James Franco: The Movieline Interview
Here at Movieline, we're proud Franco-philes. Whether we're watching James Franco's guest appearance on 30 Rock, dissecting every episode of his General Hospital stint, or unmasking the real reason behind his soap opera inspiration (as Franco's artistic collaborator Carter told us, it's all background for an upcoming film the two are planning), we're happy to follow Franco's every move simply because the moves make up such a notable zig-zag.
Now, the actor has come to Sundance with two more feathers in his multimedia cap. Festivalgoers caught him last night in Howl, where he stars as poet Allen Ginsberg for directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, and he'll soon be screening his NYU student film Herbert White, which he wrote and directed himself. Movieline caught up with Franco today to shed some light on his novel career.
I know you have a short film here at Sundance this year. Which were you more nervous to present, that or Howl?
I don't know if it's about being nervous. The directing thing is definitely a lot newer to me than the acting thing, and I've been to a lot of premieres for films that I've acted in, but I haven't been to many for films that I've directed. I guess I always get a little more nervous when I'm presenting material that I wrote or directed.
More nervous than when it's your face up there on the screen?
In a way, yeah. Although you're right...I directed two low-budget features before I went to film school and I also acted in them, so maybe I'm remembering the anxiety I had then. Now, I don't particularly like acting in stuff I direct, so I'm not acting in [Herbert White] -- it stars Michael Shannon. I don't know, I don't tell people I'm proud of the things I do. I work hard, but for whatever reason I just...I don't know, but I feel really proud of this short. Michael's basically my favorite actor, and it's based on a poem by this guy Frank Bidart who's one of my favorite poets. I think it turned into something really good! I don't know, I'm proud of it.
Do the other students in your film classes ever just go, "Fucking Franco -- he gets Michael Shannon in his short and we have to use the kid who lives next door to us in the dorm!"
I can never quite know what they think about me. [Pause] There's an analogy I want to make -- and it's really good! -- but I want to save it for something I'm gonna write, so maybe I won't quite make it. I'll say this, though: I'll never know what they really think of me, right? I'm in a couple of graduate MFA programs, I'm taking film at NYU and fiction at Columbia, and the film programs are designed to build interactive relationships. It's like team building, in a way, because you're all working on each other's shoots. In the fiction program, everybody's writing their own thing and then bringing it in to be critiqued!
So you get along better with the people you're collaborating with, I'm guessing.
I've found that I'm much closer with the people in the film program than in my other programs. I think I have genuine friends there. I do try and help give them some of the same resources I have. If my classmates come to me and ask, "Can you help me cast this," or, "I'm thinking about so-and-so big name actor," I can't guarantee it, but if I think their script is worthy...I helped get James Marsden and his wife in one of my classmate's shorts, and I act in them if they ask me.