By Courtney Hollis | July 22, 2016 | People
We chatted with Dave Franco about Nerve and acting alongside Emma Roberts, how he landed his breakout role in 21 Jump Street, and why he won't join social media.
As the younger brother of actor James Franco, Dave Franco began his own career in Hollywood with small appearances in Superbad and Charlie St. Cloud—since then, he's starred in films like 21 Jump Street, Now You See Me, Warm Bodies, and Neighbors. His latest project has him playing a mysterious stud named Ian in Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s Nerve, in which the actor and his co-star Emma Roberts accept all-or-nothing dares—and the bigger the risks, the bigger the payoffs.
Austin Way sat down with the star to chat about his dance scene in Nerve, why he thinks of himself as "boring," and how he landed his breakout role in 21 Jump Street.
Your role in Nerve is all about accepting the most outrageous dares. How much of an adrenaline junkie are you off-screen?
DAVE FRANCO: Not at all. I’m very boring these days, which I love. I have a very domesticated lifestyle, where on a typical weekend you’ll find me in bed with my cats watching a documentary, not going out to a club or anything like that. That changed maybe a couple of years ago, when I realized I don’t need to do stupid things anymore.
I’m going to get a little dark, but one of the reasons everything changed for me is I had an ATV accident where I got thrown off an ATV and it rolled and almost crushed me. It was just one of those eye-opening moments when I realized I don’t need to take these types of risks anymore.
Your character does quite a few crazy stunts in the film. Even one of your first scenes is this dance number where you’re jumping off tables and chairs. How involved were you in the stunts for this movie?
DF: No, it honestly was not choreographed. [The dance scene] was a sequence I was very anxious about because, as you can tell after seeing the film, I am not a singer. I felt like I wanted to own the moment and go for it, and hopefully there will be a little bit of charm in that.
The whole movie, even though it’s all fake, we’re still doing these dares. For example, the dare where we’re running through Bergdorf Goodman in our underwear—that wasn’t that fun. We shot that over the course of two days in front of hundreds of crew members. We did have a great time, but there were certain moments when I felt a little too uncomfortable [laughs].
In the film, you develop a fan base playing Nerve, and your character is constantly being watched, which I’m sure you can relate to as a celebrity. Do you have any stories of strange fan run-ins?
DF: I’m pretty good at staying away from certain areas, where there would be a bunch of weirdos who might cross boundaries [laughs]. I remember a few years back, I was in line for coffee and the guy in front of me says, "You look like that actor Dave Franco," and I said "Oh yeah, I get that sometimes. What do you think of that guy?" And he goes, "I fuckin’ hate that guy!" [Laughs]. I’m like cool, cool glad I asked.
Dave Franco and Emma Roberts star in Nerve, which hits theaters on July 27.
A big theme of Nerve is how people feel protected by the anonymity of the Internet. Have you ever personally experienced negativity fueled by the Internet?
DF: I’m not really on social media and a big reason for that is what we’re talking about right now. I don’t want to invite that type of negativity into my life every day. I know I’m fortunate to say this, but I’m very happy and I’m surrounded by friends and family who I really love, and I just don’t want anyone from the outside to penetrate my little bubble, so I’ve stayed away. I get a lot of pressure as an actor to join social media. For me, it scares me—I’m very private when it comes to my personal life.
Can you tell me a little bit about working with Emma Roberts? Have you worked with her before?
DF: Emma and I had worked on a music video together five or six years ago, so we knew each other a little bit going into this project. It was very helpful because we needed instant chemistry for this movie to work. I immediately felt comfortable with her, and I really valued her opinion. There were several instances throughout the movie when I would take her aside and ask her if what I was doing was working—if it felt cheesy or over the top. She would give me honest answers, and it ultimately gave me a lot of confidence. I don’t take that for granted. I think she’s incredible in this movie, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her better.
You’re well known for being an actor, but you also direct and produce content for FunnyorDie.com. Do you feel those videos have influenced your acting career?
DF: Those videos are really fun because FunnyorDie gives us full creative control. They encourage us to be as weird and depraved as possible, so we take advantage of that [laughs], and it’s really interesting for me to be involved in these things from square one, where my friend and I write, produce, direct, act in, edit, and score these short films. I’m really proud of it because as weird and depraved as they are, they do feel like an accurate representation of who I am and my sense of humor. They’ve helped my career more than I can even express. For example, the director of 21 Jump Street ultimately told me that the reason he cast me in that movie was because of one of these silly little films that I did, where I’m telling my best friend Christopher Mintz-Plasse how much I want to have sex with him. That landed me my biggest movie role at the time [laughs].
photography by D Dipasupil / Getty Images; facebook.com/playnerve