James Franco Interview For ‘This Is The End’
‘This Is The End’ follows six friends trapped in a house after a series of strange and catastrophic events devastate Los Angeles. As the world unravels outside, dwindling supplies and cabin fever threaten to tear apart the friendships inside. Once they discover that they are experiencing the Apocalypse, they must come to terms with why they were left behind. Eventually they are forced to leave the house, facing their fate and the true meaning of friendship and redemption. Scheduled for a June 12th release in the US and a June 28th bow in the UK, the all-star cast for the film includes Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Jason Segel, Michael Cera, Kevin Hart, Aziz Ansari, Craig Robinson, Emma Watson, David Krumholtz, Paul Rudd, Martin Starr, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart, and Rihanna. Members of the cast portray fictional versions of themselves.
Do you remember your reaction when Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg told you about this film and the nature of your character?
James Franco We’re playing extreme versions of ourselves, and I would really only trust Seth and Evan to depict me in an outrageous way. Their take on me is funny – of course, I don’t think I’m really like that, but yes, it’s a version of me (laughs), it’s their version, and it’s funny. I was game for it because the way they make movies, their sensibility is just so solid. The way my character is on the surface, he’s a pretty shallow person. He’s a guy who thinks that Seth can’t be his friend and anybody else’s – like sixth grade behavior (laughs). So that’s where we took the character deeper.
And then how was it developing your James Franco with them?
James Franco: It was fun. I think like all their movies, even going back to ‘Superbad,’ they put in this level of heart or connection between the characters that grounds the comedy. So I figured out, “Alright, maybe my character is like really obsessed with Seth Rogen.” I wouldn’t say that I’m obsessed with Seth in real life (laughs), to the point where I make paintings to win his love. But I do love Seth, and over the course of my career…. really from the first thing me and him did, ‘Freaks and Geeks,’ to now, he’s been there at important point in my career. He was there in the beginning, he was there with ‘Pineapple Express’ where I feel like my career really did change, in that I started to do things that I really cared about and didn’t take myself so seriously. And so I felt James Franco would be just more interesting and less of a cartoon if he had that connection with Seth and need to connect with Seth.
In the film, your house is filled with art. Not surprising, in a way, because you care deeply about art. However, there’s a blurry line between the art you care about and the art that the pretentious character you play prefers…
James Franco: Yeah. People know I’m interested in art. I just went to school for it and for a while I was collecting art – I sold most of it a while ago so I could go to school and not work so much. So it was kind of a funny idea that the Franco character would be collecting art, and Seth asked me if there was any particular artist that I wanted to have in the character’s house. And I thought, there’s a way to take this to a different level. There’s a painter that I really like named Josh Smith – his work is hard to place because a lot of it has a very humorous feel, even though it’s abstract work. Josh was interested. Not only interested, but wanted to create new work, and it would be special because it would be work that was only intended for this movie. And as Josh and I were talking, we came on the idea that we could do the paintings together. Josh and I spent two days together and we painted a lot, through the night, ten huge paintings and a bunch of little ones.
Together you created art that directly references the movie….?
James Franco: Yeah. The idea is that my character is somewhat obsessed with Seth. So the subjects of the paintings are shows I did with Seth – there’s a Freaks painting and a Geeks painting, there’s a ‘Pineapple Express’ painting. Josh does these name paintings in which he uses his own name, Josh Smith, in a Jasper Johns kind of way – it’s just a form that he can then forget about. He can just use the same form over and over again because the painting isn’t about the subject of the painting, it’s about the paint itself, or the application, or the execution. Still, we thought it was fun to do name paintings for the movie – a Seth Rogen painting and a James Franco painting. It’s almost like they’re credits for a movie – for these guys, they’re the stars of their own lives.
And you’ve got people in the movie, like Danny McBride, who plays something associated with him. But then you’ve got Michael Cera playing the opposite of what people associate with him….
James Franco: Yeah. Danny play the side of himself that people kind of associate with him (laughs), that kind of Kenny Powers, loud, obnoxious, kind of southern guys guy. Which Danny sort of is, but isn’t, because Danny is one of the nicest, sweetest guys I know. In real life I’ve actually never seen Danny lose his temper or actually do anything arrogant at all. He’s actually really sweet. But there is that side of him that he knows how to play, and he is kind of playing that version of Danny.
And with Michael Cera, they were actually talking about it after he was doing the role, the way it’s written he can basically do anything with this role (laughs). He could show up in one scene with a German accent and it would work because he’s just supposed to be insane, and he pulled it off. Every scene he’s in he just kills it (laughs). That was a really cool thing to witness.
Amongst the comedy, the film balances many different tones and movie genres….
James Franco: Yeah. It’s funny, it’s outrageous. But I think whatever is outrageous or dirty is tempered and grounded by the heart that is underneath it. And I think that is one of the secret ingredients to all of these films – including ‘Superbad,’ ‘Knocked Up,’ Pineapple Express,’ that you can be as dirty or as blunt or as outrageous as possible if you care about the characters, if you see that there’s something human, something that you can relate to underneath, and that deep down some of the characters care about each other. Tonally it’s very unusual because you’re mixing a lot of different things. I think it does kind of reference all of these things: reality shows, horrors, comedies, disaster movies, action movies… it sort of references all of those and really I guess the thing that will push it through is both the comedy and the relationships.
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