Dave Franco’s recently released thriller The Rental has been dominating the virtual box office this month. The concept for the horror about a home-sharing vacation that goes wrong was inspired by Franco’s personal anxiety around staying in a stranger’s abode. Yet the actor admits its not enough to actually stop him from using apps like AirBnB.
“I still use all of these home-sharing apps,” says Franco. “But I have to admit sometimes I found myself thinking about what could go wrong. It’s only natural. So the concept was kind of pulled from that paranoia.”
Franco even used home-sharing apps leading up to and during production, in some cases using those experiences to inform The Rental‘s script. We chatted with the actor from his home in Los Angeles about his complicated yet flourishing relationship with homestays and his newfound love for the Oregon Coast.
This is a movie about home rental that really takes place on a single property. How did you start your search for the right spot?
The house is an important character in the movie. So we did a very extensive search up and down the west coast and eventually found this perfect spot in southern Oregon. It is in a little town called Bandon, and the vibe in the area was ideal because there is so much natural beauty that would draw city dwellers into wanting to vacation there. But at the same time, there is the possibility for it to turn ominous under the wrong circumstances.
The house itself is perched on the edge of a jagged cliff literally in the middle of nowhere. I remember when I first scouted the house, I stayed there the night, in one of the bedrooms, and everything really changed in the house when the sun went down. There are so many of these large windows where I started to feel like I was in a fishbowl. And to a degree, it made me feel a little vulnerable, and exposed, like someone could possibly be watching my every move. That experience is what made me realize that it would be the perfect spot for the film.
Did you always have southern Oregon in mind? Or was that a place you found?
I originally set the film in Big Sur, which is maybe Alison and my favorite place in the country. It is logistically very difficult to shoot there though, so when this spot in Bandon became an option. I felt that not only does it have that Big Sur aesthetic, but it felt even grander. It almost made me feel like I was in Ireland. Getting everyone up there was a little bit of a headache — there aren’t any airports close by. The house is at the end of a two-mile dirt road through the woods. So you can imagine how much of a headache it was getting our giant trucks with the equipment down that narrow path. There were obstacles that came with shooting in the middle of nowhere but ultimately it was all worth it.
Had you been to that area before?
I had never been to the Oregon coast before, and I have now fallen in love with it. We look back on our time there very fondly, and genuinely talk about how nice it would be if we could find a way to live there part of the year. The nature. The people. The general vibe made us feel very at home. We stayed in a little cabin on the beach, and every night Alison and I would go out and see some of the sunsets, which were the best we had seen in recent memory. We brought our cat Harry with us, who had never seen the ocean, and he would just look out the window all day long. He has, sadly, since passed, but it was nice to have that time out there with him. It was a pretty special time.
Did you do any trips using home shares leading up to the filming?
Few months before we started filming I did go to an AirBnB in Big Sur with friends from my childhood. One of them brought their dog, and the constant maintenance and stress that came with trying to make sure that the dog didn’t destroy the house, or run away, was such an affecting experience that it inspired me to write a dog into the script. That was a last-minute addition to the plot, and it helped immediately add tension to the story, because they aren’t supposed to have animals on the property. For the rest of the film, the dog becomes a constant concern, and brings with him a whole other level of conflict.
How did you find the place that you and Alison stayed at during the shoot? What did you like about it?
We found it on AirBnB. What can I say? I guess I was trying to explore that mental disconnect that happens when we stay at a stranger’s home. I will say though that my paranoia has reached new heights since filming the movie. Now when I stay in a rental home, there is no question I am getting up on chairs and looking everywhere that there could potentially be a camera or anything like that. I liked that the spot was simple and quaint. It is actually called “The Old Rustic Cabin” and it definitely lives up to the name. I loved that it was on the beach more than anything. It was a nice place to put our minds at ease during a time that was bound to be a little stressful.
How did the cast get along during the filming process — which was already sort of quarantined in that it was remote and just used one set?
Everyone became a family. The smartest thing that I did was really spending the time to vet the cast and crew that I was bringing into the project. I wanted at least three glowing reviews of each person before I brought them on board. Obviously I wanted people that were talented, but it was almost just as important to me, if not as important, that everyone was very nice. And that they were going to work their asses off. So the casting and hiring process was a lot longer than usual, but in the end it made my job a lot easier than it could have been. Not just the work, but it made my life much more enjoyable as well. The group was just really friendly and wanted to hang out and help each other in our downtime.
How often do you find yourself using home shares?
I don’t use home-shares extensively, but I have been staying at AirBnBs for a handful of years now. I like them for the obvious reasons, like visiting a city or town and feeling more integrated into the town and lifestyle. You just feel more like a local when you are staying somewhere like that as opposed to a hotel. Since starting this movie people have asked me if I have any nightmare stories, and the truth is I haven’t really.
I do have a hotel horror story. I was staying in a pretty dingy one while working on a pretty small movie. I went out to work, and house cleaning turned over my room. I woke up, and there was a splotch of dried blood next to my face. I checked my body and I was not bleeding, so that was someone else’s blood obviously, and the “brand new” sheet that they put on my bed that morning. I called up production and asked them to give me a new hotel, because I draw the line at sleeping next to a stranger’s blood.
What kind of places do you like to stay when you use AirBnB?
I am really drawn to houses that are very isolated and in nature. Generally speaking, when we go on vacation, we aren’t the type of people who want to walk around and see all of the sights. We are more the kind of people who just want to lounge and read all day by a pool or by the ocean. We are looking to just turn our brains off as much as possible. The more remote the better. The primary goal is to spend time together, because during the rest of the year there is a lot of travel and work, which means that we don’t get to see each other as much as we would like.
Where would you like to go next and stay at a home share?
Joshua Tree is one of the places that I would like to go back to soon — I haven’t spent a lot of time there. But I love how strange it is. There is a weird vibe there, it feels like a different planet in a way. I love the rock formations. I love just getting lost in the park and seeing where you end up, because you could go there 50 times and end up somewhere different each time.
The Rental is now available on demand.