As many of you know, I’ve been performing in a Broadway production of one of John Steinbeck’s best-known works, Of Mice and Men, which is why I’m writing about one of his lesser-read works, In Dubious Battle, a novel that is part of Steinbeck’s migrant-worker trilogy set during the Great Depression.
Broadway, Baby – by James Franco
So you want to know what it’s like to put up a play on Broadway? I’ll tell ya. But, I should note, the way a classic play is put on (specifically John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, in which I am currently starring) is much different than a new one.
With a new play the playwright will most likely be in rehearsals every day, looking over the director’s shoulder and telling him or her how to manifest the story and themes through the bodies of actors and work of the designers. There are usually rewrites on the fly because new dynamics are found while putting the scenes on their feet. This forces the actors to learn new lines, often through many iterations, and sometimes the night before a performance. Essentially, when mounting a new play the director is offered the luxury of having a partner by his or her side to help guide everything until it’s just right.
With a classic play—especially if the writer is dead like John Steinbeck is dead—it’s the opposite. The words are holy; do NOT fug with them.
James Franco on the True Characters in True Detective
Alright, alright, alright, as of last Sunday True Detective is over. The finale was the last time we’ll see Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in the roles of detectives Rust Cohle and Marty Hart. It has been a great eight weeks of watching these two swinging dicks mix it up against a sweaty backdrop of Louisiana, faith, and murder. The anthology series (which, in essence, frames each season as its own miniseries), written by Nic Pizzolatto and directed in its entirety by Cary Fukanaga, is a great study in literary adaptation to the small screen’s longest of forms.
Although True Detective is not based on a book, its characters, ambience, setting, and submission of women are taken straight from the Pizzolatto fiction playbook. Rather than an adaptation of a particular story or novel, it is quite literally an adaptation of his writing. Meaning, the artist has switched mediums, which is why the series feels so literary (exemplified by references to Friedrich Nietzsche and to Robert W. Chambers’s supernatural story collection, The King in Yellow), and also why the show is not really about solving the crime as much as it is about the bromance between our White Kings, Rust and Marty.
Lindsay Lohan’s Leaked Sexual Conquests, Ranked
Have you ever created a list of all the celebrities you’ve fucked while playing Scattergories with your homegirls? Us neither! But as we all know, none of us are Lindsay Lohan—the perpetually scandal-ridden tabloid star (allegedly) wrote a list out at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and because Lindsay is Lindsay, she forgot the list at the hotel and it found its way toInTouch magazine. The list (which some people think is fake, and Lindsay could always be lying about some of the names, but whatever) resembles the Hollywood Reporter’s power rankings, except, we couldn’t help but notice, they’re all out of order. (Also, for some reason Lindsay has excluded her teen love, Aaron Carter. Maybe Lindsay doesn’t consider Aaron a celebrity?) Here’s the list of names from most impressive conquest to least impressive.
1. Heath Ledger (legendary actor, now dead)
“After I win an Oscar, I can start thinking about love,” Lindsay said in 2012 during an interview to promote the Lifetime movie Liz and Dick. Lindsay has clearly done more lovemaking than acting in the last few years, which hasn’t helped her quest for a tiny golden man, but that doesn’t really matter: She. Fucked. Heath. Ledger. Who needs an Oscar, or love, when you have that Academy Award–winning, tragically dead notch on your belt?
2. Justin Timberlake (actor/singer/Britney Spears’s former boyfriend)
There’s a theory that if two girls have sex with the same boy they become “vagina sisters” and feel each other’s emotions for the rest of their lives. Considering Lindsay banged pop-star-turned-Tennessee-Williams-character Britney Spears’s first kiss, it’s no wonder her life fell apart! You’d be crazy too if you felt what Britney felt when recorded “personal” songs with Will.I.Am.
3. Colin Farrell (actor/hot Irish drunk)
That encounter must have been like two drunken, insane, attention-starved ships passing in the night. By the way, have you seen Colin Farrel’s dick pics?
4. Joaquin Phoenix (Oscar-nominated actor/performance artist)
I can imagine Lindsay fucking Joaquin while thinking that he was in love with her—or, at least, that the relationship would help her get cast in a P.T. Anderson film, but I can also imagining them meeting while Joaquin was stumbling around Chateau Marmont in a dirty suit, rambling about rap music, in the name of performance art.
5. Adam Levine (singer/judge on The Voice)
He’s a tough one to rank. I mean, no matter what you think of The Voice, LOOK AT THESE FUCKING ABS.
6. Zac Efron (former Disney Channel star)
Yes, he’s the most attractive man in the world. But is Zac Efron’s career more depressing than Lindsay Lohan’s? After thrusting his pelvis while throwing sand in the air in High School Musical, he starred in a string of Nicholas Sparks-inspired romantic flops. Nobody cared when Zac entered rehab for a coke addiction last year, and this week he said he wants to star in a High School Musical reunion, which is not a good sign. It’s off brand for Lindsay to fuck such a failure, I thought, but then I remembered Zac wearing wet white briefs in The Paperboy, and reconsidered. Oh, and she misspelled his name on the list :(
Revisiting Twin Peaks – by James Franco
Recently, I’ve been hearing a whole lot about David Lynch, and not from the Lynch camp or concerning any new projects (what’s it been, eight or so years since Inland Empire?). Rather, I’ve been hearing about Lynch from people who have been re-watching Lynch’s work, especially Twin Peaks. I was in junior high when the series came on, and I was more interested in watchingBeverly Hills, 90210 (the first incarnation, with my man Luke Perry as D-McKay).
But even my young, culturally stilted self couldn’t help being aware of the phenomenon that wasTwin Peaks when it hit prime time. The first season was a juggernaut of creative innovation that television had been waiting for, as the response from critics and viewers clearly showed.
James Franco Remembers Philip Seymour Hoffman
The last time I ran into Philip was at Bar Centrale, a theater restaurant, when he came in with a group that included Chris Rock, Zach Braff, and a bunch of great stage actors. At the time, I had read that Philip had gone to rehab for heroin. I was shocked, because you don’t think that a person who absolutely everyone acknowledges as great, would have such problems. But that was foolish, because addiction cares nothing for personality. It is an illness, not a matter of will, class, intelligence, or lifestyle. I have no idea what happened to Phil before he was found dead, but a friend of mine told me they saw him the day before he passed and he looked happy. This says to me that Philip was not someone who had given up. He didn’t throw it all away. He was just someone—a very special someone—who was sick. His death is shocking to us because his greatness made him seem invincible. At the very least, all the incredible art he gave us should warrant him another chance.
Werner Herzog Writes Poetry with Film, Writes James Franco
Here’s the thing about Werner Herzog: He’s both old and new school. His technique is largely self-taught because he never went to film school. Werner grew up in the mountains of Bavaria, Germany, in an area so rural that his first telephone conversation happened when he was 17. He saw a couple of short films as a child, projected on a wall. They meant little to him. He began by writing poems, but in his late teens he had a spiritual epiphany and realized that film would be his medium. Werner wanted to write his poetry with film, but he had no money to do so.
That lack of funds for filmmaking early in his career seemed to have left an impact on his process. Queen of the Desert—the film I just worked on with him and Nicole Kidman—was shot on a digital camera. But even though we could shoot as much as we wanted with little expense, Werner would stop after we got one or two good takes and say, in his distinct German accent: “When I was young and working as a stone mason, saving money for every scrap of celluloid I could, I would be happy with this, with one good take, because film was like gold.” After a week, he seemed to loosen up a little. Sometimes we would do four or five takes, luxuriating in the freedoms of digital technology.
Werner always claps the slate himself. This job is usually relegated to the second assistant camera operator, but Werner wants to be in the middle of everything. He wants filmmaking to be a material process—something closer to a moving sculpture than a performance caught through a lens. He wants the movie to reveal the human struggle, the human condition, human passions, and he wants his hands all over it, deep in its essential tissue.
What of the Ottava Rima in Byron’s ‘Don Juan’?
Lord Byron’s use of ottava rima—a form of poetry with an ABABABCC rhyming pattern—in his mock-epic poem Don Juan stems from his belief to deliver seriocomic material. The poem builds up content, alternating rhyming lines then cinches with a facetious end. Byron first used ottava rima in 1817 for Beppo: A Venetian Story—a good match for the extensive and quasi-exotic love story. So, it’s natural that he took up the same seriocomic tone of the ottava rima a year later, when he wanted to satirize Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey forms that he had just been using. Eventually this project turned into his long satiric poemDon Juan, a long and erotic adventure tale told in 17 sections. Regardless of how or why Byron decided on ottava rima for Don Juan, the form undoubtedly influenced the poem’s content through tone, pace, and lineation.
For a poem, Don Juan is a new approach to content, breadth, and action. In his essay, “Epic and Novel: Toward a Methodology for the Study of the Novel,” Bakhtin claimed that all forms of literature look forward to the novel and that in times when “the novel reigns supreme, almost all the remaining genres are to a greater or lesser extent novelized.” In drama, examples include Henrik Ibsen, Richard Hauptmann, the entirety of Naturalist drama, and epic poetry like Childe Harolde and Lord Byron’s Don Juan.”
The Wolves of Hollywood, by James Franco
This is, more or less, how I imagined the genesis of The Wolf of Wall Street went down:
Marty and Leo wanted to work together again, of course; they have a great track record stretching back to Gangs of New York. When their relationship began it was mutually beneficial but they were coming from different directions: they were both talents, but at the time Scorsese was the critically overlooked doyen of crime films and scholar of cinema history, while Leo was the former critical darling whose entire identity was eclipsed by his Beatle-sized, world-dominating fame. Scorsese could get his decades old dream project made and Leo could work with his directing hero. Gangs was not the best of their outings, but at least it brought them together, and their films got better, culminating in the long due triumph of The Departed. By the time the duo got to Wolf I’m sure they were as in synch as the ATL Twins as far as how they worked and the kind of material they wanted to explore.
So, while Gangs was not their best outing, it led to The Departed winning several Academy Awards, including Best Director. (An aside: Did the .44 magnum/pussy cameo in Taxi Driver keep him from getting the Oscar until he was 64?) And I’m positive that with this long-anticipated repairing, they got their money. A superhero-sized budget, because they’re Leo and Marty, and their films do well both financially and critically, so if you’re a dude with some money to burn from stocks or oil or computers or wherever you’ve made your pile, why wouldn’t you want to get a piece of that game? So, they have the dough and they can do anything they damn well please because the money is independent and fuck it, they’re Leo and Marty and who the hell is going to tell them, “no?” This combo shits out Golden Globes like they’re going out of style (maybe they are? Heh heh) and people go to their dark, masculine dramas in the same numbers that they go to see dudes in tights with big Ss and bats on them. If they want to show Leo doing cocaine bullets out of a faceless girl’s ass, fuck it; if they want a ten minute Quaalude sequence (the best part of the film, funny as hell!), fuck it; and if they want their scumbag protagonists to go largely unpunished… FUCK IT, THAT’S LIFE.
James Franco on the Dark Appeal of Blackfish
Everyone seems to be talking about Blackfish, the new documentary about killer whales trained to do tricks for humans at amusement parks. More specifically, it’s about orcas in captivity at Sea World that have violently turned on their handlers and spectators. The reason being, the more politically incorrect among us might posit, is that they are killer whales.
You could say this is an activist film of sorts, but the animal rights messages of the film are well taken because they are brutal and demand attention from the viewer. And is it that crazy to think that giant, highly intelligent marine mammals should not be placed in captivity? They live in familial units that are arguably tighter than human families, and they even speak in their own language and dialects. So, when individuals from different pods are mixed together and sandwiched into tight performance pools, things can rapidly become tense and hostile.
It’s all unpleasant but equally compelling stuff, but at some points I was left wondering the point of it all which has left me with a series of lingering questions: Does the documentary take aim at the wrong target, Sea World? And if we extend what seems to be the film’s thesis to the hypothetical extreme of all Sea Worlds and similar waterparks being closed, leaving no killer wales in captivity, would this solve all the whales’ problems? I’m no specialist or expert on the subject, but many of the whales’ natural habitats have been damaged or destroyed over the years, so if we save the hundred whales in captivity as the documentary seems to be pushing for, would we really be doing anything meaningful? Or is the doc’s purpose to get us on the ethics of keeping animals captivity for human amusement, especially extremely intelligent species? Maybe that’s the point of the film?