Batman, Robert De Niro, Bros Before Hos – Nicholas Stoller Tells Us About The Best Jokes In ‘Neighbors’
Posted on Monday, May 12th, 2014 by Germain Lussier
Neighbors is now in theaters, and based on the box office receipts, it could end up being one of the biggest surprises of the summer. It’s not that big of a surprise after you see it, though, because the movie is just so damn funny.
When we spoke with director Nicholas Stoller a few weeks back, we had to ask him about five specific jokes in the movie. So as not to spoil them for you, we held the quotes until today, after the film’s opening weekend.
But below, you can read the Neighbors behind the scenes stories of the Christian Bale/Michael Keaton Batman joke, the “Bros Before Hos” rants, the crazy soundtrack, the Robert De Niro party and the cameo filled flashback sequence.
Note: The interview below spoils some of the biggest jokes in Neighbors.
/Film: There are a few specific things in the movie I want to talk about. One is the Batman thing, which is such a perfect way to distinguish the two generations. Was that the original screenwriters, or was that you — can you talk about how that sort of came about?
Nicholas Stoller: That wasn’t in the script. We found it that night. We made a list of stuff of cultural things that were different. So they’re riffing on music and we were shooting and shooting and shooting and then I was like ‘There’s nothing funny here really.’ And then the somehow we landed on the Batman thing. And Zac does a lot of Batman impressions. He’s really obsessed with Batman. Like a lot of people.So he started doing the impression and then Seth did and we just shot that and I was like ‘This is amazing.’ And I was like ‘This is the scene.’ So we kind of found it through improv. And then we actually shot a whole thing of them doing Joker’s back and forth. Like Seth did Jack Nicholson’s Joker and and Zac did Heath Ledger’s Joker. But then it started to feel… we actually had that in the movie, but then it started to feel riffy. It didn’t feel like a real thing.
If it was improv, what about the when joke comes back at the end?
That was a reshoot. So yeah, we put it in the movie and then I always do like two or three days of reshoots. And it was a pretty short shoot for a studio comedy, not for like an indie where you need a lot of time, but it was a 38 day shoot. So we did the fight, originally, just outside of Zac’s room. They kind of punch each other once and then Zac runs at Seth and smashes through the door. That’s all it was. And we wanted to punch up the fight in a reshoot. So we added that whole thing.
Another thing is the Robert De Niro party. Again, a great idea showing how kids today interact with pop culture. And also it’s really funny. Again, tell me how that sort of came about. And is that something you have to clear?
No. That was… we were sitting around and we were like ‘We need a party.’ And I was like what if they do a Robert De Niro party? Sometimes things just come to you. And I was like ‘What if it’s a Robert De Niro party and they’re all dressed like Robert De Niro?’ And there’s a pause and everyone’s like ‘Yeah, we should do that.’
And then what was so funny about that day is that that previous weekend, Dave Franco worked on his Meet the Parents Focker impression all weekend. So he came in that day and had this incredible impression. And he was doing it, first, you know, you shoot different sides for all various reasons. So we shot Seth and Rose’s side first. And Franco was super committed to his Robert De Niro off-camera. And then we flipped around to shoot Zac and Dave, but Dave had been doing this for so long, he actually was having trouble doing it. ‘Cause his muscles were worn, his face muscles were worn out. It was pretty funny.
Also the music in this is really good. It’s, again, a balance between sort of ’90s, late and now. I’d like to know about achieving that sort balance, picking the music and that kind of stuff.
Well I’m working with this great music supervisor named Manish Raval. He does Girls. He does Jack Kasdan’s movies. And I worked with him on a pilot that didn’t happen. But he was just really great. And so he found a lot of awesome music. I mean, I gotta just hand it to him. He did just a great job. And then Michael Andrews is the composer and I’ve worked with him now twice and he’s awesome. He’s just a really good composer.
But the huge find, Manish found this Flo Rida song that hasn’t been released yet that is during the black light party. That has this kind of driving energy that makes that sequence exciting besides just funny. Which was my whole goal. That that whole sequence should be like a dumb heist. I kept calling it “The dumb heist.” And from the beginning I was like “We need a drive, a song that builds in energy and gets crazier and crazier and crazier.” And he got the song that hasn’t been released yet. That’s an awesome song. [Note: It's called "Freaking Out."]
The flashbacks you have are also really funny because there Lonely Island and Workaholics cameos. Is that written in, that they were sort of mini cameos?
That sequence wasn’t in [the original draft]. Seth and Evan pitched that idea of the historical frat stuff. And then we were all like “We have to get famous people to do it.” So we called all those guys up and everyone was really psyched to do it, which was really awesome of them. And it was just really fun. We shot a lot of different stuff with those guys. But it was fun. And for that sequence, I really was inspired by all of Paul Thomas Anderson’s movies. A constantly moving camera.
Yes, it’s very Magnolia.
Yeah, it’s all Magnolia. I like watched Magnolia and I was like “How are they doing this?” Like and I just took it apart. And then created the dumbest montage of all time.
That’s great. And one more scene that I really love is the bros before hos scene. How much of that was improv, how much was writing, was that just going back and forth?
I thought it would be funny. I just was like “We have to do a 10 minute bros before hos sequence.” It’s like we were pushing like almost an Adam McKay movie or something. You know, who’s like the comedy genius. So we shot so much. And those guys, Zac and Dave, wrote a ton of them. And then I wrote a ton of them. Andrew and Brendan and Seth and Evan wrote a bunch of them. And on the day we just were yelling them out and we shot. That scene could easily be like 25 minutes long. Just going back. The one that I don’t think is in there, but is really funny but it hurt the rhythm was “LeBron before his Mom.”
That’s stupid, but it’s so funny.
It’s so stupid.