By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist August 22, 2012 at 10:25AM
Is it just us who find it increasingly hard to get enthused about James Franco's new projects? We appreciate his broad-mindedness; the way he can go from blockbusters like "Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes" to cheap action movies like the Jason Statham vehicle "Homefront" to indies like "About Cherry" to his own experimental directorial efforts like "Sal." But it's partly the sheer volume of the announcements -- with something new coming every few days, seemingly -- and partly how obscure some of them sound, that's given us something close to Franco fatigue.
Still, it's hard to be too cross about someone with such adventurous tastes, and his latest project might be his most eyebrow-raising to date. According to our colleagues at the Indiewire mothership, Franco has teamed up with avant-garde gay porn director Travis Mathews for "James Franco's Cruising," an installation/film inspired by William Friedkin's controversial 1980 Al Pacino thriller "Cruising."
Apparently, the project began with Franco wanting to remake the Friedkin film (which involves Pacino as a cop delving into the gay S&M underground scene to track down a serial killer), but he was unable to get the rights. As such, he sought out Mathews, whose earlier films like "I Want Your Love" have featured explicit sexual scenes, to co-direct a film that would focus on a recreation of the 40 minutes that were cut out of the original film (and have since been destroyed), as well as being "an examination of people trying to make sense of Franco as star figure," according to Mathews, making it entirely different from all the other self-regarding, navel-gazing projects Franco's made (let's not forget, it's barely a week since the actor decided he was going to make an art film about himself and Lindsay Lohan, and on Monday a Samsung commercial directed by and starring the actor was revealed).
Partly reconstructing the content of the scenes by interviewing extras from the original film, the project came together at lightning speed; it's only two months since their first conversations, and yet Mathews recently delivered a cut to Franco, and is likely to debut it at a gallery show next month, before prepping a longer cut for the festival circuit in early 2013. The director told Indiewire "He knew he wanted real gay sex in it. His people went looking for a filmmaker who had filmed real gay sex, and I suspect someone who would complement his vision. We talked about why we would be interested in still looking at this film. We talked about his interest in the film and his interest more broadly in so many gay-themed stories and visionaries. He's worked with so many in front of and behind the cameras over the years."
Again, we admire Franco's forward-thinking nature, and the way in which he's able, as an A-lister, to engage with gay subject matter, but we can't help wishing he'd engage with the world around him, rather than using these projects to continually examine his own star persona in a way that isn't particularly interesting to anyone that isn't James Franco. Hopefully his currently-casting-up adaptation of William Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying," or his wrapped take on Cormac McCarthy's "Child Of God," will be more of a step in that direction. In the meantime, we cautiously await the debut of "James Franco's Cruising" sometime early next year; we're sure Disney are thrilled it's landing so near to their megabudget family-targeting Franco vehicle "Oz The Great & Powerful"...