In brainstorming headlines for this article, the first notion that came to intellect was “James Franco Is Doing The Most.”
It’s an evergreen choice, really. James Franco has always done the most. Between 2005 and 2017, he’s directed 14 feature-length fiction films, most of which you’ve probably never heard of, as well as a handful of shorts and documentaries. He also finished an undergraduate degree from UCLA and earned an MFA from Columbia University; published a short fable collection, two poetry anthologies and a novel; hosted the Oscars the same year he received a nomination for “127 Hours”; made a multimedia project based on the sitcom “Three’s Company”; made a multimedia project in which he nakedly wrestled the artist Paul McCarthy; acted in movies as varied as “Milk,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and “Spring Breakers”; baited us to question his sexuality; taught classes at UCLA and NYU; and to a certain extent found a free moment to write a fresh York Times op-ed defending Shia LaBeouf’s “performance art.”
Yes, it’s been fairly the decade for the elder Franco ― and 2017 may very well be his best year to date. “The Deuce,” the HBO drama on which he portrays twin brothers with connections to the mob, was a critical and commercial hit. Now his latest directorial endeavor, “The catastrophe Artist,” has become a key player in the ongoing Oscar derby. It feels like Franco, whose busybody oddities had become something of a punchline, is finally finding his way again.
Because he is nothing whether not a multi-hyphenate, Franco also stars in “The catastrophe Artist,” delivering the sharpest performance of his career. He uncannily plays Tommy Wiseau, the enigmatic director of “The Room,” proverbially known as the worst film ever made. Based on a book co-written by Wiseau’s friend Greg Sestero (portrayed in the film by Dave Franco) and journalist Tom Bissell, “The catastrophe Artist” transforms the making of “The Room” into an uproarious and surprisingly layered portrait of friendship, perseverance and utter foolishness. Oh, and Franco stayed in character while directing it, in case you want to add another line item to his résumé.
I talked to Franco in fresh York a few weeks ago, before his Gotham Award victory for Best Actor elevated his status in the Academy Awards contest. final time we met, when Franco was promoting the 2016 homosexual-porn drama “King Cobra,” he came across as aloof; this time, he was cheerful and engaged. We discussed his workaholic tendencies, feeling like people had grown tired of him, and his affection for Wiseau, who’s become a dear friend.
You’re hosting “Saturday Night Live” in December. What’s it like to return, having made a documentary approximately the demonstrate?
It feels like domestic. I reflect Keenan probably might be the only one who was in my doc. We made the doc approximately eight years ago, I reflect. I made it when I was at NYU. That was one of my assignments. But I feel at domestic there. It’s still Lorne.
Your IMDb page is wild. Just realizing the number of movies you’ve directed, most of which made very puny money, is an exercise in wondering how the hell you found total that time.
It’s crazy. You know, I was talking approximately this very thing this morning — this notion of over-scheduling. It’s nearly an addict behavior, where, whether you reflect of an addict as someone doing something to avoid himself or to avoid his life or avoid pain or avoid apprehension, that’s kind of, in a weird way, what I was doing. This over-scheduling prevents any time to just relax, obviously, or any time for self-reflection, any time for being with loved ones. That was fraction of it.
I reflect what’s also fraction of it, and what’s so nice — and we can bring it to the two projects I beget that came out this year, “The Deuce” and “The catastrophe Artist” — is I’m so proud of those things. I procure to work with [“The Wire” creators David Simon and George Pelecanos] on “The Deuce,” my heroes. And I got to direct two of the eight episodes final season, and I’ll procure to execute them on this fresh season. And then on “The catastrophe Artist,” I had Seth Rogen and his company, Point Grey, produce it, because the smarter fraction of my brain was like, “procure strong producers that will procure you to focus.” That way I wouldn’t be doing what you’re seeing on the IMDb, where it’s like 20 things at once.
But on the other hand, I reflect, having done total of those movies and total those things at such a frantic pace, even whether not every one of those things was successful or whatever, I reflect what it did was it did give me a lot of experience so that I then am capable of directing something like “The Deuce” and something like “The catastrophe Artist.” And, in fact, once I marshaled everything and focused and had producers that I wanted to execute a wonderful job for and that would demand that I focus, then I could execute the best work of my career, in a way.
It does feel like a James Franco comeback moment, which is weird because you never really went anywhere.
Yeah, it’s “we had enough of you.”
In a way. I had enough of me. But, in fact, I did fade absent. It’s just that there was so much work backlogged that I reflect it hasn’t fairly caught up yet. I actually only acted for two weeks this whole year, on this Coen brothers project for Netflix, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.” I actually beget pulled back, and when I did “The Deuce” and I did “The catastrophe Artist,” I did focus. I really just effect total my energy into those things when I was doing them. The spacious lesson for me are the results. I’m really ecstatic with them, and it’s like, “Oh, fade figure, James. You actually effect care and time into something, and you reaped a different kind of results.”
While you were directing so many movies and writing, was there a project that particularly disappointed you because it didn’t find an audience?
No, I mean, I reflect there are a lot of reasons to execute a lot of things. Like I said, to just avoid myself. But also to procure better. When I first started acting, I left UCLA and my parents were like, “You beget to support yourself,” and I ended up working at McDonald’s. That effect in my intellect, like, “OK, dude, you’re making this choice. You’re working at McDonald’s. You better demonstrate that you want this.” That kind of started this whole sample: Just throw yourself into it headlong, and just execute it 24/7. And then, as an actor, that reaped results. I was on “Freaks and Geeks” two or three years later, and when I got into directing, I kind of thought the same thing: Just throw yourself into it. And here I am with two projects that I’m really, really proud of.
And that people are responding to magnificently.
Yeah, I guess I graduated film school seven years ago, and I reflect seven years of just going at it definitely gave me some things. But after a while, that kind of workaholic approach had diminishing returns. besides, I reflect also fraction of the notion of doing a lot of things was that I also, perhaps, possibly, in the back of my intellect knew that I was doing these very literary projects that were not going to reach a large audience. There’s things I did, like this film “Child of God,” which was an adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy book — I was really proud of that. I still am really proud of that. I reflect it’s an titillating film. I reflect there’s an incredible performance in it by Scott Haze. I was really proud of the way I effect that fable together. But the subject matter is super dismal. It’s approximately a necrophiliac. It’s not going to bring in spacious audiences. And we did procure a mighty review in The fresh York Times, but overall, yeah, it kind of bummed me out that people didn’t see what I saw in that, the artistry of it. Things like that. But, again, it was fraction of the learning phase.
Now, you’re embedded with Tommy Wiseau, this cult figure who also went above and beyond to execute what he wanted to execute. When was the first time you heard of “The Room”?
The first time I saw that face was on that billboard. […] It just said “The Room” and had that phone number and that picture [of Wiseau’s face]. The thing was up for five years on Highland Boulevard. I must beget passed it 100, 200 times because I was living in LA. It just didn’t penetrate, because there were just weird things in LA. There was this guy named Dennis Woodruff who’d drive around in these weird cars that were covered in trash and weird stuffed animals. They’d say, “Call this number and effect me in your film!” There was this woman named Angelyne who drove around in this pink Corvette, and she’d beget her own billboards, too. So I just figured either you’d call the “Room” number whether you wanted a vampire in your film, or that it was a cult or something. Because what film has a phone number on the billboard? That’s sort of total I knew.
And during those five years, you never found out what “The Room” actually was?
I later learned that friends of mine, like Jonah Hill and Paul Rudd, were fraction of the “Room” crew and would fade to the Sunset 5, where it was playing at midnight on the weekends. I guess they just never told me approximately it, and then I finally found out approximately it when I read the book when it came out four years ago. Before I was halfway done, I was like, “This is an great, brilliant fable.” I savor Hollywood history. I savor Hollywood stories. I read books approximately Hollywood approximately as much as anything. I knew, as a storyteller, I’m obviously drawn to things that are strange. Even when I was doing movies approximately a necrophiliac or Faulkner stories, I was always still looking for a way to recount those stories so that they wouldn’t be totally off-putting.
Even with “Child of God,” I found a way in where it was like, in fact, [the main character] is not unlike total of us. He’s looking for what we’re total looking for: savor. It’s just that he’s so socially awkward, and he’s so ostracized from society that the only way he can procure that is through a dead body, right? But that’s just to say I’m always looking for ways to recount strange stories, weird stories that beget a hook. I don’t want to turn off audiences — I’m just not interested in the cliché. Here, with this book, I was like, my god, this is everything I wanted. It’s the most weird Hollywood fable ever, but underneath it’s totally universal.
Right, because Tommy pairs up with Greg Sestero, who ended up starring in “The Room” and supporting Tommy’s lunacies. It’s really a fable approximately friendship.
approximately friendship, and approximately outsiders and dreamers, which everyone who goes into a profession starts as. We total start on the external, and we beget these dreams of quote-unquote making it. That’s what this is at its core. So I was like, OK, perhaps, possibly this is my oddball slash commercial moment, or at least something that can reach a larger audience. I was doing “The Interview” with Seth and his company in Vancouver, and I gave them the book. I was like, “aid me build this. You guys know how to work with studios and still build the movies you want to build. I reflect this thing has crossover potential. aid me execute it.”
fraction of the lore of Tommy Wiseau is how puny we know approximately his history: specifically where he was born and how he became rich. There’s a documentary in the works that attempts to retort those questions.
“A Room Full of Spoons,” which Tommy tried to stop. They just overcame that, and it will approach out eventually.
Now that you know him, what execute you build of the investigations into Tommy’s real life, given how secretive he is?
I actually haven’t watched it, but the thing approximately that is, I reflect the guy who made it is a fan of Tommy’s. You can fade online, and people beget theories approximately the three mysteries approximately Tommy: his age, where he got his money and where he’s from. To me, that’s frosty and fine. I don’t reflect it actually takes absent from anything. What’s more titillating to me approximately Tommy is the self-creation, the persona that he’s effect on, and how tough and how tightly he holds this creation, and what’s behind that need to live behind this facade.
He created his own character. His life has become a bent film, and he’s the star.
Yeah! What is that? That’s what’s titillating. In our film, we preserve the mystery. Our film is not approximately debunking those mysteries. We touch on it a puny bit, but it’s more approximately upholding the facade, or whatever — it’s not even a facade. It’s just his version of himself. What we execute uncover is the emotional through-line of his character. We execute reveal his emotional highs and lows, and give a sense of how badly he needs to hold on to this character that he’s created.
“The catastrophe Artist” opens in limited release on Dec. 1. It expands nationwide Dec. 8.