The comedy The House – written by Andrew Jay Cohen (making his feature film directorial debut) and Brendan O’Brien, who previously collaborated on Neighbors and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising – shows the lengths that any parents will go to, in order to ensure the dreams of their child. Desperate to ensure that their daughter can pursue her goal of attending a university, Scott and Kate Johansen (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) decide to open an illegal casino inside of their neighbor Frank’s (Jason Mantzoukas) house, in order to earn back the money they lost from their daughter’s college fund, and there’s no way that that won’t be a bumpy but hilarious ride.
Back in November of 2015, Collider was invited out to the set, on Stage 23 at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif., to check out some filming and chat with the stars and filmmakers. Not only was it a lot of fun to see the wild casino set with all of the slots, tables and tons of neon, but it was very cool to get to watch Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler improvising and changing it up with every single take, as a cheater had to get tossed out. While we were there, we had the opportunity to chat with Ferrell, Poehler and Mantzoukas, along with Cohen and O’Brien, for small group interviews, and we’ve compiled a list of 14 things that you should know about and can expect from The House, when it opens on June 30th.
- The movie follows parents Scott and Kate Johansen (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler), who have lost their daughter Alex’s college fund. They’re good parents, but their whole identity is wrapped up in being parents, and before their child goes off to college, they need to reconnect with each other and figure out the next chapter of their lives.
- The concept of the film originated from the fact that co-writers Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien grew up in the same town and spent a lot of time in high school, gambling in their friends’ basements. They were interested in doing a movie set in the suburbs, about good people who end up opening the door to the dark side and all of the implications that come with making one crazy decision. Originally, they were going to do something about high school kids that gamble, but then, after Neighbors, it turned into being about a couple trying to protect their kid and get their daughter into college. Said Cohen, “Adults are so much more fun to watch make mistakes because they should know better. And there’s so much more at stake.”
- Cohen and O’Brien like movies that are emotionally grounded and about real people, but that end up just going to the craziest place possible. They hope that this movie is that.
- The script was written with Ferrell and Poehler in mind because Cohen and O’Brien think they’re two of the funniest people in the world. They wanted Ferrell for the husband, not just because he’s insanely funny, but because you believe him, as a father. And then, they got excited about the thought of Ferrell and Poehler together because of the chemistry from their natural friendship with each other.
- Even though they were both on Saturday Night Live at the same time and they were both in Blades of Glory together, this has really been the first time Ferrell and Poehler have gotten to be a team together, which was a big part of the project’s appeal for them.
This is not a film about a married couple going through a malaise. They like each other and love each other, but they’re dealing with the relatable issue of what to do when their kid is gone and it’s back to just being them. Neighbors helped Cohen and O’Brien see that the audience loved when Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne were on the same team, so they wanted to carry that over into this movie, since it’s their daughter that they’re trying to help.
- Scott and Kate’s daughter, Alex, represents the audience, in the sense that she’s trying to figure out what they’re up to and why they’re behaving so strangely. And yet, she also decides that, if her parents are disappearing late at night and not explaining their actions then she’s going to do the same thing.
- Frank (played by Jason Mantzoukas) is the Johansen’s degenerate gambler friend who comes up with this scheme for them to all make money by opening a casino in his house. His wife has left him and he has no furniture in there now, so he thinks it’s a good idea to turn it into an underground casino. He’s willing to offer up his house because he has nothing left, and he feels like this is a way to get his life back on track and perhaps get his wife back.
- Frank is old friends with both Scott and Kate, and he’s a real mess and a disaster of a person. Scott is more sympathetic to Frank’s situation, while Kate is more sharp with him. Frank is the terrible bad idea friend that many people have, and the Johansens are desperate enough to actually listen to his idea, which is a huge mistake for them all.
Frank’s casino idea comes from the fact that he’s a gambling addict who’s lost all of his money gambling, so he thinks he knows about casinos. His theory is that, since the house always wins and the casino is always going to make money, instead of being the gamblers at the casino, they should just be the casino, so that they always win.
- The film is set in a nice town called Fox Meadow, where people show up to the town hall meetings and they’re all good people, but they’re also a little repressed and need to open up a little bit. The casino has gambling, but it’s also a den of vice where you can do whatever you want and let your freak flag fly, and it’s all accepted.
- Scott, Kate and Frank have to adopt threatening personas, in order to be able have the customers in the casino fear them, even though it’s their friends and neighbors. They have to turn into more threatening versions of themselves, that people will get scared of and feel like they have to pay money back to.
- The movie is a hard R. O’Brien said, “You’ve gotta earn your R, if you’re gonna go for an R.” They push things as far as they can during the shoot, and then when they see the cut, they can dial it back based on what they need. It’s not vulgar or dirty, just for its own sake. It’s a movie for adults, but at the same time, it has a sweetness and it’s a good-natured movie.
- Comedically, there are some beats that are pretty insane, but each of them are within the context of suburban America and living in a town where everybody knows each other. And the very funny cast have had the opportunity to improvise and find funny beats, either for themselves or for each other. They do the first two or three takes as scripted, and then they try different things, sometimes even doing 20-minute takes, according to Ferrell. Ultimately, the best idea wins.
The House opens in theaters on June 30th.