Franchise Fred Interview: Dave Franco on LEGO Ninjago & Disaster Artist

It’s about time Franchise Fred went to LEGOland since they’ve got both a toy franchise and a movie franchise. I was there last week for interviews for The Lego Ninjago Movie. This week we’ll get inside the LEGO franchise with the filmmakers and stars, beginning with Dave Franco.

Dave Franco plays Lloyd Garmadon in The LEGO Ninjago Movie. Lloyd fights his evil father Garmadon (Justin Theroux) as the Green Ninja but really he just wants a dad. I was also able to speak with Franco about The Disaster Artist, in which he plays Greg Sestero in the story of the making of The Room  with Tommy Wiseau. The LEGO Ninjago Movie opens Friday, September 22.

Franchise Fred: Is it rare that you get to play Wally in The LEGO Movie and now Lloyd in Ninjago?

Dave Franco: Well, Wally is a character that no one on Earth knows. That was my character from the first LEGO Movie and I have one line. If you weren’t interviewing me and doing research on me, you would have no idea I was in that movie. But I’m excited to be a much bigger role in this installment.

FF: What did they tell you about Lloyd when you got the part?

Dave Franco: They actually didn’t tell me much because the director really wanted us to find the character in the recording booth, which is amazing. The whole experience has been really collaborative and they really have encouraged us to improvise and go off book and use our own natural sense of humor which is always easier and always gets better results too. When I first sat down with the director, he really just told me the basic story and basic character dynamics, but that was it.

FF: When you’re telling Garmadon about all your father issues, was that your own improvisation?

Dave Franco: Definitely. When he’s talking about how I can’t be his son because his son is bald and doesn’t have teeth and doesn’t know how to walk, I’m pretty sure he improvised that. The scene where my arm pops out, that entire scene was improvised. Justin and I were in the recording booth together a handful of times and that’s when most of the improvisation came about because obviously it’s hard to improvise with no one else in the recording booth. The arm falling off scene, the scene where everyone’s asking Garmadon about his arms when we’re carrying him in the cage, some of the funniest scenes were just us playing around in the room.

FF: Was it your idea that Lloyd’s driving issue was he needed a father?

Dave Franco: I think that was always there. It definitely took some massaging to find the balance of starting the movie off where I really hate my dad and then getting to a place where I’m looking at him from a different perspective and seeing him in a different light. It was just a lot of massaging in the middle section where there’s moments where we’re bonding but I still don’t trust him. It’s a complicated dynamic.

FF: Did you do any scenes with Jackie Chan in the booth?

Dave Franco: Sadly no. Jackie lives across the world and is a very busy man but we are fortunate enough to be able to finally meet him during this press tour.

FF: Did any of the other Ninja 6 do sessions together

Dave Franco: Yes, so there was one epic session with all of us. It was pretty incredible watching the comedic talent in that room where there’s so many incredible improvisers. There was a point where I remembered just sitting down just so I can watch them as a fan. Guys like Kumail and Zach Woods and Fred Armisen, how quick witted they are, it’s inspiring. I’m just excited to be in a movie with all of those guys and they make me look a lot better than I naturally am.

FF: I bet the outtakes could be a whole other movie.

Dave Franco: 100%, yeah.

FF: I saw Disaster Artist at SXSW.

Dave Franco: Nice, man. What a great screening. How fun was that screening?

FF: Yeah, and I had never seen The Room and I still got everything out of it.

Dave Franco: That’s amazing.

FF: The side by side really helped.

Dave Franco: It really brings it all together and makes you realize that we weren’t embellishing anything. That’s my favorite thing to hear is that people who have never even seen The Room got something out of it.

FF: Tommy and Greg have a new movie called Best Friends. Do you know about that?

Dave Franco: Of course. It’s the unofficial followup to The Room. When Greg saw our movie, The Disaster Artist for the first time, it inspired him so much that he went off and he wrote this new movie for him and Tommy to star in. He wrote it in two weeks and they’ve been shooting it on and off for like a year now. I’m very excited and just happy to be part of the world that is The Room

FF: Is The Disaster Artist an anti-underdog movie? It’s not like the world is holding back this misunderstood genius.

Dave Franco: I don’t know if I would classify it as anti-underdog. He’s just a guy who, he wanted to make it in the movie business and he achieved his goal in the most backwards way possible but his story is very inspirational in the sense that he had a vision and despite the fact that everyone around him was telling him that he couldn’t do it, he persevered and he made the movie that he wanted to make. Ultimately it didn’t get the reception that he expected but there’s something honorable about just trusting your instincts and going against the grain and just believing in yourself.

FF: The movie takes their friendship seriously, doesn’t it?

Dave Franco: Yeah, definitely. We take everything very seriously. I think a lot of people, when we first announced that we were going to make this movie, a lot of people initially expected us to do this big broad comedy, just based on the nature of what the movie was and based on the actors that we cast. Like I said, we took it extremely seriously where we made the tone a lot more earnest and real as opposed to turning the whole thing into an SNL skit. It would’ve been easy to make a movie where we are making fun of The Room and making fun of Tommy but we went the other way where we want our movie to be a celebration of Tommy and his perseverance and just his love for moviemaking.

FF: When he pressures Greg to miss an audition, was that really almost the end of their friendship?

Dave Franco: That is definitely in Greg’s book. There’s a scene that’s very similar. I remember that being a huge strain on their relationship, yes.

FF: Would Greg have even landed that role?

Dave Franco: I don’t remember what the exact specifics were in real life but I’m pretty sure Greg did have a real opportunity that Tommy blocked him from doing.

FF: Is it harder to do Greg’s football throw than to throw a real football?

Dave Franco: Well, Greg’s actually a good athlete. He has a pretty natural form. I think that’s more of a question for my brother.

FF: Is doing a scene with your brother in a dick sock difficult?

Dave Franco: You know, it’s actually much easier than you might expect. There’s nothing he can do these days that surprises me. So I think it was probably weirder for everyone else involved in the scene. I just kind of roll with the punches and know that anything can happen in a scene with him.

FF: Are you doing another movie with James?

Dave Franco: We have a couple in the works. I can’t really talk about specifics but we definitely want to work together a lot more just because we had a great time and for both of us this is one of the projects that we’re most proud of in our career.

FF: Did you play Montgomery Clift?

Dave Franco: Yeah, but there’s not much to say. I have a cameo in the movie. I’m in it for like a minute.

FF: Any talk of Now You See Me 3?

Dave Franco: There’s been whispers. I don’t know how real they are but I would love nothing more than to reunite with that cast for one more installment.

FF: Did you ever hear Louis Leterrier’s original idea for the sequel before he left?

Dave Franco: No idea. I don’t even know if he did have an idea for the sequel. Those movies are so complicated and complex that I think it’s almost like you just need to focus on what’s in front of your face and it’s hard to even figure out where the whole story’s going to go until you figure out the current one.

FF: If they had done MIB23 was there a way they could have visited Eric once more?

Dave Franco: I heard I was going to be involved in a small way. Again, another franchise that I would love to revisit whenever they’re ready, if they’re ever going to make that.

FF: Could Lloyd appear in other LEGO movies?

Dave Franco: I would love that. If I could continue to make Ninjago movies for the rest of my career, that would make me a very happy man. The idea of crossing over with some of the LEGO characters from the other movies, that sounds really fun.

Written by
Fred Topel also known as Franchise Fred has been an entertainment journalist since 1999 and specializes in writing about film, television and video games. Fred has written for several outlets including About.com, CraveOnline, and Rotten Tomatoes among others. His favorite films include Toy Story 2, The Rock, Face/Off, True Lies, Labyrinth, The Big Hit, Michael Moore's The Big One, and Casablanca. We are very lucky and excited to have Fred as part of the We Live Entertainment team. Follow him on Twitter @FranchiseFred and @FredTopel

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