“I do a lot of different things. One of my main interests is the way different mediums or forms relate to each other or how subjects change from one form into another. Obviously I come from the film world. I started my professional life as an actor. That is the central thing or source for a lot of my work. What I’ve found is a lot of my favourite artists in the art world – Cindy Sherman, Douglas Gordon, Paul McCarthy – are artists that were looking at film as a source for their own work. They are using film techniques, altering them slightly to make their own work. I realised that’s the kind of work I like, I admire and what I want to do. But I have one thing they don’t: I come from the film world.
After going to school for art and studying art, I was in a situation where I was both on the inside and able to step outside and look back in. Now, when I'm hired to act in a film like Oz, I do my job as an actor and play my role. I’m not trying to disrupt the film, I’m there to just play the role of the wizard, that’s what I’m being paid to do. Once that’s over, I can step outside and that role, that movie, however it affects my public persona, all those things can be used as raw material for other work.
"I have one thing that a lot of my favourite artists don’t: I come from the film world."
I’ve found that since I’ve worked in these different kinds of mediums, I can start with the subject and find the appropriate form for it. When I was working in film, if I found a subject I wanted to explore, I asked ‘How can I make a movie out of this?’ Well, not everything makes a great movie. Sometimes a subject is better told through a painting, a piece of writing or an installation. That started this multi-form approach. I thought if I did a series of portraits about the public persona (rather than me alone in my room) it might be a way to speak about something bigger. That’s the key to a lot of this work.”
James Franco is the Hollywood film star who writes, acts, makes movies and is also a conceptual artist. Whilst Franco is better known for his roles in Pineapple Express, Spiderman and Oz the Great Great and Powerful, which he stars alongside AnOther Magazine cover star Michelle Williams, his art practice spans the realms of painting, self-portrait photography, installation and video art. He recently premiered his latest film, Interior. Leather Bar., at the Berlinale. Franco will also star in Harmony Korine's film Spring Breakers out in April.
Read Jefferson Hack's Proust Questionnaire with James Franco here.
Text by Nadja Sayej