From the Set: Zac Efron on The Frat Side of Neighbors


For spoiler reasons that we won’t reveal, things aren’t going well for Zac Efron’s Teddy Sanders in the scene witnessed being filmed last year during our visit to the Los Angeles set of director Nicholas Stoller’s upcoming comedy Neighbors. The film sees Efron as the head of college fraternity Delta Psi Beta who, along with his frat brothers, has moved into a house next to Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne’s townie couple, Mac and Kelly Radner. Yesterday, we shared interviews with the “family” of the cast and today we’re back with the “frat” side which, in addition to Efron, includes cast members like Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Dave Franco.

“It’s amazing, the team of friends that [Seth template=’galleryview’]–> has built up,” Efron says. “The first thing he ever said to me on the first day on set? I was like, ‘So, do you stay or do you go home?’ And he goes, ‘No, man. Why would I go home? All my friends are here.’ And I’m like, ‘That is how I want to make movies!'”

For Efron, Neighbors represented a chance for him to practice improvisation in a big, big way. During takes, Stoller shouts out ideas ? sometimes single words and sometimes whole lines of dialogue ? that Efron instantly processes and adds to each ensuing take.

“I really learned to do it in interviews,” he explains. “…I would say I’m definitely new to it compared to Seth, but there is something great about acting and finding it in the moment. There’s also something great about finding it in rehearsal. It’s somewhere where you meet in the middle and you’re sort of out of control where it gets really, really good. That’s what Seth does, and that’s what we had to do on this.”

As Rogen explained in yesterday’s piece, part of what makes Teddy and Mac such great enemies is that they begin from a place of friendship and are able to see themselves in one another.

“There’s a scene where we talk on the couch and he seems to be doing it all,” says Efron. “Doing everything right? I’ve sort of hit my peak, you know? It really makes me afraid. So, when he starts one-upping the fraternity, I have a crazy vendetta against him. Literally, we almost kill each other? He starts out as the coolest guy I’ve ever met that’s his age and I get kind of excited. Then he turns out to be just a mortal enemy.”

For Efron himself, however, the real life Rogen is a bit of an idol.

“I signed on because I was always excited about the prospect of being in an R comedy,” he explains. “?But I didn’t really want to do it with anybody except someone like Seth, you know? In a perfect world, I thought I would be able to work with him, because he’s always been in comedies I really relate to and agree with. They make sense to me. It’s not a jokey comedic thing. He’s just reacting to life in a very real way.”

“I think the movie is going to work because it’s just funny seeing [Seth and Zac template=’galleryview’]–> share the screen,” laughs Stoller. “It’s just that they don’t make sense on screen together… [Zac template=’galleryview’]–> is awesome. He’s quite dreamy. Sometimes it’s hard to give him notes because I zone out in the middle of it and just stare at him.”

Of course, Teddy is far from the only interesting member of Delta Psi Beta.

“Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays a character named Scoonie,” Stoller smiles, “And his main character trait is that he has a giant penis.”

“‘Boogie Nights’ is a baby compared to what my penis is in this,” laughs Mintz-Plasse. “?That’s all [anyone template=’galleryview’]–> needs to know about him.”

Mintz-Plasse, of course, made his feature film debut as Fogell (aka “McLovin”) in director Greg Mottola’s Superbad, scripted by Rogen and creative partner Evan Goldberg.

“We actually hadn’t seen him in forever,” says Rogen, “and he was so funny. He got so much better since we had worked with him and he was great when we worked with him in the first place.”

“Yeah,” adds Goldberg, “It’s just nice to see he’s not going to be trapped as McLovin forever? When we made ‘Superbad,’ he was the only guy who felt like the really young guy. If he turned out to be, like, a cokehead or a heroin addict, we would have been like, ‘That’s our fault.'”

Also playing a frat brother is up-and-coming comedian Jerrod Carmichael.

“I’m Garf,” says Carmichael. “I’m a fraternity brother and I get to have fun and react to all the insanity that I’m sure you’ve seen? I do a lot of hard drugs? Horse tranquilizers on the reg. It’s a lot of drugs. A lot. I’m really enjoying college. I don’t know what these guys are doing, but I’m actually enjoying it.”

Although he had only four lines in the original script, Carmichael’s on-set improvisation was said to have been so funny that he became a featured member of Delta Psi Beta.

“You’re able to just add all these little quirks to the character,” he explains. “These little things, from the high five — very specific high fives –to just these little things [like template=’galleryview’]–> the Delta Psi handshake.”

“We got a little drunk and we knew that we were going to have a lot of freedom to kind of just try anything we wanted,” laughs Dave Franco, who plays Pete, a key frat member. “So, we were like, ?We should come up with a handshake! Something very specific! A handshake that’s going to make it seem like we’ve all been in this frat together for a few years!'”

“We kind of created one that night,” smiles Mintz-Plasse.

“We created the most homoerotic anything anyone’s ever done,” Franco promises.

Franco’s Pete is Delta Psi Beta’s Vice President and, as such, he and Teddy share a particularly strong bond.

“He is the smartest of the dumb kids and slightly nicer than the rest of the mean kids,” says Franco. “I’m the guy who starts out the movie kind of with the same mentality as Zac’s character. I can see that this guy is making fun of me down here. It’s the same mentality as Zac’s character in the sense that, we both kind of have a one-track mind. Want to party and get girls. But then, throughout the film, you see that Pete actually is working towards having a future. Delta Psi isn’t his whole world as it is for Teddy.”

One of the early changes to the story was, at Zac’s request, in trying to make sure that the frat didn’t become the film’s bad guys.

“I think it was our initial instinct to kind of like demonize fraternity life in general,” Rogen explains. “And Zac is actually the one who, very early on at a meeting was like, ‘Frat guys have to like this movie. If they don’t like, then it’s not going to work.'”

“Yeah,” adds Goldberg, “And he was like, ‘They can still do some douchey stuff every now and then, because they know they do but, in the end, you have to appreciate their love for one another.'”

For both sides, then, the story in Neighbors becomes very much about family, blood relatives or otherwise. Happily for the talented cast and crew involved, that sense of camaraderie spread out behind the scenes as well.

“I’ve been totally solo in this,” Zac Efron reflects on his career so far. “It’s always been just sort of like me against everyone. Now it feels like [I’m template=’galleryview’]–> part of a family. It’s really nice.”

“He’s in,” Seth Rogen laughs in response. “You saw how much he was swearing!”