by ADAM BAIDAWI
This story appeared in GQ.
Meet the totally un-ironic Franco.
The eulogy is short and begins around 5pm.
“Say it like you mean it, man,” says the film star Dave Franco. He’s peering around the bathroom door, wearing tortoiseshell Wayfarers and a super-stern face.
We’re huddled over a toilet, memorialising a dead gecko.
Franco’s stylist mumbles something about being taken too soon, riffing on the life and times of the deceased, ruing unfortunate circumstances and so on. The proceedings finish with a flush.
The accidental-couch-squishing of our (former) reptilian companion was met with a chorus of awhs. It was gnarly. Eyeballs popped—the lot. A genuinely disheartening moment in an otherwise serene day in the Hollywood Hills.
Earlier that morning—happier times—you’d hear Dave Franco’s usually-laughing voice: those punchy, begging-for-mercy chortles. Then, you’d see the by-product: that familiar, whole-face grin which he shares with his famous brother.
But, hold up. This ain’t some granite-jawed, doe-eyed facsimile. We know James for his permastoned Freaks & Geeks stare, a manic pursuit of academia and Spiderman. But this is the Franco that hits the gym every day, who keeps his facial hair in order, and who, at breakfast a few days later, substitutes his bacon for chicken breast.
Rapidly coming into his own, Dave Franco leapfrogged from subversive Funny or Die clips to a pitch-perfect role as a trust-fund dipshit in the final season of Scrubs. Last year, he was the (again dipshitty) foil to Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in the honest-to-god hilarious 21 Jump Street remake.
This Franco is patently watchable. Case in point: Funny or Die sketch, “Go Fuck Yourself”—in which Franco literally has sex with himself—is a worryingly worthwhile two minutes forty-eight seconds.
“I like to believe that it was the production value that we put into it,” he says through a thick grin. “Man, it’s weird when people will bring that video up to me. The fact that they’re bringing it up implies that they’ve literally seen me fuck myself.”
Millions of people have. Cue online fan runoff. Dave Does Things: The Adventures of Dave Franco, like a brilliantly creepy Amélie Poulain, is a Tumblr consisting of photos of a cardboard Franco, doing all sorts of things: Dave eats sushi! Dave goes to Hawaii! Dave gets a tan! Dave admires himself in GQ Magazine!
“Jesus Christ,” says Franco, checking it out on my phone. “That last one is way too meta!”
Happily, the youngest Franco is wanting for narcissism. Franco’s two older brothers were a lifetime antidote for excess ego. (The middle Franco, Tom, is a visual artist.) “Their favourite form of torture was zipping me up fully in a sleeping bag and tickle torturing me. You literally can’t get out. It’s actual torture! You’re screaming and crying in there, and you can’t go anywhere.”
Even brotherly douchebaggery takes holidays, though. After his little brother looked to transition from writing to acting, James hooked “Davey” up with a manager.
“But from there,” explains Franco, “no one’s gonna hire me just because I’m James Franco’s little brother. He let me learn by myself. Learn from my mistakes.”
Keen to keep up with her two sons, Betsy Franco—a children’s author—started taking acting classes in California. All of this culminated in a typically bizzaro Franco General Hospital story arc, where she played James’ on-screen mother.
“I remember her calling me one night, really upset she’s like, ‘Dave! I can’t get rid of the character! I can’t go to sleep!’ It’s just like, mum—you’re fine.”
Next up in The Adventures of Dave Franco? Warm Bodies, a zombie romance also starring Teresa Palmer and John Malkovich. It’s easy to be thrown—it reeks of a hokey, melodramatic turn for Franco. But consider that Warm Bodies is in the emotionally intelligent hands of Jonathan Levine—who directed 2011’s funniest cancer, 50/50—and it shapes as a kitschy-cool blueprint.
For the moment, the greatest Dave Franco tidbit—the one maybe-destined for Trivial Pursuit—is the role that could have been.
“The audition? I have nothing to tell,” he says, slapping the table with a smirk. “It’s not like it was down to me and Pattinson!”
But when a movie ends up next-level exploding like Twilight did, having any involvement, at any stage of production is like retroactively finding out you could’ve been, y’know, Mark Hamill.
“That whole lifestyle scares the shit out of me. You hear about these girls climbing in through his window,” he shakes his head, like, no effin’ way.
“I don’t know, man. The blog is creepy enough.”