Thursday, April 24, 2014

Daniel Franzese speaks to us about Mean Girls 10 Years After

In celebration of the 10 year anniversary of Mean Girls, we are absolutely thrilled and honoured to have the opportunity to speak to and interview Daniel Franzese. Everyone who has seen the film will without a doubt remember Franzese as the lovable Damian, who befriends Lindsay Lohan's Cady and has some of the most memorable lines in the film which are so often repeated in pop culture.

This week, Franzese posted a beautiful and brave letter to Damian and has had an incredibly busy and overwhelming week, but is truly humbled by the love and support he has received in the days since. We are truly grateful to him for taking the time to speak to us and enjoyed speaking to him so much!

So Daniel, it's been 10 years since Mean Girls! Does it seem like 10 years or does it just feel like yesterday?
Well, it definitely doesn't feel like yesterday, but 10 years is a long time! It's like how one would feel about a school reunion. You can't believe it is already here.

What do you believe still makes Mean Girls so popular after 10 years?
Definitely Tina Fey's amazing writing and Mark Water's exquisite direction would have to have something to do with it. The reason this film has resonated with so many people is because firstly it is one of the first teen comedies to have the internet brought into it and secondly it because it was based on Rosalind Wiseman's book "Queen Bees and Wannabees" which talks about a lot of the hierarchies and teen cliques which are still around today.

How did you come to find out about the role and what drew you to Damian?
Well there was this New York casting director who found out about the role and she liked me, and thought I would be perfect for the role. So she got me to read for it, but I didn't get the role and they ended up calling me at the last minute and said they were flying me to LA. So I met with Mark and Tina and they liked me too so they put me forward for it. I really had to fight my way through the table reading to show how much I really wanted this role. I got the part and it was excellent!

So what were some of your memories from the first day on set?
First day on set....I really don't remember actually! Oh actually I first scene was the "My Nanna takes her wig off when she's drunk" scene inside the Bath and Body Works kind of shop that Janis works at. It was fun because I was working with Tina! And my Nanna is someone who has been very influential in my life and originally the line was "My Nanny takes her wig off when she's drunk" and I said "Can I say my Nanna?" Tina said "Of course! Sure!" So it was really great that I could put my Nanna in the script like that.

What were director Mark Waters and writer Tina Fey like to work with?
Mark was really great and easy to work with. You know sometimes you feel like you are working for a director and that they are just sitting back and watching, but Mark was very collaborative and open to listening to ideas. And Tina is hysterical. It was a really unique opportunity to not only be able to perform her work, but also to work alongside her and I am really grateful for it.

Did you have a favourite scene which you were in in the film?
You know it changes because every time I revisit it, it is something different. I do like the "pink shirt back" scene, because I came up with the idea to say the "I want my pink shirt back" line and they let me do it, and it was just so good! It was so good to just squeeze one joke in there when the script was so tight and Tina's work was so funny. To just get one joke in there and feel like I was playing with the big SNL players at the time, you know what I mean? So to get something in the script was really an important moment to me as a performer.

Well Tina has a big background in improv herself so she would have appreciated that!
Yeah, absolutely! Well that's how her and Amy (Poehler) met!

So was that scene also the most fun to film, or was that another scene?
Probably me singing "Beautiful", that was really fun because my mom was in the audience that day. So when you see me by myself on stage, the only person in the audience is my mom. When the camera turns around and you see the audience, that was the next day. So it was really fun to film that scene, because even though it was a really funny scene, they didn't want to have a whole group of people laughing when they were recording. So even though it was totally quiet, the crew kept laughing and we had to keep doing it again and again and again!

Excellent! So when you see you throw the shoe at Jason, was that the next day?
Yeah, that was the next day! The shoe was sort of a soft, form material and Mark was kind enough to bring it over to my mom to show her that I wasn't being hurt and that it was really soft.

That's really sweet! If you were a girl, which female character would you have loved to have played in Mean Girls?
Easy! Janis! We're the cool ones!

Out of all the characters in the film, you actually have some of the most memorable quotes in the movie. When you meet people and they figure out who you are, what lines do they feel like they have to say to you?
Certainly the number one and number two are "You go Glenn Coco" and "She doesn't even go here!" I get "She doesn't even go here!" every five minutes. Every time I get a fan come up to me, I like to play along with them, especially when it's someone who gets really excited. They'll be like "I love that movie!" and I go "You don't even go here!" and they'll be like "Oh my god! Did that just happen?!" They just freak out and I get a kick out of that!

And do you get many people who come up to you and say "Oh my god Danny DeVito, I love your work!"?
I get that too a lot. I would actually like to have a conversation with the real Danny DeVito about that because he must hear it ALL the time...I hear it all the time! I would be like "That was me, dude! Sorry!"

That's so cool! So on the set, who was the biggest practical joker?
You know it's really funny, but comedians like we are who work on that set, believe it or not we take comedy very seriously. So I mean even though we were having fun and cracking jokes a lot, we weren't really playing practical jokes or anything like that as we were really committed to putting out a good product and I am proud to say I think that shows.

It definitely does. Another question about the cast members, who do you think is the least like the character they played?
Rachel McAdams. Rachel McAdams is so cool. So not obsessed with material things or cliques or attitudes. She is just a really nice, normal girl and a really classy person.

Do you keep in contact with any of your co-stars at all?
I do! I see Lindsay (Lohan) a lot now, and Lacey Chabert. Me and Jonathan Bennett have recently reconnected, Rajiv (Surendra) and I are friends and Lizzy and I will always be friends. I see Amanda (Seyfried) every once in awhile. I haven't seen Rachel or Tina in awhile, but I do see Amy a lot. Either at comedy events because Amy's theatre, I train there and perform there quite often. Amy's the queen of that, and also at "Parks and Recreation". I have visited the set there quite a lot because I am friends with a lot of the cast members on that show.

Being such good friends with Lizzy you must be very proud of the success she has had since the film?
Absolutely. She is such a terrific actress and such a beautiful girl. I mean that was one of the things about Mean Girls is that they really gothed her up and made her look like an outsider and she is so gorgeous. Lizzy could have played any part in that movie at that time.

And what's the best thing about Lindsay, because you said you speak to her quite a bit too?
Just recently one of the coolest things I've seen with Lindsay was I was in the apartment with her and she was doing a photo shoot for a magazine. Just seeing the way she would pose and see the way she works the camera, and how many different and beautiful poses she comes up with in such a short amount of time. It was true artistry and I was so impressed and inspired by her watching her shoot with a fashion photographer.

Say you were going to write the sequel for Mean Girls with all the same characters 10 years on, what do you think characters such as Damian, Cady and Janis would be doing?
I think it would be Damian singing and dancing on stage while the rest of the cast is locked in the auditorium! What do you think? Do you want to put money into that? No really, I get a lot of fan fiction thrown at me and people asking "What do you think would happen if Damian came back and...." Not that you sounded like that! But I really don't know how to answer that as know thy are making a Goonies sequel now all these years later so maybe a Mean Girls sequel will happen. So I don't want to put any ideas in because I think whatever it is going to because whatever Tina would put in if she decided to do a sequel, I think most of us would be game and I think it would be brilliant. So I think that we will all just have to wait and see and hope that it will happen one day.

I'm guessing that this would be something you would obviously put up your hand for if it did happen?
I would definitely want to be part of it. This has become such a big part of my life and my body of work as an artist now and will always be. So yeah, I would do anything associated with it as long as it had Tina's stamp of approval.

Fantastic! So obviously you look back on your Mean Girls days with a lot of happiness and a lot of love, is that right?
I do, yeah. You know it really grew on me. For awhile it was a little daunting because I was being pigeon holed into the same type of characters in that period afterwards until I branched out and really started to embrace it. It really made me fall back in love with it, not that I ever really fell out of it, but what made me really fall in love with this movie was the fans reactions. They come up with fan art, creative memes, the way they've done fan fiction, all of the different things the fans have done. So the fans love of the movie has given me a whole new appreciation for it.

Is comedy the genre you work mainly with nowadays? You did work with the horror genre in the film I Spit On Your Grave, but is comedy your favourite?
Comedy is definitely my favourite. I'm a storyteller and I like to tell scary stories, I like to tell sad stories and I like to tell funny stories, but I am in absolute bliss when I am allowed to be funny.

Speaking of comedy, you have become a bit of a YouTube sensation with Shit Italian Moms Say. Did you like working with YouTube? Is it really that different from film?
It was the first time I had actually tried something like that. I think a lot of people who have been at my level who have made movies and stuff don't really go back and do something like that. It's kind of how a lot of my friends who were into comedy were breaking into comedy, but it really got me into making some of my own things. It got me into writing a musical with Hannah LoPatin called "Jersey Shoresical" and then lead to me writing more of my own content, writing some of my own stories and doing my storytelling and now directing a documentary even. That's the power that every young kid has is that they can go on YouTube on do their own things.

So you've made your directorial debut you were saying, can you tell us a bit more about that?
My documentary is called Allee Willis Loves Detroit, and it is about this incredible woman who is a Grammy, Tony, Emmy, Webby award winning and nominated songwriter and artist. She wrote "September" and "Boogie Wonderland" for Earth, Wind and Fire, the "Friends" theme song, "The Color Purple" musical on Broadway, "What Have I Done To Deserve This" for Dusty Springfield and The Pet Shop Boys and all these amazing songs. She wrote songs for the city of Detroit, where we travelled to over 40 locations and had thousands of people doing sing-a-longs and we choreographed music videos on the spot. Just an amazing and heart-warming experience.

That's great! So when will we be able to see that?
We are in post-production right now so it will be some time in 2015.

And you've also done a fair bit of theatre. Have you got any more of that coming up soon?
I'm doing a musical most likely this fall in New York called "Found", based off a found magazine which is a collection of notes, letters and anything written on that people have lost and someone else has found and put into the magazine. So it's a really unique musical about how the book and magazine came about and has an ensemble of people who sing about all the found pieces that people have written all over.

So is singing one of your passions as well?
Definitely! I mean, I'm not like an "American Idol" kind of singer, but I am definitely a musical/ comedy kind of performer.

And that's why you loved singing "Beautiful" in Mean Girls so much!
Yes! Absolutely!

Where would you like to be when the 20th anniversary of Mean Girls rolls around?
At the bank!

Great answer! And who are some actors or directors who you admire who you would like to work with who you haven't yet?
Such a good question, there is so many. I love Todd Haynes, John Waters and Alexander Payne and Kimberley Pierce, there are just so many incredible film makers who I would love to have the opportunity to work with. Wes Anderson....I mean, of course! I love the quirky, I love the odd, I love the queer look at everything and I really want to continue to make movies which make people turn their head and shut one eye and think "What's that about?' and hope they really enjoy it.

So I'm guessing you have seen The Grand Budapest Hotel?
No I have not. It's crazy! I was supposed to go to the premiere, but my very favourite band, my friend's band was performing and I was like "You know, I really want to go to this incredible premiere, but this is more important. It was in Brooklyn and a band was from LA, but was performing in New York so I went there to support them. I am going to check it soon as I remember to breathe! It's been crazy, but good!

What are some of your favourite movies?
I love John Waters films, I love Serial Mom very much. I love It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. I love Casino, I think it's a great film. Just so many great movies. Every time some asks me what my favourites are, I'm like "What genre?"

Thankyou Daniel so much for being here and joining us!
It was such a pleasure, thankyou so much! I get a lot of love on Twitter from Australia, I'm just so happy to connect with people from there.

Below is a clip from our interview with Franzese, which is a must see for any Mean Girls fan! Remember to follow him on Twitter and Instagram @WhatsUpDanny

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