For years Christopher Mintz-Plasse has been a staple of R-rated comedies, often providing a familiar face for “awkward” characters, but also giving a subversive streak of genuine earnestness and sympathy in otherwise sarcastically smug fare. Yes, he was McLovin in Superbad, but he also is the put-upon nerd heart of the underrated Role Models and the desperate, disappointing son in Kick-Ass.
In Neighbors he is a stoner frat boy with a gargantuan dick that ends up wrapping all the way around a crucial conflict between a married couple (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) and his fraternity leaders (Zac Efron and Dave Franco).
An obvious departure for Mintz-Plasse, we were able to sit down with him last week to discuss the role, how it avoided the NC-17, and just what goes into making a successful raunchy comedy. We also were able to discuss his Funny or Die videos with Franco and potential upcoming projects like the definite How to Train Your Dragon 2 and the not-so-confirmed Kick-Ass 3.
What attracted you to Neighbors?
Christopher Mintz-Plasse: I was at an engagement party about a year and a half ago for [a friend] and Evan Goldberg, the writer and producer, is a mutual friend, so he was there. We were catching up, and he told me he was doing a draft on this movie, and it was called Townies at the time. He said there’s a bunch of frat kids, and he had a role in there for me that he wanted me to do. He told me that the character had a big penis [laughs] that was his main point, which is my character’s main point. And I was like, “Dude, I’ll do anything you guys work on. You guys have been nothing but kind to me.” So two weeks later, he sent me a script and an offer, and I just got attached. It was amazing.
Were you interested in working with Nick Stoller as well since this is your first collaboration?
It is. Stoller is one of my favorite comedic directors—one of my favorite directors that I’ve worked with to date. Sarah Marshall, Five-Year Engagement, Get Him to the Greek, there is always so much heart and so much hilarity in his movies, and to work with him on-set, to see that—this might have been one of his bigger movies—but to see how calm he is keeping on-set. There were 500 extras there one day, and for every party scene, there’s like a couple hundred people. But he kept it so calm and cool, and he’s making jokes, and in the comedy scenes, he’d be writing alts behind the camera, and pitching lines, and throwing you lines while doing coverage. It was pretty amazing.
Scoonie is a different role for you. He was a little more laid back, a little more relaxed.
Yeah, he was very laid back, but also he was an idiot! Which was very fun to play. I wanted to play him super dumb where the only thing he cares about is his penis.
So that was part of the selling point where this character only has this going for him?
Yeah, there’s actually like five scenes where I showed my “dick” again, but if they put that in the movie, it would be NC-17, so we had to keep it to one.
That will be the unrated version.
Yeah deleted scenes, there will be a lot in there.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie was when you were all doing Robert De Niro impersonations. Did you get to pick yours?
That was fun. You know, I think we were in the rehearsal, and I don’t think mine was written. I can’t remember, but they either told me I was “Raging Bull” or I pitched it, because I knew I would have my huge dick, and I thought it’d be funny if I was wearing those boxing shorts and having my junk hanging out of the [end]. So, if you look at me the next time you see it, when it’s a two-shot of Zac [Efron] and Dave [Franco] over here, and Jerrod [Carmichael] over here, you can see at the very bottom of my shorts, there’s just the head of the dick sticking out.
I did not catch that!
Yeah, no one will probably. Hopefully when people read this, they will.
When it comes to being in a movie fraternity, did you guys do anything to get in character or did you have any fraternity activities with Dave and Zac?
Dave and Zac, and I went out, and we got pretty drunk one of the first nights we hung out. We wanted to bond, so we went out to a bar and then a buddy’s party. And that was really fun; we got really close that night. But also my brother was in a fraternity at Fresno State, so I called him and asked him for a bunch of tips. He sent me over this creed that they would say, and it’s actually word-for-word what it is in the movie. We are Sigma-Delta-Psi, the light, the way, whatever that we say was ripped off from brother’s fraternity.
So you provided that for the movie?
Did you get Zac, or for that matter, Seth Rogen to play the “You’re So Hot” game with you and Dave?
No! But that would be fun. Seth would be amazing at that, but we just kept that between us. We actually shot a third one that’s going to be coming out soon, and we might have pushed the envelope a little too much on this one.
Where did the idea for these videos come from?
That was an improv game that me and my high school improv team would do, because we would do improv during school and we had to keep it “PG,” but we wanted to try some improv that was rated R-style. So, we made up that game, and I showed it to Dave on Fright Night when we were working together, and he fell in love with it. He’s like “we have to shoot this for Funny or Die,” and I was like, “Alright man, I’ll do whatever. It’s kind of wild, but I’ll do it!” And people seem to enjoy it weirdly enough.
They’re very funny.
They’re weird, but thank you. [Laughs]
Speaking of improv, how much of improvisation was on this movie?
It was a good amount. I’d say 60 percent was written, 40 percent was improv. They obviously encourage improv, but the script is so funny at first. You come on and do a couple of takes that way, do a little improv, and then you have Stoller, Seth, Evan, and the two writers behind the camera just writing new alts. So, they’d be just tossing new lines. For every one joke, they’d have seven or eight extra. It’s pretty amazing.
Did any of your improvisations or any of the alternates they gave you end up in the movie?
Probably. I’m trying to think. I’m not in too much of the movie. I know a lot of my stuff got cut, because a lot of my stuff involved my dick. So, there’s probably a lot more in the deleted scenes that made it.
Well that means you’re going to be one of the biggest selling points for the unrated version.
Absolutely! I should have my own commercial.
How would you compare this set with being on a [Judd] Apatow movie, because I know that he did not produce this movie?
He did not, but it’s very similar. Superbad to this set is so easy-going, and everyone’s just laughing and having a good time. So, it’s very similar, absolutely. They encourage improv and try to make everything catered to how natural you can be, and what your strong suits are.
I mentioned this character is a little different. Do you have any interest in doing more varied kind of characters, even dramatic ones?
Of course, I would love to. I think right now, I have a nice thing going in the comedy world. I think with age, because I still look very young, but with age, I think doing more dramatic things would be awesome. But I also look at projects like, “Who do I respect and who do I want to be on set with for four months?” Then also, you’re going around to different cities promoting the movie too, so you want to surround yourself with people you like. It’d be difficult doing all this press with an actor I didn’t like. So, I look at “do I like the director? Do I like what he’s done? And am I going to want to hang out with this person for a while?”
Did you always lean more toward comedy?
Yeah, I think I did comedy from a young age. I was always naturally weird and goofy, so I think that’s where I naturally […] shifted to.
What about music? I know you’re the drummer for the Young Rapscallions.
Yeah, I play drums with three of my other best friends, and we’re making an album right now. And it’s going to be great. It’s going to be fun and really badass.
Do you see yourself doing music more in the future?
I think both. I think the thing about acting and making music is that it’s easy to do both. I’ll shoot a movie for three months, and then I won’t have to work for however long I want to. So, I can do a movie for a couple of months and then come and do music for a couple. But whatever’s hot at the moment is what I’ll gravitate toward.
I know a lot of your scenes were cut, but were some of your favorite scenes in Neighbors?
I have one favorite scene. It’s a very small scene, but Dave is obviously one of my closest friends and he cracks me up in this scene at the end where they’re running away from the party, and he’s telling Zac how much he loves him. Zac is telling him “I get it, man. I get it.” And he’s like, “No, stay in this moment with me! I love you!” And he won’t leave Zac alone. That part always get me for some reason. It cracks me up.
This is a question raised in the movie: Michael Keaton or Christian Bale?
I think that’s right around the time where I was old enough to start seeing Batman movies, and then I went and watched the Michael Keaton ones, and he’s great. But then Christian Bale is great too—can I take them all?
Ugh. I love Clooney, but that was not good. What about you, who was your Batman?
Christian Bale is great, but I grew up with Keaton, so I like both.
Yeah, he’s amazing.
To change gears to superheroes for moment, I also really loved the first Kick-Ass, and you’re great in both movies—
Thanks. I appreciate it.
I know the Chris D’Amico is still very much alive at the end of Kick-Ass 2, and Mark Millar and John Romita are still writing Kick-Ass 3 [the comic book series], so is there any movement?
I haven’t heard anything. You know, the second one didn’t make that much money, so it’s hard to make a third one when there’s not a big audience for it. I mean, I would love to put an end to the series, but as of right now, I don’t think anything’s going to happen.
I am disappointed to hear that.
What about Pitch Perfect 2, which is now casting?
They haven’t hit me up about it, which means maybe I didn’t do a good job on the first one. [Laughs] No, I’m kidding. I think it’s one of those things where it’s a cameo in the first one, and you leave it where it is, but I’m sure it’s going to be a great movie.
Getting away from sequels, what do you have coming up?
Well, to stay on sequels [Laughs], I have How to Train Your Dragon 2 coming out in June. Then, I have a couple scripts I have meetings for in the next couple weeks and hopefully something picks from up that, [but] I can’t talk about, and then just making an album with the band right now.
Is your character going to have a more prominent role in How to Train Your Dragon 2?
I think it’s the same kind of role as the first one, maybe a little more of a role. The kids go on a journey together, but this one is a little darker than the first one, which is nice. I like when kids movies do that like Toy Story 3 was fantastic and it got super dark.
Because you play a comedic element in that, could you compare voice acting with live-action acting?
Yeah, it’s awesome, because in live-action, most of my comedies have been rated R, so I’m trying to make adults laugh. While animation is a completely different world where you’re trying to make children laugh. So that difference is a blast to do. And in animation, no one gets to see your face, so you can really mess up with your voice, like I did ParaNorman, I was a bully in that, which was so much fun to do. In How to Train Your Dragon, I’m a little Viking character. So, it’s kind of exciting to play these roles that you normally wouldn’t get to play in a live-action movie.
Is there a lot of improvisation in voicing an animated movie?
Some movies do. These ones were pretty straight to the book, because the script was so strong, and it’s pretty pivotal to the story. So, I want to say not too much. But they’ll let you go there if you want. If you have some ideas, they’ll let you go do it.
Getting back to Neighbors, who do you think audiences should root for: the fraternity or the family?
That’s the beauty of it. I think people are going to gravitate both ways, because there’s no real villain and no real hero. In the beginning, Seth breaks his promise to Zac, so he’s kind of in the wrong. And we put them in harm’s way, which is wrong. I think people are going to side with both, which is the beauty of it.
Did you watch any fraternity movies to prepare for this and what are your favorites?
Well obviously Animal House is one of the greatest of all time, and Old School is amazing. I love Old School. But there is this amazing documentary that Todd Phillips made. I think it might be called [Frat House], but it was before he was well known, so nobody recognized him. He and his buddy joined a fraternity to show what they do when they haze pledges, and it’s a very dark documentary. I’d recommend checking it out; it’s fantastic.
Was it good research for this role?
It was. It’s a lot darker than Neighbors is, but it was very entertaining to watch.
Thank you for doing this.