Somebody I Used to Know Writer/Director Dave Franco Details Diving Into the Rom-Com Realm

Throughout much of his acting career, Dave Franco embraced the lighter side of stories and starred in a number of comedic efforts. To the surprise of many fans, when he made his directorial debut, it was with the disturbing thriller The Rental, showcasing another side of his talents. Continuing with his trend of surprises, his sophomore effort as a director and co-writer is the romantic comedy Somebody I Used to Know, which he co-wrote with his wife Alison Brie. With two features under his belt, the one thing that's clear is to never anticipate what cinematic avenue he'll explore next. Somebody I Used to Know launches on Prime Video on February 10th.

In the film, workaholic TV producer Ally (Alison Brie) faces a major professional setback which sends her running to the comforts of her hometown. She spends a whirlwind evening reminiscing with her first love Sean (Jay Ellis) and starts to question everything about the person she's become. Things only get more confusing when she discovers Sean is getting married to Cassidy (Kiersey Clemons) whose confidence and creative convictions remind Ally of who she used to be. Directed by Dave Franco and written by Franco & Alison BrieSomebody I Used to Know is an unconventional love story about three people who unexpectedly help each other rediscover who they really are, where they came from, and where they're going. caught up with Franco to talk developing the comedy, honoring the genre while delivering surprises, and future projects.

(Photo: Amazon Studios) First thing, I don't know if this is a credit to you or maybe your production designer, maybe both, but thank you for the--

Dave Franco: American Movie. Are you going to say American Movie?


Is that what you were going to say?

I was absolutely about to say thank you for including an American Movie poster in the background. So it sounds like maybe that was your idea?

Yes, definitely. I mean, collaboration with our great production designer, but yes. This is Alison's character's childhood bedroom, and we get to really tell who she was back then by seeing what was on her walls. And so we got an American Movie poster, which is one of the greatest docs of all time. We got, what else do we have? Reality Bites, Dazed and Confused, Sleater-Kinney. So you get to see that she had cool taste; she had subversive, different taste.

It absolutely made me wonder, did they ever sell American Movie posters circa the time she would've lived in that bedroom? I suspended my disbelief. I don't care.

If that's the one thing you're concerned about, I think we did a good job.

Another thing I was really curious about is, I lived in Seattle when The Rental came out, and I now live in Portland when this came out, and have been to Leavenworth. I'm very curious about your two movies, you have these Pacific Northwest locales. What is it about this part of the country that really makes it possible to have creepy, Airbnb horror experiences and the romantic Leavenworth, the Bavarian village? What is it about this area that is so appealing to you?

I love the Pacific Northwest so much, I mean, for obvious reasons. It's so beautiful. It's just like, you point the camera in any direction and it's stunning. This is very pretentious to say, but it's true, you can see on camera the air is different. There's something about it that feels cozy and just always has that autumn vibe. Then, on top of that, I love the crew up there. It's just like, it's a pretty tight-knit group of people who, when it's that small of a group, if you're an asshole, you're going to get kicked out of the group at some point. So it's just a bunch of really nice, hardworking people. I love them so much.

Then with Leavenworth specifically, the reason we set it there, I have a friend who, her family has a house there, and so I visited it at one point, and I remember thinking, what the f-ck is this place? It's so unique and weird and wonderful. It's like a little Bavarian village. It became perfect thematically for the movie because you can imagine people growing up there where it is also isolated. It's in the middle of nowhere. It's got the touristy aspect. You can imagine people being like, "I've got to get out of here. I need to spread my wings." But then you can also imagine them looking back and really appreciating like, "Oh, man, that was a great place to grow up." It's so beautiful, and it's just like it's got its own wonderful unique charms.

As soon as they said, "We're going to Leavenworth," immediately my radar kicks off of, is this just going to be some random Vancouver village? But no, you captured it fully.

You can't fake Leavenworth. When we were doing our research, we were like, "All right, what do people do in Leavenworth?" And you find stuff like, "Oh, there's one of the biggest reindeer farms in Leavenworth." And we were like, "Okay, can we maybe somehow get away with a reindeer stampede?" And we asked the people who worked there, they're like, "Oh, yeah, we can make that happen." I was like, "Great, let's do it."

With your last movie, The Rental, I'm sure at least internally there's a little bit of, this is a feature-filmmaking debut of writing and directing. Then with this, the vibe obviously is a little bit different. Did you approach it in a similar respect, in a similar capacity of consuming and digesting as many romantic comedies as you could, and to try and find out what to honor and then what to avoid to make it your own thing?

That's exactly right. I think with both of my movies, obviously wildly different genres, but I really attempted with both to tap into the vibe of the classics that everyone knows and loves, but then obviously wanting to do it in a modern way and wanting to subvert certain tropes where we almost use what we know and love about romantic comedies to lead the audience down a certain path, and then try to pull the rug out from under them and keep them guessing every step of the way. But yes, it all comes from me just genuinely being a huge fan of both of the genres.

I'm sure you had a pretty good in with this main actor, Alison Brie. I'm sure the lines of communication were open. When it came to the rest of the cast, who did you find was the trickiest character to cast, or even who was a character that once you cast, they really took the character in a direction that you weren't entirely anticipating?

I think the hardest role maybe to cast was Jay Ellis's role, because it's a character in the wrong hands. You might not like this person, and you've got to make sure that he's redeemable, and with Jay, he's such a natural performer. He's so real that it's impossible not to just relate to him and almost root for him even when he is not making the best of decisions, so that was hugely important for this part. I don't think a ton of people can pull off that kind of dynamic. 

And Jay, he's just so lovable and I think it would've almost been easier for us to make that character a villain where you're like, "Okay, yeah, everyone turn on him." But we are like, "No, no, no. Let's challenge ourselves and try not to have any villains in this movie." And yes, again, everyone's flawed, they're making questionable choices, but deep down, they're good people. They're just going through it.

Going forward, do you think it's like you're ticking off the boxes of all your favorite genres and next it'll be a historical drama and then a biopic or do you think there is more horror in your future? Do you think there's more romantic comedies?

I'm not going to take anything off the table, but I am having a little bit of an itch to get back to horror. I just am such a fan of the genre, and Alison and I, we went through a phase recently where we rewatched a ton of [David] Cronenberg films, and it just made me really want to do something with practical effects and really set aside the time to get that right and do it where it feels really old school and palpable and gross and all that stuff.

I can't help but wonder, but if there was a Cronenberg that maybe you would want to put a spin on, is there a Cronenberg movie or is it like, "I wouldn't want to touch it,"?

It's hard for me to say. I don't think so. It's hard. I don't think ... It's just so hard to touch some of these classics. But the one that comes to mind first for me in terms of like, "Oh, man, I want to do something like that," is The Fly. I just love how gross it gets. It's so gross.

Something tells me I might be the only person you're talking to today to delve into American Movie and David Cronenberg.

You know, it's crazy, a lot of people have pointed out the American Movie. I love it. Which speaks to that movie, just how beloved and iconic it is.

I know you have a little bit of a Tony Stark in your blood, in your history, in your past from a few years ago now, is there a big-budget franchise, whether it is a Marvel or a Star Wars or whatever, is there a franchise you particularly love that you would do anything to get the chance to hop into?

There's ones that I absolutely love, I just don't know if there's characters that people would be excited about me playing. I'm curious, from your perspective, if there's any that you're like, "You know what, Dave could fit into that box"? Is there anything that comes to mind?

I know Mr. Alden Ehrenreich did his own Han Solo, but if they were to maybe bring that back, I feel like you could match that charm, that swagger, that rugged, lovableness, but still has something under the surface to maybe keep you at arm's length.

I think that's the first time anyone's called me rugged, so I appreciate that.

Instead, let's just work on a dramatic reenactment of bringing American Movie to life for a new generation.

You know what, we've basically done that with The Disaster Artist already.

Well, we'll think of another one then.

You know what, maybe that just means we're the guys to do it. I'd love to.

Somebody I Used to Know launches on Prime Video on February 10th.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter.