James Franco is on one of Entertainment Weekly’s Oscar Preview covers – not only because he’s one of the Oscar hosts this year, but because he’s likely going to be an Oscar contender, for 127 Hours. My opinion of Franco has drastically changed over the course of the past year. I started out really liking him, and then at some point, I just started finding him exhausting. He pisses me off – he’s a wonderful actor, one of the best of his generation, and he pisses it away too often in his attempts to be Too Much. He’s not just Franco The Actor. He wants to be Franco The Writer, Franco The Artist, Franco The Provocateur. Eh. He’s not provocative, he just seems like an emo teenager with “so much to say” only his poetry reads like lyrics from The Cure, you know? And Franco’s writing sucks. Whatever.
But still, I have lingering attatchment to Franco, because I keep hoping he grows out of the “Dirtlip As Performance Art” phase. And interviews like this EW piece certainly help – James talks about sexuality, identity politics and performance with a lot of depth and authenticity here:
“Is James Franco gay?” is a favorite query of the pop-cultural chattering classes. It’s not like it’s unique to him: Having the public ponder your sexuality is a celebrity rite of passage. But the thing that makes Franco’s case so interesting is that, unlike the loud denials from some stars and even louder silences from others, the response from the 127 Hours star (who, for the record, has been in a years-long relationship with actress Ahna O’Reilly) is actually pretty nuanced. Franco addressed the rumor-mill mentality in an exclusive interview with EW for our recent cover story.
“It’s funny because the way that kind of stuff is talked about on blogs is so black-and-white,” Franco says. “It’s all cut-and-dry identity politics. ‘Is he straight or is he gay?’ Or, ‘This is your third gay movie — come out already!’ And all based on, gay or straight, based on the idea that your object of affection decides your sexuality.”
The actor definitely doesn’t let the speculation inhibit his choice of roles; Franco’s filmography is packed with gay characters, from Allen Ginsberg in Howl, to activist Scott Smith in Milk and poet Hart Crane in his just-wrapped feature The Broken Tower.
“There are lots of other reasons to be interested in gay characters than wanting myself to go out and have sex with guys,” he says. “And there are also lots of other aspects about these characters that I’m interested in, in addition to their sexuality. So, in some ways it’s coincidental, in other ways it’s not. I mean, I’ve played a gay man who’s living in the ’60s and ’70s, a gay man who we depicted in the ‘50s, and one being in the ‘20s. And those were all periods when to be gay, at least being gay in public, was much more difficult. Part of what I’m interested in is how these people who were living anti-normative lifestyles contended with opposition. Or, you know what, maybe I’m just gay.”
[From Entertainment Weekly]
Not a denial, not a confirmation, but a genuine conversation about being a straight actor drawn to playing gay men. It would be wonderful to see someone like Tom Cruise or John Travolta talk about performance and sexuality like this. But they won’t. See – Franco is a wonderful actor. Why all of the extra drama and dumb “art” stuff? Just be a great actor.
Photos courtesy of WENN.