On the surface, “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” looks like a typical Seth Rogen stoner comedy, in which youthful freedom reigns.
But in fact, it’s the rare sequel that works as a standalone. The frat humor from the original is cleverly flipped, so the material speaks directly to college-age women.
That’s right, Seth Rogen made a movie that empowers women.
And the face of the movie isn’t so much Rogen as its costar Chloë Grace Moretz, the 19-year-old who has quickly become one of Hollywood’s youngest advocates for progressive work for females.
In “Neighbors 2,” she plays Shelby, who after being told that sororities are not allowed to have parties (the group that governs the country’s marjor sororities bans booze in their houses) decides to start her own with a group of friends. They end up finding a house next to Kelly (Rose Byrne) and Mac Radner (Rogen), who already dealt with a frat next to them in the first movie and are trying to sell their house. With the help of former frat boy Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), the girls learn how to make a thriving sorority, while Kelly and Mac try to keep the potential buyers of their house from realizing that Greek life is back on the block.
Amazingly enough, Moretz playing a college freshman who doesn’t want to obey the rules of a school-supported sorority is exactly what Hollywood needs right now.
Business Insider talked to Moretz to find out how she helped make the “Neighbors 2” script sound more millennial, the roles she will absolutely say no to, and the A-listers in Hollywood she turns to for guidance.
- Chuck Zlotnick/Universal
Business Insider: I talked to Seth and Evan and they were very honest that they didn’t have a clue how to write for college girls. So how did you and your castmates help out?
Chloë Grace Moretz: They would write an outline of what they wanted us to do and then we would fill it in with how we like to say things and the stupid stuff that my generation comes up with.
BI: So a scene like the beginning of the movie, where your character and her friends decide to start a sorority, how was that set up?
Moretz: We came up with this funny idea of the girls talking about if they did or didn’t lose their virginity. So the way we put it was, “Oh yeah, I’ve done everything but…” And the boys had no idea that’s how girls our age would approach that subject. So they kind of just let us go with it and where they wanted it to go. So it was really highly improv-driven.
BI: Going into the movie, did it make you nervous that you would have to do a lot of improvisation?
Moretz: The first day was an adjustment. I really hadn’t ever done improv that much before and I very quickly realized that every take is an improv, every take is a new idea. So I would come prepared with ideas and where they wanted the improv to go. It was being ready on the day to make it up. So it took me a day to understand and then the rest of the movie I was ready to go.
- Chuck Zlotnick/Universal
BI: The movie is being praised for its progressive comedy. Could you feel that you were making a comedy that’s different from most in its portrayal of women, gender, sexual preference?
Moretz: Yeah, definitely. We wanted to make the movie progressive, we wanted to make it more interesting for young women to watch because even with the “Bridesmaids”-type movies, we still haven’t had movies for young women to watch who are my age that are as progressive as this. This is super realistic to girls my generation. These are the things we’re talking about and going through, and that was a big idea for all of us. That was what the boys wanted us to incorporate in the movie. It might not be the cutest stuff to come out of a girl’s mouth, but it’s realistic and that’s what people need to come to terms with.
BI: And that it’s still funny and entertaining.
Moretz: It can still be a highly raucous comedy, and honestly, it is almost more funny coming from girls because it’s not been seen before so it’s a lot fresher in our eyes.
BI: But is this still a rare case of a script that comes across your desk that isn’t a stereotypical female role?
Moretz: Oh, 100 percent. This is so a rare case of the type of script you’ll be offered in this day and age, for sure. Especially in comedy. You don’t really come across these stories being made by a group of adult men who made stoner bro comedies. It’s just very unexpected. It’s cool.
BI: Was there a standout moment when you began to pay attention to feminist views and wanted to be a voice on that topic?
Moretz: I think it was kind of after “Carrie” when I really realized, Oh, there’s a lot of stuff going on here for women that I need to clue in on and understand it and fight for what I believe in. Because that was my first movie as a lead, and as a female lead, you’re talking to a lot of adult men about a lot of subjects that they have no idea about, especially a movie which is about a young woman getting her period for the first time and a young woman dealing with mother/daughter issues. Two things adult men shouldn’t have any say in, yet you’re dealing with studio heads and producers and stuff like that and I was faced with a lot of things there that I’d never seen before. I kind of learned to raise my voice and learn that it’s okay to fight for something that you believe in. Don’t just be argumentative, don’t be loud for no reason, but don’t apologize for fighting for something that you believe in.
- Bryan Bedder/Getty
BI: Who are your mentors in the industry?
Moretz: I would say the biggest mentor in my life in terms of actors and people in the industry is Julianne Moore [who also starred in “Carrie”]. She’s someone I’ve always looked up to and who has really helped me out and given me some of the strongest advice I’ve had in my career. She’s just a really powerful, outspoken, smart, sweet woman. And then there’s Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt I think is a very well-spoken woman, I think Scarlett Johansson has said some interesting things on femininity.
BI: Have you had conversations with any of them?
Moretz: Julie and Jess are two people I’ve had very, very forward conversations about all of this with.
BI: What’s the biggest takeaway?
Moretz: We are all being highly misconstrued by media in that sense and that even when we do speak up, it’s not a bridge, it’s like it’s not okay to have an opinion anymore and you have to change that, unless you are saying everything on queue with what CNN or TMZ or any of these quote-unquote news outlets are reporting, then you’re not allowed to have an opinion.
BI: So Jennifer Lawrence coming out saying that her male costars have been paid more than her, was that a big deal in your eyes?
Moretz: It was a big deal in my eyes. It was wild to see from contract to contract that two stars that are equal in fame and equel in supposed star power, that there’s massive inequality in terms of pay. But even then, it’s hard to speak on behalf of our wage gap because it is a very overinflated wage gap. There’s a lot more basic issues with much much lower-paying jobs that I think need to be overcome before we really look at our industry as a whole.
BI: But did that news make you more aware of the deals that your reps are making on your behalf?
Moretz: Personally, it made me want to make sure my lawyers and I get paid exactly equal to the other male counterparts in your movie if they are along the same lines as you.
BI: What are the kinds of characters that are instant “no”s for you if offered?
Moretz: They just need to be progressive for the time period that the movie is placed in. So if it’s a modern movie, it needs to be realistic to our modern-day standards on how we want women to be viewed. But if it’s a movie based in a time period in which women were oppressed, you need to be understanding of the time period and still try to influence some sort of message. I wouldn’t make a movie highlighting the excitement and happiness of progression if it’s a movie about a certain kind of era where women were repressed, it needs to mean something to the story. Less movies are being made that are cool and interesting for women, in that sense. So it’s more of a fight to find the cool scripts or finding someone who is willing to write the cool scripts or find female directors that studios will approve. Those are still few and far between.
“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” opens in theaters May 20.