Dylan Sprouse on Returning to Acting and Quarantining With His Girlfriend Barbara Palvin (Exclusive)
By Liz Calvario
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After half a decade away, Dylan Sprouse made the choice to return to acting in 2017, when he shot the R-rated rom-com, Banana Split. Three years later, fans are finally getting the chance to see him onscreen again.
The unconventional Banana Split -- which was written by Hannah Marks and Joey Power -- sees Sprouse and Marks as high school sweethearts, Nick and April, who break up right before heading to different colleges. But it's when their relationship ends that the story really begins.
During the summer between graduation and college, Nick gets a new girlfriend, Clara (Liana Liberato), and April mends her broken heart by striking up a friendship...with her ex's new GF. From there, a beautiful yet messy friendship forms between the two girls, leading to a summer that neither one will forget.
Directed by Benjamin Kasulke, Banana Split first premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2018 and later screened as part of the Toronto International Film Festival's Next Wave program. ET spoke with Sprouse and Marks ahead of the film's discuss the former's return to acting, why Banana Split is so timely and -- amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic -- how they're spending their time at home.
ET: It's a strange time we're living in. How are you passing the time in self-quarantine?
Dylan Sprouse: Catching up on movies and TV shows that we missed. I'm with my girlfriend, Barbara [Palvin], and we're out in New York City, out here in the epicenter of the virus but we're remaining completely indoors as much as humanly possible. In a way, despite the circumstances, it's actually pretty nice considering that we fly around all the time throughout the world and haven't had this much time to spend with each other in a long time.
Hannah Marks:I'm cuddling with my dogs and my boyfriend. We have two Frenchies, so they are keeping us pretty busy and making quarantining a lot better. We just binge-watched Tiger King yesterday, which was insane! We watched all seven episodes in a row. You should go into it not knowing anything about it, because I had no idea and I just clicked play and it's crazy. So we've just been doing the stereotypical things really, just watching a ton of stuff and then we go outside and hula hoop or do something silly and then we come back in.
It's been a couple years since Banana Split was shot and since you had your premiere. How does it feel to revisit it?
Sprouse: It's always nice revisiting a film like this, because it brings back a lot of good memories, particularly with this cast and crew. We were so close on and off the set. This is one of those rare work circumstances where we wanted to hang out and were planning what we were doing after the work day, which is not very common. So for me, going back on press with the cast and crew and seeing them and talking to them has been really nice.
Marks: It's crazy, because it feels like a different chapter of my life. But it's exciting. It's almost more fun to have something come out once you've distanced yourself from it.
Hannah, a writer and producer, what were your biggest hurdles to get this made?
Marks:Oh gosh, there were so many hurdles. A lot of places loved it but then they wouldn't go and make it, so they will option it and think about making it but didn't want to spend the money to risk actually doing it. A lot of it was trying to find the people that were actually passionate enough about it to say, "Yes, we will spend the money and do it." There were a million hurdles. It was hard to get to act in it too, because a lot of people want to cast someone really famous in order to ensure that their money will get made, which I totally understand. But it was important for me from the beginning to make it a smaller, intimate story that I could act in. That was the goal from the start.
Dylan, this movie was one of your first films back when you made your return to acting. What was it about Banana Split that made you want to be a part of it?
Sprouse: The script ended up on my desk and I read it. I kind of popped in, unsure of what it was. They told me it was a rom-com and I was like, "So I should expect to read a typical rom-com..." And it really wasn't. It's innovative, it plays on lot of tropes that are in the genre while completely bashing them and also remaining a really fun lead. I liked the character of Nick. I thought he was clever, how he kind of seemed to be a villain throughout it and then obviously you empathize with him and you realize he's struggling too. He really doesn't get the feel-good ending. I like that. So I called up Hannah and Ben pretty much ASAP and was like, "I'd love to be in this project if you guys would have me." And they said, "Hell yes!"
What was it about Dylan that made him the perfect Nick?
Marks: I grew up watching him on Suite Life [of Zack & Cody] and he always was so sweet, funny and thoughtful, and he was also a child actor just like Liana and I. So we both felt like we would both get along with him and relate to him. He kind of seemed like an easy, natural choice.
Hannah, you have such great chemistry with Liana. What was your favorite moment on set with her?
Marks:We really clicked and have always clicked. We don't always agree on everything, but that's what I love about her. I think some of the best friendships come from having different points of view and wanting to be with each other regardless. [My favorite moment was] doing the scene where Clara and I rap to "Bling Bling." That was like the first or second day of the shoot, and Liana and I had a blast getting to do that together because we had to rehearse it so many times to make it look not rehearsed. That was an exciting moment for us, because we've been doing things like that together since we were not even 10 years old.
Nick and April break up because of the distance. Dylan, you're in a relationship now where you both are busy and traveling a lot. How do you maintain a healthy and happy relationship?
Sprouse: I think that when you really care about someone -- you really love them -- nothing like that is too difficult. I think both Barbara and I are primed, personally, to have some understanding of our situations because we both have been working for so long. It's about finding someone who understands what you're going through and understands the restrictions of what you have to do when you're doing it.
So in our case, we're both very lucky and, at the same time, when you care about someone so strongly, I don't think those things stand as more than a road bump, as a thing you guys can communicate and get over together. We're older now, so we've had a lot of other relationships that weren't good, as most people our age do. And we've had to learn from all of those and then utilize that in what we want out of each other.
Why is this a timely movie in this day and age?
Sprouse: I think it's timely for a lot of reasons, particularly because Hannah, at least when she was writing it, wanted to write a movie that she as a younger woman would be able to watch herself and learn from. That being said, I think it's really poignantly timed in our current space for a release like this. It's empowering, it's interesting, it kind of tackles all the problems that you have out of high school. I also feel like it's a lot more honest that a lot of rom-coms. It's kind of grimy and it's dirty and it feels more like the real experience.
Hannah, this story is based on your life -- or what you imagined would happen after you and a high school boyfriend broke up and you ran into his new girlfriend -- so how does it feel to now be able to share it with a wider audience?
Marks: It's scary, because I definitely want people to know that it's fictionalized. While I am playing an exaggerated version of myself, it definitely is a fictional piece of work and I hope people go into it knowing that.
What do you hope fans get out of Banana Split?
Marks: I hope that you can take away that your platonic friendships are just as important as your romantic ones. I hope it is that mixture of entertainment, escapism, and also has an emotional core and has something that you can relate to. I hope that it's something that gives people joy and is honest and unique when they're watching from home. It's sad to not have our theatrical release anymore, but I hope we reach even more people this way because everyone is at home!