Words by Cezar Greif; photos by Eric Ray Davidson; styling by Anna Su; production by Cool Hunt Inc.; grooming by Lydia Foster-Sellers for Exclusive Artists using Sisley Paris and Kevin Murphy.
Dave Franco is good looking. Some would even say, great looking. Indeed, the Internet is teeming with women saying they would kill to be with him. And though he recently got married to comedian Allison Brie, the adoration hasn’t stopped. It’s all a bit surprising since Franco got his start playing cocky, annoying characters in movies like Fright Night and 21 Jump Street. He’s also always been in the shadow of brother James Franco. However, with his new projects like The Little Hours and The Lego Ninjago Movie, he’s finally come into his own. Enter Dave Franco.
What was it like growing up in such a creative family?
My family inspires me in a lot of ways. Everyone is an artist, in some respect. We definitely feed off each other’s energy. The friends I grew up with would always make fun of us saying that our Thanksgivings consisted of us all sitting around the table making sculptures out of our mashed potatoes. And that’s not too far off from the truth. Even now, when we go back home to visit our parents over the holidays, we’ll perform mini plays. We’ll draw with each other and go Christmas carolling together.
Could you describe how your relationship with your brother James has evolved?
My brother and I have always got on well. In the earlier part of my career, I’ve always made a conscious effort to distance myself from him in the work arena. I didn’t want people to refer to me as “ James Franco’s little brother”. I tried to do my own thing. Now, I just want to work with him. I love and respect him. We have similar sensibilities and work really well together. He’s a very good “actor’s director.” He really wants the actors to trust their instincts and do whatever is in their heads and get it out of their system. Then he’ll direct you if you need. He puts a lot of effort into casting, and then he lets you do your thing. I hope to be able to work with him for a long time.
How was it to act in his movie The Disaster Artist?
We had a great time. People ask me what I hope to be doing five or 10 years from now, and the honest answer is that I hope to be doing the same thing I’m doing now, which is working with my family and friends on projects that I feel are unique. I can’t imagine anything better than that. Maybe that’s a cheesy answer. I feel fortunate to be able to work with the people I love. It makes me feel a lot more comfortable when I’m on a set with people who know me.
The Disaster Artist, trailer:
This year, you’ve also starred with your wife in The Little Hours. Now that’s a really crazy comedy.
I’m drawn to projects that are pushing the envelope, trying to bring something to the screen we’ve never seen before. The Little Hours definitely falls into that category. I can’t think of any other project that’s ever broached the tone of the film. The whole process was different and exciting to me. There was no script. We were only working off a 20-page outline. We would come to set every day, and the entire movie was improvised. It was definitely scary at first, but then it became somewhat liberating, because all I needed to do was pay attention to what the other actors were doing, and react to they were doing or saying. I was surrounded by some of the best comedic actors today, so it made my job very easy. It’s definitely not a movie for everyone, but I loved that we really went for it. It’s a one-of-a-kind project.
The Little Hours, trailer:
How was it like working with your wife – did you guys talk shop 24/7?
No, we don’t talk about work or our processes as actors. It was really fun working with her, though. I feel like an asshole saying I got to go to Italy and shoot a movie with my wife. I can’t think of anything better than that. When I had scenes with her in the movie, it was just so easy, because of the fact that we’re obviously so comfortable with each other. Hopefully that chemistry comes across on screen.
Tell us about your first-ever acting class at Playhouse West.
I came down to LA initially to go to the University of Southern California (USC). I got talked into joining an acting class outside of USC, at Playhouse West. I had never performed in any way. For a long time, I didn’t really enjoy acting because I would get nervous every time before going on stage.
I read that you hated acting.
I don’t know if I hated acting, but it terrified me. However acting has been really good for me because I was a shy kid growing up, and acting brought me out of my shell. I’ve always loved movies. My first job ever was at a mom and pop video store when I was 14. It was actually illegal for me to be working there at that age, so they paid me by allowing me to take home as many movies as I wanted. That’s how I started getting into films. When I first moved to LA, I think I subconsciously started acting because I wanted to find any way I could into the movie business. After a few years of just feeling so scared every time I performed, I finally realised that if I was to continue doing it, it should be fun. I shouldn’t be so stressed out and almost killing myself. It is hard work but it should also be something that brings happiness to my life.
I find that there’s an intense, driven side to you that people may not be familiar with. You worry about your craft and, at the same time, you have to portray characters that are funny and light-hearted. How hard is that?
I appreciate you saying this. Even for these comedies, I put in the work. I do all the research I need to do before going into production. And then once I’m on set, I feel at ease because I know everything is there in my head and I can allow myself to let go. One thing I realised about myself in recent years is that when I’m hanging out with my friends and family, I’m a pretty easy-going guy, but when it does come to work, I think I am very type A. I put everything I have into these projects, which is why I end up being very selective about what projects I sign on to. Because once I do, I’m going to kill myself doing the best job I can do. So it had better be worth it.
What was it like to do an animated film like The Lego Ninjago Movie?
I had such a great time working on this project. It’s one of those movies where you can’t even begin to imagine this world that they’ve created. I’m so happy to have been along for the ride. It was really fun coming to the recording booth week after week to develop the character. Just being silly, weird and free because no one can see me. A lot of the times, the jokes don’t land, but it doesn’t matter because we can try 50 different jokes in one scene and see which one works best. On top of that, they cast such an incredible group for this movie. I was just trying to keep up with everyone else, as they’re all so quick-witted. I swear every day I came into the recording booth, I expected to get fired. I just kept my head down hoping I would make it until the end. I’m still convinced they were going to replace me with Zac Efron somehow. (laughs)
The Lego Ninjago Movie, trailer:
Dave Franco on voice-acting as Lloyd in The Lego Ninjago Movie:
You also did a Netflix Originals titled 6 Balloons. What are your thoughts about Netflix and how it’s changing the film and television industry?
That’s a big question. I can only talk about my own experience with Netflix. I had a great experience on 6 Balloons because Netflix really allows its filmmakers to do their thing and bring their creative projects to life. Netflix doesn’t try to give you a million notes. It hires the filmmakers in the first place because it trusts them and then lets the actors and directors do their thing. It’s incredible how much money Netflix gives to certain projects to get made that wouldn’t get made otherwise. It’s taking risks that other studios wouldn’t be able to take. That’s a great thing.
What are your honest thoughts about Hollywood, the seemingly insular world it inhabits, and its impact on the world? Do you feel a part of it?
Wow, that’s another toughie. I do feel slightly removed from it. My best friends in the world I’ve known since I was five. They obviously are very supportive of everything I’m doing. But ultimately, they don’t care about what project I’m doing or who I’m working with. That keeps me grounded and allows me to take a step back when I get too immersed in the business. Then I can see everything through their eyes and see things from the outside. I realise I shouldn’t take myself too seriously in certain scenarios. I’ve surrounded myself with people outside the business that can take me out of it when I’m going down the wrong path.
How is life now that you’re married?
Married life is amazing. I can honestly say I’m happier than ever. Everyone asks how things change after you’re married, and if it feels any different. The truth is, it doesn’t feel that much different, just because we’ve been living together for nearly five years. But there’s something unexplainable that just feels better and more settled. I have my partner for life now, and there’s just something really comforting about that.
You don’t have much of a social media presence save for a Facebook page. Why have you refrained from participating in it?
The only reason I have Facebook is because one of my friends I grew up with called me one day and said, “I hope it’s ok but I’ve been running a Facebook fan page for you for the past few months.” I was like, “What?!!” So I went in to check it out, and luckily he didn’t make me look too stupid. I ended up taking over the page but I really don’t post very often. I only post when I’m promoting a project. I’ve stayed away from social media because, to be frank, it scares me. I’m a pretty private person when it comes to my friends and family and my personal life. I try not to offer any information that I don’t need the public to know. I get scared of the negative people on social media and don’t want to invite that negative energy into my life on a daily basis. For now I’m just going to continue living in my own little bubble. I get pressured a lot to join social media, because at this point it actually helps people grow in their career and helps people get jobs, but for now I’m going to stay on the path I’m on. Talk to me in a few years, though, and it might be a different story.
Tell me something about yourself that no one knows.
What is this? Ask Dave hard questions day? (laughs) I’m trying to give you an honest answer. Ok, I’ve got it. Up until five years ago, turkey sandwiches were my favourite, with salami on top.
If you weren’t acting, what do you reckon you’d be doing?
Before I got into acting, I always thought I would be a creative writing teacher. I remember my own creative writing teacher from high school. I ended up bonding with her because I was writing a lot of stories and poetry about myself and my life, so she knew more intimate details about my life than any other teacher. That just naturally built a stronger bond. If you’re teaching history or math, you’re teaching the same curriculum every year, but if you’re a creative writing teacher, you have new students coming through every year bringing you new stories. That’s something that’s exciting and rewarding I think.
* Dave Franco covers August Man Malaysia, October 2017.