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Let’s be Franco: Actors Who Don’t Like the Interview Circuit…

I actually don’t feel strongly one way or the other about James Franco. I do kinda like that he was willing to experiment a bit by appearing as “Franco the performance artist” on General Hospital, respect the fact that he doesn’t care too much about his image to appear in films like Pineapple Express and Your Highness, but I also feel a little frustrated when I see how incredibly bored he seemed hosting the Oscars. There’s been a bit of on-line discussion about Franco’s public persona, and his perceived lack of interest in his own projects or in giving interviews, to the point where the actor has found himself being compared to Harrison Ford, one of the more notoriously difficult celebrity interviewees. However, despite all that, I find myself having quite a bit of sympathy for actors clearly not comfortable with dealing with the press circuit.

Going to great lengths to get away from it all...

I’m not the most astute individual at reading subtext in public interactions, but I have watched interviews with Harrison Ford where it looks like the beloved actor would rather be undergoing dental surgery without anesthetic than respond to any more questions. I have to admit, I felt a bit more frustrated when I was younger. I’d grown up watching Ford make a career out of playing these likeable rogues, and the actor had given cinema two of its more iconic pulp characters. He was a Christmas institution in our house, somebody who the whole family could sit down and watch without any objection, and I couldn’t even bring myself to truly hate Six Days, Seven Nights.

So it was a bit of a shock to my younger self to see Ford being somewhat cage-y with his interviewer – I think it might have been Jonathon Ross. I’d noted the sort of awkwardness, defensive tone and passive aggressive responses in whatever politicians were being grilled on important prime time television shows, and was completely unaccustomed to it coming from an actor. I remember Ford shifting a little uncomfortably in his chair, occasionally taking Ross to task for an overly generic or simplistic or “fluffy” question, and generally keeping his answers short and concise. Ross seemed to have to literally pull the answers out of the man sitting opposite him. And I really couldn’t fathom it. It seemed… well, rather rude, to be honest.

I take my hat off to Harrison Ford...

These days, I find myself a bit more patient with actors like Ford and Franco, if only because I’ve become a bit more worldly. The press junkets for films aren’t single interviews, they’re like speed-dating with international film journalists, all of whom seem to have the exact same questions. And you do it over and over and over again. It’s not the job you signed up for, but it’s something you’re pretty much forced into by the studio, and – even if you aren’t – you’re expected to be “available” to comment when attending movie premieres or showings, and are prone to be bitched about in celebrity columns if you don’t.

Acting is a job. I’m not going to say it’s a job like any other, because most jobs have fairly considerable differences. However, actors like Ford and Franco signed up to get paid to bring life to a role and help make a movie. I don’t mean to pretend that it’s as dull or sterile as it sounds – contrary to popular opinion, people can and do have passion for their jobs. People can enjoy their work, while a lot of people don’t, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not a profession. Hell, I tend to think that acting is a really glamourised profession, and the popular perception of it doesn’t capture the long takes, the late hours, the pre- and post-production work, and the simply overall commitment that a lead role represents. Sure, I would like to hope that the people making the movies have as much fun as I do watching them, and maybe some do, but I recognise that’s a highly romanticised aspect of it.

Why was Franco such a drag?

So that’s what Ford and Franco signed up to do. To make entertainment. And, to be frank, they both do it fairly well. Ford is generally really good, and occasionally exceptional. Franco is always at least professional and mostly seems to enjoy what he does. The media and press circuits aren’t what either actor signed up for, and they’re the activity that is expected from the major studios (and even written into their contract). Hell, even we expect it, where an actor not doing their best to generate goodwill for a movie seems like bad form, rather than a professional calling it a day after their work is done.

You might make the argument that these interviews are part and parcel of making the movie. Just as a baker’s job isn’t finished until he’s packaged your cake and handed it to, the actors haven’t finished until they’ve sold you the movie. It’s a valid argument, suggesting that being the public face of a movie is an implicit (and sometimes explicit) part of any major motion picture contract. Much as employees are expected to put their best foot forward in representing the company they work for, actors should do the same for the films they star in. It’s just due dilligence. just because they don’t like that part of the job doesn’t mean they shouldn’t do it.

Ford's attitude to interviews isn't exactly news...

I don’t know that I can counter that point, and perhaps concede that my own personal bias is showing. I really don’t care about the publicity. I don’t care if an actor does or does not do interviews. If I want to see a film, I will. If I don’t, I won’t. Maybe an actor’s passion in bringing a movie to life (for example, Mark Wahlberg’s struggle to bring The Fighter to the screen) might interest me, but ten minutes of mindless banter on a talkshow won’t sell me that easily. Besides, I always got the impression that the celebrities were really selling themselves rather than the movie.

Again, I’m not sure that’s a convincing argument. By promoting their own brand, surely they promote the movie? And one must assume that interviews at least raise awareness (and probably interest) in the vast majority of movie-goers who aren’t big massive film nerds like myself. Still, I can’t help but feel that expecting this sort of behaviour and conduct from movie stars smacks of a strange and uncomfortable entitlement. I think that their primary role should be to star in the films, not to promote them. I think that those skills aren’t necessarily connected. I think Ford is a great actor, but a lousy television salesman. On the other hand, Ryan Reynolds has still to prove himself as a leading man (Buried aside), but has a wonderful enthusiasm in selling himself and his projects. I don’t think that actors like Ford should ever be brushed aside or dismissed because they get frustrated at being asked the same questions over and over again.

Franco's animal attractiveness...

Then again, I suppose he could “act” interested, couldn’t he? Pretend to be a movie star who liked that sort of thing? but, truth be told, I don’t think he should have to. I think that’s what this boils down to: I’d rather Harrison Ford be the Harrison Ford he is, instead of play the Harrison Ford people expect. Save that talent for the film set.

As an aside, and as a final note (realising I couldn’t segue into it without ruining the flow of the above), I still feel very frustrated about Franco’s “too cool for school” hosting of the Oscars, if only because it was a job and he should have done it well, or not at all.

2 Responses

  1. wow you suck

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