Zac Efron Dirty Grandpa

Zac Efron Dirty Grandpa

Zac Efron Dirty Grandpa

Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Zac Efron, Robert De Niro, Julianne Hough
Director: Dan Mazer
Genre: Comedy
Rated: MA15+
Running Time: 102 minutes

Synopsis: Jason Kelly (Zac Efron) is one week away from marrying his boss's uber-controlling daughter, putting him on the fast track for a partnership at the law firm. However, when the straight-laced Jason is tricked into driving his foul-mouthed grandfather, Dick (Robert De Niro), to Daytona for spring break, his pending nuptials are suddenly in jeopardy. Between riotous frat parties, bar fights and an epic night of karaoke, Dick is on a quest to live his life to the fullest and bring Jason along for the ride. Ultimately, on the wildest journey of their lives, 'dirty" grandpa and his uptight grandson discover they can learn from one another and form the bond they never had.

Dirty Grandpa
Release Date: January 28th, 2016

About the Production

The Story

Young, buttoned-up, conservative lawyer Jason Kelly (Zac Efron) is in the final stages of preparation for a picture-perfect wedding to his seemingly ideal fiancée Meredith Goldstein (Julianne Hough) when Jason's beloved paternal grandmother passes. Though it's the week before his big day, everyone's concerned for Grandpa Dick (Robert De Niro), suddenly alone for the first time after 40 years of marriage.

After the funeral, Dick asks if Jason can drive him to Florida the following day, where he can grieve in the solace at their beloved getaway home. Knowing that Dick's license has been suspended – and with the promise that he'll be back the next day – Jason reluctantly agrees.

Once the trip begins, Grandpa's true agenda emerges and it's decidedly not one of him moping silently in a car. Between the golf detour, the cigar chomping, hard drinking, and the Daytona Beach detour that goes completely off the rails, Jason quickly learns that the grandpa he knows and loves is not exactly the man Jason thought he was. Yet the pair's crazy, debauched and revealing road trip will help Jason come to grips with who he is too, which may be an even bigger surprise. With these very different blood relatives, learning something about how life should be lived turns out to be a two-way street.

The Script

For screenwriter John M. Phillips, the storyline for Dirty Grandpa came after an eyeopening night on the town with his father where he witnessed his dad's surprisingly stellar skills with the ladies. 'We began talking to some women and my dad was charming, funny and just crushed it, I couldn't believe it. He made a passing joke that he would get back out there pretty quickly should my mother pass away and I was shocked to see that side of him. That experience mixed with some ideas I held on to from my Upright Citizens Brigade days spawned this story and some of the characters," he explains.

The resulting script was an uproarious comedy with heart that offered an uncensored perspective on adulthood, aging and sexuality, all within a story that ultimately celebrates our need to break free occasionally and live life to the fullest. The script eventually made its way to the desk of producer Barry Josephson, who immediately recognised the universal appeal of the story and its comedic brilliance.

'I read Dirty Grandpa as a spec script and couldn't stop laughing," recalls Barry Josephson. 'What struck me was John Phillips' original comedy voice. This writer is a massive talent. He's not afraid to really go there, and then allow the characters to recover from going there! But on second read I realised that the story really was about an emotional journey, and that the relationship between Dick and Jason felt unique. I especially related to skipping a generation, where perhaps your grandparent has more influence, and more pure love, than that of a parent."

Filling Out the Family Tree

As Dick and Jason embark on their seemingly innocent overnight trip to Florida, Jason begins to notice that Grandpa isn't quite himself. Expecting to accompany a grieving widower for a brief trip of reflection and inter-generational male bonding, Jason discovers a foul-mouthed, scotch-drinking horndog with only one objective: sex, and lots of it. Dick had been a faithful, loving and doting husband to his wife for over forty years, but after losing her, he can only live life forward – Dick's ready to get busy. This is his moment to live it up and throw it down, but he needs a wingman.

During the writing process, John Phillips had only one actor in mind for the role of Dick Kelly: the incomparable Robert De Niro, whom John Phillips never in a million years imagined would be willing to take on the provocative role. 'It's crazy because when I wrote the script I was living in New York and always only had Robert De Niro in mind, who has that perfect blend of comedic timing and imperiousness that the character needed. He also had to be slightly terrifying and really smart, and Robert De Niro certainly embodies all of those qualities," explains John Phillips.

On paper, Jason Kelly is living the American dream. Groomed from a young age by his loving yet controlling father David, Jason is well on his way to having it all: a successful career as a corporate lawyer and an upcoming wedding to his perfect mate, Meredith. It all fits right into the ideal life plan. A daughter of one of the firm's partners, Meredith is a beautiful and equally successful woman who sees Jason as meeting all her life partner qualifications. But while things look heavenly on the surface, Jason is proof that things aren't always as they seem. Between his father's meddling and Meredith's relentless need for control, Jason can't remember the last time he made a decision for himself.

For the role of Jason, Dick's conservative and uptight grandson tricked into serving as copilot to Dick's last effort at youth-grabbing wish fulfilment, the script was sent to actor Zac Efron, whose recent foray into the comedy realm with Neighbors proved to be a huge success. Zac Efron found the script shocking, smart and hilarious and was all-in, particularly when presented with the possibility of working with the incomparable Robert De Niro. 'It's every guy's dream to work with Bob De Niro," says Zac Efron. 'I was really curious how we would work together. He's been doing this for so long, he's such an icon, yet I don't think I've ever seen him do a role like this. The day I heard this could potentially happen, every antenna went up. It was like, -Could I even work with this guy?' Our histories are so different! There's Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver, and then there's me, High School Musical!" Zac Efron continues, 'being such a big fan, it was an opportunity to learn from one of the absolute greatest actors that's ever lived. He's such a presence on camera – formidable and dramatic and real – that when he applies all those talents and skill to comedy, the screen just blows up. I would break constantly because the stuff that would come out of his mouth was insane. Then the movie ended up being really cool, so it was a double win."

With the two lead actors in place, it was paramount to find a director who had an innate sense of what goes into making great comedy. The script ended up in the hands of Dan Mazer, a seasoned creative force who wrote and produced the groundbreaking comedies Borat and Bruno with long-time collaborator Sacha Baron Cohen. Though not typically open to directing material he didn't write himself, Dan Mazer was blown away by the script and agreed to meet with the producers and writer John M. Phillips. 'It's pretty rare that you get a script that outrageously funny with a great story that comes alive on the page, and we seemed to have a shared vision for the film. When I heard who was attached, I thought it was incredible and was immediately in," recalls Dan Mazer.

Dan Mazer saw plenty of comedy in the story of Dick, a loose cannon, and Jason, an uptight guy, enduring a series of misadventures, but he was also taken by the road to enlightenment Dick's grandson Jason takes. 'On paper Jason has the perfect existence that is fundamentally not him," explains director Dan Mazer. 'He wanted to be a photographer but has somehow been waylaid into a career as a lawyer with a fiancé who's very beautiful and on the surface of things perfect for him, but really isn't. His journey is about knowing that there are other options and rediscovering his true self."

As with all road trip films, chemistry between actors is essential. When filming commenced, it became quickly apparent that Robert De Niro and Zac Efron were ready to have fun with the material and came ready to play. Recalls producer Bill Block, 'It was wonderful to see Zac Efron and Robert De Niro laughing after and sometimes during a take. They shared a warmth, camaraderie and mutual respect playing this together."

There was more to it than just finding the laughs in every situation, however. Adds producer Barry Josephson, 'Zac Efron and Robert De Niro both knew, with all the comedy on the page, they needed to ground the characters emotionally. The chemistry was real. Individually and together with Dan Mazer, they worked on each other's characters and truly enjoyed going at each other. It was like a great boxing match with admiration, where the boxers hug it out at the end."

For an actor somewhat new to the world of comedy, any questions concerning Zac Efron's comfort and skill within the genre were quickly put at bay. 'I was an admirer beforehand but am now exponentially more impressed with his abilities as an actor, as a comedian. His versatility, depth and authenticity are frankly incredible," comments Dan Mazer. 'He's got a difficult job because a lot of the laughs on paper go to Dick but he plays the straight man with such incredible ease and skill and keeps it fresh and makes it so much funnier than it is on the page."

The Trifecta

On the way to Boca Raton, Jason and Dick run into Shadia, Lenore and Bradley, three free-spirited college students headed to Daytona Beach for one last epic spring break prior to graduation. Coincidentally, aspiring photographer Shadia happened to be in the same high school photography class as Jason and it is immediately evident to Dick that there is chemistry between them. Always thinking on his feet, Dick tells the trio that he is a college professor working on a story for Time magazine with his 'buddy" Jason, who happens to be an accomplished photojournalist. In another interesting twist of fate, Shadia's friend Lenore is on a mission to complete the ultimate college trifecta: to have sex with a freshman, an alumni and a professor. With only the professor category left incomplete, Lenore locks in on Dick and the feeling is mutual.

The serendipitous meeting is significant in that it's an opportunity to satisfy both of Dick's goals. Explains producer Michael Simkin, 'Dick sees a connection between Jason and Shadia, who Dick sees is the kind of girl that will bring out Jason's true self. Between that and the mutually odd and exciting fascination between Dick and Lenore, their trip takes a whole new direction."

That direction involves some hilariously compromising situations as the gang detour to Daytona, but with Shadia around, whatever outrageousness Jason endures seems to have a bright side. Jason may be seven days away from marrying another woman, but spending time with the free-spirited Shadia is a welcomed respite from the uptight, controlling life that awaits back home. Shadia's desire to follow her passion and make the most out of it awakens something in Jason.

'It makes sense how Jason is immediately disarmed by Shadia's comfort and carefreeness and how that would be scary when he's to be married in a week," says Michael Simkin.

The Female Leads

When searching for the right actress to bring Shadia to life, Dan Mazer quickly realised that up-and-coming actress Zoey Deutch had all the qualities necessarily for the role. Says Mazer, 'Zoey was the first person we saw and I immediately knew she was it. Not only is she incredibly beautiful, but she has the rare combination of beauty and comedy, which is a very hard thing to find."

About playing Shadia, Zoey Deutch says, 'Shadia brings Jason out of his shell and makes him re-evaluate his life. For the first time in a while he's able to differentiate between what's important to him and the expectations of his parents and fiancée."

As the polar opposite of Shadia's cheerful nature, Jason's fiancée Meredith is a type-A personality who's every move is curated to exude perfection. For actress Julianne Hough, the role offered the opportunity to play outside of her comfort zone and explore the world of R-rated comedies. 'The script was so funny and crass and offered an opportunity to explore a completely different role for me," explains Julianne Hough. 'Meredith is Miss Perfect: she's controlling, overwhelming and has to have everything in order. She seems put together but as things unravel you see little things come out and realise she is bat-shit crazy."

For Dan Mazer, the idea of playing role reversal with America's sweetheart Julianne Hough was fun to explore. 'Julianne Hough has to play the perfect woman, which essentially in real life she is. But what's brilliant about her playing Meredith is the idea of making Julianne Hough channel that kind of bitch in her that is a million miles away from who she is. There's a real delight in seeing that and she's been very game."

For the role of Lenore, the sexually charged dynamo ready to fulfil her and Dick's carnal wishes, actress/comedian Aubrey Plaza jumped at the opportunity to play the limitpushing, dedicated character. Says Aubrey Plaza, 'When Lenore meets Dick and discovers that he is a professor, it's game on, this is her mission. The entire movie she is trying to have sex with him, literally in every scene. One of the reasons I signed on to this movie was because of Lenore's clear objective; I love a simple motivation," she laughs.

While most actresses would be intimidated by working (and at times twerking) alongside prolific actor Robert De Niro, Aubrey Plaza didn't skip a beat. 'For a young actress like Aubrey Plaza whose character has to seduce a significantly older man, the role might be intimidating," explains Dan Mazer. 'When that man happens to be the greatest actor of a generation, I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't be intimidated by that. However, not only is Aubrey not intimidated, I think she's seen it as a personal challenge to be as outrageous, forward and uncompromising as humanly possible with Bob and has been so ludicrously brave and fearless. She made Lenore something that far exceeds what I ever imagined on the page."

Aubrey Plaza takes perverse pride in the extreme comedy she and the film legend shared together. 'I've done scenes with Robert De Niro where I've done bong rips from his crotch and blown smoke right into his mouth, wheel-barrowed him on the dance floor, stuff I never thought I would ever do with Robert De Niro," she says. 'It's been great and he's really unpredictable and a gentle, kind person. I still can't believe it happened but it did and there's proof; it's on camera and it's in a real movie."

Comedic Companions

With two primarily dramatic actors at the centre of the comedy, it was important to the filmmakers to surround Zac Efron and Robert De Niro with a strong ensemble cast deeply rooted in the comedy world. 'Some of the supporting actors brought in to play various parts are insanely good comedians who live without scripts," says Dan Mazer.

The production tapped comedic heavy hitters Jason Mantzoukas, Adam Pally, Mo Collins and Henry Zebrowski to raise the comedic bar. Says John M. Phillips, 'I think we really lucked out in the casting getting strong improvisers who you give a framework of a character and bring something that wasn't there on the page."

Upon arrival in Daytona Beach, (a.k.a. Spring Break Central), Dick and Jason meet a local drug dealer/self-proclaimed party concierge known as Tan Pam, played by Jason Mantzoukas. An eccentric and ridiculously conspicuous drug dealer whose number of arrests are deserving of a frequent-customer card, Pam curiously has a hand in all the trouble Jason finds himself in. 'Pam describes himself pretty accurately as being simultaneously an asset and a liability to Dick and Jason. I'm always around somehow giving them drugs, getting them in trouble only to later help them out in a jam," explains Jason Mantzoukas.

Mantzoukas was excited by the prospect of pushing boundaries in the comedy. 'It makes me happy that the film is as raunchy as it is and feels like an eighties movie to me. I love movies that have heightened stakes but are relatable, like something as simple as a road trip between grandfather and grandson that turns into absolute nonsense," laughs Jason Mantzoukas.

Tension within the ranks of the Kelly family run high at Grandma Kelly's funeral, exacerbated by the hugely inappropriate behaviour of Jason's Cousin Nick. Played by comedian Adam Pally, Nick operates without a filter and never fails to make any situation remarkably awkward. Says Adam Pally, 'As far as the Kelly boys are concerned, Nick is the black sheep. Everybody has a family member whose trouble and he is the guy who will always make a situation worse. They love him the way you love an old video game system that stops working: you're not going to throw it away; you're just going to try to keep it out of eyesight most of the time."

Ready, Set, Improv

A master at improv, Adam Pally was thrilled by the opportunity to push the envelope. 'There was a ton of improvisation on set and there were definitely moments where I wondered if we crossed the line. Dan Mazer and John M. Phillips created such a great collaborative environment and encouraged everyone to take swings," says Adam Pally.

'For me, the script is always the starting point," explains the director. 'What I love and find exciting about making comedies is going in on the day and finding new laughs. Every day it's been a challenge to get through the takes without laughing. From day one Adam Pally came in and set the tone and made everybody laugh. I think he took it as a personal challenge to make Robert De Niro break, and he did."

Having a comedy vet like Mazer at the helm, Michael Simkin says, 'Dan makes great choices and helped elevate the material. He works with an open mind and if someone has an idea that's better than his favourite idea he'll throw his favourite idea out the window."

Improvisational gold was found with actors Maureen 'Mo" Collins and Henry Zebrowski, who play ridiculously inept local Florida police officers on the spring break beat who bear witness to some of Dick and Jason's most outrageous antics. For Henry Zebrowski, a past Upright Citizen's Brigade collaborator with John M. Phillips, the opportunity to play with the material was unparalleled. 'The great thing about this was coming on to it knowing that there was going to be a lot of improv. We could literally be as dirty as we wanted to be, which was pretty fantastic."

Improv without limits created an atmosphere on set that led to takes sometimes up to 20 minutes at a time going well beyond the page and offering completely different material to pull from. 'We try out ten different versions of a joke, so if something doesn't work we have multiple options that might. Every day we tried to make ourselves laugh, make the script better and make the crew laugh, which has led to some of the funniest lines in the movie," says Dan Mazer.

Producer Barry Josephson adds that the goal to keep themselves laughing was always met. 'There were days where we laughed so much on set, we'd need to go out to dinner, decompress, and talk about what direction we'd taken," he says. 'Most fortunate was having Dan Mazer's experience with scripted and improv comedy to always steer us in the right direction."

Family Matters

Beyond the outrageous situations and uncensored comedy lies a dramatic heartbeat that touches on the importance of family and acceptance. Due to a disappointing relationship with his own father, David went the polar opposite direction with Jason and became overcontrolling

and overbearing. However, what Jason and Dick go through by simply trying to survive their crazy road trip and come to grips with who each other is, bears fruit when each man's relationship with the man in the middle – David – comes out into the open. It leads to stronger bonds all the way around. 'Ultimately the movie is about these three generations of men trying to make things right with each other. At the heart of the story is an intergenerational knot to untie," notes Phillips.

Though he's not on the road trip with them, Dick's son and Jason's father looms large as the man at the centre of their combustible differences. Played by actor Dermot Mulroney, David Kelly's values and lifestyle choices were heavily influenced by his upbringing, and the absence of his own father, Dick. As a result, David has groomed Jason to follow in his footsteps. Explains Dermot Mulroney, 'David is the scion of the family, a repressed country clubber type who does everything by the book. He's groomed his son to be the same buttoned-up type and has a hand in making all the decisions in his life."

For Mulroney, the role offered the opportunity to explore unchartered territory for the actor and play with comedy improv. 'To be honest, I've never been in a film this raunchy, but honestly these kind of comedies are my favourite types of movies. I've been doing this for 30 years and was thrilled to have the chance to try something new. I've been on films where there is potential to play with some of the dialogue but this level of improv is full-on mayhem. It was phenomenal."

The fact that Dick and Jason are polar opposites may spark plenty of humour, but it's born out of well-thought-through characterisations recognisable to anyone with a family with whom they don't always see eye to eye. Notes Dan Mazer, this film 'has a heart and semblance of integrity and authenticity underneath it."

Close-Knit Comedy

Witnessing his outrageous screenplay come to life was a thrill for John M. Phillips, an experience he will not soon forget. 'Hopefully audiences will appreciate seeing Robert De Niro and Zac Efron in roles you've never seen them play before. The fact that Robert De Niro has said these ridiculously crass things I've written has been a great accomplishment for me, one in which I will lord over my friends and enemies for the rest of my life," jokes John Phillips.

For Dan Mazer, the experience of working on a film based on a hilarious script with the calibre of participating talent was a thrill. 'Every day I rang home to my wife and told her about the unbelievable things I asked Robert De Niro to do on a daily basis. Entering a dialogue with the greatest actor of my generation about how his character might do offensive things - is a moment that will never leave me." Adds Dan Mazer, 'My life just might have peaked at that point."

Zac Efron notes that as packed with laughs as it is, the undercurrent of family bonding and self-expression in Dirty Grandpa gives the comedy a richer texture. 'At the end of the day, the movie is about family coming back together, and about being set free," says Efron. 'It's a story of growth and happiness. It's just that the road there is ridiculously funny and chaotic."

Guaranteed to be a boundless, wild ride, Dirty Grandpa won't disappoint, either as a raucous laugh-getter or a compelling, inspiring story of two men seeking different types of fulfilment. Says Dan Mazer, 'Audiences can look forward to seeing a film that is more outrageous and extreme than they can possibly imagine given that it stars Robert De Niro and Zac Efron, but underneath all the debauchery is a real heart and real soulfulness that feels hand-in-hand with this kind of edgy humour." All road trips lead somewhere. But in this case, it's a destination of understanding, growth and bonding that points the way forward for both Dick and Jason, who come to realise how much they had to learn from each other. There may not be many dignified moments on their journey, but the ultimate indignity is tolerating a life you don't want, and that's where Jason grows the most from hanging out with his one-of-a-kind Dirty Grandpa.

Dirty Grandpa
Release Date: January 28th, 2016


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