Alison Brie and Dave Franco say new movie is "subverting the romcom"
The married couple co-wrote the new film Somebody I Used to Know, with Franco directing and Brie starring.
Dave Franco's first movie as a director was the 2020 horror flick The Rental, and now he's back behind the camera with a very different type of movie: a romantic comedy titled Somebody I Used To Know.
It's a fairly drastic change of genre for the actor-turned-filmmaker – "one end of the spectrum to the other", as he puts it himself – but Franco insists that the two films actually share something of a common thread.
"With both of these movies I directed, the synopsis if you look at them on the page might sound kind of familiar," he tells RadioTimes.com during an exclusive interview. "You're like, 'Oh, I've seen this one before.'
"But then within the execution – just all the twists and turns, the characters themselves, even the music choices– we really are trying to kind of subvert the genre and give you something that you haven't seen before."
As was the case in The Rental, the new film sees Community star – and Franco's wife – Alison Brie take on the lead role, and this time the pair have taken their collaboration a step further by co-writing the screenplay.
And this idea of upending the genre without straying too far from its well-worn formula was something that was equally appealing to Brie.
"It is an interesting balancing act," she explains. "But where we have an advantage is that Dave and I love romcoms, we love the genre. Romcoms as a genre have such specific tropes, so I think it actually becomes easier to identify and lean into those tropes, and then choose where we wanted to go against them, where we wanted to subvert the genre – it became really fun."
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Before going into production on the film, Franco sent the cast – which also includes Jay Ellis, Kiersey Clemons, and Haley Joel Osment – a list of the movies that inspired him while they were writing the script.
This included such genre staples as When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and My Best Friend's Wedding, but also other films that aren't necessarily romcoms in the traditional sense, such as Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird and Mike Mills's Beginners.
Meanwhile, Brie mentions While You Were Sleeping, Pretty Woman, and Rob Reiner's The American President – her favourite movie of all time – as being particularly influential touchstones for her.
"We wanted to tap into the nostalgia of all of the movies from that time period specifically," she says. "Those are the romcoms I go back to – all of these ones from the '80s and '90s.
"And kind of the feeling that they conjured, they were all really shot like dramas, performed like dramas, they don't send up the genre. I think we really wanted to honour the genre in that way, and then also find ways to make it refreshing and unique."
Given that Franco and Brie live together and have been married for more than five years, it's no surprise that aspects of their own lives found their way into the script.
One particular quirk of Brie's character Ally – her penchant for breaking into little ditties at regular intervals – is "fully just ripped from our lives", says Brie, who admits it was fun to poke fun at herself. But what was the process of working together as a couple like?
"We've worked together a few times before, but this was the first time we've written together," Franco explains. "And we had a really good time. How it usually plays out is it's me at the computer and she's kind of walking back and forth.
"And I'm like, 'Alright, what would you say in this situation?' So she's kind of like acting it out and I'm just writing down exactly what she said.
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"And so it's a lot of like literally acting things out, going back and forth that way," he continues. "I would say, truthfully, the only downside of working with her – because there are so many upsides – is that when you're working on something that you're so kind of integrated into, all of our conversations become about that project.
"It's hard to create boundaries, and realise, 'OK, maybe this isn't super healthy to only talk about this movie we're making.' And so we need to kind of take a step back sometimes and be like, 'How are you outside of this?'
"But no, a lot of people ask us, 'Why do you guys work so well together?' And, I can't tell you exactly why, but I think part of it is that we just really trust each other and I genuinely think she's one of the best actors ever. And she makes my job really easy in that way."
Brie echoes Franco's sentiments, adding that "it's very fulfilling and fun to get to know each other and bond in this different way over creative stuff." And she also reveals that the pair already have some other ideas percolating, as they look to find their next project to collaborate on.
So given he's now tackled horror and romantic comedy, does Franco reckon he might switch up genres yet again for his next directorial effort?
"I have a little bit of an itch to get back to horror or thrillers now," he answers. "But I'd also love to do like a grounded sci-fi project. We went through a David Cronenberg phase recently, where we rewatched all his movies.
"And I was just like, 'Oh, man, it would be really fun to do some practical effects and do something kind of gross and gnarly like that.' So we're kind of developing a couple of things – and we'll see which one comes to fruition!"
Somebody I Used to Know is out now on Prime Video. Try Amazon Prime Video for free for 30 days.
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