“Funny Or Die” took over a bar in Austin for the entire duration of SXSW, and the morning after “Neighbors” was screened in a work-in-progress format, I headed over to that converted house to talk to the cast and the crew of the film.
The first conversation of the morning was with Seth Rogen and Zac Efron together, and it is the tension between the two of them that drives the entire movie. While this feels like a comfortable fit for Rogen, it is all-new territory for Efron. He's done comedy before, most notably with “17 Again,” but he's never made this sort of comedy before. This is like comedy as a full-contact sport, and when you're in a movie with Rogen, Rose Byrne, Ike Barinholtz, and you've got Nicholas Stoller directing and Rogen co-producing with Evan Goldberg, you've got a ton of people on that set who are among the best in the business at this particular type of filmmaking.
To his credit, Efron not only holds his own but lands pretty much every punch he throws in the film. He is very funny in the movie, and he does a great job etching a character that might be, in lesser hands, very thin. Efron finds the weird damaged heart of his character and suggests just how scary it might be to look around one day and realize that you're an idiot with basically no future.
By this point, I'm comfortable talking to Rogen about pretty much anything. He's incredibly open about his process and he seems to have a good sense of what works and what doesn't. He is honest about the film he feels didn't work as well, and what he does or doesn't want from his work in the future. I would honestly bet that we very few giant budget movies from Rogen in the years to come. Don't expect him to take the reigns on something like a “Ghostbusters” repeat. Instead, I'm going to guess he spends his time making films for a reasonable budget, where it's almost all upside in terms of potential box-office. It gives him more freedom, and when they're working like this, he and Evan Goldberg and their collaborators can make things that aren't compromised, things that they stand behind completely.
“Neighbors” opens everywhere May 9th, 2014.