This must be what being a Beatle felt like. In one of the more interesting interview scenarios I've encountered, the reps for "Neighbors" — a comedy where a frat house moves next door to young parents (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) — tossed Dave Franco and myself in the back of an SUV to circle the neighborhood around their makeshift frat house at SXSW so that we could talk in peace. See, the screaming girls who'd been following Franco — who has also been in "Now You See Me" and "21 Jump Street," as well as being James Franco's little brother — and co-star Zac Efron around had found the house. So into the SUV we went to talk fraternities, hazing and homoeroticism.
"Animal House" aside, you don't normally see frat guys depicted in a positive light.
What I love about this movie is you get to choose sides, and there's not a clear villain or hero. At the beginning of the movie, my character is … a little similar to parts I've played in the past, in terms of being a little more villainous and kind of douchey. And then as the movie progresses, you get to see me interacting with my frat brothers more. You get to see the human side, some vulnerability and that this guy is a good person, deep down. And I give [director Nick] Stoller credit for making these well-rounded characters and for making it something where the audience is going to probably flip-flop in terms of who they're rooting for.
Given the general, unspoken homoerotic nature of fraternities…
I was expecting a slightly different read on your character's relationship to Zac's.
Interesting, interesting. What can I say about that? Yes, a lot of homoeroticism throughout. Um…
The "elephant walk" scene, for instance.
Sure, sure. That was the day, actually, I asked Stoller, "Do I even need to really be here for this? I think at this point my character's kind of over the hazing and kind of growing up." He's like, "Yeah, don't come to this." [Laughs] But yeah.
You were never in a frat, right?
I wasn't, but I went to USC, where the Greek system is huge. I had friends who were in fraternities, so I'd go to their parties, but it would always be awkward for me because my friends would invite me. But then the rest of the fraternity brothers who didn't really know me always questioned why I was there, because the rest of them went through this crazy pledge semester and Hell Week, and I didn't earn that.
But I did experience to some degree similar party atmospheres that you see in the movie. For example, I remember at USC there were parties where they filled the entire house with foam, and you'd find people by the end of the night naked running around in the foam. I mean, it's disgusting. It's one of those things where I look back and I can't believe that I participated in any of it, but at the time it was incredible.
There are screaming fans everywhere here. In fact, we're doing this interview in the back of an SUV to avoid them. How do you get used to this?
To be honest, it's nice because Zac takes a lot of the attention. [Laughs] Whenever I'm traveling around with him, I'll let him take the lead and kind of distract everyone, and then I'll run out the back door. Like, no pun intended.
We've already done the homoeroticism part of the conversation.
Yeah. [Laughs] But no, it's crazy. It's incredible that people even know who I am, let alone are coming out and being so supportive. But at the same time, I have to admit that this part of the job does terrify me a little bit. Losing my anonymity is scary to me, and I don't know, I generally am a kind of private person. Obviously in L.A. when I'm home I can control that a little bit more. But when I'm promoting, I understand that it comes with the territory. Ultimately, it's amazing just to have people that care.
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter @nedrick