James Franco gets attention for being a holder of superfluous college degrees and an infamously bizarre Instagram account, but he is also one of Hollywood’s busiest actors. That would be an impressive feat in itself even if he wasn’t balancing all that film work alongside his teaching jobs and role in the Broadway adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic novella Of Mice and Men.
His most recent film release was Palo Alto, an adaptation of his own collection of short stories directed by Gia Coppola — Francis Ford’s granddaughter and Sofia’s niece. Palo Alto is a collection about coming of age in Northern California. Emma Roberts plays a virginal high school student who engages in an appropriately flirtatious relationship with her much older soccer coach Mr. B, played by Franco.
Franco also stars in the upcoming thriller Good People, co-starring Kate Hudson. The actors play a married couple that discovers a large amount of cash hidden in their apartment and make the decision to try and hang on to the money.
A big film coming up from the actor is Werner Herzog’s anticipated Queen of the Desert, staring Nicole Kidman as the British explorer Gertrude Bell, a woman who has been described as the female Lawrence of Arabia and who played a key role in developing Britain’s trade relations with the Middle East. Franco will play British army officer and politician Henry Cadogan.
In a more indie realm, Franco has tried his hand at adapting another classic Faulkner novel, even though last year’s As I Lay Dying was a critical failure. His take on The Sound and the Fury, in which he plays the mentally handicapped protagonist Benjy Compson, is in post-production. Younger brother Dave Franco and frequent collaborator Seth Rogen are also thought to be involved in the project. Franco clearly has a deep appreciation for Faulkner’s novels, but adapting the writer’s dense stream-of-consciousness writing style to film is a tricky task that Franco hasn’t shown adept at in the past.
A quick rundown of the other movies from the actor in post-production: Everything Will Be Fine, a drama co-starring Rachel McAdams and Charlotte Gainsbourg about a man who accidentally hits a child with his car; Yosemite, a drama about a group of young boys growing up in Palo Alto in 1985; True Story, a crime drama in which Franco plays a murderer who escaped the U.S. and lives under the name of a journalist, played by Jonah Hill; The Interview, a comedy co-starring Rogen, in which he plays a talk show host who’s asked to assassinate North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-Un; Black Dog, Red Dog, which involves 10 short films interpreting the poems of Stephen Dobyns and stars Olivia Wilde and Chloe Sevigny as well as Franco; and finally, Franco will lend his voice to the upcoming animated adaptation of the beloved children’s book The Little Prince.
Franco is currently filming The Adderall Diaries in New York City with actress Amber Heard. The adaptation of Stephen Elliot’s crime memoir focuses on the journalist author’s weird connection to a murder trial in California, in which a man accused of murdering his wife could be found innocent after Elliot’s acquaintance, who was in love with the wife, admits to eight unrelated murders. The book also explores the author’s traumatic childhood, his Adderall addiction, and his penchant for masochism.
There’s even more rumored in the actor’s future. Franco’s production company, Rabbit Bandini Productions, recently optioned the rights to the memoir The Disaster Artist, about the making of Tommy Wiseau’s cult classic The Room, which has been called The Citizen Kane of bad movies and is frequently cited as one of the worst films of all time. Rogen is also involved in the project, which he spoke about on SiriusXM radio show Opie & Anthony last month. Franco will likely play writer and director Tommy Wiseau, who financed the making of he awful film and has been forced to reinterpret what he thought would be his masterpiece as audiences embraced the movie for being so terrible.
In addition to The Room project, it was revealed last month that one of Franco’s film students at UCLA, Lisa Vangellow, has been filming the actor for an upcoming documentary about his life and artistic process. The film will explore Franco’s seemingly inexhaustible work ethic, delving into his projects in film, theater, academia, literature, and the art world. But before we get too excited about the possibility of learning Franco’s secret for all that creative energy, the documentary could also take a more creative route and end up with the elusive actor essentially trolling us.
So how does Franco manage to maintain such a busy schedule? He said in a recent interview with David Letterman that the constant activity only provides him with more energy. Franco said that he flies across the country weekly in order to teach his film classes in California and appear on Broadway, to which Letterman responded, “That’s crazy.”
“It’s not. It sounds like it would deplete me, but it actually, I don’t know, fills me up,” Franco said of keeping such a busy schedule.
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