screen, was the script very similar? How much was improvised?
FRANCO: The script was and is incredible. Steve Conrad, who wrote it, he’s got his own vision and he has a very unique style. He’s very funny – very subtlety funny; it’s not necessarily in your face jokes, and he combines them with real dramatic moments throughout. He melds those two genres together pretty seamlessly, which in a lot of movies, is tough to do. When we originally came into it, I think we all thought it was a slightly more serious movie than what it turned out to be, partially because of who they ended up casting. When you cast someone like Vince Vaughn, he is at his best when he is improvising, and when he’s loose with the material and he’s able to riff. There were definitely more comedic moments that came amongst the improvisation.
I’m a big fan of Vince Vaughn, like almost everyone, but I especially like it when he can go free flowing and say what he wants and do R-rated stuff. How much fun was it working with him in that situation? Was there ever an improvised moment where you were like ‘I can’t believe he just said that and I just ruined the take from laughing’?
FRANCO: [Laughs] Definitely. He’s just as funny off-screen as he is on-screen. It’s slightly intimidating at first just because he is so smart and so quick with his humor that you don’t want to be the person in the scene who’s dragging, and, like you said, ruining the moment just by not being able to keep up. He’s a very giving actor. There were several moments throughout filming where I was trying to make a certain joke work, and he would pitch me an idea to add a little twist to what I was already saying to make it a lot funnier than it initially was. I give him a lot of respect, because there are a lot of comedians out there who want to “win” every scene and they want to be the only funny one in the scene, and he is definitely not that way.
The last few years you’ve been in some really good movies, and you’ve landed some really good roles. How have you changed possibly as an actor in the way that you prepare for a role or picking a project you want to be a part of?
FRANCO: I feel extremely lucky that I’ve been involved in projects that ultimately turn out to work in the end, and not only that they work but that people actually go out and see them. I’m starting to realize more and more how much of a miracle it is when all elements of a film work together. And I know that’s not going to happen every time out. That being said, when I’m choosing a project these days, I’ve been trying to be as patient as possible and wait for material that I’m extremely passionate about and at least go into every new project with good intentions. Of course you never know how it’s going to turn out, everything changes all the time while you’re filming, but at least I go in knowing that odds are that this has a good chance of working. That means I’ve had a lot of down time, too. It’s not often that a project comes along that I do get genuinely excited about. So, sometimes half the year or more goes by where I’m not working. And sometimes that’s scary because I get in my own head, and I start thinking “Am I waiting for something that’s never going to come?” But again, I’ve been very lucky and I’m trying to stay patient, and just work with people that are better than me that help me rise to their level.
I got to be honest though, it’s hard to do, but I agree with the mentality. You can’t really think of yourself as a brand, but you also don’t want to be a part of things that maybe will damage the ability to do that great role in the future.
FRANCO: Sure, sure. I agree with that. And I just thought of something else too, I’ve been in primarily comedies so far in my career and I have a lot of fun doing comedy, but I do want to keep things fresh for myself. There are certain types of roles that I’ve exhausted at this point. Like the asshole role, there’s not much else I can bring to that character, so when I am choosing projects, I’m trying to choose different types of roles, like the character in Unfinished Business. This guy has a mild form of autism, and it’s definitely the most character-y role I’ve played to date, which is really exciting but also terrifying just because I’ve put myself out on a limb on this one. People are either going to fully embrace it or I might never work again, but I went for it and I can at least walk away from the whole situation knowing that I didn’t make a complete fool of myself, so I’m going to take that as a win.
I don’t think you’re going to fall on your face. I think you’ll book another gig. I think you’ll be okay.
FRANCO: [Laughs] I appreciate that.
When they announced that they’re making a Neighbors sequel, are you emailing [Nicholas] Stoller and being like “So, you’re making a sequel, thanks for letting me know beforehand, and do I have a part?”
FRANCO: That’s a great question. I would say I honestly texted him within the hour, yes. [Laughs] I had so much fun on that movie. And I would love to come back in any way, shape, or form, whether it be just a cameo or if they want me to be a glorified extra, I’ll do that. I just want to be around those guys again. It was maybe the most fun I’ve ever had on set.
I saw you guys working on set, and I laughed my ass off. I thought the movie was extremely funny.
When I heard they were developing it, that was one of those movies I’m like, ‘Yeah sure it’ll never happen’. They talk about it, but it never goes. But when they announced the release date, I was like ‘Fuck, it’s really going.’
FRANCO: Right, exactly. I think the reason we didn’t jump into the sequel immediately is just because Stoller and some of the other guys have been trying to crack the story and not just make the same movie a second time. They want to have the same emphasis as the first one but a different enough story that it keeps things fresh and exciting.
Totally. I really enjoyed Now You See Me. You’re currently filming the sequel and you have a new director. What has it been like making the sequel, especially with a bunch of new cast members?
FRANCO: It’s been really fun. The main thing that sticks out in my mind is that it’s really fun starting a project where you already know and genuinely like everyone. You can just hit the ground running where the chemistry’s already there and hopefully that’ll show on screen. There’s a couple new cast members, Lizzy Caplan and Daniel Radcliffe, and they both fit into the mix seamlessly. Daniel Radcliffe is maybe the sweetest man on earth. He’s playing a different type of role in this movie than we’ve seen from him, and I can’t really give away too much, but people are going to be excited to see what he’s doing. Lizzy is one of the funniest people I’ve ever been around, and she brings a different kind of energy to the group. Her instinct to the scene is to always make it as funny as possible. It’s really nice to have that presence during a movie like Now You See Me, just because there are serious moments throughout the film but you want to keep that lighthearted tone and you want to remember that people are there to have a good time, and not take everything so seriously, and Lizzy definitely is adding in the humor department.
I think you hit the nail on the head. I’m going to switch subjects and talk about Zeroville that your brother [James Franco] did. What was it like working for him on that project and what can you tell people about it.
FRANCO: I would like to believe I was working with him and not for him. [Laughs]
[Laughs] I’m teasing you, by the way.
FRANCO: [Laughs] Of course, of course. To be honest, with Zeroville I was only on set for a day, but I love being directed by my brother. He’s the happiest when he’s behind the camera. He’s like a little kid when he’s directing. You just feel this joy emanating from him. And he’s obviously a great actor and so he knows how to get solid performances out of his actors. That being said, he’s a very collaborative director in the sense that he hires the right people and the right actors for the part, and he trusts their instincts, and he wants them to do what they feel natural doing. It’s just a very loose, free set, and I hope to work with him in that capacity a lot more.