James Franco Interviewed – SPIDER-MAN 3

     April 23, 2007

Yes, you read the headline right. James Franco is doing a pot comedy/action film with Seth Rogen. But here is the crazy part – it’s being directed by indie darling David Gordon Green – the man who made Snow Angels, All the Real Girls and George Washington. Not thedirectoryou’d think would make a pot film with comedy and action.

But enough about Pineapple Express as you’re here to learn Spider-Man 3 stuff.

The most important thing to know is SPOILERS are discussed during the interviews. I’ve done my best to make it so you have to highlight the parts that would ruin the movie but if you listen to the audio you’ll hear everything. If you want to be completely surprised you might want to wait until after you’ve seen the movie to read these interviews.

Now about this roundtable interview with James Franco. I think anyone who has seen the Spider-Man movies needs to know about his character so…. During the interview he discusses all the normal things you’d expect plus he talks about his upcoming projects and tons of behind the scenes stuff. You’ll dig it.

If you want to listen to this interview click here. As always it’s an MP3 and easily played on a portable player or put on a CD for listening in your car or wherever.

And if you missed the interview with Sam Raimi or Topher Grace just click on their name for a link to the article.

Spider-Man 3 opens on May 4th.

Question: So James, this seems to me like the perfect character arc for you in this movie.

James Franco: I think that’s right.

Would you have been willing to do the third one if that arc had not been prevalent?

Just refused?

‘I’m too big now, I don’t need to do this.’

I think that would’ve caused a lot of problems.

You must have had concerns going into it that they were going to have the balance right and you as an actor would have enough to do to really feed you as an actor.

Well, I was telling a story about when I did the first one, I knew that it would be a big movie and be a successful movie, but until I actually saw it I didn’t realize how special these movies were and the heart that Sam would infuse into them. So after seeing the first one I think I was a convert. I just totally believed in Sam. And so, I was onboard… There was never any question about doing the third one. And as far as the arc that was in it, we had been developing this script since the premiere of part two. I remember meeting with Sam and his brother just after part two came out and we met a few times over the course of a year just to talk about the character. So it wasn’t a surprise, and I was pretty confident.

So you had an active role in developing?

Well that’s the great thing about Sam, is he’s extremely collaborative. Since the beginning, he’s been collaborative. I remember on the first one, Tobey and Willem and Kirsten and I going in. And the characters were just being formed at that point, and so there were a lot of discussions about the characters and who they would be and how they would act, and he really involves the actors. Then from there on to the second and third film he’s become even more collaborative, and especially on this third one he gave the actors a lot of room and responsibility to make sure that their characters were being portrayed properly, and exactly what you’re talking about, the arcs are complete.

Can you talk about some of the physical stuff you had to do, you had to do a lot more of that kind of action.

Yea, I certainly did, I was much more… a part of the action in a much bigger way on this film than the others. I now realize why Tobey was so tired after the first two films. And it’s not that any part of the scenes, the action scenes, are especially dangerous or strenuous, it’s just that they take so long to do. I have three major action scenes in the film, and they each took about a month to a month and a half to shoot. Compared to like a dramatic scene that takes at most a day, maybe two.

So you’re hanging on wires and you’re against a green screen and all that?

Yes, well. There were two different fight scenes. The first fight that Peter and Harry have is an aerial battle in the beginning of the film. And that was all green screen, you know flying through the city, so we had to shoot it against a green screen. That process involves, me putting on the suit, which takes about a half an hour, and then the camera crew has to light for about an hour, and then the stunt team has to rehearse, and then I have to get strapped into the wires and they have to raise me up, and everyone gets coordinated, and the costumer has to make sure that the costume looks right, and the wind fans go and we’re ready to go, and then they say ‘action’ and I go like that. And then ‘cut’, and that’s it. And I get down, and undress a little bit, and they reset for the next shot for an hour our two. And so it takes about a month and a half to do. It’s not like I’d be exhausted after doing one of those shots, it’s just that you go in every day and it’s this process, and it’s draining just because of the length. It’s a matter of staying motivated over a month and a half and keeping a continuity of performance over a month and a half, because in the movie, this scene is going to take about 5 minutes, so it has to be continuous, the performance has to be continuous. So that’s the difficulty of that. And then we did a more traditional fight scene in the mansion, and that was done in a way that I’ve done before. Like a traditional fight scene, you choreograph it, and Tobey and I went through the moves. You have to know when somebody’s throwing the punch and know when to fake the hit, and that kind of thing, but even that took six weeks. We shot I think a couple weeks on main unit and then I went back for about a month on second unit and shot that. I think on a different film, that scene could’ve taken a week to shoot, but they’re very meticulous on Spider-Man.

What was your favorite part of the movie once you saw it?

Watching it, for my character, I enjoy just the turns that he gets to take. And I like watching the points where he turns. Harry’s definitely villainous in this film, but he also has a point where he becomes the old, good Harry. And he’s a bit more innocent and goofy, and that was unusual for me to have those kinds of scenes in the Spider-Man franchise, and so they were fun. And then I really had a good time working out the scenes and playing the scenes where Harry’s turning back and Peter’s not quite sure what’s happening and kind of manipulating him, it was fun just to work that out. And then just as a viewer, I thought the way they executed the Sandman special effects were incredible. I thought some of those battle scenes between Spider-Man and Sandman were incredible.

Are you happy to not do another one of these big Hollywood movies for a while? You love doing, obviously a lot of smaller films. Are you kind of in the area now where you’re going to give the big blockbusters a break?

It’s not really a case of doing a big blockbuster versus an independent; it’s really about doing movies that I believe in. They make large budget art films, it’s just that I just want to be involved in projects I really believe in.

What are you doing next?

Right now I’m doing a comedy called Pineapple Express. It’s a Sony film and it was written by my old co-star and friend Seth Rogen from ‘Freaks and Geeks’ and it’s produced by the producer of ‘Freaks and Geeks’, Judd Apatow. That was a chance to work with people that I really enjoyed working with. When I did ‘Freaks and Geeks’ I was still very young as an actor and I hadn’t done many films and I didn’t realize what a great working experience that show had been. And so when I had a chance to work with them again I jumped at it. And I wanted to do a comedy for a while, it’s just that it’s hard to find a comedy that I think is good, and that I don’t feel like I’m making a jackass out of myself for no reason when it’s not even funny. And I feel like Apatow is making some of the funniest movies around.

Could you talk about working for David Gordon Green and the fact that this is a pretty big movie for him?

Yea, David is fantastic, obviously he comes from the independent world. And this is a much larger film than he’s done before. He fits right in to the Apatow family. The working process that Judd has developed for his films is to allow for a lot of improvisation. There’s a script but then… I think on Knocked Up they used more than a million feet of film, so that shows that they just let every take roll out. Because they’re just improvising and trying so many things. And that’s really how I think David worked on a lot of his films, although he didn’t have the money to afford all that film that Judd used, he gets actors and non-actors and goes off script and allows them to just bring so much of themselves to it. I mean sometimes he’ll just say, well just tell a story about this thing in your life. That’s how his movies have achieved that very realistic slice of life, quality. And so it’s working very well for this movie.

I’ve heard that the film, the first half is kind of a stoner comedy and then it becomes a huge action film.

That’s right, part of the humor is that you have two characters, I play a low level pot dealer and Seth is my client. It’s two characters that are completely unequipped for much of anything, especially battling heavily armed bad guys, and it suddenly switched to this action film, and the action is done in a very realistic way, and that’s I guess part of the humor. It’s going well, I’m on a break. I had to take a two week break so I could promote Spider-Man. Pineapple is a Sony film so they worked it out and they’re shooting everything that I’m not in during these two weeks, and then I’ll go back May 2nd.

Was it easy for you to discover the comic actor inside of you?

Well I think the way this movie came about, or the way I became a part of it was because of a film that I had directed called The Ape. It’s a very low budget film.

The Ape?

Yea, it’s a bit of a dark comedy, I don’t know how funny it is, but I was trying to be funny. And it was playing at a film festival in Austin and Judd was there showing some of his stuff, and he came and I hadn’t seen him in a while, and he came and watched the film and he said, ‘I miss the funny Franco and we should do something’ and I said, ‘yea, of course.’ So Seth had this script he had written about 6 years ago, and then we put it together.

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Going back to Spider-Man for a second, you had mentioned before in terms of your character, what was so interesting about your character is all the transitions you make, constantly going from one to the next, as an actor can you talk about how you get to those transitions?

Yea, well, Harry goes to extremes in both directions in this film, but I didn’t find it difficult playing the scenes, I feel like everything that he goes through has been justified by what has happened before. I guess I find as an actor as long as it feels real and justified, it’s not that difficult to play for some reason. It was a matter of, when we worked on it, Sam and I really plotted out where the changes were and how those changes would happen and what were the triggers, and just made sure we knew where Harry’s mental state was in each section of the movie. And then once we figured that out, it was pretty easy.

DO NOT HIGHLIGHT the next section unless you want to know MASSIVE SPOILERS

How did you feel about him dieing, because he lives for a long time in the comic?

Right, there’s some series where I’ve seen him die, right? I remember one where he even has a child of his own, it’s the third generation of Osborn’s, and Harry gets blown up in a building or something. But, I guess I am assuming that this stuff is not going to come out before the movie’s out, so we’ll talk about the death or I guess you just want to ruin it. I feel like it was a great way to go out, that Harry’s arc in these films is not complete until this third film. And his major conflict is between his loyalty to his father’s memory and avenging his father and the loyalty he feels to Peter. Harry’s struggling with that through all the films, and he struggles with it most in this film. And once that’s resolved, I don’t know what the character can do other than fight along Spider-Man, and that seems a little strange. And so I’m happy that the character goes out on a strong point.

So you say you’re going to be in Spider-Man 4?

No, I don’t think anybody knows what’s happening. I think they’ve ordered a script for it, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that Sam or Tobey are going to do it. I’m sure they would like to if it’s right. But I know Sam has worked probably 6 or 7 years straight. We finish shooting, but then he goes onto post-production and then after that’s done he goes onto pre-production for the next movie, designing the effects and writing the script. So he has really not had a break for 6 years, so I’m sure he’s a little tired, although I know that he loves these movies more than anything and he identifies with Peter Parker. I think that it’s been such a perfect fit for him, I can see it being very hard for him to let it go. But if they were to make another one, I think they should either use the same group, Sam and Tobey and Kirsten and whoever else, or if they change one they should just change everything.

So talking about besides Pineapple Express, right. Besides that, is there another project on your horizon? And did you shoot anything between Spider-Man 3 and Pineapple?

Yea I did a bunch, I did a bunch of smaller films last year. I did a movie called The Dead Girl, one called An American Crime with Catherine Keener. Yea, very dark. I did a movie with Paul Haggis called In the Valley of Elah, I did a movie called Camille with Sienna Miller. I have a small part in most of those films, I just thought the scripts were amazing. I wanted to be involved in films that I really believed in, and that was the only reason. And I could go into them and not worry about how successful they were going to be financially, because I was satisfied with the people I was working with and the message that the films had and that was enough. Sean Penn said to me one time, ‘you know, after the movie comes out, if it doesn’t do well, turn your back and move onto the next thing.’ Which is easy to do if you know you went into the film for the right reasons. So I was just happy to be a part of those movies.

An American Crime got very mixed reviews at Sundance, did you read any of the stuff? Because a lot of people didn’t like it, it was very relentless in its savagery and its darkness.

Well, you know, I think it succeeds on some levels, and maybe people feel like it doesn’t on other levels. But I thought the intention was great and it was a great experience, so… It’s not like I ever thought that movie would be a huge blockbuster, so I was just happy to be a part of it.

So I guess the final thing would be, after Pineapple Express do you have something lined up?

Me, nothing definite, I went back to school, I’m at UCLA, I’m almost done.


I’m an English major with a creative writing specialty and focus. I think I’m going to do a study abroad program over the summer in London where I’ll study William Blake and Shakespeare.

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