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Day Five: James Franco Plays a Parody of Himself in His Latest Film

I interviewed him about that.

by Esra Gurmen
28 June 2013, 4:00pm


Inspired by This Is the End – where five of Hollywood’s A-List comedy faces, Danny McBride, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson, wake up to find themselves high and dry with a front seat to the end of the world – VICE is spending a whole week exploring the hilarious side of the Apocalypse. If this is the end, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom.

When I think of James Franco, I imagine him playing theremin with one hand while tossing pancakes (and catching them) with the other. I'm not saying the man's a polymath but he's certainly an incredibly good multi-tasker. Just recently, he opened his first London exhibition Psycho Nacirema at Pace Gallery, made a screen adaption of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying which premiered at Cannes Film Festival, directed a short film called La Passione and put out a new video for his music duo Daddy. (Full disclosure: he's also started writing his own column for VICE, entitled A Few Impressions.) His latest project is Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s new movie This is The End, in which he plays a parody of himself hosting a party in his parody mansion for all his parody Hollywood friends. The party happens to take place on the last day of Earth, and Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Seth Rogen, Craig Robinson and Jay Baruchel struggle for survival and seek redemption from Hell.

If you’re dying to find out whether Franco will end up in flames, then go watch the movie this weekend. I caught up him ahead of the film’s premiere to find out about the making of the movie and his upcoming ventures.

VICE: Hi James. How’re you doing?
James Franco:
I’m good.

I spoke to Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg yesterday and they told me they had originally planned to parody your Gucci modelling but you told them to make fun of your art instead.
The art was always in the script. The movie was always going to take place at my house and it was always going to be filled with art; it just didn’t specify what kind of art, so they asked me which artists I thought would be good for the interior. That led me to asking Josh Smith if he would do the paintings, and he and I made a series of paintings specifically for the film. It was great because the paintings could comment on the characters in the action and become a real part of the narrative. But what they had written was kind of a flat character who was very materialistic, who cared more about his clothes and things than people, and I didn’t think that was going to be the funniest thing to play and they agreed, so we changed it.

Do you think this meta artwork can turn into auction-able pieces?
Yeah, that was the plan, Josh and I were going to give some of the paintings to Seth and Evan and the people in the movie, and then we were going to make a book out of them, but right now they’re just sitting in storage at Josh’s gallery, Luhring Augustine, in New York.

I guess The Freaks and Geeks painting could become big considering the show’s cult following?
Yeah, I think they’re all really good. There’s a Pineapple Express one that doesn’t have as prominent a place in the movie but it’s also really good.

Speaking of which, there was a homemade Pineapple Express sequel in the movie. Is that going to happen?
We’ve been talking about that since the first one. I think everybody wants to make it – I’m not sure why it hasn’t been made. I think in a way This Is The End, is a sequel of sorts; it involves all the original actors and has such similar sensibility and sense of humour, so you could say it’s a kind of a meta-sequel to Pineapple Express and Superbad and all the other Seth Rogen movies.

Can you talk to me about the sequence, that didn’t make the final cut, in which you were dressed up as the Green Goblin and Craig Robinson was Mary Jane Watson?
One of the great things about playing versions of ourselves was that we could bring in aspects of our real lives or props from, or references to, previous films that we had done. When I did Spider-Man 3, I made sure to get my own Green Goblin mask, so we used the actual mask from the movie. And it made sense that James Franco in the movie would keep that because I actually did keep it. We were doing a sequence, where the characters had done all the drugs in the house and were bored and just started doing stupid things. So I was wearing the mask, standing on a skateboard and Seth [Rogen] was pushing me around and I had tennis balls [instead of pumpkins], and Danny [McBride] was Spider-Man and I was throwing the tennis balls at him and Craig [Robinson] was Mary Jane and he had a blonde wig on.

This is The End is not your only project that references religion. You’ve turned Kenneth Anger into an occult priest in a music video for your music band, Daddy. How was working with Kenneth Anger?
It was great. I’ve been a fan of Kenneth Anger for a long time. I was especially drawn to Scorpio Rising and it became a big influence for a couple of my short films I did at NYU. I met Brian Butler who works with Kenneth – they do Technicolor Skull together. He introduced me to Kenneth and it was really weird: Kenneth wrote me a handwritten note that Brian took a photo of and emailed to me, which said, “James, you’re a great Errol Flynn type. You should watch his Captain Blood and Robin Hood and remake them.” Then we met, Kenneth was very quiet and sort of looking up to the sky [laughs] and whenever I asked him a question it was like I was pulling him out of a reverie.

Lastly, you’re also working on a book project with Ed Park. He’s a great writer and editor. Could you tell us about that?
Yeah, sure. It’s a book called Actors Anonymous. I started most of the material when I was a student at Columbia and Ed was one of my thesis readers, and he read what we could call a very early draft of Actors Anonymous. About a year or so later, he moved to Amazon [Publishing], and he wrote to me: “I was really struck by your thesis, I think it’s something that’s worth publishing if you develop it,” and I thought he was the perfect editor for that work based on the seminars I took with him. It’s going to be published in October.

Nice one, looking forward to reading it. Thanks James.

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At Cinemas June 28


Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg Are Friends so they Made a Film About it

Long Live the New Brat Pack


How to Party to the End of the World

Follow Esra on Twitter: @esragurmen