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.”
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.