JAMES FRANCO

NATALIA BONIFACCI MEETS JAMES FRANCO AT THE CHATEAU MARMONT IN WEST HOLLYWOOD. IT'S THE END OF JANUARY AND HE'S JUST BACK FROM MOROCCO WHERE HE'S BEEN FILMING WERNER HERZOG'S LATEST MOVIE, 'QUEEN OF THE DESERT'. THE SOUND OF 'KITES' IS COMING FROM HIS IPHONE IN THE BACKGROUND, AND, WHILE SIPPING BLACK COFFEE, THE MULTITALENTED FRANCO SHARES WITH NATALIA HIS THOUGHTS AND INSPIRATIONS

redmilk_james1_img

If you were to explain what you do for a living to a small a child, what would you tell them?
I work in film and art and writing… I guess I tell stories and I play different characters, different kinds of people and then, sometimes, I photograph them or film them to help other people kind of play characters and tell stories.

What’s the image (a photograph, a painting, a movie frame, etc.) that has had the biggest impact on you?
Good question… If I think of just one thing, what comes to mind – just because I’ve been thinking about it recently – is Marlon Brando in a ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’. Maybe if I had to pick up one image from that… Either there’s a scene where he first meets Stella, where he’s introduced (to her) and he takes his shirt off… And then there’s a scene where he comes back and he’s wearing a white tank top, a wife-beater kind of thing… I love it because in that play and movie he’s the brute, he’s the villain, but because of the fact that Marlon Brando played the role it was elevated into something else. Even though Stanley, the character, is ‘anti-art’, because of the way that Brando played him, it became art form, it became something that was elevated past what the character was ‘supposed to be’. (I tell him I haven’t seen it) It will be your favorite movie.

Which book has touched you the most?
I can just think of Moby Dick. It’s one that I go back to a lot. I guess for many reasons… I like the idea of…  there’s the boy in me that likes a good adventure tale: it’s about a young man who goes off on a journey and it turns really dark, and all of that is still appealing to me. In addition to that it has all this extra non-narrative material that is also very appealing to my adult sensibilities, the book itself is bigger than just the adventure narrative or a revenge narrative, it’s something that has multiple forms.

Which of the characters you have played is the dearest to you?
Right now I would say it’s Alien in ‘Spring Breakers’, maybe because it’s still so fresh. I felt the most creatively liberated when I played that character. I could almost do anything, and it would work in that movie, and it was a really nice space to be in.

How long did you film for?
Not long… I only shot for two, maybe three weeks.

…and which one do you like the least?
I mean…. I’ve done a bunch of crappy movies (he laughs), I don’t know which one I hate more…

What’s the sexiest quality in a woman?
I guess, this is just for me; everyone has their own things… but for me, I like people who, I don’t even know where I am trying to get to (he pauses)… I like people that I can work with, I like people I can collaborate with, and what that means is… I guess that when you say “sexy” I think “what is that attracts me to a person” and it’s somebody that has the best things for a collaboration, somebody that is open to ideas, and then, is somebody who is also able to bring ideas to the table.

That makes you want to kiss a woman?
I think so (he laughs)… It makes me definitely want to be around a woman. And if you’re talking about something physical…

I mean, it doesn’t have to be… It could be anything. Just whatever attracts you the most, in that sense, to someone.
I mean, I know beautiful women that I just think would be “bad collaborators” or just sort of stuck in their ways and that is just something I am not attracted to. I guess since my life is so filled with different kinds of work and creativity, I need someone that I can collaborate with. That is important to me.

…and what’s the biggest turn off about a woman?
Somebody who doesn’t like me, I guess (we both laugh for a bit)… It just makes me want to say ‘fuck you’ (he laughs self-mockingly).

What’s your favorite smell?
Smell? I should know smells better… I love the smell of coffee. I love the smell of cigarettes, although I don’t smoke (he quit four years ago).

What’s the best quality about you and what’s your biggest flaw?
I think a good one is the fact that I actively try to help others, to give back to others, whether it’s through teaching at universities or giving opportunities to people, I think, deserve it, or try to help them to get their projects together. I used to volunteer giving back that way, to kids and stuff, although I’ve been a little busy travelling lately so it’s been harder to do that, but I still try to do that when I can. So, I think that’s a good quality, it’s something that I try to do and that I probably could try to do more of, but I do do some. My flaws? I am very busy, so maybe people can feel I don’t have time for them or something…

Selfish?
Selfish, with my time I guess…

What’s the quality you admire the most in people?
I guess the quality I admire the most is… I like it when people are really good at something and they share it. I hate the opposite of that about people, when they are really good at something and they don’t share it, meaning, I hate it when a writer or a director is obviously really good at something, but then they don’t share any secrets, they don’t talk about their work, they don’t have any students or anything like that; to me THAT is so annoying. It’s like “why not give back a little?”. So, the ones that are great, and there are plenty of them that I’ve worked with and known, that do share and they are open, well, I admire that quality about them. The ones that don’t, I feel as if I want to resist them, like I want to take them down because I feel like they are so selfish (he laughs), even though they are so good at what they do.

What do you mean by ‘take them down’?
I don’t know what I mean by ‘”take them down” other than… I guess in my own work, well, a lot of my work, I think, is inspired by other people’s work. Sometimes I’ll start on somebody else’s work and then build on that, or something like that. That is how I do a lot of things. For example, when I adapt books into movies or I’ll do shoots or art projects that are inspired by other art works, or that kind of thing. And there are different ways you can build on that work: you can do it out of love and respect, or you can do it out of a critical stance and break it down. So, maybe, I feel like, if a certain kind of artist is closed off with their work, I can try to go at him with a more critical kind of approach.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
When I am the most happy is when I am directing a film. That’s just the best. Because if it’s the right film, I’ll have some of my friends around me collaborating with me, so a lot of the people I love. I’ll be working on material that I love and I’ll be doing my favourite thing: working on a movie.

You are multitalented in so many ways. What talent don’t you have that you wish you had; what are you really bad at?
It would be great to play the guitar really well (he laughs), that would be fun, right? I took guitar lessons for a long time, but I guess I found that with other things, like  film-making, acting, writing or whatever, I found a real drive in myself to just practice and do it all the time, it was just there, I always wanted to do it… But with guitar I felt like I had to force myself, so it wasn’t a real drive… It was interesting to see that even though I really liked the idea of it and I love music, and I wanted to do it, well, there are some things that I am sure everyone is naturally drawn to and  there are other things that you are just not.

If you could host an imaginary dinner party and invite seven people, alive or dead, whether you’ve met them or not, who would you invite?
Probably a lot of writers… Shakespeare, Herman Melville… Stanley Kubrick. I’d bring Robert Altman: I knew him, he would make it fun. Brando would be cool. I guess William Faulkner although he’d be very quiet; he probably didn’t talk much at parties. And then I don’t know, I’d bring one of my friends just to enjoy it with me (he laughs)… I can’t choose who.

It’s all men…
I’d bring one of my female friends…

redmilk_james2_img

  • Maria Dase

    nice interview

  • Ani

    I loved the interview! Congrats Natalia..

  • Ivanna Tagles D’aviero

    Great interview, congrats!

  • Pamela Lovato Hart

    love it , such a great interview :’) shows the real franco

    thanks natalia for make him a really good interview