Jeremy Allen White on how ‘The Rental’ explores a paranoid yet realistic situation

Dan Stevens, Sheila Vand and Jeremy Allen White in ‘The Rental.’

Many of us have taken opportunities to utilize the wildly popular home-sharing service Airbnb, or one that is quite similar—and most of the time when we do, it’s without a shadow of a doubt of anything sinister. But when you really think about it, when doing so, you are putting your trust in a complete stranger and almost handing them an occasion to trap you, especially if it’s a home they know the ins and outs of. That exact paranoid notion is what fueled Dave Franco and Joe Swanberg to pen the screenplay for ‘The Rental,’ which is also now Franco’s directorial debut.

‘The Rental’ explores the paranoid yet valid idea of someone renting a home while being watched and hunted by a menacing presence. Not only does it explore the typical suspenseful plots that comes with a horror genre, the film also dives into the complicated and quite messy relationships of two brothers [Dan Stevens and Jeremy Allen White] and their partners [Alison Brie and Sheila Vand.] As audiences watches relationships unravel, they are also simultaneously seeing the buildup of a ‘mad-man’ who’s only motive seems to be to wreak havoc.

Jeremy Allen White, who plays Josh, sat down with Metro to discuss what went into making the film, how it was working with Dave Franco as a director and what he liked about getting to dive into the horror genre.

What was the initial intrigue for you to sign on with this project?

I got like a cold email from Dave. He wrote a really very nice, very complimentary email about having seen some of my stuff—he sent me the script, and an offer and that was so kind. I looked at who else was kind of attached, I had already been a big fan of Dave as an actor, he wrote the movie with the writer/director Joe Swanberg, who I also was a fan of. Allison [Brie] was already attached and I was a fan of hers and Dan [Stevens] and I was a fan of his. So even before I started reading the script, I was already excited because I was such a huge admirer of some of these folks involved. Then, I read the script and I thought it was really interesting, I had never done anything in the horror world and I had never been that interested in it I guess. But I think Dave and Joe wrote this script that was kind of like grounded in something that was a bit more plausible. There was a fear that I think everybody could sort of connect to that seemed more real than some horror films. So I think that was a big part of it, that aspect of the script and then just being such a fan of everybody that he had gotten on board at that time.

Now that you have gotten to work in the horror genre, what did you like about getting to step into a plot that was like that?

It was interesting, I kind of felt like I was shooting two movies. We wanted to approach the movie as something that was really just a character study about these relationships—the relationships between the partners, Josh and Mina and Charlie and Michelle as well. [But] I think for me, one of the relationships that was really interesting was Josh and Charlie as brothers. So, we wanted to approach the breakdowns of these relationships there, and we got to do some really interesting work like that in the morning but then in the evening, there’s blood and jumping and stunts, so it felt really kind of fun. I felt like I got the best of both worlds.

Alison Brie in ‘The Rental.’  Provided

Since the film really does go in-depth with the characters, how would you describe your own character, Josh?

I just read Josh as so tragic, almost like comically tragic. And I just love that he was, to me, a loveable screwup that can’t catch a break. Even before the movie starts, he’s had a rough go at it, and then the movie starts and he’s with this woman who is way out of his league but she really seems to care for him and then you think maybe things are going to turn around for Josh. Then of course, the opposite happens and its just awful thing after awful thing after awful thing. But what struck me was this kid, who I think really did want to get better, do better, impress his girlfriend, impress his brother—he might have even been close to that, but then this movie happened.

Is there a scene or sequence in particular that you were excited to see come to fruition on screen?

We worked really hard from a stunt aspect with the fight kind of sequence, which was fun for me to do just to get physical. The scene that follows is a scene where the four of us kind of realize that we’re in this awful situation and we have to figure out how to get out of it, and that’s where the movie begins to take a turn. I think I really enjoyed shooting that and watching the other actors do what they do so well. I was really excited about seeing that and I think that it turned out really great.

How was it working with Dave Franco as a director?

First, I have to say he truly is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, so that’s always a really nice way to enter a director-actor relationship—just knowing that he’s got you covered. I also think the fact that Dave is a really good actor, you felt that you had a safety net where you could just try things and fall on your face and he would catch you. He was very specific, very prepared and if we were moving on from a scene you knew it was because he got exactly what he wanted. So, I know at least from our standing as actors that we were able to deliver what Dave wanted and he got that out of us.

Writer/director Dave Franco. Provided

The cast and crew for this film was pretty small and the location of Bandon, Oregon was quite unique—how was that overall experience?

It was so fun, Bandon was so beautiful and production put us all up in these little beach cottages that were very close to the water. It was a very small crew and a very small cast, and we were there the whole time for about six weeks because all of the actors are almost in every scene, so, it was really nice and it felt like going to camp or something like that. Everybody got along so well, we spent so much time together and Bandon was so beautiful, but also very small, so there wasn’t much to do, so it was a lot of us going to dinner [together], which was great.

What do you think of a plot of this movie? Has the paranoia with Airbnb and home-sharing ever crossed your mind?

Sure, my family and I went to go stay in an Air Bnb about a month ago and the experience was great, everything was fine. But I do think now as I’m putting my head on the pillow and closing my eyes and getting ready to go to sleep, I think about who else has access to that home or in the time that you’re staying there. It’s something that is easy to overlook and that’s why people still do it all the time, and I’ll continue to do it as well. But it’s certainly something to think about.

This movie had its premiere at Vineland Drive-In Movie Theatre. What do you think about this new set-up for people to experience movies during the pandemic?

I think it’s a very small silver lining in this whole thing and it’s really fun to go and see movies, especially these genre horror movies. To see them under the stars in your car, I think it would be very exciting.

‘The Rental’ opens in theaters and On Demand July 24.

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