Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising marks the return of Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, and Zac Efron, all of whom reprise their respective roles for more unneighborly hostile and funny relationships. When Mac (Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Byrne) are expecting their second child, they come to the realization that they must move into a bigger house for their new family. But before they can sell their house, they have to make sure it can go through a 30-day escrow, which the two are worried won’t be a success because a newly established hard-partying sorority, Kappa Nu, led by Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz), has moved into their neighboring house. In an effort to keep the buyers from moving out, the Radners recruit an old nemesis, Teddy (Efron), to help battle the sorority sisters.
We were recently invited to sit down with a group of our fellow journalist to talk to the three about Neighbors 2 during the film’s press junket where we spoke about what it was like to come back for the sequel, how an intern helped with the development of the story, parenthood, and the costs of making the airbag scene. Check out the full interview below.
Your characters struggle can relate to our millennials with trying to find their worth and values after graduating college, what is your advice to them who are going through the same thing?
Zac Efron: My advice. I don’t know. I’ve been really lucky. I found something that I really love early on. I get to explore a lot of millennial issues on film if you really think about it. Just try and find what really motivates you. Find what you love and do your best to keep searching for that thing. Work hard when you find it. Also, a lot of times when you’re millennials, every time I find myself afraid of anything or scared to do something or prevents me from doing it, usually that’s when I try and do it because that is often the time that I find it’s something that I needed to do. So if there is something that you are afraid of doing in life that could lead to something or an opportunity that you are afraid of or nervous of, go for it.
What was it like to work as a team rather than adversaries, and for Rose, what was it like to rub oil all over Zac Efron?
Rose Byrne: It was a new experience. I never felt anything quite as hard.
Seth Rogen: Take that in the worst way possible. She means that.
Zac Efron: Awesome. I’m very flattered. Oh, I thought she said hugging. She meant rubbing.
Rose Byrne: You remember that scene? It was also incredibly – they had injected the meat with baby oil. So it was really disgusting. It was also seasoned with things. You couldn’t get it off your hands.
Seth Rogen: It was a real ham with lube in it. It was delicious. Ham juice and baby oil.
Zac Efron: They made it like edible. It had seasoning and stuff on it. So that mixed with the smell of baby oil was pretty gross. Yeah, it would not come off. But watching Rose’s face was worth it.
Rose Byrne: What was my face like?
Zac Efron: You were into it in one take and the other it was like “this is weird.”
So was it nice to have Zac on your team?
Rose Byrne: It was great. I think we have a very parental role in Teddy’s life.
Seth Rogen: Yes, we nurtured and supported him while he was lost. It was nice to be fighting with him in every other scene. And how to teach him about boiling water.
These movies can show what hilariously can go wrong when you party too much. But I also like the really good message about partying safely. What do you hope college students can learn about having fun and partying but doing it safely?
Seth Rogen: I think there are much better things to teach college kids than to party safely than the Neighbors‘ franchise. I would not look to us specifically for that, but if in any way it inspires someone to seek out a much better source of how to party in the same manner than I hope they go do that. Obviously, the theme of the movie is just women are not allowed to throw their own parties in sororities and obviously if you delve deeper into that conversation it certainly brings up questions about whether or not they are safer if they were able to do that but again there’s a lot smarter things written about that subject than this film.
When you were making the film, did you feel like you were making something funnier?
Rose Byrne: You could never really tell.
Seth Rogen: No. We were praying to God it wasn’t going to be embarrassing. That is our goal with every film essentially. Anything better than humiliating is fantastic for us. That is a success. None of us had made a sequel. None of us writing the movie, so we really just tried to put a ton of thought into how not to make it terrible. And how to make it feel like we were it justified its own existence ideal-wise essentially and really tried to make sure to have an idea that was strong enough that even that there was no first movie, we’d be excited about this as an idea for a movie. We really liked the characters, and I think that is what we talked the most about. Where would these characters go next in their lives? Once we found that there was a good guiding principle then it made everything a lot easier. As we were making it, it seemed funny and it was fun, but you never know. I’ve made a lot of things that seemed funny and they’re not.
How much leeway did you guys have as to how far the jokes can go, the vibe of it, because a lot of it felt very natural. Were you able to improv or were you specific with the script that was written?
Rose Byrne: You start with the script.
Seth Rogen: We give people a lot of leeway. Again, there are some jokes that are in the script that we all end up falling in love with. We want to hit those.
Zac Efron: They’re like embedded.
Seth Rogen: Yeah. There are sometimes certain things that need to occur for the movie to progress. But I think with the sorority girls especially, we don’t know how 18-year-old women speak to each one another by any means, especially like the five dudes who wrote the movie. I mean we had female writers on set and we gave the movie to a lot of female writers throughout the process of the writing of the movie but still in a moment to moment basis new ideas come up we would be crazy to go up to Chloe [Morëtz], Kiersey [Clemons], and Beanie [Feldstein] and be like “here’s how to say this,” we’d be like here’s the idea we like: “how would you guys say this to one another” basically. I remember when we did this on Freaks and Geeks, even then the writers were like “we’re not your age, how would you say this at this age?”
Zac Efron: It’s the worst thing even slightly older than anything to speak in vernacular. It’s such a specific thing.
Seth Rogen: And then there’s a ton of comedians in the movie with small roles, and it’s crazy to have them on set and not to tell them “try to come up with funnier stuff than what we’ve written.” Like when you just have people like Billy Eichner and Sam Richardson and Abbi Jacobson around, you’re just like say whatever you want really, you’re very funny, competent comedy people.
Zac, can you talk about the training for this movie?
Seth Rogen: He was in terrible shape before the film. He got in shape just for the movie. It was really nice of you.
Zac Efron: It was like Cast Away. Teddy shape is like hotel gym stuff. I mean we had a nice gym where I was staying. I would train when I had time. I had several days off of this movie as opposed to the first movie, which was nice because the girls shot a lot. So yeah, I had a lot of protein. I lifted a lot of heavy weights.
Seth Rogen: That’s how you do it? The heavy weights.
Zac Efron: Yeah!
Do you like yourself better?
Zac Efron: Do I like myself better? I don’t know. I think I like myself just about the same. I could move heavier things. It comes in handy.
How did you manage to balance out some of the political messages of the film with comedy and for Seth, are you sad to see some of James Franco’s portraits of you be taken off the walls of Loaded at Hollywood and Cahuenga?
Seth Rogen: Yes I am. I am sad to see any of Franco’s art go in any capacity. But with the humor. The movie starts to develop this theme. At times, it is literally a joke with this theme of social consciousness. But it became one of the themes throughout the movie. Once that happened our brains started going in different directions when commenting on gay marriage and Jerrod [Carmichael] and Hannibal [Buress] are black cops. So that obviously creates opportunities for humor. I think it just organically started to funnel in that direction once the theme of social justice became the jokes of the movie.
Can you talk to us about the airbag scene? What was it like to bring that back?
Seth Rogen: People ask that a lot because it is literally the simplest camera trick. It’s something they have been doing since Buster Keaton times. It’s almost entirely in camera where you just sit down or stand on a thing and we go “freeze,” and everyone freezes and we put a dummy there that is in the same position and we blast the air within the airbag and we go “freeze” and it lands and we look at the position it landed in and it’s kinda like that and the actor goes in that position and flops their body in their position and that’s pretty much it. It’s so low-fi. It’s unbelievable. It literally costs a few thousand dollars in visual effects to be stitched together. It’s incredibly simple to do. It’s like a camera trick that has been done for a 100 years.
Zac Efron: The dancing scene with Dave Franco at the beginning was way harder. Dave really practiced. That was harder than the airbag. But I was really excited I got to be airbagged. I was looking forward to it. It ended up being 4 in the morning and it was really easy and when it was over I was like “aww.”
Seth Rogen: You were like, “That’s what it takes to be airbagged?”
Rose, like your character, you are a new mother, can you talk about how much you can relate to her or the similarities?
Rose Byrne: It takes so long to leave the house like it did in Neighbors 1. It takes an hour and 45 minutes to leave the house and by the time you are ready, you are just exhausted, you’re like, “I don’t want to go. Let’s just stay in. I don’t want to go. Everyone’s tired.” It’s very true. There are a lot of things in the movie that resonate with me in a lot more profound way with having kids. It’s the next stage. They are definitely in a new setting. Their kids are getting old and they are having another kid. But that is what was one of the themes of the movie we wanted to bring in of where are they are at now in terms of their growth of parents like in the first one they still aren’t really parents and they are adjusting and they want to have their old lifestyle and in this one they are asking “are we actually good at this?”
At what point during the process of the first Neighbors did you think there could be a sequel? When did it take shape? When did the idea of a sorority come in?
Seth Rogen: It wasn’t until it came out and was well-received and did pretty well that you know it became something we were considering. The story came in last. First, we were thinking really where would the characters go next. Like Zac would probably be a guy who just graduated college with no skills and probably be pretty depressed about it, and that gave us a good idea of where his story could go. We really didn’t want to get into us wanting to party anymore that seemed like it had been passed but then it seemed like you would have another kid and you would enter the next phase of parenting and start wondering if you were a bad parent and if your kids would relate to you one day and would you be able to talk to them one day and all those fears. That’s what gave us the idea of the sorority, like okay, we have a daughter and we are about to have another daughter, they seem like a good personification of basically what your worst fears of what your daughter might be as far as not being able to communicate with them and just liking you. Then we heard that sororities aren’t allowed to throw parties and because an intern in our office, Michelle, was in a sorority, and we were talking about how sorority would throw a party and she’s like “they aren’t actually allowed to do that,” and we were like “oh that’s fucked up,” and that is kind of how that whole idea came from for the girls. When you first get to college it’s the first time you get to choose what you like and what you don’t like and who your friends are and what you stand for and that just became an idea what we wanted to explore also.
Hat tip to Fred Topel for throwing in the following question:
Zac, they announced High School Musical 4, would you like to be involved in any way, maybe as a mentor?
Zac Efron: Yeah, sure. Absolutely.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising opens in theaters on May 20th, 2016.