James Franco is trying too hard to seem intellectual & artistic


James Franco is the September cover boy for Esquire Magazine. I like the cover shot – and the whole photo shoot is nice too. I’m glad he’s growing out that ugly mustache into a full-fledged goatee-like thing. And the outfit looks nice on him – I wish he would dress like this more often. As for the article – well, it’s here. If you like James, you should read it just because it’s a whole lotta artsy-fartsy crap that will make your loins sing. If you think James is a cutie but a little bit weird and too pseudo-intellectual for his own good, you should go read the piece too, just because your eyes will be rolling out of your sockets. Here are the highlights:

He’s reading Twilight for a “project”: He generally fits the bill of a vaguely hungover, Lower East Side, semi-academic hipster artist living the unraveling agenda of Tuesday-morning being and nothingness. He sits by a side door near a pail of mop water. There’s a paperback, palm-pinched, cover down, in his right hand, and a big plastic shopping bag full up with something he doesn’t want to show just yet. When asked what he’s reading, Franco smiles his ungrudgingly adolescent smile, a grin as terminally satisfying as the last healthy squeeze on a tube of toothpaste. He is engaging, for just a second, in the mutual diction of actor and artist — “It’s for a project,” he says. But the word — project — thumps out of him unprecious and without bluster, as if he were naming a day of the week. He’s always got something going. He flips the book over. Twilight.

On Twilight: “It’s crazy how much sexual tension there is,” he says. “It just builds and builds. I mean it never stops. It’s sort of explosive by the end. Crazy. Like they’ll blow up with it. And of course, they don’t.” He shrugs then, a good shrug, because he is selling nothing with it. “Which is the point too, I guess.”

On writing a children’s book: “You probably know I have a lot of projects. But that one is way, way off. It’s just something I’m thinking about.” He whisks at something in the air then. “Off in the distance. Way off.” These words are so bloated and vague, they almost bob in the air. Franco knows this. “Okay. I want to write a children’s book.” He guts out a laugh, snorting himself off the hook. “Someday.”

Franco as “artist”: Franco, our Franco, has an art opening tomorrow. A multiroom installation called “The Dangerous Book Four Boys” in a thirteenth-floor gallery in TriBeCa. Walls will be lined with his photographs, gritty, theatrical Polaroids and silver-etched desert landscapes. Every room will have video playback. Some will have chairs, so people can sit to watch videos that Franco made in one graduate program or another — plywood rockets burning in the desert, a man with a sledgehammer at the edge of some asphalt, close-ups of men pissing. One film, a herky-jerk seminarrative in which Franco dashes through the Louvre wearing a penis on his nose, will briefly feature the always thrilling documentation of human defecation. And there will be wine. “I showed that last movie at NYU last month, at a faculty critique,” Franco says, flinching a little. “It’s a fairly confrontational piece, and it got a little ugly. One faculty member — she’s always tough on me, but she flat-out called me an a–hole. She jumped me. She was muttering it the whole time: What an a–hole. What an a–hole. I didn’t blame her for being mad. She’d brought her child. But I mean, come on. Who brings a child to a graduate-school film showing?” Franco chalks it up, unhurt, undeterred. “The film fits inside the larger project anyway, this exhibit. I see why people don’t get it.”

On working on Eat, Pray, Love: “What can I say about Eat, Pray, Love?” he says. “Let’s see …” Then he pauses for a solid fifteen seconds. When Franco speaks, his tone is guiltless, his affect amused. “You know, in Eat, Pray, Love, my character mostly appears in the first twenty pages of the book,” he says, and now the smile is broad, inviting, self-aware. “And I can definitely say I read the first twenty pages.”

On being an actor: “Acting doesn’t do very much for me,” he says flatly. “I put off school for it, but it’s not like it was a sacrifice or anything. I really didn’t miss school until I went back. Or maybe I missed it and nobody believed that, not even me. The work of it — and I have really great teachers — that’s the stuff that adds up for me in a way that acting doesn’t.”

[From Esquire]

Those were literally the best parts of the piece, although Esquire has a bunch of extra crap for his cover profile, like this “funny” video. Okay… here’s the thing: I don’t begrudge Franco his ambivalence towards Hollywood, and I actually admire that he’s intent on getting an education and actually studying extensively about art and literature and all of that. I like that about him. But he is an a–hole, right? He’s like that guy in my Philosophy class who thought he could become Socrates if only he was a big enough douche. Franco just… tries too hard, I guess. I don’t know. Whatever.



Esquire photos, courtesy of Esquire online.

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40 Responses to “James Franco is trying too hard to seem intellectual & artistic”

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  1. Jess says:

    He can do no wrong in my eyes. Enjoyed the article. I honestly think he is one of the best actors out there. Can’t be pigeon-holed. He can eat crackers in my bed any day. Just thought I’d add that in. Yummy

  2. Andrea-2 says:

    I don’t know; it seems as if the author of the interview was the pseudo-intellectual. If you read it, you see the over-the-top/trying too hard to be smart language was actually that of the reporter and not of Franco.

  3. Tia C says:

    ITA, Kaiser.

    Although I do consider myself a fan of his work and I always enjoy him in whatever he does, he has been trying WAAAAAY too hard at the intellectual/artistic thing. It is great that he’s pursuing his education, but he sort of acts like he thinks he’s the only student in the world on an intellectual quest. OK, we get it – you want to be considered as more than just a cute actor – now quit beating everyone over the head with it, and go make some more good movies! :-)

  4. Kitten says:

    What? He’s not an asshole at all. I think he’s just being honest about not worshipping Hollywood and celebrity.
    Some people actually love school and learning and believe a world exists outside of Famewhore City. Now stop talking bad about My Franco.
    I also loved how he basically admitted to only reading 20 pages of “Eat Pray Love”. Awesomeness.

  5. Fluffy Kitten Tail says:

    I don’t get that vibe at all.

  6. carrie says:

    awful cover and photoshop award of the week(he looks older)!
    he ‘s a good actor for me and he was more interesting than Josh Brolin in “milk”

  7. mslewis says:

    I totally disagree . . . I think James Franco is young, very smart and extremely self-aware, and he knows it. He is not TRYING to be an intellectual, he IS an intellectual. What’s wrong with that? He hasn’t done anything wrong except not bow down to the pretentions of Hollywood. Why should he praise “Eat, Pray, Love” when he knows it’s crap? I mean, it would have been easy for him to just say how “wonderful” he thought the book was but he only read the first 20 pages. That’s being honest because what if he had said he loved the book and then he was asked about chapter 6? THEN he would have sounded like a boor.

    I admire him for being honest and I admire him for going back to school AND I admire him for what sounds like a crap art installation that he makes no apologies for. The man is doing what he wants and that alone makes him a “for real” person, in my book.

    And, anyway, what does “trying too hard” even mean?

  8. I Choose Me says:

    I disagree Kaiser. Yep you won’t get anything but love from me for James Franco. He’s multi-talented and I don’t think he’s out to prove anything he’s just doing what he loves, expressing himself artistically. What’s wrong with that?

  9. lucy2 says:

    ITA with Tia and Kaiser.

    I like him, but think he is trying too hard – if he were just off doing it that would be one thing, but he seems intent on letting everyone know just how intellectual and artistic he is, and how uninterested in Hollywood he is…while promoting a very Hollywood film.

  10. Kaiser says:

    I totally agree that he’s a cutie and a wonderful actor, and I like that he wants to be more than just a terrific actor – I’m not bashing him for that.

    No problem is purely on the way he’s been putting himself out there, in the media, in interviews, the way he talks about himself and his “art”.

    Plus, I think his true talent is for acting, not all of this other bullshit. Take his short story, published in Esquire. This is the work of a 15-year-old poseur who steals his mom’s cigs, dyes his hair black and knows every Cure song.


  11. Cath says:

    OK, Kaiser, I will agree with you. Remember his shitty story in the New Yorker?

    The sound of this guy’s voice seriously makes my skin crawl. I think he’s pretty–but then he speaks and you can hear every iota of spit in his mouth just sliding around.

  12. xxodettexx says:

    i happen to find hipster-douches HAWT!


  13. Schnauzers!!! says:

    He is shut-up sexy. Shut up and just be sexy…if you say a word, no sexy time for you James Franco!!

  14. Lee says:

    Thanks for the story link Kaiser. I couldn’t get all the way through it. Perhaps it was meant to be like his art installations? In your face crap? Anyway, having tried to read it, I have to back off on disagreeing with the pseudo-intellectual theory, because now I’m not sure. Was he being ironic? Or was he serious? Who cares?

    Bottom line, he’s a lovely looking man, and a good actor, so it’s enough to not pay attention to his art installations, and not read his fiction. I’ll happily continue to watch his movies.

  15. Praise St. Angie! says:

    hubba hubba. that man is FINE.

    I will also say that I don’t think he’s trying too hard.

    if he were, he wouldn’t have done a guest spot (over several episodes) on General Hospital.

    that’s a person who doesn’t take himself too seriously, in any genre.

  16. longtall says:

    I thought this was a definitely celebrity and wannabe fashion blog. Apparently it’s turned into an education and art critique blog? Who knew!

  17. Renee says:

    Oh James! You are one of my favorite nuts!

  18. Kaiser says:

    Praise – That’s just it, I think the General Hospital thing was “art” – like, “performance art”. James was saying, “I’m so deep that I can get meaning out of this experience.” Ugh.

  19. Praise St. Angie! says:

    interesting…I thought he had done the GH stint to expand his acting skills…that is, see what acting in different genres and different circumstances is like. a lot of actors who started on soaps and have become big stars have said that working on a soap is the hardest job they’ve had in acting.

    now, expanding your skills like that can be done in other ways than taking a bit part on a daytime soap! that’s why I think he doesn’t take himself too seriously…IMO, someone who’s trying hard to be arty wouldn’t “stoop” to do a soap.

    but your take on it is valid too…makes me wonder what his motivation was…

  20. debbie says:

    Does anybody know if he is gay or straight? All I can think of is that bit on “Saturday Night Live” where he kissed all those guys…and seemed to enjoy it! Not that there is anything wrong with that…I just have never read any gossip about James dating any women! Kaiser…what do you know???

  21. Kelly says:

    I think he’s doing fine. He’s the son of academics, he’s really bright… so the question is, how can an intelligent person survive in Hollywood? I guess the answer is that s/he makes time to go to college (Natalie Portman, etc.), and tries to make his/her own fun. I mean, seriously, if you’re an actor but you don’t fit the profile of a vapid famewhore, you’ve got to do something.

  22. TQB says:

    oh whatever, he’s talented and his wackiness is terribly amusing to read about. I don’t think I’d enjoy having him over for dinner or anything, because yeah, he sounds pretty douchey. But I find his brand of hijinks harmless.

  23. ch says:

    do you know when someone is a complete a**hole but you still like him/her…
    that´s my thing with Franco and most of the celebrities that i don´t ignore

  24. Vi says:

    Well he was a terrible short story writer so it doesn’t surprise me to find out he’s shitty artist too. He reminds me of some of the douche canoes I studied theatre with. But of course I just don’t “get” him.

  25. Confuzzle says:

    Poser with quite a receding hairline. He’s only going to get creepier and creepier as he ages.

  26. Kate says:

    I appreciate his semi “performance art” lifestyle, it is like Andy Kaufman-light.

    But yeah, he’s a little too artsy fartsy for my taste.

  27. Solveig says:

    His main problem is that he really thinks that he is a hipster, one of those Kerouacs, and Corsos, and Ginsbergs, and etc. and he really… isn’t. It takes a lot of talent and madness to reach a high level of hipsterism, IMY. I don’t know, I think that he’s not a poser but a person who genuinely thinks – who is convinced – that his pee smells like Chanel no. 5.
    I’m not saying he’s dumb, he just isn’t an all-accomplished artist like he wants us (and himself) to believe.

    Ps: I second Andrea-2 on the interviewer trying too hard to sound an intellectual.
    pps: I love the black & white pic, he resembles Jeff Buckley…

  28. Ruffian9 says:

    Didn’t read any of the article; Don’t really care… he’s just so damn cute!

  29. Camille says:

    I totally agree with your last paragraph Kaiser. I think he’s a bit of a try-hard ass-hat to be honest. His looks are also somewhat over rated as well IMHO. He’s kind of the male Scarlett Johanson (sp).

  30. gg says:

    Intellectual he is not. But he seems like a sexy enough, likeable guy.

  31. abbizmal says:

    Didn’t read it here either yet. He’s so hot, more pictures please. He’s been in my top 5 for a long time. I’d hit it.

  32. AngB says:

    He seems pretty cool. I love that he basically admits EPL sucks (book and movie) . Hope to see him in something good soon.

  33. I Choose Me says:

    Hey Kaiser, guess I’ll have to eat my words about nothing but love for Franco. I read the esquire piece “Just before Black” and it sucks swamp ass. It’s so bad in fact that I’m still cringing in second-hand embarrassment. I also seriously doubt it would have gotten notice if it wasn’t written by James Franco the actor. So yeah, I still like him and I still think he’s multi-talented but writing sure as hell ain’t one of those talents.

  34. moocowhead says:

    “He’s like that guy in my Philosophy class who thought he could become Socrates if only he was a big enough douche.”

    This deserves a round of applause! :D

  35. Jenny says:

    Vapid, yet beautiful. If he learns to simply sit pretty, he’ll go far.