Name: James Edward Franco
DOB: 19 April 1978
Place of Birth: Palo Alto, California, USA
Mr. Franco, you study a ton of different things, teach a course at NYU, act in films, direct some, do exhibitions, write books. When do you even find the time to sleep?
Despite how it might seem, I have been acting in fewer movies than I did before. It seems like I haven’t, but I have. A lot of the work I do is in the summer and for most of the year I am just in school. So that’s where I put my energy in and that results in books, short films – stuff like that.
How is university treating you these days?
Is it different than when you went to study the first time?
Yes. When I graduated from high school I went to UCLA and I went there for one year. When I was eighteen I was a literature major but I was more interested in acting at the time. So I wasn’t very focused on university, I was more focused on my acting school. When I went back to school I was going back because I wanted to go back, I didn’t need to. I didn’t need the degree for any kind of job or anything like that. I was just there because I wanted to be. That can really change the school experience. I was just taking things I was interested in rather than what might lead to better employment.
“When there is a lot of money involved and people want me to promote their movie, they don’t want to hear about school.”
Is it possible to have a normal student’s experience when you are well known actor?
The work is the work - so I do all my homework, and that’s probably the same. I have good relationships with my professors, I imagine that’s somewhat similar, I don’t know. Yes, I’ve had some odd experiences with some students, not many, but…
I got a weird e-mail from a student who wanted to confess that she had been upset that I was in the writing program at Columbia and that she didn’t understand why I was there at first and was resentful. And then was especially resentful when she – these were her words – was taking a shit and had to look at my face in a magazine. She threw the magazine away. But after being in class with me she realized that I was serious about the program and didn’t want to hate me anymore.
So sure, I wouldn’t have had that experience if I hadn’t been an actor. But then on the other hand I have made very good friends at school and made friendships at film school. I am sure we will continue into the professional world, they’re people that I really enjoy working with.
Has Hollywood tried to keep you away from school in order to squeeze more money out of you?
There are certain conflicts. When I went back to UCLA we had to do the press tour for Spiderman around the world and Sony doesn’t want to hear that I don’t want to go to Japan for the premiere because I have my Jacobean literature class. They just don’t want to hear that. Or I had people say, “Do you want to be an actor or do you want to be a student?” When there is a lot of money involved and people want me to promote their movie they don’t want to hear about school.
How did your school react to those requests?
A lot of the schools don’t understand me missing class because I have to go and do those kinds of things for a movie. So it’s difficult and it’s on my shoulders to navigate that and make it work for both sides of my life. But yes, in a lot of ways, they don’t mix.
“Whatever attention I get, I would say that about 80% of it is not generated by me.”
It seems like you are quite restless for your age, getting involved in all these different artistic activities. Sure you’re not doing it for the attention?
No, I am just pursuing the stuff that I am interested in. I know that if I do these other things it is impossible to detach the fact that it is James Franco that has done them from the projects themselves. So in some ways I do embrace that and it becomes a part of these pieces. Whatever attention I get, I would say that about 80% of it is not generated by me. I'm not trying to find the spotlight.
But there are some people who feel like you’re turning your whole life into an art performance in a way.
I take writing and art very seriously and have spent the last years going to school for these things, so I wouldn't say that I am turning my life into a performance. It is just that I know that when I do other things that people will review it. At the moment people are still talking about the fact that the actor James Franco has written a book or whatever. But I hope as time goes on people will move beyond that.
How do you take criticism?
I guess all I can hope for that when people do criticize, even though they have mentioned that I am an actor, at least that they have looked at it as an art piece and not just a side project.
Do you feel misjudged?
I want to be looked at as an artist and a writer. Really that is all I can ask for and in fact what they have done is they have actually helped usher me into this world so that the next time I will do it will be more accepted. As anybody that talks about criticism knows on a lot of levels it is just people talking. So I don't mind it.
Will you give up acting all together once you are done with all the intellectual education?
I have experience in both of these worlds now and that’s a perspective that most of my fellow students don’t have and most of my fellow actors don’t have this graduate school academic perspective. So I like that; that is one thing I can contribute that’s unique. I like that they can kind of work off each other. And when I do write my dissertation, I’m working towards something that will involve that crossover – crossover of different kinds of media and disciplines and how they interact with each other. So, no, I don’t like the idea of giving up acting completely.