James Franco as himself

Photo by Jemal Countess

Photo by Jemal Countess

James Franco represents a new generation of Hollywood characters - energetic, full of strength and versatile talent.  An actor, director, screenwriter, and artist, he also wrote “Palo Alto”, loosely based on his high school years and turned into a film by the director Gia Coppola. Juliette Roth met James Franco at the Sundance Film festival to talk about upcoming movies.


Juliette: Why wouldn’t you direct the movie yourself? You’d think that by writing it, you’d have an extra edge to add.

James: I felt that Gia Coppola (a photographer with a cinematic background), who I barely even knew at the time, would be able to interpret my personal stories in a way that I would be too biased to do. I remember saying, “I feel like you’re the right person for this, I’ll give you the rights, and I’d love for you to do it.” and so I did.

Juliette: So were you involved at all with the choosing of stories to feature?

James: No, not at all. I asked Gia to do it all and it was totally up to her. I told her to pick the ones that spoke to her or her favorite ones, whichever she thought would be best to convey what the meaning of the book is. Then she started trying those out, doing a few test films and I think the stories she picked fit together great.

Juliette: In another interview, you said you wanted the “Gia Coppola” experience and see your work through her eyes, how does it feel?

James: It’s great, I mean, it’s everything I wanted. I pointedly did not direct this myself because I wanted her to take it somewhere else than just where the book was. It’s just awesome, in some ways I think she made my characters even cooler than I imagined them. Not cool in a glossy, popularity sense, but cool as in interesting, like you want to know more about them. I was nothing but pleased.

Juliette: You ended up actually being cast in the movie, did you have anything to do with that?

James: I didn’t. Gia had cast everyone else and eventually turned to me to play Mr. B. It was hard acting out something from my youth but after I’d adjusted it was great.

Juliette: How do you feel about your end product? Seeing your written work, your life actually, on the big screen?

James: The movie turned out better than I could have imagined, I’m more than happy with it.

Juliette: Is there any chance of you writing again? You seem to be surprisingly good at it.

James: I haven’t really thought about it, since “Palo Alto” came out in May and I’ve been busy with “The Interview” and “True Story” [both movies that came out earlier in the year], I haven’t exactly had time to sit down and write. Of course the media always want more, that’s how the business works, I feel like the only reason “Palo Alto” was good was because it was really, truly personal for me. I wrote about my experience, and, sure I twisted them a bit and changed the names, but it was still mainly about my life in high school. Yes I’ve written other movies like “The Sound of Fury” and “Child of God”, but those weren’t based on real life. “Palo Alto” was different for me.

Juliette: That’s understandable, you really are well rounded though, an actor, writer, director, what do you truly love doing?

James: I don’t actually have a favorite, I think that I’ve gone through so many phases in my life, from “Freaks and Geeks” in, what? 1980? Where acting was all I did, to now where I really do it all. I think, living the life that I live, and having the opportunities that I do, I honestly don’t think it would even be fair to pick a favorite.

JULIETTE ROTH is seventeen but has been writing ever since she could spell. She writes a blog based on her life and another one on all things fashion. Living in Park City, Utah, she loves hiking, biking, skiing, and anything in nature. Unbound will be her first official publishing.