James Franco on bad reviews of his directing: ‘I won’t let it kill my spirit’ 


Did anyone else realize that James Franco has directed 37 films of various lengths? And he’s produced almost twice that. No wonder he’s so full of himself, he’s accumulated quite a roster in his 38 years – for better or worse. I like Franco as an actor, generally. I haven’t seen any of his directorial efforts, though, but I know that he hasn’t exactly been heralded as a great director. Salon interviewed him to promote his adaptation of John Steinbeck’s In Dubious Battle which came out last month. You can read the full interview here. It’s wordy and the questions are almost as heavy handed as the word circles Franco uses to answer. If you prefer your Franco in small doses – and let’s face it, that’s about all most of us can take – here’s a sampling of his Francocity:

On his progression as a director: In terms of the number of cast, that’s one way I can mark the growing challenges of the movies I’ve directed. Everything is growing in size. My first film, which was my thesis feature at NYU, was about the poet Hart Crane. It was essentially a one-man show, so going from that to “Child of God,” which is essentially one man running around the woods, was a small step forward.

Then it was “As I Lay Dying,” which was essentially the story of five family members in a wagon, [and] felt like a lot. With “In Dubious Battle,” not only is the cast big, but I’m dealing with Hollywood legends. On top of that, the film is about a labor strike so the background players are integral. It’s not like they’re just wandering around in the background. So I had to direct over 100 people in the majority of the scenes. It was really a moment for me to step back and realize, “Wow. The movies are getting bigger.”

On why he adapts lofty literary projects: First and foremost, I love literature. I love American literature, and it’s one of the things that I’ve really studied the most. One of the things I was taught in MFA programs was to find my voice. I thought that combining my two worlds of literature and movies was something that could be part of my voice.

A lot of my passion comes from a longtime love of these writers. Cormac McCarthy is the only living author I’ve adapted at this point, so it was very gratifying to feel like I was collaborating with Faulkner or Steinbeck on some level. I did this movie “The Disaster Artist” about the making of [the so-bad-it’s-hilarious cult classic] “The Room,” and that was a movie I did in a really different way. I had Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg produce and New Line distributing.

Doing something like that versus “In Dubious Battle,” which was really an uphill battle, I think I took on these classic literary adaptations to be able to say that I’m not just an actor trying to direct. Look at this challenge I took on. I’m sure subconsciously, it was a way to defend myself.

On his critics gunning for him as a director: What can I say? I think it’s going to change. My hope is that as a sensitive and creative person, I can’t and won’t let it kill my spirit. When I started as an actor, if I listened to that criticism, it can destroy you as a creative person. My hope is that it’s going to change.

On his approach to directing: As I’ve been doing these literary adaptations and period pieces, one of the things I’m constantly thinking about is how I can keep it from not feeling like homework or a museum piece. How do I make it feel alive and related to issues today? What are the techniques I can use to update it? I’m making a movie that wouldn’t have existed had it been made during the Depression. There was this great political conflict at the center of this book. It’s a conflict that is eternal. It’s the struggle between the haves and the have-nots. We started shooting two years ago, so there was no way I could know where we would be politically now, but it’s eternal.

[From Salon]

This is what I love about Franco: he speaks as if he is saying something unique. To read this, you would think Franco was the first director to ever translate their love of literature into their love of film. And this ability to rifle off his CV in between dropping authors’ names? It’s almost worthy of a slow clap, except that this is Franco so we should probably slow-snap instead.

If I took Franco as seriously as he tries to come across he would drive me up a freaking tree. But I don’t so he doesn’t bug me that much. I sort of like what he said about his critics. Art is far too subjective to appeal universally and if your aim is to interpret it in a new and fresh way, there will always be those who don’t like it. In Dubious Battle is not being mildly derided, it’s earned a meager 29% on Rotten Tomatoes. If this was truly Franco’s ode to Steinbeck – ouch. Although, I would argue you need a pretty healthy ego to think you can tackle In Dubious Battle in the first place so I’m sure he’ll be fine.

Franco mentions making The Disaster Artist, “in a really different way.” As the except says, TDA is a comedy about the making of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, which is considered to be one of the worst films ever made. Cut to the SXSW Festival in Austin where the “work-in-progress” just debuted and guess what? It received standing ovations. So far, the reviews are great. So trying new things is paying off for Franco. Have no fear, the premiere was not void of all Francocity, though. Tommy Wiseau was in the audience watching Franco direct himself playing Wisneau who had directed himself in The Room. That sentence was so meta, it burned my fingers just typing it.



Not to hijack my own post, but can we take a minute to appreciate how much hotter Dave Franco has gotten?

Photo credit: WENN and Fame/Flynet Photos and Getty Images

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31 Responses to “James Franco on bad reviews of his directing: ‘I won’t let it kill my spirit’ ”

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  1. Whyme says:


    He’s too insufferable for me. His brother is hot and got married to Alison Brie from Community. That’s all I got.

    I will add, thats good he won’t let it kill his spirit. Seriously, it is. But he also must realize the huge advantage and privilege he has over a woman who might not get so many chances. Just sayin’.

    • Pat says:

      His brother’s like 4’11″

      • Whyme says:

        Short people can be hot too.

      • Cherise says:

        Dave seems very nice on the inside and people are entitled to like what they like BUT lets not pretend that height is not a universally necessary trait to qualify as a male beauty.

      • Adrien says:

        Dave is adorable. I love him too.

      • Whyme says:

        I’ve dated guys of all heights from 5’3″ to 6’5″ I’m 5’4″ And while I do prefer a taller guy because face it that’s what we’re made to believe is what is important (tall, dark and handsome, heck it’s even in the Bible when it describes Saul being handsome and tall) but aside from my husband (5’11″) the guy I dated that was 5’3″ was the sweetest, nicest guy, turns out we weren’t meant to be but we had a nice, drama free relationship that I will always cherish and think of fondly. My 6’1″ and 6’5″ boyfriends that were gorgeous were drama filled horrible cheating morons. I’ll take short and adorable any day. 😂

        I don’t know. I just find it weird I said he was hot and I got a reply that he’s short. My dad was short, I’m short, my son might turn out to be short. So what.

      • lannisterforever says:

        I’m 5’7 and my boyfriend is 6’4 and I still find Dave Franco gorgeous! Height is definitely not the only thing that makes a guy attractive…

    • Etienne says:

      I call him and his bloated, smarmy crew The Stack Pack.

  2. Sara says:

    He can be a bit of an over actor in his comedies. It gets a little grating at times. I actually prefer him in more serious roles.

  3. Lucy says:

    Meh, I’m Team Dave. I once said in an article here that Ethan Hawke is everything Franco thinks he is but isn’t. I AM glad The Disaster Artist has been so well received, though. The bf (Josh Hutcherson) is in it, which is nice :)

  4. QQ says:

    LMFAO This Special ass Princess.. I’ma start saying that out loud whenever someone tries to get me out the paint ” I WON’T LET IT KILL MY SPIRIT” ( I won’t be a rich clammy dude playing with other people’s money for Art’s sake but…It’ll be in that Humble True spirit) *CACKLES SOME MORE – Sorry that quote killed me*

    • Radley says:

      Actually I feel like everyone should take that quote to heart. Whose life is without challenges? Who doesn’t deal with a hater from time to time? I just don’t get the negativity towards this dude. I’m confused like when people came for Sting. LOL

      • detritus says:

        There is huge irony in declaring something won’t break your spirit, when the most struggle you’ve had is bad rating from a movie you produced.
        It’s a level of success most people won’t reach, most don’t even have the opportunity to reach.

        It would be like if you went to the dentist for a cleaning and told everyone how you weren’t going to let it ruin your year.

      • QQ says:

        THANKS for spelling it out Detritus.. This dude has be “someone” since he was a Teen, now he just tries his hand at whatever because he has the means to take as many Ls as necessary he does it for the fun of it all, and to hear fellow students/teachers/actors is not like he is particularly committed to or good at any of it just.. the guy there presents for it

      • Radley says:

        That’s not exactly fair, detritus. We are talking about a human being who has all the other common struggles we tend to have. This dude is passionate about his work. What if someone told you very publicly you suck at your job and layer that with whatever else you’re dealing with in life? Have some empathy. Yes, it comes with the territory in his chosen profession. But people still have feelings and there’s a general piling on with this guy that doesn’t seem entirely justified.

        Quite frankly, it seems people resent a person for being bright, successful, attractive and wealthy. We all know this is true because we’ve all seen it happen with non-famous people in our everyday lives. People complain about the disappointing, underperforming, low information, “deplorables” all the time, but when you see someone striving for excellence, you complain about that too. Yeesh. Speaking of deplorables, Franco’s politics are on point. So another point for him.

      • detritus says:

        Yes, but what else is he worried about? What are these imagined layers that he has never mentioned?

        Is he worried about money for healthcare? A place to sleep? a home without abuse? being deported due to his skin colour? How to dress at work so that the crew doesn’t continually sexualise him?

        No one is saying he should be burned at the cross for being pretentious, no one is even calling him the names we call 45 or Evil Ryan or Connway or really any of the actually harmful people. BUT we are allowed to poke fun at his unexamined privilege. You don’t deserve a criticism free walk through life just by dint of being a decent person who gets most things right.

        Remember Franco isn’t a saint either. He’s propositioned underage girls KNOWING they are underage. Let’s not canonize men that are passing decent, you don’t get brownie points for being a decent human being.

      • Cherise says:

        I think QQ and Detreitus are unnecessarily cruel. Anybody whose identity derives heavily from their work suffers greatly when that work is rejected. I mean its one thing if you dont care about the job but when your job involves an emotional investment, constant negativity is soul crushing.

        An aside: I really hate it when people assume that because someone is doing better than you then their struggles arent real. By this logic, we should all never say we struggle at anything because there are always billions of people in the world with even greater struggles. Your struggle or pain is as real and valid as you feel it, regardless of whether you live in a golden palace or in a refugee camp.

      • Radley says:

        @ detritus
        Are you really expecting him to “acknowledge his privilege” apropos of nothing in an interview?? That wouldn’t come across as sincere at all. If he’s asked, ok. But just to bloviate about privilege out of context would just sound like liberal guilt talking. And I bet you’d snark about that too! Also, being privileged does not equal a life of no worries. It’s so ugly to diss someone solely because they have privilege. Not everyone is trying to use and abuse their privilege regularly. As someone who hasn’t had it and now has it to a certain degree, I can speak from firsthand knowledge. He is under no obligation to share his worries and problems with the general public.

        And at what point did he say he expects a life of no criticism?? See, that’s the thing. I don’t know why people would read into his words more than is actually there and use those assumptions to drag him. Sorry I don’t get it. I think the part about hoping it will change means that he hopes he will get better at it, not that he’s hoping people will be nicer.

        It goes without saying he isn’t a saint. It also goes without saying that I never said that (again reading into a thing more than what’s actually there). I do think the thing with the girl (who was of the age of consent) was a crock of sh!t publicity stunt. I don’t think he’s straight. But periodically, the general public needs to be led to believe he is according to the way showbiz operates. I do think it was tasteless and I don’t think it was ok for him to participate in it though.

        I’m not even a huge Franco fan. It’s just that when I see people piling on, I want them to show me the receipts. Otherwise it seems like a bitter Betty b!tching session. Anyway, I’m done on the topic. I don’t really care for this kind of back and forth.

      • Keaton says:

        ” there’s a general piling on with this guy that doesn’t seem entirely justified.”
        I’m not a Franco fan but I think @Radley is right about this. I’m not sure what it is about Franco but he sets alot of folks off and it seems more visceral than rational. :/

    • detritus says:

      I think I’m going to use this now when I face minor setbacks.

      The store didn’t have the coffee I wanted this morning, but I WILL NOT LET THIS KILL MY SPIRIT.

      • QQ says:

        Ok But YELL IT on the way out, yes?

      • detritus says:

        Of course! I had to let the cashiers know about my trials. I’ve also been yelling it at my computer screen hourly, for motivation, you know.

      • jerkface says:

        Detritus and QQ, I get what you two are both saying and I always enjoy reading your comments. I hope I never say anything TO KILL YOUR DAMN SPIRITS! hahaha :) I’m being serious too though :)

  5. Radley says:

    I like him. I think he genuinely is one of the more intelligent actors in Hollywood. And I don’t feel like he’s pretentious. He lampoons himself all the time. You have to give him credit for not constantly trading on his looks to makes tons of money doing lame blockbusters. He’s different. Different is ok. I swear sometimes I think gossip blogs dig deep for reasons to shade people. Slow news day?

    I like the whole Franco family. Their parents raised them right. They all march to the beat of a different drummer and give no f*cks about it. Dave is probably the most mainstream at this point but he’s also a quirky character.

    • robyn says:

      I like him too. He’s a really talented guy. If he survived his ill-fated academy award performance where he left all the work to his partner, he will survive us badmouthing him. But he’s unique and I like him marching to his own drummer. Creative people are sensitive so I’m glad when I hear their spirits aren’t squelched over bad reviews. We can all learn from that.

  6. Div says:

    I want to like James. I like that he is open to education, artistic films, and is willing to lampoon himself.

    The problem is I read one of his books once (I know, I know) and it had a huge streak of misogyny. Combine that with the creepy high school girl incident that got swept under the rug (and if he wasn’t a white straight man that would have been a HUGE scandal), his habit of going after other actors, and his utter entitlement (no woman or POC would get chance after chance to make all of those films…especially since his films aren’t financially or critically successful) and I’m left with a big nope.

    PS-I forgot about his weird comments about a barely legal Selena Gomez back in the day. I get that people sometimes stick their foot in their mouth or just misspeak, but there have been too many incidents.

  7. Pandy says:

    I was just coming on to say I’ve changed my tune on him since his Trump “art project” and punching the nazi … but then I realized I mean Shia LaBoeuf!! Franco was the guy hitting on the 16 year old, right?? His true character revealed …

  8. hogtowngooner says:

    You guys have to see The Room, though. It’s soooooo cingeworthy bad but it’s SO funny. There’s a reason there are midnight screenings of the film all over North America.

  9. Lucy2 says:

    Like most things with him, it’s great if he wants to do it (directing, writing, education) but I always get the impression he only does it do he can talk about himself doing it.

    • emilybyrd says:

      Yes. If there’s one thing I get from his interviews, it’s that he really thinks he’s an amazing, super creative artist. And yup, he won’t let any criticism from anybody cause him to ever think differently!

  10. Tania says:

    There is something about his coloring that makes him look extremely unwell. I don’t know if he has issues with his liver. He’s not quite yellow, but his coloring is off and looks even more unwell as of late.