‘Neighbors’ Set Visit Lets Loose the Dick Jokes, Epic Parties and Director Nick Stoller’s Man Crush
In a surprise to no one, director Nicholas Stoller’s new film, ‘Neighbors,’ features male nudity. The film focuses on a married couple played by Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne, whose characters are raising a child, and the frat house next door run by Zac Efron and Dave Franco. In the scenes we saw from our visit to the set, there are a number of big parties in the film, and the frat brothers behave as they will -- which means they’re going to get out of hand and is what creates the central conflict in the film.
But as viewers it’s fun to watch the debauchery, one in which Efron tries to fill his house with marijuana smoke for the biggest party ever, and another where Rogen and Byrne enter the festivities to cause a rift between the frat brothers by getting certain characters to sleep with each other. When it came to all the nudity, though, Stoller said
It's in my contract that there has to be a great deal of male nudity, but it's a fraternity movie on some level. Half the movie is about Seth and his wife and his daughter. The other half of the movie is a fraternity movie. And fraternity dudes like to take their dicks out. There's a lot of dick in this movie.
For one, screenwriter Andrew Cohen introduced us to the character played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse. “We wrote a character with an enormous penis and thought, ‘Who is the funniest person to play that guy?’ And originally we were thinking somebody big and goofy looking. But, it's probably better with a small guy, especially Chris, 'cause, like, he has so much confidence anyway. But, like, now he's got, like, a reason for it. He's packing heat."
This leads us to the frat guys -- Mintz-Plasse plays the well-endowed Scoonie, Jerrod Carmichael plays the horse tranquilizer-loving Garf, and Dave Franco assumes Zac Efron's onscreen best pal Pete, and listening to these trio's banter on set should give you an idea of their chemistry:
Christopher Mintz-Plasse: I play Scoonie in this. He has a very large penis, like 14 inches. ... The penis that I had to wear was so uncomfortable and so ridiculous.
Jerrod Carmichael: What is your penis' motivation?
Mintz-Plasse: My penis is out, yes.
Dave Franco: And your ass.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse: And my ass is out in this, too. Got to give the women what they want. They show your butt in this, too, Dave.
Franco: I do my first real sex scene, and the one note they gave me was “more jack rabbit.” I had just met the girl in the scene, as well.
They prove a headache for Rogen and Byrne's characters, but also for Rogen's friends in the movie. However, according to Ike Barinholtz, who plays Rogen's buddy Jimmy Blevins (a name he loves), this famous "man schlong" of Mintz-Plasse's was the main problem for his character:
He was part of a couple. He was married to Paula, who’s played by Carla Gallo. And you know those couples you have where the guy's friends with the guy, and the girl's friends with the girl, and it's not really the other way around? That's kind of what our characters have. And then Paula and I get divorced. Seth makes no bones about the fact that they're done with him. "No, no, we chose her. She's the level-headed cool one. You're a f---ing idiot." Paula goes off and starts having sex with Chris Mintz-Plasse's character, who has a giant dick, and we did a scene where I was kind of just spinning out about that. And I was like, "Did you see that dick? That dick was so big, it had two senators."
The scene should've taken 45 minutes to shoot. It took three hours because it was just every penis joke that I had banked in my head since childhood I was able to get out. And then you also have Seth Rogen, who loves penis jokes. While Nick Stoller isn't afraid of a good dick joke. I remember one point Seth said, "Yeah, that dick was huge. His penis whole was bigger than most buttholes." I remember one point Nick Stoller was like, "Guys, we have to move on." And Seth goes, "Nope. I got five more," and just shot off five more dick jokes. Even Rose Byrne got in on the action. I could've done that for the rest of my life and been happy with it.
Though much of the film is about a war between party sequences, this doesn’t give one side the upper hand or a sense of righteousness. As Stoller told us, “it's really important in this sort of movie where you have antagonists, that you understand everyone's position. So there's no one who's really a villain in the movie."
'Neighbors' was written by Andrew Cohen and Brendan O’Brien, and when asked about the genesis of the movie, Cohen said they always wanted to make a film about townies --which, in fact, was the original title of the movie.
We had this idea about people that live in a college town who don't go to the school but do go to the parties. And we were like, "That's not quite a movie; right?" It's sort of 'Old School,' it's like a sketch on 'Saturday Night Live' or something. Then we heard about the town surrounding Penn State, that the residents of the town hate the college kids because they pee in their flowerbeds and cut down stop signs and cause traffic accidents. And once we realized we could put those two groups at odds with each other, that was super funny to us, 'cause the idea of 20-year-olds and 30-years-olds being [in] a generational fight is ridiculous and so true to life.
Seeing as how there’s three famous raunchy comedy classics about college (‘Animal House,’ ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ and ‘Old School’), it must have been hard to avoid similar scenes. However, as Cohen said, “once we settled on the nuclear family as the center of the story, at least from the 30-year-old's perspective instead of dudes, it became a fresh take on this type of material. To see Rose participate in all of the antics is something that we haven’t seen onscreen before -- to watch a mother behaving badly.”
And rightfully so, as the film is very much about people behaving badly in the college scene, which means party scenes were very much involved in the shooting. Stoller, who had to adjust to a shorter shooting time for the main party moment, handed out cameras to people who filmed scenes much in the way actual partiers will film themselves going crazy, and the footage was then cut into the film.
"I've thrown so many more fake parties than I've gone to real parties. It's so pathetic," he said. "The secret is to put the camera low and in the crowd so it feels epic. And a lot of slow-mo really works in party scenes. It's about getting as many pieces as possible. That makes a party feel huge ... And dark lighting, dark lighting. A brightly lit party just sucks.”
Alas, the one scene we got to watch in the making-of process was from the very end of the scene, but -- as is apparent from the many Seth Rogen/Judd Apatow/Nicholas Stoller films on DVD and Blu-ray -- they often do repeated takes where the cast get to play. In this case, it was Zac Efron and Dave Franco having a confrontation after a big party, and every take elicited laughs in the variations on the material (particularly the random nicknames for the frat members, who were named T-Bone, Gerbil, and J--- Face).
Stoller directs in a similar fashion as Apatow, perhaps because he got his break working for Judd and has worked with a number of the Apatow crew, Jason Segel specifically. This is the first time he’s worked with Seth as a lead, though, and it was a long time coming.
I've known Seth and Evan actually for a long time. I've known Seth since 2001 or 2000. We wrote on ‘Undeclared,’ the Judd Apatow show. And I've wanted to work with Seth forever since then. We had a great time working together, and we're just old friends. And then, he and Evan called me about this project -- they had already set it up and everything -- about directing it. And I said, "that sounds awesome." And just the idea seemed really appealing.”
Having worked a lot with Segel and now Rogen, Stoller remarked that though they're two different people, they have similar work styles. "They both come at stuff from a writer's perspective first and then an actor's perspective second. I would say the main difference is once we start shooting, I think Seth first and foremost has a writer's brain. And so when we're shooting and stuff he's not methody at all ... and I think Jason can be more method.”
Zac Efron, on the other hand, is "quite dreamy," continued Stoller. "Sometimes it's hard to give him notes because I zone out in the middle of it and just stare at him. He lifts weights before shots.” And how did that make Stoller and company feel? “Even more Jewish. Even more Jewish than we already are.”
‘Neighbors’ is hitting theaters May 9.