James Franco and Danny McBride take us inside Your Highness
James Franco and Danny McBride are high on their latest film while visiting with SheKnows at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills. The stars of Your Highness are chatting up the finer points of medieval comedy, swordplay and how Natalie Portman fit into their boys club of comedy that began when the duo paired for the hit Pineapple Express.
Your Highness is the story of two princes, brothers who have varying levels of success in their roles as royals.
James & Danny dish Natalie Portman
SheKnows: How on earth did you get Natalie Portman, an Oscar winner, to appear in one of your comedies?
Danny McBride: David [Gordon Green, Your Highness director] had been in talks with Natalie about another project and, once we started to get some movement on Your Highness, it looked like that was what was going to be next. In his conversations with Natalie, she brought up that she was dying to do a comedy and really wanted a chance to work with us. We were thrilled by that because having actors like James Franco and Natalie Portman is what separates this movie. It's not a movie that's just filled with your typical comedians. It's cast with a lot of prestigious actors.
SheKnows: Were you ever nervous she would think a bit of comedy in the film pushed it too far?
Danny McBride: Honestly, I was really embarrassed to hand Natalie the script for the first time. I was like, "Should I go through and take out all the dirty stuff? I'm nervous to show her this." David was like, "No, we've got to let her know what she's in for." She was a total champ. The stuff that I thought would make her blush is the stuff that she thought was funny. She totally embraced it. On the set, she never shied away from that stuff. She could definitely hang with the boys. She wasn't intimidated by any of the foul stuff going on.
SheKnows: Was there a scene that you just couldn't get through because you cracked each other up?
Danny McBride: You know, surprisingly, the scene that I couldn't get through was the scene I had to do with Natalie, where we're sitting at this table in the tavern and I have to confront her about stealing the compass. The way David Gordon Green directs, he's literally right out of frame of the camera, and he stands there and makes you say the most ridiculous things, and you can't really hesitate. You have to just keep going through with it. In the scene, he was just like, "Call her a bully and a [ho]." So, I just did it without thinking about it and, as soon as I looked at Natalie and the word came out, it just felt horrible and I couldn't get through it. I had to keep doing it, over and over. That, weirdly, was the hardest thing for me to get through.
SheKnows: Most comedies, there is a lot of improv on the set. But others, the script is the way of the word. Did you guys get to play?
James Franco: Yeah, when you have a movie where you improvise during every scene, it's not just about finding funny lines, it does something to the actors because you're more aware. You don't know what's coming next, so you don't get lulled into a way of doing the scene the same way, one time after another. You're much more aware, and it does something to the behavior. It makes it more immediate and more alive. And then, David won't have you just improvise different lines, he'll have you say it in very weird ways. He'll say, "Say it like a robot," or, "Say it like you're taking a big dump."
Danny McBride: There was a ton. I've worked with David a few times before and, even the way we worked on Pineapple Express, or the stuff we've done on Eastbound and Down, we always tend to do one or two takes of what's on the page. Then, from there, we just start pushing it. It's not always even just to find jokes. We'll just improv, so that everyone in the scene is on their toes and you find that reaction that maybe you wouldn't have gotten when the actor knows exactly what's coming next.
Your Highness history
SheKnows: What movies did you watch in the medieval genre to get you ready for Your Highness?
Danny McBride: We appreciated movies like Beastmaster, Krull and Dragonslayer, and those fun movies that capture your imagination when you're a kid. It was awesome to be able to actually try to make one of those movies. It gave me a very good excuse to give my wife for why I needed to be watching Krull on repeat all the time. I really couldn't have gotten away with it, unless I was getting paid for it, so it was a selfish reason to make this film.
James Franco: The first film I ever saw in a movie theater, when I was very young, was The Dark Crystal, and I saw that repeatedly in the theater. Then, there was The Neverending Story and the original Clash of the Titans. We'd watch that on my friends' VCR. They're a little hokey now, but they still have a lot of charm.
SheKnows: Danny, glad to see you're historically accurate in that your character has a mullet.
Danny McBride: [Laughs] Well, historical accuracies were very important to us in this film. We really wanted to make this an educational film and show teens that people back in the middle ages, when there were two moons, acted just like people do now. We really were modeling that haircut off Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon. That was what we were going for with that haircut. They rocked the Mel Gibson Lethal Weapon haircut back then.
SheKnows: The film is hilarious. Was there ever anything in the film that you felt was too raunchy and you'd never get away with it?
Danny McBride: Well, the fact that we made this movie was very surprising to us in the first place. David and I, the whole time, never really were convinced that someone would make this movie. To us, it was just this wild idea for this crazy movie because we wished Hollywood would take more chances and make crazier things. To us, that's what this was. It was an opportunity to make a film that we liked, that just seemed so specific for what we wanted to see, that we were surprised that someone was going to let us do that. There's tons of things that I can't believe are in there.
SheKnows: In the film, your character kind of has to clean himself up for a woman. Have you?
Danny McBride: Well, I got married last October, so I have cleaned my act up. I was born in the South and was raised to respect ladies and be a gentleman, so that's something that's always been important to me.
James Franco on work, work, work
SheKnows: James, you are a workaholic, they are even mocking you on SNL…
James Franco: Not very well though. That guy didn't look like me, at all.
SheKnows: Do you think the public has got it wrong -- that you aren't working 24-7?
James Franco: That's hard. It's out of my hands, really. I went to school for myself. Sometimes, I forget that it's actually not a public act. I'm just there to learn and better myself. That part of my life is not a performance, but in some ways it has become material for public discussion, to the point where the New York Times is interviewing my teachers. But, I don't mind. I'm proud of everything I'm doing.
SheKnows: James, even though this is such a farce, you took your princely duties in Your Highness so seriously…
James Franco: Yeah. I actually tried to play the character pretty earnestly. Because it's a comedy, we can get away with a lot of the cheesiness that maybe can hurt a film that's completely earnest. Because we get away with it, then you can actually address some of the real feelings and dynamics between brothers and jealousy and feelings. That's the secret of bromances. You can talk about relationships between guys and brothers because it's a comedy.
SheKnows: Did you have to train for the sword fighting?
James Franco: Danny was the writer and he conveniently wrote his character as someone that was very bad at using swords, so that he didn't have to train at all. I trained a bit, but I had done, literally, nine months of training, seven days a week for Tristan & Isolde because I was a young actor that didn't know any better. That was insane. I didn't get to use much of it in that film, so I got to use it in this movie.