When I first heard Seth Rogen and Zac Efron would be making a movie together, and it would feature the two of them going head to head, I immediately thought it could be a fun movie. After all, Efron is known for playing a certain type of character, and having him star in an R-rated Nicholas Stoller comedy seemed like a great idea to play against his clean cut image. And based on what I saw and learned on the set last year when the production was filming in Los Angeles, Neighbors should be extremely funny. If you’re not familiar with the film, Neighbors stars Rogen and Rose Byrne as a married couple who must deal with a fraternity—headed up by Efron—when it moves in next door.
During a group interview during a break from filming, Rogen and Efron talked about how they came to working together, their characters, what the film is about, how neither of them are the hero or the villain, the freedom when making an R-rated film, the male nudity, when they first realized they had great chemistry, and a lot more. Hit the jump for what they had to say.
Before going any further, if you haven’t seen the very funny trailer for Neighbors, I’d watch that first:
ZAC EFRON: I really learned to do it in interviews (laughs). I don’t know. Is it new for me? I don’t know. I definitely would say I’m new to it compared to Seth, but there’s something great about acting when you find it in the moment, and there’s also something great about finding it rehearsed. It’s somewhere where you meet in the middle, and you’re so out of control that it’s really really good – that’s what Seth does, and that’s what he wanted me to do.
SETH ROGEN: I try (laughs).
Is this the first movie you’ve made since This is the End?
How has it been adjusting back to just being an actor after that film?
ROGEN: It’s great (laughs). There’s a lot of time, but I don’t have to have that conversation.
EFRON: You’re still directing, though.
ROGEN: But no, we’re producers on the movie, so we can enforce our will if we really feel like we want to-
EFRON: I ask him, “Please tell me, is it good?”
ROGEN: (laughs) We’re around. We’re here every day. I’m not acting every day. We’re just here. But, Nick is great, and we’ve known him forever, and I think a lot of our sensibilities were developed in the same environment so, it’s really not hard letting Nick take control. It’s great. He’s a lot more organized than we were as directors (laughs).
It seems that one of the themes of the movie is that you’re playing against a character who’s someone you could have played 10 or 12 years ago.
ROGEN: Yeah. Honestly, that’s an interesting way of putting it, but it’s true. I think part of what’s funny about the movie is [Zac Efron’s character] realizes he might be me in 10 years (laughs). It’s about not wanting to grow up, and kind of accepting that you are either on the verge of that, or that itself. It actually feels appropriate (laughs).
EFRON: There’s a scene where we talk on the couch, and he seems to be doing everything correctly, as far as his age goes. I sort of get the feeling that, I’m really good right now, and my life’s hit its peak. It makes me afraid, so when he starts one-upping the fraternity, I have this crazy vendetta, where we almost kill each other.
ROGEN: But it’s true, because I’m basically ruining his perfect moment. It’s the moment in his life where there are no repercussions, and he’s not yet an adult, but because I’m so jealous and resentful, I try to destroy that (laughs).
Your character never had that moment?
ROGEN: No, my character definitely had that moment! But, it was years and years ago, and now he’s married, and has a house and responsibility. I think my character is just really grappling and in denial about the fact that he can’t do all the fun s**t that Zac does on a regular basis in the movie. At first, it seems like it might work, and we can be friends and get along. My instinct is like, “Oh, I can do this,” and his instinct is like, “this guy seems cool.” Then we slowly realize – and not even that slowly, actually – it can’t work. Literally, we can’t coexist.
EFRON: Exactly. He starts out as like the coolest guy I’ve ever met that’s his age, and then he turns into just a mortal enemy (laughs).
ROGEN: Like most superheroes and villains.
EFRON: So, at the end of the movie, there’s this crater, and we crawl into it, and we get a nosebleed (laughs).
We were talking to Nick, and there does seem to be an even-handedness to this film, in the sense that, there’s no clear hero vs. villain. You both seem to have well-rounded characters. I’m kind of curious of your approach to your characters in that sense, since you’re not necessarily playing the hero or the villain.
ROGEN: There’s moments where I think he’s very clearly the villain. I also think there are moments where he’s doing something that is very villainous to them.
EFRON: The best part about it is that, for my character, it’s out of this strict moral code that’s really lost in the world of this true brotherhood, and he sort of betrays that. So, my perspective is skewed, and [Rogen’s character] is protecting his family.
ROGEN: It’s true. I really think that, in the best way, people will sympathize with both of our characters and see where he’s coming from and where we’re coming from. That’s why it will be a good, fun movie, because, we both push it too far, and we both are wrong at times. But, we’re both right at times too.
ROGEN: Thank you.
How does being married in real life help you with this new role?
ROGEN: I think it helps a lot, honestly. I think that just from an improvisational standpoint, it helps. I’m very domesticated (laughs). My wife and I watch House of Cards. We don’t go out and drink anymore. But we both would like to. We’re both constantly grappling with stuff like, do we go to the club and stay up all night with our friends, or do we just catch up on Game of Thrones and go to sleep? I really relate to that, and that’s really what the movie’s about.
EFRON: It’s true. He never goes out with us (laughs).
ROGEN: But I’m all caught up on Game of Thrones (laughs).
Are you excited to create your own family and have kids?
ROGEN: It speaks to all my fears about it, in a lot of ways. The babies in this movie are great. The babies in this movie are actually like a commercial for babies worldwide.
EFRON: They are amazing.
ROGEN: Yeah. They’re great babies. Like, they reduce everyone on set to blithering idiots. When they’re on set, everyone’s like [does some baby talk].
EFRON: I’ve never seen reactions to babies like this.
ROGEN: Yeah. They’re hypnotizing. It’s incredible.
Have you worked with asshole babies?
ROGEN: I’ve worked with babies that just don’t do that well.
EFRON: I was an asshole baby.
ROGEN: Exactly. Babies that just always start crying. I’ve done movies where there’s supposed to be a baby in the scene, and we just take the baby out of the scene, because we’re like, “they’re fucking crying, we can’t deal with this.”
EFRON: There are moments when you love babies, and you’re like, “God, they are the reason why we exist.” Then they start crying, and you’re like “God! Jesus!”
ROGEN: Yeah, get the fucking baby out of there. It’s true and I think-
EFRON: Especially on set.
ROGEN: Yeah. It’s definitely true. These babies have been good though. All the concerns and fears of our characters, that’s where a lot of it was born: with conversations that me and the other producers were having. One of the reasons me and my wife don’t wanna have kids is because we won’t be able to go on vacations anymore, or hang out with our friends, or stay out late, or do the stuff we like to do. So, in a way, the movie reaffirms how life-changing having kids is (laughs), and how we’re right for not having done that yet.
You guys are working on a hard-R movie where you have the freedom to do and say anything. Zac, this is probably new for you. Can you both talk about that?
Yeah what’s it like saying fuck?
EFRON: (laughs) Over and over. I’ll tell you. It feels fucking fantastic (laughs). It feels right. And it’s great, because we say-
EFRON: Literally thousands.
ROGEN: We’ll take some out (laughs).
EFRON: On TV, it’s gonna be “shucks.”
ROGEN: There’s a lot of swearing in it. It’s fun, right?
EFRON: Yeah. It’s fun. I wanna do it less, but it’s liberating. It’s liberating but-
ROGEN: People go too far.
Did you only sign on because of all of the male nudity?
EFRON: Yeah. I knew I’d get to touch Seth’s bare chest. No. I signed on because, I was excited about being in an R comedy, and potentially finding one, but, I guess I didn’t want to do one with anyone except someone like Seth. In a perfect world, I thought I would get to work with him. He’s always been in comedies I really relate to, and they make sense to me. It’s not just in a jokey, comedic way. He’s reacting to life in a very real way, and I think that’s what I really appreciate about his comedies. You really feel for them. And, I was excited because he called me up and said, “do you wanna come hang out in the trailer? I have something to pitch to you.” And I was like, “that is the coolest thing ever.” You never get those calls. It never happens.
Since this was your first time working with him and you admire him, what will you both take away from this when you’re done with the film, and could you see yourselves working together in another movie?
EFRON: Dude, absolutely. I think he’s going to be a killer director. Well, he is a killer director (laughs). It’s amazing, the team of friends that he’s built up. The first thing he said to me on the first day on set, I said, “do you go home?” and he was like, “no man, all my friends are here. Why would I go home?” That is how I want to make movies, because I’ve been totally solo. It’s always been just me against everyone, and now it feels like you’re part of a family, so it’s nice.
Is he officially part of your crew now?
ROGEN: He’s in. You saw how much he was swearing. That’s the initiation.
When did you guys know that you had chemistry together?
ROGEN: We’d known each other for years, but when we did the first table read, it seemed like we would get along, in a way much greater than we’d expected.
ROGEN: The first time we actually read the whole script out loud, one of the overwhelming responses we got from our friends, who were writers, was, it seems like you guys would get along at first. And, that was a beat that we extended – it definitely was like the honeymoon period (laughs) of me partying with them, of me thinking he’s cool, him thinking I’m cool, and us enjoying each other. But, this is before we realize that it’s just an explosive situation, and even beyond that, we’ve maintained this thread of, it could have gone well between us, but (laughs) it just didn’t. In another reality, we would’ve been best friends, but right now, we’re at the wrong time in our lives.
ROGEN: The first time we noticed that was when we read it out loud. It was like, “oh, we’d like each other. It doesn’t seem like we’d hate each other right away.”
EFRON: Which is exciting, because in the first draft, I was like an anti-semite (laughs). I was the most horrible person.
ROGEN: I stand by some of that (laughs).
Do you want to act like this in more comedy films?
EFRON: I may never work again after this (laughs). I sure as hell hope so. I fucking love you, dawg.
ROGEN: Alright, see you out there.
EFRON: Hey, thank you everybody. See ya.
For more on Neighbors: