Dave Franco booking
Dave Franco has James Franco’s exact same wide, toothy grin, but two people couldn’t wear it more differently. James’s smile— and this extends to his whole persona—suggests he’s on another plane looking down on us, himself, the flashing cameras, and mocking the whole thing: “I can’t believe you guys made me famous.” Dave’s grin has no trace of meta-intention. His smile just means he’s smiling.
It’s got to be irritating to constantly be a foil to a celebrity sibling. But in person, the resemblance is even more striking: You’re seeing James Franco, except it’s a James Franco from a different dimension who pages through Abercrombie catalogs instead of Leaves of Grass. Accordingly, while the eldest Franco brother used to play an unpopular freak, the youngest Franco plays the kind of guys who beat up unpopular freaks. He was the trust-fund jerk-off on Scrubs and the burnout bully in Fright Night; this month, in the undercover-cop comedy 21 Jump Street, he’s the drug-dealing hipster atop the high-school-cafeteria castes.
Dave’s knack for douchebaggery troubles him deeply. “Oh man, I’ve stopped trying to analyze it, because it makes me upset,” the 26-year-old says. He bends over, placing his face into his palms, then pops up and presses his hands together in prayer. “Once I was complaining about it to someone, and they said, ‘It’s because you have an asshole face.’ I was like, ‘Um, thank you. Thank you very much.’ ”
It’s afternoon in one of the last dive bars in Times Square, and we’re alone, save for the brusque Eastern European waitress. She comes by and shakes Dave’s empty bottle aggressively, and he squirms to pull his wallet out of his back pocket. Your $4 beer is definitely on GQ, I tell him. He slaps the table, like he’s the sweetest kid at Sigma Phi: “No, c’mon! Really?” Yep. “Are you sure?”
It’s easy to envision him as a fresh-faced high school creative-writing teacher, which was his original plan. But when he was a sophomore at USC, his brother’s manager pushed him into a theater class, to see if acting “runs in the family.” (It’s not a given: The middle Franco, Tom, is a sculptor.) There were “all these people screaming and crying and hitting each other,” Franco recalls of the class’s first exercise. “I remember thinking ‘Fuuuuck this,’ but I stuck it out, and in a cheesy way I think it was good for me. It opened me up a bit.”
More than a bit. Between movies, he co-writes and stars in Funny or Die videos, including the popular “Go F*ck Yourself,” in which Dave meets himself at a bar and does in fact f*ck himself. This turns out to be less funny than pornographic-seeming—in part because he’s perfume-ad beautiful, but also because he makes it look a bit too real. “It’s an exaggerated version of what is probably my sex face,” he admits. (Apparently sex face is different from asshole face.) “The most uncomfortable thing is that there had to be a body double the whole time,” he says, laughing. “My friend who’s directing it put his shirt over his head, he just couldn’t take it, and I was like, ‘Dude, if I’m fucking doing this, you’re fucking watching me!’ ”
He pauses. “Though when people bring it up now, I get bashful, because it’s like you’ve literally seen me have sex with myself.”
Like James, he’s dabbled in poetry. “My God, it was really pretentious shit,” he says of his high school verse. “I would write a poem out in the most simple terms, and then I would go through the thesaurus and find these elite replacements for them.” His laugh spins out of control, like he’s having a coughing fit. I ask if he can remember any of his compositions. “Oh man, I bet I can,” he says. He fixates on the wall with a thoughtful smile as he jogs his memory, and then recites:
“When I look into my grandma’s eyes / I see the light of day / When she looks back at me / She sees herself, I hope.” The poem’s titled “Grandma,” Dave tells me. In that moment, he couldn’t seem less like James Franco.
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