James Franco Visits Campus
Published: Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
"It's actually refreshing knowing no one is here to listen to me," said David Quigley, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S). While the remark earned laughs, the sentiment rang true as the audience anticipated the entrance of actor and director James Franco into Robsham Theater to premiere his film The Broken Tower on Friday, April 15. The event, organized by A&S, marked the world premiere of the film and included a Q&A with Franco and author Paul Mariani.
Mariani, a professor in the English department and author of the book The Broken Tower, introduced Franco, who mentioned his own application process to Boston College.
"I probably should have attended," Franco said. "It's like 50 girls to every one guy." Franco explained his vision for the film, emphasizing his working relationship with Mariani, whose research on Hart Crane inspired Franco to tackle the project. "I warn you, this is not Pineapple Express," Franco said.
The film, starring Franco as Crane, ran roughly an hour and 45 minutes before Franco and Mariani returned to the stage to answer questions from the audience. "I'm impressed at how much James captured [Hart Crane's] life," Mariani said.
"It's certainly an unusual movie," Franco said. "The idea was to have the texture of the film parallel his work." One scene that Franco gave particular attention to was a 10 minute-long poetry reading. Franco believed this scene displayed an essential aspect of Crane's life.
"I wanted to give something of the experience he went through and what people around him went through," he said.
When asked if he had any inspiration during filming, Franco brought attention to Mikhail Kalatozov's I Am Cuba, a film from the 1960s that studied the political landscape of Cuba. "It captured the country in such beautiful, long shots," Franco said. He did not enjoy directing himself, however, and actually asked actors Paul Dano and Joseph Gordon-Levitt to play the role of Hart Crane before he stepped into the role himself. A question from the audience allowed the pair to further delve into casting queries. For instance, Franco revealed that his own mother was cast as Hart's mother and his younger brother played Hart as a young man. "I certainly tease them more than any actors I work with," he said.
One of the more hotly discussed issues in the film was the depiction of Crane's sexuality. "[Crane's] homosexuality was like the bull-elephant in the room," Mariani said.
Franco felt no qualms about portraying this facet of his being on film, however. "I felt dealing with the sexuality was important because Crane was open about it," he said. Franco's past roles include three real-life homosexuals, Allen Ginsberg, Harvey Milk's lover Scott Smith, and now Hart Crane. "I was attracted to these characters for a variety of reasons. I play these roles because I believe in them," Franco said.
This transcendent quality of film is what makes The Broken Tower and art in general so important to Franco. "One of the main things art can do is bring people together with deep understanding," he said. He feels the complex film may go over the head of its younger audience, though. "The two things they'll talk about are the 10-minute poetry reading and how James Franco gives a blowj—."