Best known for his roles in both “Freaks and Geeks” and the “Spiderman” movies, James Franco, a Paly graduate of 1996, talked with the Paly Voice discussing the “Spiderman” movies. Franco addressed the Paly graduates at the Baccalaureate Ceremony on Sunday.
Franco played the role of Harry, Peter Parker’s best friend and one of the major villains in the second and third “Spiderman” films. Franco is also known for his work with Robert DeNiro in “City by the Sea” where he plays DeNiro’s estranged son, Joey.
Voice Reporter: How did you get involved in the “Spiderman” movies?
Franco: Well I first auditioned for the role of Peter Parker which went well and I went and did a test and the test is more extensive than a regular audition because it puts you on film. So they spent a lot of money on the sets and cranes which is unusual for an audition. So I went and did that and was waiting around, and biting my nails for six weeks. And then I found out I didn’t get the it and I was disappointed. But then Sam Raimi, the director called me, and we got along so well, and he asked me [if I wanted] the role of Harry. No one else auditioned for the role.
Voice: Which of the “Spiderman” movies is your favorite?
Franco: Ummm, I definitely like two and three better than the first. The best part about the first is how it explains the origins of Spiderman with Peter discovering his powers. The second one was a very well put together movie and is great and then the third one is good too. They had already done two so they were already experienced and knowledgeable [by the third]. And of course the technology is always advancing as there are more resources to work with.
Voice: Was the scene where Harry dances with Mary Jane improv or directed?
Franco: No, that was definitely not improv. I do not normally do the twist. I don’t dance much anyway. That was all Sam Raimi’s idea. For some reason he thinks people dance like they do in the fifties. They even brought a twist instructor and I went to culinary school for a day too.
Voice: Did you purposefully drop the omelette in this scene?
Franco:They shot it in a way to make it look like it. This wasn’t in the script, they came up with this when we were shooting the scene. I am very proficient at [flipping omelets].
Voice: What was it like doing so many action scenes in the third movie?
Franco: Yea. There was a lot more action in the third film. Those scenes take a long time to shoot. Obviously I am not flying around New York in real life. The scene early in the movie where I’m on the board took about a month and a half to do and then the effects took a year or more to edit. A normal dramatic scene takes at most a day, maybe two.
Voice: Why do the action scenes take so long?
Franco: It takes so long cause you’re in front of the green screen, strapped in a harness and they attach wires to the board I’m standing on. So I’m hanging on a sound stage in the Sony studio and the wires are programmed by a computer. The wires will jerk me and the board around to make me look like I’m doing a short turn, for example. So you have to put the costume on, yank me up on the wires, the camera team has to make sure everything is in place, maybe rehearse a couple times, make sure my hair’s blowing, and then shoot for thirty seconds or less. So you have hundreds of these little shots like these.
Voice: What was the most difficult part to act in “Spiderman 3”?
Franco: After doing three of the movies, I felt pretty comfortable with the character. I feel like if the motivation for the character is there and if it feels right, then it’s not that hard to act the material. Sam Raimi is very collaborative. He does a lot of work to make sure we know the characters and the arcs of the characters are right. We had tons of discussions [on character development.]
Voice: What part of Harry is most like you?
Franco: I don’t know. I don’t think I’m very close to Harry. His whole life has been damaged by his father and everything he’s done is connected with his father. Harry really is not his own person. Fortunately, I’ve had nice parents.
Voice: Did you ever see Topher Grace? [He plays the villain in “Spiderman 3”]
Franco: He’s a really fun guy. Really, I didn’t see him on set. We really didn’t work together since we didn’t have any scenes together. We did do a press tour together so I saw a bit of him. He’s a funny guy.
Voice: What was it like working with the directors and producers for “Spiderman”?
Franco: Spiderman is much bigger than any other movie I’ve done. Sam Raimi is an incredibly fun guy so I’m always happy to be there. Like I said, he’s collaborative, works with everyone, and he makes everyone wants to give their best. Everyone feels invested in the movie.
Voice: What plans do you have for the future?
Franco: I’ve directed two features. The second one was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival where [the movie] “Palo Alto” was shown. [This is called “Good Time Max.”] I just did a movie with the producer of “Knocked Up” who also produced the TV show “Freaks and Geeks”. The movie is called “Pineapple Express”.
Voice: Do you plan on acting in more movies?
Franco: Yes, yes I will.
Voice: Any hints on what you will be talking about at Paly’s Baccalaureate?
Franco: I think I’m just going to talk about my experience and what it’s like to be a Paly grad and where other people my age might end up. Also what I have found to be useful in my life thus far and give some guidance.