Christopher Mintz-Plasse got his big break as the legendary McLovin in Super Bad. He’s continued that comedic trend with the likes of Role Models and This is the End, as well as animated features like ParaNorman and How to Train Your Dragon. He’s even slipped a little genre work in there, playing the main villain in the two Kick-Ass movies and Evil Ed in the underrated reboot of Fright Night. He returns to comedy this summer as a fraternity brother in the new Seth Rogen comedy Neighbors. In an exclusive interview with Mania.com, he talked about the part and the work that went into it.
Question: You’re not someone who has to take a supporting role these days. What was the appeal of this one?
Christopher Mintz-Plasse: This is my third movie with Seth [Rogen] and Evan [Goldberg], my third movie with Dave[Franco], and I miss them when we’re not working together. I was at an engagement party with Evan, a part for a mutual friend, and he came up to me and said, “We have a role for you in our new movie, and we’d love for you to do it.” When guys like that ask you to be in their movie, it’s kind of hard to say no. They’re so funny and so clever. So hey, I’m only in it for ten minutes? Don’t care! You want to keep working with your friends, and you don’t want to pass up the chance to be involved in something really funny.
Q: I know these kinds of films can be very improvisational. Did you have any influence on who this guy was? Did you tailor any of it once it was on the page?
CMP: I kind of took the basics and ran with it. I’ve been to a couple of frats and my brother is in a fraternity. But frankly, that’s less important to this character than his, um, physical attributes. The biggest thing about this guy is his penis. Literally. That’s a physical gag and on the page there isn’t much there. You have to be careful not to make the guy a one-note dick joke either. So we thought about it and talked about it, and I decided that this guy is kind of a numbskull because he defines himself solely by his dick. The only thing he cares about is his penis. Suddenly, you can see the foolishness in his attitude and the potential for comedy. I just kind of took that ball and ran with it.
Q: Possibly both balls?
CMP: [Laughs.] Possibly both balls, yes.
Q: What is it about fraternities that makes such good comedy?
CMP: Well, I don’t want to say anything that’s going to piss off any fraternities. They’re an eclectic group and I don’t think the party animal stereotype necessarily applies to anything but a small percentage of them. But I think that those possibilities are part of it. You have a lot of options you can play with. The hazing. The brotherhood. The relations with the rest of the colleges. That’s a wide canvas to paint on and if you want to send up frat life, you have a lot of targets to choose from.
Q: How challenging is it to stay serious when you have jokes about house-wide hot boxes and giant penis sex?
CMP: It’s actually easier than you think. Good comedy is really hard to do, and in order to make it work, you have to take the situation really seriously. There was a scene you mentioned, where we try to hotbox the house. I have bad asthma and there was a lot of smoke: not pot smoke, obviously, but effects smoke. We shot that scene for five days and at the end I had to go to the hospital and have my lungs cleared. That was tough.
Q: Are there things you look for in a role? Things you’re looking to expand into?
CMP: Right now, I’m at that age where it might be comfortable to ease into a different type of role, but I’m really enjoying working on comedy and animation like the How to Train Your Dragon movies. Obviously you want to do good work. Any script that they want me for and that I feel like I would pay to see is going to merit serious consideration. Who you’re working with also matters. You’re going to be on set with these people for three or four months, and then promoting the film with them for another month. So I really look for directors I can respect and enjoy, and actors who I respect and enjoy. But as I get older, that may change, and I’d definitely like to try films with more dramatic heft.