“It wasn’t just my paranoia about home sharing that inspired me. I also considered the moment the United States is going through: we are divided, isolated, and nobody trusts anyone.” In the voice of Dave Franco – born in 1985, actor and director, brother of James – a slight, gurgling uncertainty resounds, which manages to make him even more likeable and affable.
He takes his time before answering. You hear it as he searches for the right word to say, as he tries to trace a specific thought in his memory and as he puts the memories in order.
“I’ve always wanted to direct a movie,” he says. “I wrote the script for The Rental (March 10 on Amazon Prime Video) with a friend, Joe Swanberg. And when we finished it, I realised that I knew the story and the characters thoroughly, intimately. And all the anxiety I felt was immediately replaced by excitement “.
The Rental is a horror film captured on small, compact film, which quickly finds its own balance, which plays with the atmosphere, with the environments, which makes simplicity its greatest strength: there is a constant, palpable tension. “As a viewer, I love to see films like this. Because they manage to thrill you, if done well; they manage to capture your attention, and not make you think of anything else. With a horror, in a way, you have more freedom. And with a horror like The Rental, set in a few locations, essentially, you can give free rein to your creativity. Horror films allow you to deal with rather extreme scenarios and emotions: as a director, they give you the possibility to make any kind of decision.”
One of the few positive aspects of 2020, Franco explains, was the visibility that independent films had. “People needed new things to see, and distributors ended up betting on these titles.”
But why direct a horror as a first feature?
“Because horror has always managed to photograph the reality of our society. It’s not just about terrifying the public; somehow, even superficially, horror films pose important questions, which we need to reflect on. As a director, I have learned a lot. In particular, I was able to look at the work of the actors from another perspective. And I understood it more thoroughly.”
“The actors are people who put themselves at the director’s disposal; they lay bare, finding themselves in a moment of extreme fragility. They trust, and this trust must be respected. Directing turns you into a more attentive, more precise, decidedly punctual and certainly more collaborative person. You have to learn to compromise when you make a movie. And you have to know when not to give up.”
Cinema, Franco confesses, has always been his great dream. “As a child, I was very shy. I had no intention of performing. When I moved to Los Angeles, my brother’s manager basically forced me to take acting class. I still remember that day: and I remember the people on stage, performing and doing their utmost. I remember thinking: it’s not for me. But I’ve always loved cinema, and in acting I’ve seen a way to get to the heart of the industry. For a long time, I couldn’t get used to the idea of having to go on stage. Each time I was extremely tense. Before an audition, I was always scared. After a while, however, I realised I had to change my approach: I was hurting myself, I was literally torturing myself. ”
Today, Franco continues, “we talk a lot about the future of cinema. Streaming platforms certainly offer an opportunity to many filmmakers, especially the younger ones. But the theatre, for me, remains the best place to see a film. There is still hope. Spectators can’t wait to be able to go back together, in the dark, in a room, to share emotions. And the first thing I think about, when I work, is precisely this: to be able to involve people, to amaze them, to give something back.”
The plot of The Rental is quite simple: two couples go on vacation together and, when they least expect it, something happens.
“It’s a story we’ve heard countless times, I know. I tried to change the shape, to add something, to vary, even slightly, the theme. A good film can make a difference.”
When he thinks of his career, Dave thinks of “my luck, the possibility of being able to work with my friends and family.” Alison Brie, his wife, also stars in The Rental. “It was incredible to be able to see her from another point of view, as a director. I fell in love with her once again.”
Words: Gianmaria Tammaro
Photography: Cameron McCool
Styling: Fabio Immediato