Sunday February 24, 2013
By KARYN ANNE KRISHNAN
James Franco is a man of many talents with an insatiable curiosity.
JAMES Franco knows how to make an entrance. At an interview in Los Angeles, Franco walks into the holding room with an entourage. “My students are here, but not for you, just for me,” he says in reference to a group of his University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) students from the English department.
Fortunate as the UCLA students may be to be there, Franco’s students from New York University were even luckier as they were allowed to be on the set of Oz The Great And Powerful.
It pays to have an A-list actor for a teacher with an impressive Ivy League background – bachelor’s and masters degrees and a soon-to-be doctorate – who is adamant on keeping his classes, project-based. The NYU students also got to work with some of Hollywood’s most popular actors like Jessica Chastain, Mila Kunis, Zach Braff, Chloe Sevigny and Logan Marshall-Green.
“I try and create classes that I would have wanted to take. I just try and bring resources that I have to my students and give them opportunities that I’ve been given and raise the level a little,” he shares.
Between splitting his resources and time to teach, Franco tries to lead a balanced work life, even though – as confessed – he had missed a couple of classes for work.
“I was pretty good wasn’t I guys?” he asks, directing the question at his students.
The actor is glad that he got the chance to play the leading role of Oscar Diggs in Oz The Great, and to work (again) with his now close friend, director Sam Raimi.
“I think Sam identifies with his lead characters, so when he did Spider-Man, he was fully invested in Peter Parker and so I felt a little short shrift as Harry Osborn.
“And now that I’m Oz, an entertainer who puts on shows of illusions, I think Sam as a producer can identify with (it). So, I think I’m getting the full sunlight of Sam’s love!”
Another fond kinship on set was with his long-time pal Mila Kunis, who was crowned the sexiest woman alive last year by Esquire magazine.
When asked whether Franco thinks Kunis really is sexy, he notes: “She’s not trying to put on a persona that is just not her, she has learnt to embrace who she is and share that with the world and I think that is very sexy. It makes her very confident and easygoing because she’s so comfortable with who she is.”
Prior to this film, the duo acted in comedy Date Night and paired up in a hilarious parody of The Hills, as Audrina and her then boyfriend, Justin Bobby for the comedy video website Funny Or Die in 2007.
It might be hard for some to see Franco as a “funnyman”, especially after his less-than-enthusiastic Academy Awards co-hosting gig with Anne Hathaway in 2011, but the guy does have a few comedies under his belt. He has acted in the hilarious Pineapple Express and can be seen this summer in the United States in the apocalypse comedy This Is The End with funny guys Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel and hotties Emma Watson and Rihanna. He was also in the critically acclaimed series Freaks And Geeks.
Apart from acting, Franco also dabbled in directing – he made a humorous second music video for R.E.M for the song That Someone Is You, taking cue from the 1970s John Travolta movie Grease.
He can be seen next in Spring Breakers (tentatively scheduled for a March release) with Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine. Franco plays a rapper named Alien. Seriously.
To portray Alien, he followed a rapper named Dangeruss, who regularly performs along the coast of Florida.
“I guess in some ways he lives a kind of dangerous lifestyle,” shares Franco. “But he is a very sweet guy who just took me into his life and let me observe him and ask him questions. Actually, in the movie I rap with him.”
Whether or not Franco is able to “drop it like it’s hot”, he does have a broad artistic side. When he was in Berlin, Germany in early February, Franco showcased a collection of paintings, videos and other art projects he developed while attending the Rhode Island School Of Design, where he met his musical partner Tim O’Keefe.
Apparently, the duo released their EP last year under the moniker “Daddy”; Franco directed their first music video called Love In The Old Days.
With all these things happening in his life, it must be exhausting to be Franco. It is a wonder if he gets any sleep. “Yeah, I sleep. I just have good time management, I think. Sometimes I sleep five hours, but not every night. Sometimes I sleep more,” he reveals nonchalantly.
Follow the Yellow Brick Road into Oz The Great And Powerful