Think of Neighbors like Animal House meets This Is 40 meets Pineapple Express. In other words, it's an over-the-top movie about raucous parties that doesn't just toe the line of appropriateness — it hurdles right over it. But, it also has a sensitive side; Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne have to reconcile their desire to be cool in front of their frat neighbors with their responsibilities as new parents.
As you can imagine, filming a movie that mostly takes place in and around a frat house was a total trip. Stories from the set have been closely guarded — with the exception of tales of Zac Efron's rippling abs — but Ike Barinholtz, who plays Rogen's BFF and right-hand man (you also know him as Morgan Tuckers on The Mindy Project) was willing to divulge a few entertaining tales over a cup of coffee.
Had you met Seth and Zac before you did the movie? How did your impressions of them change?
"I had met Seth; he did an episode of The Mindy Project awhile back. So, I had heard about Neighbors and I really wanted to get it but I was sure that other names were going in for it. So, I went in and auditioned and met all the guys and it went very well.
"My first impression of Zac Efron was 'I'm gonna kiss you, dude. I'm straight, I'm married, but I'm gonna f*cking kiss you.' And then, by the end of the movie, I just loved the guy. For a kid that had a crazy huge level of fame to really be a nice humble kid is crazy. His life is insane — he gets approached so much. Every single person that sees him comes up to him and says something creepy. And, Zac is so nice; he's just like, 'Oh, hi, nice to meet you.'
"There was not one asshole on the cast or crew and I think that was by design. Seth and Evan have a no-asshole policy — all it takes is one huge prick to mess up a shoot."
The parties in the movie were really epic — did it ever feel real? How do the frat scenes compare to your own experiences?
"They were beyond epic. Besides the fact that we weren't actually f*cked up, it felt like we were really partying. There was a really strong vision for the parties — you would walk into the frat house where we were filming and the way the black lights were all set up just got crazier and crazier. It's terrifying to see how college kids are partying — I thought I was crazy in my twenties! Compared to now, I was a priest!"
Were you ever in a frat?
"I did do one year at Boston University, but I just watched movies in my dorm room. Actually, none of us went to college. Part of why the frat boys in this movies are so enjoyable is because no one involved in this movie was in a frat — we all had these romanticized ideals of what a frat boy should be. At times we'd be on set talking about a scene, and we'd be like, 'Wait, is this how college goes?' We didn't know."
What was the funniest scene to shoot, and which was your favorite scene to watch once you had the finished product?
"The craziest scene to shoot was an incredibly graphic sex scene between Christopher Mintz-Plasse and his movie parents. It got cut out because it was so graphic. In the movie, Chris' character has sex with my ex-wife, and in the original script, the last scene is him getting back to his dorm and he gets a video and it's his mom — played by Megan Mullally — and I start having sex with her. And, then his dad walks in and it's Nick Offerman, and I start having sex with his dad, too. We had a four hour-long shoot with me having to hump poor Ms. Mullally — that was definitely the craziest scene.
"After the first test screen, the producers decided they couldn't do it; it was just too shocking. And then, as far as watching the movie, that last scene where Seth and Zac are fighting and I jump off the balcony — that was shot over three days in bits and pieces, and you can't really see the cohesiveness of it, so when I saw it together, it was really a funny scene to watch."
Were there any scenes that you were worried might toe the line of appropriateness or would go too far?
"Look, any time you have to impersonate Barack Obama and say the N-word, you're dealing with an unknown factor. So, I was most certainly nervous about that. As we shot it, it got a big laugh, but I didn't think it would end up in the movie. And, then [director] Nick Stoller texted me after the first screening and he said it killed. I was like, oh great, I was looking forward to the Secret Service following me for the rest of my life.
"Because, in the wrong context, that joke doesn't land. But, I feel like my character is so stupid and gets so caught up in the moment that he can kinda get away with stuff like that. At least I hope. I guess we'll find out soon. I'm already getting a couple tweets from people telling me it's inappropriate — I'm like, yah, I know, I apologize."
Now, you're a husband and a new dad. Did the struggles of Rose and Seth's characters coming to terms with their new responsibility ring true for you? Have you even accepted the changes yet?
"It's so weird, my wife was actually about seven-months pregnant when we were shooting the movie. There were scenes where I knew it was funny but it wasn't fully resonating with me. And then, when I saw the finished product I realized it was my life. Like, we'll be going to The Grove for one hour and I am packing more sh*t in my car than you would believe. I've had breast pump drama, I've gone to Cedars Sinai at midnight, all of it."
Now that you're a parent, are you more sensitive to raunchy comedy?
"Not for comedy actually, but with more serious stuff. An episode of Game of Thrones had a crying baby taken to the White Walkers or something, and I was like, 'Nuh-uh. Not cool, bro!' But for comedy, once you start moving your line of tolerance back, you become less funny. If you're like, 'Hey man, I'm a dad now. I don't think that's funny,' it gets pretty lame. You have to have the attitude that anything goes."
Mindy Kaling has said about The Mindy Project that political correctness is the death of comedy.
"It's kind of true. Once you get into a territory where a comedian has to apologize for a joke, it's dangerous. It's one thing if someone actually goes crazy or something, but Mindy for instance — some guy tweeted her and said it was insane that she dates no men of color. And it's like, f*ck you, you know? She should apologize now and date who other people think she should date, just to make them happy?
"You have to be willing to go there and say the things that people are a little squeamish about, because otherwise everyone's gonna be doing Disney-level stuff. That's fine for little kids, but I wanna see Neighbors, and I wanna see 22 Jump Street, and I wanna see horrible things happening to people."
On the set of Mindy or in the writer's room, do you discuss backlash like that?
"It comes up, but only in passing if someone is reading something on Twitter. We don't harp on it — we're so busy trying to write funny jokes. If you get hung up on that then you're gonna drive yourself crazy. Because, then, she'll date an Indian guy, and a Korean group will ask why didn't she date a Korean guy? We're not gonna let people dictate how to do the show. If you like the show then we'd love to have you, but if not you don't need to watch. It's not for everybody and that's okay."
How did you feel about the decision to end this season with [SPOILER ALERT] Mindy and Danny truly getting together?
"It's funny, months and months ago, when we were debating about whether or not Mindy and Danny should get together, I didn't like it. I thought, why did we wanna go there, but then as the season developed I realized they were so good together and had such a chemistry together. It's more interesting to see two people who should be together as opposed to another great funny actor that she'll only date for four episodes. And, maybe it won't work…maybe next season they'll break up. But, if it's as good as we hope it is, it just becomes a slightly different but still very funny show."
Do you like the idea of the show veering into slightly more serious story lines the way New Girl did? They've gotten some backlash, too.
"I think it's slightly different for Nick and Jess because New Girl never seemed to be a show about romance, while Mindy did. So, now our experiment is that maybe she found the love she's been looking for. Is Danny going to provide what she wants? Because I don't think he's magically going to turn into Hugh Grant — he's more the guy who's gonna take a dump with the door open.
"For the record, I enjoyed Nick and Jess together, but I do think that Mindy and Danny are a bit different. He's older and he's been married before and has a lot more baggage. I definitely don't want the show to get serious, but I do think that having them coupled could be really fun. Now, instead of Mindy spending half the episode telling us about a guy she just met who's gonna be gone soon, we know Danny and we know what his foibles are. I'm really excited to start writing next season. I think it's gonna be a great time."
Finally, we have to ask you if you've ever had a nightmare neighbor like Zac and his frat brothers.
"My current neighbors are phenomenal. But, there was a time in my life when I lived in Chicago literally two doors down from Wrigley Field. I'm a big Cubs fan, but I was there during baseball season and every night you'd be in your room asleep and you could hear and smell people urinating on your steps or fighting at all hours. So, that is my bad neighbor story — waking up to men laying in their own vomit. But, my neighbors now are wonderful people, and we share baked goods together and I'm very lucky."
Word on the street is Seth Rogen hasn't been so lucky.
"Oh, he hates his neighbor. The guy's been doing construction for two and a half years, without any consideration for anyone else, and Seth hates the neighbor and the construction company. He's miserable and he tweets out stuff all the time. I've had to have a couple conversations myself with people near my house doing construction about keeping things tolerable. It's easy to go from the really chill pot-smoking neighbor to crazy passive-aggressive neighbor like that."