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Franco meets fans at the ‘Spring Breakers’ premiere in Hollywood in March.
James Franco won’t be stopped — and can’t be avoided.
The 35-year-old actor, director, writer, painter, etc., proves once again that he does it all on Tuesday by adding another line to his résumé with the release of his first novel, “Actors Anonymous.”
“I get away with it. I get to do everything that I want,” he says. “I’m sure that must piss people off. … But one thing I’m clear about is that I will absolutely never let that stop me.”
Call it meta or call it annoying, “Actors Anonymous” is pure Franco. The book creatively features a character named James Franco. There’s also a character known simply as The Actor. It’s not always possible to tell the two apart, and it seems like that’s kind of the point.
“Some famous people are liked for doing one thing, and then they think that they will be liked if they do anything,” The Actor muses.
Wait a minute. Is Franco getting all judgey about celebrity dilettantes?
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James Franco and Anne Hathaway host the 2011 Academy Awards, a gig that earned him subpar reviews.
“It’s just that someone who’s famous for one thing can forget that she or he worked really hard for success in that area,” says Franco.
“They forget that they had a talent in that one area, and think that talent applies across the board. They don’t get that they have to work as hard to achieve excellence with their other stuff.”
But, says Franco, that’s not Franco.
“Yes, I am an actor who’s written a book,” he says, before adding, “I’ve done the work.”
The actor (lower case) certainly has Hollywood cred. Most famous for playing Harry Osborn in the “Spider-Man” movies, Franco snagged an Oscar nomination for “127 Hours” and earned critical acclaim as Sean Penn’s lover in “Milk.” His adaptation of William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying,” which he scripted, directed and starred in, opened last Friday. His next Hollywood thriller, “Homefront,” co-starring Jason Statham, arrives in November.
But Franco also has paid his dues in the lit world, earning an MFA at Columbia while studying filmmaking at NYU and fiction writing at Brooklyn College. He’s a Yale comparative literature Ph.D. candidate and published a starter book, the collection of short stories “Palo Alto,” two years ago.
James Franco’s ‘Actors Anonymous’
Not all his extracurriculars have earned raves. He famously flopped co-hosting the Academy Awards in 2011 with Anne Hathaway, who gets only passing mention in the novel.
Other women, however, play a bigger part in “Actors Anonymous.”
“So, yes, I did it. I had lots of sex. Lots,” Franco writes. “Most actors seem to do it, capitalize on their celebrity appeal. It’s funny, lots of guys that become actors were shy or nerdy or sensitive, so when they became famous they really cash in to make up for those years when they were overlooked and rejected …”
“I had something going on with most of my female co-stars and worked up a routine so that I could see someone every night.”
Is this the real James talking or the fictional James boasting?
“People might roll their eyes at this answer, but I’m really thinking more of the perception of James Franco than trying to confess,” he says.
James Franco in the critically praised ‘127 Hours’
“Whatever version of James Franco is in there, I’m a person whose public persona is weird. It’s all over the place. The persona is partly my creation. And it’s partly not my creation.
“But the James Franco in the book is part of the atmosphere I’m creating.”
That atmosphere is dark, as a host of characters live sordid lives in the shadow of Hollywood. The fiction is experimental with a complex weave of story lines. The Actor, or the character James Franco, step forward at turns to deliver jarring epigrams.
Such as: “The problem is that when actors are successful, they build up a—— capital. That means they can be a——s for a while and get away with it. If they keep having successes, they can keep being a——s.”
Franco barks a laugh at that.
“Some of those little statements are genuine and some are over the top. I don’t necessarily believe all of them. But ‘a—— capital’ is certainly true.”
Franco as ‘Spider-Man’ villain Harry Osborn
The novel is structured around the tenets of a recovery program. Each chapter opens with one of the 12 Steps or 12 Traditions. Franco says he is quite familiar with the “Big Book” of Alcoholic’s Anonymous, which is essentially an operating manual for recovered addicts.
“When an addict stops using, the program has them look at their life, at how they engage with the world,” says Franco.
“I thought it would be a trippy way to look at life in a more universal way.”
He stresses this is not a book for “actors about acting” and “pointedly not a memoir,” but it is very much the book he wanted to write. And, as he’s made clear, Franco does what Franco wants.
“Not everyone gets to make all the movies they want. To write the books they want. To spend their time going to school. And to do all that in a public way takes audacity.
“I get to do what I absolutely love — and every day. I just had to say to myself, this is your life. So do it.”