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Pineapple Express - James Franco interview

James Franco in Pineapple Express

Interview by Rob Carnevale

JAMES Franco talks about turning back to comedy for Pineapple Express and requiring stitches to his head after a stunt went wrong.

He also talks about the joy of reuniting with co-star Seth Rogen after so long and working with Sean Penn on forthcoming Oscar contender, Milk.

Q. What kind of research did you do for your character?
James Franco: Well, I went and killed some people! [Laughs] It really didn’t have anything to do with this movie, but I said it was research. Sometimes I get away with it… I used to smoke a lot of marijuana when I was in high school but I haven’t really smoked in a long time, so… The tactic that I use to look high is to pretend that I’m just looking into the wind [mimics doing it].

Q. Was it good for you to get back to comedy after some more serious roles?
James Franco: It was great. I’ve been doing these movies where everyone was so serious on-set and I took my role really seriously. Then I did this movie and everyone was having fun and telling jokes on and off camera. It was just like the best time. Who would have thought that the movie I roll a cross joint in is the one that people respond to the most! Usually, they say that if it’s a really fun shoot it means that it’s going to be a bad movie. But I’m not sure how true that is because on some movies I’ve had a really bad time and it turned out to be a really bad movie. So, it goes both ways. I’ve found that I had a great time on this and it’s one of my favourites.

Q. Were you worried about offending Hollywood’s less liberal side by making a stoner movie?
James Franco: Harold and Kumar was the most recent. But the funny thing is, whenever I go to a movie and someone lights up a joint, the audience always cheers. Always! So it seemed, to me, like they were just waiting for one that was really good. There’s a long tradition of teen comedies where the kids are getting drunk on beer and whatever else, so smoking a joint to me is no worse than having a beer. So, if someone has a problem with it, I’ll just tell them to relax.

Q. Can we talk injuries? I gather you have a trophy scar?
James Franco: Yeah, you can see [points to scar on his forehead]. I think it was three or four stitches… there’s a scene where Seth and I are running through the woods like morons and there’s a gag where I run into a tree because I’m not looking. When they set it up for me, it was a really simple set of instructions. It was like: “Run up to the tree and stop just short of it, and then fall down and it’ll look like you actually ran into the tree.” It seemed like a very simple and easy thing to do because the stuntman was stationary when he was explaining it to me. But it’s different when you’re running at full sprint, looking behind you and then have to turn around at the last minute and then do it. Judd likes to say I was very tired at that point because it was a night shoot.

But there was also a pad on the tree, which was the size of a postage stamp, and on each corner there was an exposed washer… that’s how they attached it. So, basically, it was like half metal. It was something I needed to avoid for my own safety, but I ended up running into it and hitting one of the washers. So, the actual take in the movie is me hitting the tree and I make this really weird sound that I’ve never made before [laughs]. I’m trying to laugh it off, I guess, but I can’t quite. And as soon as I got off-camera I asked people whether I was bleeding and no one was saying anything. Everyone had really wide eyes and I soon felt the blood running into my face. But I was cool about it because I knew it was going to be on the DVD.

Q. Is it much easier to do action scenes when it’s not green screen?
James Franco: I definitely felt more connected to it. On Spider-Man, we do a lot of green screen and those scenes usually aren’t face-to-face with the other actor. So, that takes a lot more use of the imagination, I guess. I had to pretend that Tobey [Maguire] was in front of me. On this, there was no green screen. There were a few wires. So, when I throw Danny [McBride] into the desk, that’s really him and me mixing it up. I like it because it makes it more awkward, which is how it’s supposed to be. In Spider-Man, the stuntmen get in there a lot and throw punches to make them look really good and stuff, but we just made it look like a couple of men going at it. But what it boils down to, of course, is a lot more injuries.

Q. You’d worked with Seth before [on Freaks & Geeks]. Had you stayed in touch and was it always the plan to work with each other again? Or did your cameo on Knocked Up get you back together?
James Franco: We got along very well on Freaks & Geeks because it was sort of the first project of any quality that either of us had done. We were both really young. But afterwards, I didn’t see him that much for a while. He’s four years younger than I am, so we were at different places in our lives or something. I was, however, still talking to Judd [Apatow] every now and again and I then bumped into Seth again. Knocked Up wasn’t even shot yet but Judd said: “I’m going to do this movie with Seth [Knocked Up] and then you and him should do a movie together.” So, I’d had such a good time with him on Freaks & Geeks that I thought it would be great. Anytime we’ve work together, it’s been a really cool time. Basically, he’s the same guy – he was a great guy then and he’s a great guy now.

Q. What’s next for you?
James Franco: I have a movie called Milk that’s directed by Gus Van Sant and which stars Sean Penn. It’s an awesome movie. It’s about the first openly gay elected official in the United States. He was a man named Harvey Milk in San Francisco, who was then assassinated by one of his co-workers, along with the Mayor of San Francisco in 1978. It’s something that Gus Van Sant has been trying to make for over a decade. Sean Penn is incredible and he probably will win the Oscar. And I kiss him. So, it’s been a dream all around [laughs].

Read our review of Pineapple Express