“Okay, this is your first interview?”
That’s James Franco doing the asking, at the top of a fascinating conversation with New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz in this week’s issue. All manner of topics are touched on and intertwined in the cover story, including Franco’s time as a Ph.D. student at Yale, the impact of Saltz’s review of Franco’s 2014 Pace Gallery showing and exactly who blocked Saltz from following the actor on Instagram.
At one point, Franco frames himself as someone who is always looking to inspire peers and students to be brave “beginners,” willing to ignore the fear of failure or criticism as they pursue additional artistic avenues. That dovetails to some interesting thoughts from Franco about co-hosting the 2011 Academy Awards with Anne Hathaway:
“Before then I also did this thing where I went onto a soap opera, General Hospital. It started as just an experiment because I was doing another art movie. I was going to play a character that was a soap-opera actor, and I thought, What if I actually am on a soap opera? And so I asked them, and they were overjoyed for me to come on, because, normally, the trajectory for an actor is to start in soap opera, and then if you can get away from it, you don’t go back.”
“So they said, “Do you want to write for it? Do you want to create your character?” I said, “No, all I ask is that you make him an artist and you make him crazy, and otherwise, I want to be delivered into your hands.” So they came up with this idea that he would be called Franco. It was a General Hospital version of an artist. All the clichés…”
“I wasn’t trying to turn the soap opera into something of my own making. I was in their hands. When I was asked to do the Oscars, I thought I’ll do the same thing. Nobody expects me to host the Oscars.
The Oscars crop up again later when Franco brings up Saltz’s reality TV show Work of Art. The New York Q&A is sub-headlined ‘The Celebrity Makes a Case for His Art,’ and that is indeed the current that runs through every strand. In our opinion, Franco makes the case convincingly.
Photo, by Maxine Helfman, courtesy: New York magazine