James Franco’s Biggest Mistake (NOT!)

There was a Newsweek article (April 23rd & 30th, 2012) called MY FAVORITE MISTAKE: about James Franco.  Was it about the mistake of playing at least three brilliant (and gay) roles in homophobic (yet gay to the core) hollywood? No.

Perversely, the interview by Marlow Stern recounted how Franco says making the film TRISTAN & ISOLDE was a unique learning experience (i.e. a huge mistake).

Wha? James, what are you saying? Your biggest mistake?

Unh-unh.  No it wasn’t.

Can you say your best role ev-ah?

I saw it on DVD, not the big screen, but I loved it.   L-O-V-E-D it.  To say it was a mistake is a crime against humanity.  Here’s why I loved the film:

him, him, him.  

James Franco played the most amazing illicit young lover I think I’ve ever seen.

And that’s saying a lot.  There are other amazing hot young/illicit lover roles that have been done with excellence:


Sam Shephard in FOOL FOR LOVE (which he wrote himself–making him even hotter)

the Triple hot threat of Daniel Day Lewis, Wes Studi, and that guy who played Uncas in  LAST OF THE MOHICANS

and more recently, Colin Farrell in MIAMI VICE. (Not showing a pic of Farrell, the ‘stache out of context is just too much.)

Anyway, I’m not saying that TRISTAN & ISOLDE is a great film.  These other films I mentioned–they are great.  The actresses hold their own every bit as much as the actors, if not more.  Though I have to give it to Rufus Sewell in T & I, he did a pretty fine job. 

I’m saying James Franco, poor dude, you’re just so very, very wrong in saying T & I was your great, big mistake.  What was a mistake was that the world didn’t instantly realize you’re amazingly hot as a result of the film.   

Franco recounts the issues of filming in a foreign country with a knee injury from fight scenes that never even made it into the film. (Suck it up, James. This is why they pay you the big bucks.) Then he talks about not going along with the director’s interpretation of the role. Recounting that you didn’t get along with the director is a big no-no in Hollywood, isn’t it, James?  I’m not even sure why you’re confessing it to this national magazine, because it’s not like you’re apologizing.  Just sort of showing that you were ‘trouble’ in the past.  Puzzling career move, James Franco’s agent. (i.e. what are you thinking?)

Yet I was agog over this article because I always wondered WHY Tristan & Isolde didn’t catapult Franco to brad pitt-esque fame.  Obviously in not getting along with director Kevin Reynolds, he must have burned some big bridges.

But first, let’s go back in time.  I  noticed James Franco at the end of Spider Man. (Didn’t own a TV during the FREEKS & GEEKS period, so I never saw him in that. Fans of Franco can sue me.) This is back when he was kinda blonde. (Don’t go back to the blonde thing, James.) Anyway, he was Peter Parker’s friend in SPIDER MAN, but also the son of the bad guy, and you just knew he was in for a hard time.  At the end of the movie he doesn’t get it that his dead dad was the bad guy.  So he is full of grief, and has this big bonding moment with Peter Parker, swearing undying friendship to him.  It was nicely moving, but at the same moment he swears vengance against Spider Man for his father’s death.

Uh-oh. So he’s set up as the next inadvertent villain–a great villain, drawn in by emotions we’ve carefully followed—a very appealing villain.  Something in Franco’s acting at that moment caught my attention.  I was kinda wondering if he’d break out after that.

Then along he comes in Tristan & Isolde.  Which is an amazing opera by Wagner, by the way.  [In the opera, Isolde literally dies of love — or liebestraub (love-sadness). So frickin’ romantic/cool.]

Anyway, in this film version of Tristan & Isolde, Tristan after a bad fight where it appears that he’s died, is sent off on his funeral bier into the ocean from England.  He washes up in Ireland, he isn’t dead, & Isolde drags him from the sea, heals him, & falls in love with him.  Unfortuntely, her dad gets suspicious and comes clomping onto the beach with a lot of soldiers, forcing Tristan to flee.  He comes back later to make peace on behalf of his beloved English King (Rufus) and fight in the king’s name for peace against a bunch of Irish stand-ins for the Irish King (Isolde’s father).  So Tristan wins the mock battle.  Which is great.  But this means Isolde must marry the English King, (Rufus).  Which sucks.  Especially, because the king’s very decent to Isolde, and because Tristan loves him dearly.  (He’s maybe Tristan’s uncle or something like that?)

Then the good part comes.  This is where James Franco gets all hot-eyed and just burns up with jealousy over the King and Isolde being all married and decently content about it.  He burns really well, btw.  This whole fourth act of the film is why you’d watch the film in the first place. 

Now, what’s interesting about the article in Newsweek is that this moment is where the director and Franco butted heads.  Franco says: “[Kevin] had the idea that my character would be more jovial, and I thought he was tragic.”   Score one for Franco.  Um, Kevin, the most TRAGIC opera ever written and you’re thinking Tristan should be more ‘jovial’?  In the film Franco looks like he’s the one who’s going to keel over from liebestraub.  You just want to leap up on the screen and be there to pillow his head when he finally dies of his jealous fever.  Of course, Isolde can’t resist him for too long, and that’s when things get really juicy.

Thank goodness Franco didn’t listen to his director.  I think Isolde did–this is why her performance was lighter perhaps and also almost completely forgettable. Poor James.  Caught between a rock and a hard place.

Yet I have to point out that I had to raise an eyebrow over the disingenuous “career arc” film list at the bottom of the NEWSWEEK article.  It not only excludes Spider Man, but also your (brilliant) gay roles in MILK, HOWL, etc. This movie time line is not really, um, representative.   Anyway, alll I’m saying, James, is don’t hide or disavow your brilliance.  Trust us — we out here in the audience get you.  Poor guy.  We know you just want to be a good actor, but the political gay police in hollywood, and an inadequate director combined to almost derail your career.

Did you let it defeat you? No, instead you took a positive approach to overcome you’re dead-in-the-water-you’ll-never-work-in-this-town-again-as-a-straight-romantic-lead curse.  You made out a bucket list and did everything on it you could while waiting for movie offers.  Including acting in soaps, writing a novel, and appearing on 30 Rock.

You’re an inspiration to us all, James.  But don’t disavow your best romantic straight role ever.

Meanwhile, PLEASE, would someone out there in Hollywood get a clue and put him back in another romantic lead role?  I just want to see him brood.  Hotly.  Just a little bit.  He does it so very well. Sigh.

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