Throughout much of his acting career, Dave Franco embraced the lighter side of storytelling and starred in a number of comedic endeavors. To the surprise of many fans, it was when he made his directorial debut with the disturbing thriller The rent, show another side of his talents. Continuing his trend of surprises, his second foray as a director and co-writer is the romantic comedy Someone I used to know, which he co-wrote with his wife Alison Brie. With two roles under his belt, the only thing that’s clear is never to anticipate which cinematic path he’ll explore next. Someone I used to know launches on Prime Video on February 10.
In the film, workaholic TV producer Ally (Alison Brie) faces a major professional setback, forcing her to flee to the comforts of her hometown. She spends a whirlwind evening reminiscing about her first love Sean (Jay Ellis) and begins to question everything about the person she’s become. Things only get more confusing when she discovers that Sean is getting married to Cassidy (Kiersey Clemons) whose confidence and creative beliefs remind Ally of who she used to be. Directed by Dave Franco and written by Franco & Alison Brie, Someone I used to know is an unconventional love story about three people who unexpectedly help each other rediscover who they really are, where they come from and where they are going.
ComicBook.com caught up with Franco to talk about developing the comedy, honoring the genre and delivering surprises, and future projects.
ComicBook.com: First, I don’t know if this is a credit to you or maybe to your production designer, maybe to both, but thanks for the…
Dave Franco: American movie. Are you going to say American movie?
Is that what you wanted to say?
I was about to thank you for including one American movie poster in the background. So it sounds like maybe that was your idea?
Yes absolutely. I mean, collaborating with our great production designer, but yeah. This is Alison’s character’s childhood bedroom, and we can really tell who she was back then by seeing what was on her walls. And so we got one American movie poster, one of the greatest documents of all time. We have, what else do we have? Reality bites, Dazed and confused, Sleather Kinney. So you get to see that she had cool taste; she had a subversive, different taste.
I definitely wondered if they ever sold American movie posters around the time she would have lived in that bedroom? I suspended my disbelief. I do not give a hoot.
If that’s all you’re worried about, then I think we did a good job.
Another thing I was really curious about is that I was living in Seattle at the time The rent came out, and I’m living in Portland now when this came out, and I’ve been to Leavenworth. I’m very curious about your two movies, you have these Pacific Northwest locations. What really allows this part of the country to have eerie Airbnb horror experiences and the romantic Leavenworth, the Bavarian village? What is it about this area that appeals to you so much?
I love the Pacific Northwest so much, I mean, for obvious reasons. It is so beautiful. It’s like pointing the camera in any direction and it’s amazing. This is a very pretentious thing to say, but it’s true, you can see on the camera that the sky is different. There’s something about it that feels cozy and just always has that fall vibe. Plus I love the crew up there. It’s like it’s a pretty close-knit group of people that if it’s such a small group, if you’re an asshole, you’re going to get kicked out of the group at some point. So it’s just a bunch of really nice, hard-working people. I love them so much.
Then specifically with Leavenworth, the reason we put it there, I have a friend who, her family has a house there, and so I visited at one point, and I remember thinking, what is this place in for goodness sake? It’s so unique and weird and wonderful. It’s like a small Bavarian village. Thematically it became perfect for the movie because you can imagine people growing up there wherever it is isolated. It’s in the middle of nowhere. It has the tourist aspect. You can imagine people saying, “I have to get out of here. I have to spread my wings.” But then you can also imagine them looking back and really appreciating, like, “Oh man, that was a great place to grow up.” It’s so beautiful, and it’s like it has it’s own wonderful unique charms.
As soon as they said, “We’re going to Leavenworth,” my radar immediately starts running, is this just going to be a random Vancouver town? But no, you captured it completely.
You can’t fake Leavenworth. When we did our research, we thought, “Okay, what do people in Leavenworth do?” And you find things like, “Oh, there’s one of the biggest reindeer ranches in Leavenworth.” And we were like, “Okay, maybe we can somehow get away with a stampede of reindeer?” And we asked the people who worked there, they said, “Oh, yes, we can make that happen.” I was like, “Great, let’s do it.”
With your last movie, The rent, I’m sure there’s at least a little bit internally, this is a feature film debut of writing and directing. Then of course the atmosphere is a bit different. Did you approach it in a similar way, with a similar capacity to consume and digest as many romantic comedies as possible, and to figure out what to honor and what to avoid in order to make it your own thing?
That’s exactly right. I think with both of my movies are obviously vastly different genres but I really tried with both to tap into the vibe of the classics that everyone knows and loves but then obviously I want to do it in a modern way and do I want to subvert certain tropes where we almost use what we know and love about romantic comedies to lead the audience down a certain path, and then try to pull the rug out from under them and keep them guessing every step of the way. But yeah, it’s all because I’m genuinely a huge fan of both genres.
I’m sure you had a great time with this lead actor, Alison Brie. I’m sure the lines of communication were open. When it came to the rest of the cast, who did you find was the most difficult character to cast, or even who was a character that after you cast, they really took the character in a direction that you didn’t quite expect?
I think maybe the hardest role to cast was the role of Jay Ellis because it’s a character that’s in the wrong hands. You may not like this person, and you have to make sure he’s interchangeable, and with Jay, he’s such a natural performer. He’s so real that it’s impossible not to just hang out with him and almost support him even when he’s not making the best decisions, so that was hugely important for this part. I don’t think very many people can handle such a dynamic.
And Jay, he’s just so sweet and I think it would have been almost easier for us to make that character into a villain where you’re like, “Okay, yeah, everybody’s turning on him.” But we’re like, “No, no, no. Let’s challenge ourselves and try not to have villains in this movie.” And yes, again, everyone has flaws, they make questionable choices, but deep down they are good people. They just go through it.
In the future, do you think it’s like ticking the boxes of all your favorite genres and then becoming a historical drama and then a biopic, or do you think there’s more horror in your future? Do you think there are more romantic comedies out there?
I’m not going to take anything off the table, but I’m a little itchy to go back to horror. I’m just such a fan of the genre, and Alison and I, we’ve been going through a phase recently where we’ve been revisiting a lot [David] Cronenberg is filming, and it made me really want to do something with practical effects and really carve out the time to do that right and do it where it feels really old-fashioned and tactile and gross and all that stuff.
I can’t help but wonder, but if there was a Cronenberg that you might want to put a spin on, is there a Cronenberg movie or is it like, “I wouldn’t want to touch it”?
It’s hard for me to say. I do not think so. It is difficult. I don’t think… It’s just so hard to touch some of these classics. But the one that comes to mind first in terms of “Oh man I want to do something like this” is The fly. I just love how nasty it gets. It’s so dirty.
Something tells me I may be the only person you’re talking to today to dig into American movie and David Cronenberg.
You know, it’s crazy, a lot of people have pointed out the American movie. I love it. That speaks to that film, beloved and iconic as it is.
I know you have a little bit of a Tony Stark in your blood in your history in your past from a few years ago now there’s a big budget franchise whether it’s a Marvel or a Star Wars or whatever also, is there a franchise that you love and would do anything for the chance to jump into?
There are some that I absolutely love, I just don’t know if there are any characters that people would be excited about me playing. I’m curious, from your perspective, if there’s anything that you think, “You know what, Dave could fit in that box”? Does something come to mind?
I know Mr. Alden Ehrenreich did his own Han Solo, but maybe if they brought that back, I feel like you could match that charm, that swagger, that gritty, sweetness, but still have something under the surface to you might hold at arm’s length.
I think this is the first time someone has called me rough, so I appreciate that.
Instead, let’s just work on a dramatic reenactment of bringing American movie life for a new generation.
You know what, we actually did that The disaster artist already.
Well, then we’ll think of another one.
You know what, maybe that just means we’re the guys to do it. Please.
Someone I used to know launches on Prime Video on February 10.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter.
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