The M Interview: Dave Franco stays low-key
US actor Dave Franco may play a gamer in techno-thriller Nerve, but he shuns social media in real life
While big brother James Franco has the higher profile, US actor Dave Franco certainly shares the family traits of creativity and ambition.
The 31-year-old has played his share of jerks in TV (Scrubs) and film roles (the Bad Neighbours and Now You See Me franchises), but the charming and laidback persona he projects makes his snark and sarcasm seem cool, and it has certainly brought him his share of fans.
At the Conrad hotel in New York City, we are talking about his latest techno-thriller Nerve, in which he is a Player in an online game.
In the game, Watchers who pay to participate, dare Players to take on ever-increasing dares for money.
When another Player, shy high schooler Emma Roberts, kisses Franco's character on a dare, the two are paired together in an escalating adrenaline-fuelled and life-threatening series of challenges.
Nerve opens in Singapore tomorrow.
In person, Franco is a bit like his characters, the mile-wide smile and quick wit in full form.
What attracted you to Nerve?
Most young adult movies are set in a dystopian world where everything's elevated a little bit, not quite grounded in reality. What I love about this movie is that it takes place five minutes in the future. This game could be made any day now because of how obsessed kids are with social media and instant fame.
One message that really stands out is how mean people are when they're behind a computer screen, where they're much more willing to say horrible things to each other as opposed to being face to face.
Would you take on any of the dares that you did in the movie?
I was terrified to do all of it. I am a pretty boring person these days. I used to be much more of a risk-taker but something happened to me a few years ago. Not to get too dark but I was on an ATV, and it flipped. I got thrown off and it almost landed on me, and I would have died.
From that moment, I realised I don't need to do silly things any more. I feel like I put myself out of my comfort zone a lot in terms of work. And so when I am not working, I just like to be as low-key and easy-going as possible. I am much more content just staying in, hanging out with my cats.
How connected are you to social media?
It terrifies me. I am not very connected at all. The only form of social media that I have is Facebook. And that's just because I started a Facebook page when I was in college, and I just held onto it. But I am not very active on it. The main reason for that is because as nice as people might be to me online, there are gonna be at least a handful of people every single day who are going to say something negative to me. And I don't want to invite that negativity into my life on a daily basis.
Your brother James is quite active on social media.
I don't think these negative comments affect him. He really puts a lot of his life online and not everyone is going to love what he does because a lot of (it) is outside the box. What I love and respect about him is that he doesn't care what people think. He is going to present every side of himself, even the really weird sides. And if people like it, great, if they don't, that's fine too.
Tell us a little about how you grew up.
It was a strange, weird, artsy Disneyland household - and it was amazing. My parents were both painting majors, so we've been around the arts our entire life. If you walked into our childhood home, you'd understand everything. There were paintings and weird sculptures everywhere you look, books strewn across the floor.
Did you always want to be an actor?
It came later for me. I was a pretty shy kid growing up. I was so nervous every time I was performing. The reason I stuck it out was because I've always loved movies and I just wanted to be involved in the movie business any way that I could.
If I had to do it all over again, I don't know if I would.
You go through so much rejection. I probably got rejected 200 times through the audition process before I got my first role. And that helped build a thick skin.
I am glad I made it through but yeah, it was tough.
You're engaged to US actress Alison Brie, whom you've been dating since 2012. What attracted you to her?
A lot of things. From the very beginning it was just easy. We have similar interests. We both love our families and friends. They're the most important things to us.
And she just makes me laugh. When you get into a relationship, ultimately you're going to spend more time with this person than anyone else in your life, so you better be good friends with them too. She is my best friend.
The M Interview: Emma Robert's game for anything
Coming from a showbiz family with dad Eric Roberts and aunt Julia Roberts, it is not surprising that Emma Roberts decided to follow in their footsteps with an acting career in Hollywood.
She made her debut at age nine in the 2001 movie Blow and went on to headline fluffy flicks like Nancy Drew, Wild Child and Hotel For Dogs, but she is best known for her small-screen roles as high school student Addie Singer in the Nickelodeon TV series Unfabulous as well as horror series American Horror Story and Scream Queens.
Speaking to M at the Conrad hotel in New York City, the US actress continues to take on more adult roles like in Nerve. She plays a shy high school senior who is dared to participate in an online game where she has to do increasingly dangerous stunts to earn money and acclaim.
The conceit is that the Watchers who dream up the stunts urge on the Players who perform them, and the combined peer pressure and attendant adrenaline rush cause the Players to do crazier and riskier things as the money pool grows.
Sporting the same wide smile as her aunt, the actress identifies with being a Player in real life.
Roberts says: "I am definitely scared of a lot of stuff. I don't know if I would make it as far as my character makes it in the movie, but I am a player. I am game for stuff, and I am open to trying things."
Like publicising Nerve in a creative way during the press junket in New York City.
OPPOSITES: Roberts is open to trying new things while costar Franco prefers to curl up with his cats at home. PHOTOS: AFP
She said: "The funny part was that I was on the subway screaming (a) Spice Girls (song) at the top of my lungs, and no one even looks up. Everyone is just sitting there reading their newspaper. Which is almost more embarrassing than if they laughed at you.
"And then we went to Washington Square Park, and I saw the fountain and I was like, 'Should I run through the fountain?'
"And Dave (Franco) was like, 'Yeah, but you are not going to'. So I just took off and ran through the fountain and was splashing around with all of these kids and Dave was laughing. It was fun. I would do it again."
For a 25-year-old who probably doesn't remember a time before mobile phones and computers, the social media-centric script of Nerve was appealing.
She is active on Twitter and Instagram and is familiar with the risks.
"I have a piece of paper taped over the camera of my laptop because I am so paranoid," she said.
The pressure of being a celebrity on social media does get to Roberts sometimes.
She says: "If (my) followers all comment negatively on a picture, I feel, 'Oh, should I take this down?'... and so I can relate to second-guessing yourself because of what other people say."
The funny part was that I was on the subway screaming (a) Spice Girls (song) at the top of my lungs, and no one even looks up. Everyone is just sitting there reading their newspaper. Which is almost more embarrassing than if they had laughed at you.
- Roberts, recalling a publicity stunt she did in New York
Other movies that are wired to the online world
Eagle Eye (2008)
The Matrix (1999)