Michael Corrente gave Freddie Prinze Jr. the chance that Griffin Dunne wouldn't

Freddie Prinze Jr. breaks out of the romantic comedy mold in the period coming-of-age drama, Brooklyn Rules. It's a different direction for him and he plays the tough guy well. Freddie stars alongside Scott Caan and Jerry Ferrara as childhood buddies who grow up differently in a mob ruled neighborhood. He got the part on his second effort. The film was originally with Griffin Dunne, who didn't see him as the lead. It was only when Michael Corrente took over did he got a chance to prove himself. The story is very similar to his actual childhood. Before stardom hit, Freddie was another poor Latino kid from New Mexico just trying to make it big. I'd say things turned out okay. It isn't a bad life when you go home to Sarah Michelle Gellar after a hard day of acting.

So you play a kid from Brooklyn here, but where are you actually from?

Freddie Prinze Jr: I grew up all over the place, but the majority of my years were spent in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My mom had hoped it would be safer there, but it ended up being the gang murder capital of the country. So I got out as soon as I could when I turned eighteen.

How did you learn to 'play' Brooklyn? Did you have any problems with the accent?

Freddie Prinze Jr: As far as the voice goes, that's easy as pie. I had to lose my accent just to get jobs in this business. If I spoke the way I did when I moved to California, I would have been selling drugs and carrying a gun. Speaking Spanish isn't a benefit in Hollywood. (laughs) As for the rest of it, it's about a guy who didn't have much of an education, but was street smart. He's able to look someone in the eye and know if they're someone to be reckoned with. That's how I grew up. I have no education. I grew up rough in Albuquerque. That's just the way it was. So relating to a guy who wants to get out of his environment was not hard to do. The only challenge was revisiting some of the problems I grew up with. When I was younger, there were four of us. The best of us was taken right before I graduated high school. To relive that in this movie was tough.

Can you talk about how you got this part? It's a very interesting story...

Freddie Prinze Jr: I really trusted Michael [Corrente, the director]. He gave me a shot with this movie when others wouldn't. Griffin Dunne wouldn't...he was the original director of the film. So I trusted Michael, and believed in him. And was willing to go places for him that's tough to do if you don't have a director that you believe in.

So were you just persistent? How did the role finally get to you?

Freddie Prinze Jr: Fortunately, he [Griffin Dunne] was removed from the movie and it fell apart shortly thereafter. Seven years later, they tried to put the movie together again. My wife [Sarah Michelle Gellar] believes in destiny and fate. Me, not so much...I knew it was a second chance and you don't get many second chances. I went in there and said, "If you let me read some scenes, I guarantee you can put my work up against anyone." They gave me a shot. I went in, did my thing, and was fortunate enough to have Mike believe in me and got the part.

What was it like filming in Brooklyn? It's a different world from the city.

Freddie Prinze Jr: Brooklyn is it's own world. You need a passport to go to Brooklyn from the city. I fell in love with New York so much, I moved here. Shooting in Brooklyn is like opening a time capsule. Nothing has changed. Everything looks like it did in the eighties. I felt like Marty McFly. We shot a lot in Williamsburg as well. It was such a wonderful experience.

Was there any thought to filming somewhere else, a cheaper location?

Freddie Prinze Jr: I really fight hard to make things film where they're supposed to be filmed. If something is supposed to be in New York, then it has to be in New York. It was really important that the film get made here. We had $5 dollars to do this movie. Nobody made a dime. There was talk about Baltimore because of a tax rebate, but I really rejected that.

What was it like working with Scott Caan and Jerry Ferrara?

Freddie Prinze Jr: I loved it. Scotty and I shared a trailer, and I joke you not, it was smaller than this table. He's a chain smoker and I used to chew tobacco, which is a terrible habit and I don't do it anymore. I'd spit and he'd smoke, and we'd do Christopher Walken impressions all day. It didn't matter because everyone loved the script and wanted to be involved with this movie.

You guys have a lot of screen time together. Did you know them before this film? Have you remained in touch?

Freddie Prinze Jr: I had never met either one of them. Kathleen Turner once said that a movie is a marriage with a guaranteed divorce. She was right; my whole career was like that. Then I made this movie. We remain friends to this day. I play golf with Jerry a lot. We're both terrible. We just hack at the ball. We have the best time. It takes six hours to play eighteen holes, but we don't care. We're usually pretty drunk. Scott, he's this renaissance guy and people don't even realize. He's a photographer. I've been to his galleries. I have his photographs on my wall. These are relationships that I thought I would never have. I'm a very private person. I don't talk about 90% of my personal life. I shared things with those guys that require a lot of trust. It was trust well placed because we're all good friends today. It was a lovely experience.

Were there any rehearsals before filming?

Freddie Prinze Jr: Michael set-up rehearsals. Usually I'm the only guy at rehearsals, most actors just don't care for whatever reason. But everybody came. He [Michael] would just get us talking, "Freddie, tell us about the first girl you ever screwed." He speaks very harshly. (laughs) I'd bring it up, Scott would chime in, Jerry would chime in; and then Michael would scream, "Alright, do the scene, do the scene right now!" He really created this bond, this friendship through the dialogue. I wasn't even aware of it until after rehearsals.

You rarely see this level of love and friendship between men on films...

Freddie Prinze Jr: Those don't get made often. I'm not quite sure why, I did another one that'll never get distribution. Movies about friendships are tricky. They're usually comedies. They say that "blood is thicker than water", but this is not always the case. At a certain age, you re-pick your family. You have your blood family, but the family you choose, those bonds last forever. There were four of us growing up. One of us passed away, one of us is in jail, the guy that I depended on most; he created my show last year. Those are bonds that will never die. I'm producing his film. We're going back to Brooklyn this summer. When I first saw this movie, I didn't even care if it got released. I was so proud of it. I'd thought that I've been proud of other jobs before, but I was wrong. I'm not a liar. I just don't think I knew what pride was in film. It was a wonderful experience. Everything after this is gravy.

What's your friend's film that you're producing?

Freddie Prinze Jr: His name is Conrad Jackson. He created my show "Freddie". He's a great writer. He took first and third in the Southern California Film School Festival. His film is called "Manslaughter". It really questions morality and the types of choices that people make. He's shooting in Brooklyn this summer. It's completely independent. We've raised the finances. What he does with a camera will really freak people out. He's very talented. You'll talk to him one day.

Are you starring in the film?

Freddie Prinze Jr: No, I'm not going to act in it. I'm producing. I'll just try to protect him the best that I can.

Brooklyn Rules hit limited theaters May 18th and is rated 'R' for violence, pervasive language and some sexual content.

Julian Roman