The couple talks to ET about shooting 'The Rental' and being creative in quarantine.
Dave Franco knows people are surprised that he directed a horror movie, seeing as he's best known for acting in comedies like The Disaster Artist and Neighbors. "But for me as a viewer, there's nothing I love more than a smart genre film," he tells ET's Rachel Smith, citing recent entries like Get Out and Hereditary that are "more nuanced and atmospheric and they really take their time to creep up on you."
The movie is The Rental, about two couples who escape to the coast for a weekend getaway. "The whole thing was inspired by my own paranoia about the concept of home sharing," Franco says. It's not long before the group starts to suspect their host might be spying on them. "I think about how the country is as divided as ever and no one trusts each other, yet we trust staying in the home of a stranger simply because of a few positive reviews online."
Franco cast Jeremy Allen White and Sheila Vand as one couple, tapping his wife, Alison Brie, and Dan Stevens to play the other. "It shows how comfortable my wife and I are with each other," he jokes, "that I can send her off to have this romantic relationship with this very handsome man onscreen." In earnest, having his partner on hand while making the leap to directing proved invaluable.
"First off, the fact that she is such an incredible actress, she made my job so easy. She would just nail it on the first take every time," he explains. "And then on top of that just having someone to come home to at the end of the day. As a first-time director, there were moments where I would get in my head and start to doubt myself and she was there to build me up in the right way and remind me that we were doing good work."
The Rental filmed in a remote part of Oregon, with Franco and Brie staying for the duration of the shoot in... a home share. "We are all aware of the risks in staying in a stranger's home," Franco laughs of the irony. "But we never think anything bad will actually happen to us!"
"There was like a four-week period where we shot all nights," Brie recalls. "So we were driving to shoot at this house and the drive to the house was like, you'd start on a main road and then turn off onto this little dirt road. And then you'd just be weaving through an unlit forest until you finally got to this clearing where the house was. And there was no cell service. And I was listening to murder, true-crime podcasts on my drive to work every day for some reason."
Unwittingly, the shoot and their simultaneous stay in that Airbnb served as good preparation for quarantining together. And having collaborated so successfully on The Rental, the couple decided to chance it again and use their time in quarantine to write a movie together: A rom-com.
"Looking at the way that Dave tackled the horror genre -- which is a genre that we both really love, although him more so than me because I get very scared -- but I think sometimes doesn't always get the respect that it maybe deserves and I would say the same about rom-coms," she reasons. "Like, no one's winning Oscars for romantic comedies. There's a little bit of a stigma and we were like, 'Oh no, you can make them and they can be really good and the characters can be really grounded and real and go on a journey and they can look beautiful and let's kind of try to infuse these genres with our sensibilities.'"
All of which -- making The Rental, their continued creative partnership, co-quarantining -- is ultimately a testament to their relationship. "The best thing I've learned in quarantine is that we love each other more than ever," Franco said. "Which is a great thing, because it could've gone the opposite direction."
The Rental is now playing in select drive-ins and available on demand.