James Franco – actor – Brief Article

James Franco – actor – Brief Article – Interview

Anita Sarko


After years acting in the relative obscurity of teenfare for screens big–Never Been Kissed (1999), Whatever It Takes–and small–Freaks and Geeks–James Franco’s career is about to go mainstream big time. Hand-picked for the lead in TNT’s biopic James Dean by acclaimed director and Dean pal Mark Rydell, Franco, over the next eight months, will be seen playing a ’50s gang member in the Martin Scorsese–produced Deuces Wild, Robert De Niro’s son in City by the Sea, and Willem Dafoe’s evil spawn in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. It’s a trio of major league roles for this striking young actor which virtually assures that, for Franco, teenbeat typecasting is a thing of the past.

ANITA SARKO: Looking at all the projects you’ve worked on, one thing struck me: You’ve been very lucky recently to work with some real heavyweights–Willem Dafoe, Robert De Niro, Frances McDormand, Sam Raimi. Who’s really affected you?

JAMES FRANCO: They’ve all been great, but Mark Rydell, the director of the James Dean movie, was amazing. We connected in a wonderful way. Mark was trained as an actor, so he brought a great understanding and a huge amount of support to the acting side. It was a wonderful set, a magical set, in that it was protected and free. We all felt it and we still talk about it, Mark and I.

AS: It’s interesting that you mention that, because after I saw the tape of James Dean I went to my editor and said, “Watch the scenes with Franco and Rydell–those are the magic scenes.” There is something special between the two of you.

JF: Somebody gave me a tip that James Dean, in his first film with [Elia] Kazan, just idolized Kazan and looked up to him as a father. This person told me, “Use Rydell as your father, look up to him.” So when we went into the scenes there was this chemistry in place that we didn’t have to work for because it was already there.

AS: You obviously did your homework.

JF: I read every book on James Dean and I tried to meet with people who knew him, just to talk about the little things, the idiosyncrasies of his life.

AS: What was the most surprising thing you discovered from those who knew Dean?

JF: It’s odd–there are a bunch of people that knew him that all seem moved by him, but they all have different accounts of him. I guess he was such a mercurial individual that everybody remembers him differently. Martin Landau said Dean was a prankster. They were pals in New York, and they’d just hang out and have fun. But when he got to L.A. and became a star, he was seen as a dangerous, reckless individual. Once he had more power in the business and was a desirable commodity, he could get away with more, and I think people thought it brought out a bratty side of him.

AS: Well, it’s seen as bratty to people who want to control you and strong to those who understand that you might want to control your own life.

JF: That’s very true. A lot of this perceived brattiness was his desire to protect his artistic integrity and do the work he wanted to do. I haven’t been in the business all that long and I’ve already discovered that integrity is very important. You’re dead without it.

Anita Sarko is a frequent Interview contributor.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Brant Publications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group