Hitting cinemas this week is the brand new comedy Dirty Grandpa, which pits Zac Efron’s uptight lawyer Jason, against Robert De Niro’s Dick, his grandpa who forces him to take him on a road trip to Daytona Beach in Florida for spring break. Also along for the ride is Dermot Mulroney, the father caught between the two of them. This week, we caught up with Mulroney, the stars of such films as Young Guns, My Best Friend’s Wedding and The Grey, to talk about Dirty Grandpa, parenting and playing the cello.
What did you think when you first read the script?
I thought it was the next in a list one movies where you really get grossed out; the raunchiest of raunchy humour, and for me those are great movies and I’m proud to be in one. I could;t believe it when i got tasered and graffitied and dragged off into the adventure.
Being a parent yourself, what are your thoughts on David’s parenting style?
It was cool for me when I realised that all of the raunchy humour is really a disguise for a movie with heart, and you do take the trip with these couple of fathers, so I was very interested in how it dealt with parents’ expectations and how much involvement you have in their life. So, I play the pushy Dad who is trying to force my kid onto the straight and narrow and my father pulls his grandson off the rails.
Do you enjoy playing the militant Dad? Do you prepare for this in any way?
Did I prepare for it? Well, really I had to grow out my holiday mohawk – it was early January when we were starting so I had time, but once I got that sorted, I jumped right in. It was a cool part for me to play. He’s kind of a boring guy.
Are there any similarities between you and David in real life?
No, I’m not quite so buttoned up. I’ve lived in California now for thirty years and travelled around. I’m a pretty easy-going guy, so yes, not so straight and narrow as a parent.
Good to hear.
In the film you’re quite straight-laced, could you tell us the wildest thing you’ve ever done?
Nothing that would compare to anything that’s in the movie. For me just watching De Niro do all that stuff was a thrill.
What is Robert De Niro like off camera?
Well, I found him to be a real congenial guy, I really did. He’s a great guy to spend a little time with. I’d love to get to know him better but, as you know, its kinda fly by night sometimes. It was a good, respectful, on-set experience.
What about Zac Efron? Did you get to know him very well?
A bit too really. For me the most memorable scenes were in that ice-cream van. Of course, there’s additional coverage in a warehouse, so with Jason Mantzoukas and Zac and Bob in that truck was my favourite part. I have one selfie of us. They had to protect the image of what happens to my face, so that wasn’t publicised at all.
That’s one to show the grandkids maybe?
Yes. I wonder how that’s going to play out over time… I’m all in – whatever happens. Nobody made me allow them to draw cocks on my face.
You’ve been in hit shows such as New Girl and Friends, do you prefer being in TV or movies?
The whole program is different over the last couple of years, so I’ve really enjoyed doing a wider variety of types of jobs so I like them both. I’ve had the great fortune of working with great actors every time. You look through the casts [that I’ve worked with] – they couldn’t have been better, and just topped just about everyone else’s experience so, it’s always a privilege to be on any set. The kind of thing where I’ll just do a few days on those couple of shows where they take on their own type of popularity which is really rewarding to see. Shows have such impact on people – that type of sitcom. I kind of underestimated some jobs before, but now its more of an open playing field. It has been a lot of fun for me.
What do you find you get recognised for the most?
Usually it’s ‘you play in the movies, right?’ Or, ‘you’re that guy from that thing,’ and I say ‘yes,’ and then we smile and go about our day. Certainly My Best Friend’s Wedding, now, more recently, New Girl and Friends, because it’s a different type of product. Other movies over time, but those are the main ones. Young Guns has a great following from guys in their thirties now. I’m really proud of being involved in that movie, at that time.
We know you are an accomplished cellist and have played on-screen multiple times, what’s it like combining your talents?
I can’t believe it. Sometime it was already in the part and authorities the director or the writers would include it or I’d suggest it. Most recently I played in Mozart In The Jungle and that was written as a cello player so I’m sue had me in mind for that part when they came up with it. I never would have expected that. I really thought that people would look at acting and the cello as two different tracks, and I look back and realise how intertwined they have been.
It must be a huge compliment for someone to write a part just because they know that you can play the cello.
Yes, it was. Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman. I’ve known both of them as dear friends for a long time. Jason ever since he was a teenager really. It’s rare that that would happen like that. It’s a unique combination of elements and even when they won the Golden Globe recently, the producer said ‘if you play an instrument get in touch,’ or something like that. They have kind of a plan. Bernadette Peter sings on the show now. It’s a really creative show that way.
Do you manage to find time to continue friendships with cast members after filming ends?
Less so now. I recently ran into Bob in New York in a hotel lobby and I went to give him a handshake and he came in to give me a hug. I was pleased. We’re good, me and Bob. It’s pretty rare [to remain friends] really. You known Julia [Roberts] and I are still friends from My Best Friend’s Wedding, and others…
What’s next for you? Are you able to share what you’re working on at the moment?
I was just thinking about a movie I did last year with Abby Cornish called Lavender, which will probably be a little while before it’s completed but it’s a really cool psychological thriller we made in Toronto. Sleepless Night, which Open Road releases starring Jamie Foxx and Michelle Monaghan. It’s an indoor-action thriller – kind of like Die Hard in a casino with Jamie being an awesome superstar in it, so I’m thrilled to be involved in that. It’ll probably be out later in the year.
You’ve said you’re a very laid back father, but are you keen for your kids to follow you into acting?
No, I try to keep arts in front of them, whether its music or even just museum trips. I don’t expect anything of them – it’s hard enough for everyone just to get their homework done at night. Let’s just get them through grade school, and then see. We’ve all certainly seen that being a child actor is unhealthy so, I wouldn’t do that.
What do they think of your career?
I think there’s mainly indifference. It’s just the comings and goings; whether I’m home or not.
So they don’t get excited that your alongside Zac Efron or Robert De Niro? It’s just like.. when’s Dad home?
It is more like that, and then brief friendly greetings from strangers in strange places.
Dirty Grandpa opens in the UK from Friday 29th January, 2016.