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The many faces of Franco ; Acting, directing, writing, art - is there anything James Franco hasn't tried his hand at? The multi-talented star talks...

July 27, 2013


The many faces of Franco ; Acting, directing, writing, art - is there anything James Franco hasn't tried his hand at? The multi-talented star talks to ALBERTINA LLOYD about the pressures of his craft and where his endless drive comes from

IN his last film, This Is The End, James Franco played himself.

The comedy, written by his friends Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, features a fictional, satirised version of Franco in which he played up to the image of himself as a pretentious, egotistical Artist with a capital 'A'.

This send-up says it all really. As well as an accomplished actor, director and writer, who even teaches film classes at the prestigious NYU, 35-year-old Franco is also a successful comedian, who isn't afraid to laugh at himself.

That doesn't mean he can't be serious. As Franco discusses his passion for art with his old friend, performance artist Marina Abramovic, things get deep.

He's in a reflective mood when he talks about making the new documentary series Iconoclasts, which sees creative visionaries meet with those who inspire them.

I love Marina. She's a friend. I've done so many projects with her, and she's one of the great performance artists, Franco says of the woman who famously sat motionless in a chair in the MoMA atrium for more than 700 hours, returning the gaze of museum visitors.

Her work's really shown me ways to expand my own work, to be able to step outside the boundaries of what people believe in - of what an actor can be.

In the documentary, she invites Franco to undergo the 'Abramovic Technique', a method designed to give a clear state of mind. The pair also discuss risks they've taken in their careers and their creative pressures, before Abramovic, who recently announced she'd be making a film about Franco's life, transforms the Oscar- nominated actor into a dramatic gold leaf sculpture.

So, when trying his hand at so many things, is he never afraid of failure? I'm sure I am, but I usually try not to let that fear determine anything that I believe in, he replies.

His latest project is adapting his book of short stories, Palo Alto, for the big screen. Franco published the stories, based on his high school experiences, after studying creative writing at Brooklyn College.

The actor was arrested several times during his school days, and he dropped out of UCLA in his freshman year. But he's gone on to graduate from several institutions, including studying English at Yale, while juggling his prolific film career.

Though he's directed several films, Franco decided to hand the stories over to people he met at film school, where he studied himself before becoming a lecturer.

To finance the films, Franco has turned to his fans through crowdfunding website, asking for help to raise 500,000 US dollars.

The directors are all talented young people I met at film school, so crowdfunding was a way to raise money.

If we went out in Hollywood and tried to do it the more traditional way, I think we'd have more resistance because they're really unknown and untried, he says.

Critics of crowdfunding - a popular choice among independent film- makers these days - have suggested it can be taking advantage of their fans, but Franco doesn't agree.

Nobody's forcing anybody, he says. But he concedes: I guess it is a sensitive issue. I didn't want this campaign to be raising money for one of my projects. I'm in a position where I can get funding in more traditional ways for the projects I direct.

Plus, absolutely all profits from the films will go to The Art of Elysium, a non-profit organisation which gets people in the arts to give time to entertaining children in hospitals. ? Iconoclasts starts on Sky Arts on Thursday at 9.30pm.

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