Who is James Franco?
It’s a question James Franco has been trying to answer for years.
On the eve of his already critically lauded effort The Disaster Artist, the actor-director sat down with Variety to talk about all his different real-life roles through the years — and we don’t mean the guy who cut his arm off.
Franco says he accidentally developed a “public persona” different from his private one:
“My public persona is this weird part of me, but not part of me. Other outlets use it to sell magazines. Why can’t I have fun with it? On the other hand, it becomes you. There was a period 10 years ago that I wasn’t the James Franco that everyone suddenly knew, doing all these things. It’s almost like the mask gets fused to your face. That mask of fame, sort of gets stuck on your face whether you’re being facetious or being serious. It’s a hard thing to talk about, because you start sounding like a douche.”
Speaking of douche-like behavior, Franco tells a story about a time in his career when he let his preoccupation with work turn him into a terrible boyfriend!
“This old girlfriend was visiting me in New York. I had come out here for school. My cat had scratched her in the eye. I had so much work to get done for the next day, I didn’t take her to the hospital. I had my assistant take her. That moment haunted me so much. What kind of selfish, self-centered boyfriend are you?”
Thankfully new girlfriend Isabel Pakzad is with the more mature Franco. (No, not Dave Franco, we’re still talking about James! LOLz!) He already got the chance to do better, accompanying her to the hospital when she got a throat infection during the San Sebastian Film Festival this past September.
Also helping with the personal growth? Franco quit Instagram!
“It’s very liberating. I just got rid of it. When I first got on, it just felt silly. I treated it like it was a joke. You get in that weird seductive space where it feels private, but it’s also public. And you get hooked on the reaction.”
That reaction led him to be more and more provocative just to see what would happen. Like when he infamously posted this nearly nude pic (below):
“I was testing the bounds. It’s sort of the way I see people like the Kardashians. They are staking out new ground and what these spaces are. They are making a lot of money off of it. What will happen if I do that? And you get reactions. There was some photo I did. I wasn’t naked. I’m sure Rihanna has posted a bunch more risqu├â┬⌐ photos. It was just the attitude of the photo. It was sweaty. My hand was in my boxers. It just looked gross. And I remember Gucci saying, ├óΓé¼╦£Don’t do any more photos like that.'”
“At the time I justified it to myself. ‘This will be an experiment. This will be weird.’ Part of me was so uncomfortable with the attention of being nominated [for 127 Hours], but also fear of losing, because everybody was talking about Colin Firth [who did go on to win for The King’s Speech].”
Franco says he thought hosting would give him something else to focus on and also allow him to look OK when he eventually lost.
“I mean, I shouldn’t have been doing it. Honestly, I think the biggest criticism of me, it seemed like I was high or low energy. In my head, I was trying to be the straight man. I guess I just went too far or came across as the dead man.
Well, we don’t know if he’ll get any award love for his new role, but he def took it just as seriously!
Franco describes the process for transforming himself into the role of The Room actor-director-producer Tommy Wiseau:
“I had 2.5 hours of prosthetics. We used cheeks, because he has very severe cheekbones. A nose-piece not for the full nose but for the bridge. We did a little piece on the eyelid, because he has a lazy eye on one side. And blue contacts.”
He also transformed his body to match Wiseau’s “very strange muscularity” by doing 300 sit-ups and pushups a day and eating only salad for lunch and dinner.
Sounds like Franco is saving his mask wearing just for in front of the camera these days. And we can’t WAIT to see it!
The Disaster Artist hits theaters Friday, December 1.