James Franco: I had better ideas than the Academy
Of course he did. It’s essentially what he’s saying. And you know what? That guy is totally up his own ass, and he was a pouty little bitch about how much he sucked hosting the Oscars, and he wasn’t gracious at all to his partner Anne Hathaway, but when he says his ideas and suggestions were ignored and the Academy producers were the ones who came up with the sh-tty material, I do believe him.
James is currently promoting The Rise of the Planet of the Apes and in a new interview with Playboy speaks candidly about the Oscar criticism, how disappointed he was in the process, and how in the end, how heroic of him, he had to roll with the material, even though it was poor and below his standards. See? Even when he’s right he’s a goddamn prick this guy.
"It's hard to talk about because it's like assigning blame -- not a fun thing to do. For three or four weeks we shot the promos and the little film that played in the opening. In the last week, when we really started focusing on the script for the live show and did a run-through, I said to the producer, 'I don't know why you hired me, because you haven't given me anything. I just don't think this stuff's going to be good.'"
In particular, James really didn’t want to come out in drag. Not because he had issues about being in drag, but because he didn’t think it was very original or funny or ... good:
"I was so pissed about that I was deliberately going to fall onstage and hopefully my dress would fall off or something -- they couldn't blame that on me; I was in high heels. The plan had been that I was going to sing as Cher and then Cher was going to come out onstage; that got axed when Cher and the song from 'Burlesque' weren't nominated. I told them, 'Look, this is the thing people are going to talk about, the images they will take away from the show.’ I just didn't want to fight anymore, even when they said, 'You'll come out as Marilyn Monroe. It'll be funny.' Me in drag is not funny. Me in drag as Cher trying to sing like her is a thing. That didn't happen, so then I just didn't want to argue anymore.”
Instead, James decided to just eat it and deliver it even though he did attempt, at one point, to bring in his own people. In the end he elected not to prove to them that other people could do it better.
“I was going with their program; I wanted to do the material they gave me, not be one of the many cooks doing the writing. There were a lot of cooks who shouldn't have been cooking but were allowed to. There were some cooks my manager tried to bring in, like Judd Apatow, who wrote some very funny stuff that wasn't used."
As for why he seemed to be stoned, and why he looked like he wanted to bail –James explains that it was just “an actor’s response” to what Anne Hathaway was doing. You know, that’s when all the training kicks in:
"After the show everybody was so happy, and Bruce Cohen, the show's producer, hugged me and said, 'Steve Spielberg just told me it was the best Oscars ever!' As far as having low energy or seeming as though I wasn't into it or was too cool for it, I thought, Okay Anne is going the enthusiastic route. I've been trained as an actor to respond to circumstances, to the people I'm working with, and not force anything. So I thought I would be the straight man and she could be the other, and that's how I was trying to do those lines. I felt kind of trapped in that material. I felt, This is not my boat. I'm just a passenger, but I'm going down and there's no way out."
I mean I get it. I get it that the Academy producers are stale and lame. It’s the Academy, sure. The Academy isn’t “cool”. So, you know, I guess, I guess James Franco, he can’t and shouldn’t be blamed. I guess. But do you remember what I said about Hugh Jackman last week? About being Present, about Committing to every moment as an Entertainer delivering a Performance, even when the material might be sh-t? Click here for a refresher.
At some point, as an Entertainer, which is 100% what the host of the Oscars SHOULD and MUST be, your responsibility is to your the Audience. It’s not to “respond in the way of an artist or an actor” by textbook theory and theatre craft, or whatever sculpture/silent film/borderline porno James Franco happens to be working on that week. The Audience deserves an Entertainer who, at the very least, even when the sh-t might not be great, will throw down everything he has in service of the experience.
Hugh Jackman doesn’t make great movies. You don’t think he knows this? But in all of his not so great movies, does it look like he knows it’s not so great? Or does it look like he’s trying his best, still Present and Committed to every scene, because that’s the only gear that his fans deserve?
I totally buy that James Franco was stuck with poor quality. I buy that his ideas and suggestions were better and overruled. I buy that the Academy stifled him and that content-wise, they bear the responsibility. I do NOT buy though that the way James handled it, the way he delivered it, was the only move he had. What we saw was a petulant little boy who was embarrassed; more importantly a boy who does not know how to handle embarrassment. I’d say, for an actor especially, that’s a pretty significant lifeskill he might want to work on. That’s the kind of sh-t they don’t teach you in a fine arts doctorate programme at an Ivy League school.
As for that “actor’s instinct”, the one that told him to play “straight man” to Anne Hathaway’s enthusiasm – we can all agree, and even he agrees, that it didn’t work. So what’s the follow-up to that? Why can’t we explore then the fact that his “instinct” was wrong? This is the problem with the celebrity slash intellectual slash artiste. No one ever pushes for the second question. How can you possibly achieve discovery when you’re not confronted by anything that makes you uncomfortable?
Click here to read more about James Franco in Playboy. It’s actually not a bad way to spend a few minutes, if only to roll your eyes.
Photo from GABRIEL BOUYS /Gettyimages.com