Even during the current culture of spending the majority of their time at home with the ones they’re supposed to love and trust the most during this chaotic and life-threatening time, some people are unable to fully trust their surroundings. That’s certainly the case for the four main protagonists in the new atmospheric, character-driven ensemble horror thriller, ‘The Rental.’
People are supposed to be able to share their most intimate spaces and senses of self with their closest friends and relatives, but their increasing sense of paranoia ultimately shows how no one can completely trust, or even knows, each other. The drama features a grounded story that delves into real world fears, as well as a sense of dread that slowly builds and creates tension, even in moments when nothing overtly scary is happening on screen.
Dave Franco made his feature film directorial debut with ‘The Rental,’ which he also produced and co-wrote with genre veteran, Joe Swanberg. IFC Films is releasing the movie today On Demand and at select Drive-In theaters.
‘The Rental’ follows two couples-Charlie (Dan Stevens) and his wife, Michelle (Alison Brie), and his brother, Josh (Jeremy Allen White), and his girlfriend, Mina (Sheila Vand), who works with Charlie-as they decide to celebrate their recent success from a new business venture. So they decide to embark on a weekend getaway to a seemingly perfect house they’ve booked online. But what begins as a festive weekend for the four close friends quickly turns into something far more sinister, as secrets they’ve kept from each other are exposed, and paranoia that they may not be alone, and are being watched in the house, grows.
White generously took the time recently to talk about starring in ‘The Rental’ during an exclusive interview. Among other things, the performer discussed that he was interested in starring in the drama because he’s a fan of Franco’s work as an actor, and was intrigued by the way he was able to bring his storytelling skills behind the camera, as both the co-writer and director. The performer also shared his happiness over being able to work with his co-stars on the movie, particularly in the sense of building their characters’ increasingly tense relationships.
The conversation began with White revealing how he became involved in playing Josh in ‘The Rental.’ “I got a cold email from Dave Franco. I was at home, checking my email, and he sent me the script, as well as a message that he had been watching my work for years, so he wanted to do this (movie) with him,” he revealed. “I’m a fan of Dave’s work as an actor, so I was eager to take a look at the script. I thought he did something really special in the story with his co-writer, Joe Swanberg.
“They also worked with this DP (Director of Photography), Christian Sprenger, who’s amazing, and has worked on such shows as ‘Atlanta’ and ‘Glow,'” the performer added. “So it just seemed like a no-brainer to work with these folks.”
Following up on how Franco also directed the thriller, White expressed his appreciation of being able to work with the helmer on the film. “Dave and I met a couple of times before we started filming; we got together for some lunch and coffee. I was immediately taken aback by his kindness; he’s one of the kindest guys you’ll ever meet, and he’s also incredibly genuine. He also has this focus that’s incredible,” he shared.
“Once we got onto set, I could see that he was so incredibly prepared, and specific about what he wanted. It was also really nice to work with a director who comes from an acting background. That should make us, as actors, feel incredibly safe. I think we all felt pretty safe to trust Dave, because we all knew that he has been through what we were going through,” the actor also divulged.
“I’ve also been a fan of Joe’s work for a long time. He and Dave spent a lot of time writing the script together, before all of us actors were brought into the mix. Joe was also a producer on the movie, but he wasn’t around on the set in Oregon that much, because he was doing his own thing, making his own film, and working on his television series,” the comedy, ‘Easy,’ White continued. “But I know he and Dave had a great time writing this script.”
Following up on the process of shooting ‘The Rental’ in Oregon, especially in the isolated vacation home where the couples spend their weekend getaway together, the performer added that he enjoyed the experience. “We shot in Bandon, which is a very small, coastal town in Oregon, which was great,” he revealed. “I had my wife and our baby, who was six months at the time, with me while we were shooting. We stayed in a cottage on the water. While we weren’t filming, I was able to spend some quiet time with my family.”
Besides working with Franco, White also cherished his time collaborating with his co-stars on the film. He then explained what the process of working with them was like. “I think the core of the movie is really about the relationships. The majority of my scenes were with Sheila Vand,” he noted. “I think we all really lucked out. Dave did a really great job of casting; he has a really great eye” when it comes to bringing performers together on screen.
“Sheila did a really great job, and is really well-rounded. She made it really easy to work with her. You can be in a scene with her, in which it doesn’t seem like there isn’t much going on, and she’ll make it pop,” the actor shared. “So I really liked working with her.
“The other relationship Josh has that really needed background work was the one between Josh and Charlie, who was played by Dan Stevens. He’s such a talented character actor, and he never does anything the same way-he’s always changing things, which is amazing,” White gushed.
“I didn’t have as many scenes with Alison Brie, but she’s an absolute legend. I felt very lucky to have been in their company on this movie,” the performer added.
‘The Rental’ features several action sequences, as the couples fight back against the person who’s spying on them, as well as each other. White then delved into what the process of creating the physicality for his role of Josh was like during the drama’s production.
“I think the most physically demanding stuff was the (scene on) the cliff. That was very brief, though, as the majority of that was filmed on flat ground, and I was just acting very hard, in order to make people believe that we were on a much more dangerous angle,” the performer revealed. “There was only a brief time that I was in a treacherous position, but I was in a harness the whole time, and as safe as can be,” he added.
“There was also a small fight sequence that we tried to do in one shot. In the scene, I shoved Toby Huss,” who played Taylor, the man who rented the vacation house to the couples, “into the bathtub, and started wailing on him,” White also shared. “That was just a matter of preparation; we spent the majority of the day breaking the scene down slowly. I think it worked out that they were able to use the first take, so I didn’t have to do it much more. So we got lucky,” he concluded.