Ever since the inception of television and film, there have been many actors who have been willing to go above and beyond the call of duty from Marlon Brando, to Robert DeNiro, Tom Hanks and Christian Bale. It has been a surprise to many that this weekend James Franco is featured in the full length Veronica Mars movie, proving once again that as an actor, he will do anything.
For those unaware, the story of the Veronica Mars movie took center stage a year ago as the director and key star Kristen Bell received the assistance from fans of the television show, which the film is based off of, to fund the project via Kickstarter. Considering Warner Brothers stated they needed funds to make the movie as best they could, it’s curious to see someone of the stature of Franco in the film. However, at the same time it isn’t, because considering all he has done, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if he took a pay cut.
For example, many know Franco made a highly controversial and surprising appearance on the soap opera General Hospital in 2009. More surprising is that the actor went on to appear for the program 54 times with him rumored to return this year by playing himself meeting the fictitious James Franco. Soap operas are not necessarily held in the highest regard in terms of artistic integrity. Most actors would most likely find it demeaning to be called to do the show based on his popularity; however, he did it as something different.
Most would consider Franco’s choices suspicious and bizarre and that he’s making a mockery of himself. However, what is different about him opposed to most actors is he really doesn’t care. This is most evident in his role-playing himself in the Seth Rogan comedy This is the End where he makes fun of himself at great length. As an actor, there have been many in Hollywood that would not go to the lengths of James Franco, but he is so invested that he will do anything for the greater good of the creative arts.
Another example was in last year’s Spring Breakers by controversial director Harmony Korine where Franco played a white gangster rapper, Alien. Most people would find it ridiculous to take on a part such as this; however, Franco did a spectacular job by developing a character who was silly but also dark and brooding at the same time. It made the film, which might have been the most underrated films of 2013.
It’s an interesting history for a man who started on Freaks and Geeks, basically playing a wannabe James Dean, and in the beginning that was mostly what Franco did. In fact he even played James Dean in the biopic Dean. However, there also was about a decade long where Franco was a middling actor in subpar Hollywood releases — with the exception of his role in the Spiderman series.
It wasn’t until later that his career began to turn for the better when he brought some real acting chops to Oscar contender Milk in a supporting role. This was the game changer. Once that happened, he put his acting chops to work into gutsy independent features such as Howl, Shadows and Lies and was even nominated for 127 Hours, a film in which he spent 95 percent of the film by himself.
The way in which he did this though was by doing whatever he needed as an actor, an ethic more actors should implement into their work. He started and continues to do small independent films as well as the occasional studio film. In fact he’s been so willing that he does bit parts such as his role in The Iceman.
There are many that can learn from the exploits of Franco. He has learned that to keep working and has to do anything as an actor, which is why the profile of James Franco has increased to such a meteoric rise. With Veronica Mars, it’s anyone’s guess where Franco will end up next.
Opinion by Simon Mounsey