The problem with James Franco is that he can get away with anything. Once again, he has made the headlines with more gay drama, this time fuelled by a slow-mo video of him and his I am Michael co-star, Zachary Quinto, sharing a drawn-out kiss in a shower of popcorn. For any other actor this would at least verge on the scandalous. But this is James Franco, a master of the media and connoisseur of controversy. It isn’t surprising at all.
A quick Google search of Franco’s career leaves you with such a bewilderingly diverse scope of material, you might wonder if he has, or is in the process of, some kind of existential crisis. Is he a writer? Is he a director? Is he an actor, or a pseudo-actor, or are we actually watching a carefully curated show of just what Franco wants us to see? One article asks the fairly valid question: ‘Is James Franco for real?’. Maybe this is part of the problem; what we might define as reality could just be another performance art opportunity for Franco.
One thing is for certain, he is not just a pretty face (a shame really, when he is so very pretty). Franco has long since shed his Spider-Man days with films like Pineapple Express and 127 Hours proving that, beyond all the sensation, he can actually act. Spoofs aside, recent years have seen more of a shift, with serious dramas like Milk tapping into the social dilemmas and challenges of homosexuality. The upcoming release, I am Michael, tells the story of a former gay activist who becomes an anti-gay Christian fundamentalist after announcing he’s straight.
When questioned about his preference towards gay-orientated films, Franco has said: “I feel like that’s my place: I can in some ways lend myself and say that these are important issues of equal rights, though on the other hand, I’m very much about preserving this queer kind of space of defying identity and defying labels.”
This deliberate denial of categorisation could be one reason Franco has managed to hold onto his Hollywood career, whilst simultaneously shunning the very grounds it’s built on.
Somehow, he maintains a level of intrigue whilst inviting us to laugh both at and with him. He isn’t taking himself too seriously, so we should stop trying to do the same.