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James Franco Says PTA Courted Him For Joaquin Phoenix's Role In 'The Master'

by Kevin Jagernauth
October 20, 2012 8:56 AM
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The Master James Franco

Coming to theaters this fall...the new film from Paul Thomas Anderson starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeremy Renner, Reese Witherspoon and Emma Stone. Yep, had the cards been dealt differently for PTA, "The Master" would have been quite another picture. Now we can add another actor to the trivia list for the version of "The Master" that didn't get made.

During a panel discussion at the Austin Film Festival, James Franco shared a pretty nice anecdote about how PTA courted him for the part of Freddie Quell and how he ultimately "wasn't scared enough" to win the role. “Well, I don’t know if this is a funny story but it’s a true story,” he regaled, when asked it there was a part that ever intimidated him. “Paul Thomas Anderson was getting ready to make 'The Master' and he called me and we met. And we talked and we ended up meeting for coffee. We didn’t talk about 'The Master' but I met him to chat. And then he kept calling me and he wanted to talk and talk but I didn’t know what he wanted to talk about because we’d always just kind of bullshit on the phone. So then when he started talking about the role he said ‘Do you feel like you can do this?’ And I said ‘Yeah, totally. Look, I think you’re like the best American director. I feel confident. I know I can do this.’ And he said to me ‘But I want this to scare you. I want this role, going on this journey, to scare you.’ And I was like ‘Scare?! I know I can do it.”

 “And so, incredible movie, needless to say I didn’t get the part. I guess I wasn’t scared enough or something, or whatever reason I didn’t get it," he continued. "And then when I saw Joaquin [Phoenix] in that movie I realized ‘Oh, he wanted me to like lose my mind.’ And so I guess that’s just to say I usually don’t get scared of roles."

And while we'll forever wonder what Franco's Freddie Quell might have been like, it seems he and Phoenix both have one thing in common -- a distaste for the Academy“You know, I’ll say one, I’ll say a role. The Oscars was challenging because the material they gave me was CRAP!”

Clearly, PTA made the right choices and was blessed with the cast he did get and film he delivered. But is there any alternate world version of "The Master" you'd like to see? [EW]

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  • lenij | October 22, 2012 5:11 AMReply

    Well thank PTA came to his senses. Imagine how the Master turned out if Franco's in it.

  • Oogle monster | October 20, 2012 9:07 PMReply

    LOL at a world where Reese Witherspoon is considered a better actress than Amy Adams. That bullshit Oscar she won should have been given to Adams years ago! Also, James Franco do us all a favor and STFU.

  • hank | October 20, 2012 2:47 PMReply

    PTA saw through this hacks phony charade pretty quickly I'm imagining.

  • yer | October 20, 2012 2:31 PMReply

    Franco likes to talk a lot. He was never considered.

  • Franco'stheMan | October 20, 2012 4:08 PM

    I would hope he likes to talk a lot, when attending a panel discussion, if not there when exactly? Otherwise, the headline would read something else. The guy can't win with some for answering a simple question. Also, it is well known that JF, JR and others, were in fact considered before JP got the role. We all agree the right choice won, including JF saying so too.

    This is not the first time actors or actresses win movie roles and some other star could have been considered, it's not a big deal, he was just sayin.

    There's no reason to hate on this story. They're winners in my book, and I love them as actors.

  • Atasi | October 20, 2012 2:09 PMReply

    Oh the "Jamesi" would of been just fine!! BTW Franco has a way with the various roles he engages in whatever it may be folks he sure is great at his roles and takes each project very seriously and plays them out like a perfectionist lol!! James Franco being “one of the best actors of his generation” an avid A-Lister who has a vision and carries out his craft in such fashion that other A-Listers fail to do which stands him out from the other successful actors in Hollywood. He’s one of the most talented directors an admirable man who has accomplished an indefinite amount of projects I see an Oscar headed toward his direction soon!!

  • d | October 20, 2012 12:39 PMReply

    Thank God Phoenix got it. I can't imagine Franco doing it.

  • RightChoice JoaquinButJamesWouldhaveNailed2 | October 20, 2012 11:48 AMReply

    Not surprised he wasn't scared enough to play that role. Any unique actor like him, who specialize in playing biopics like James Dean all the way to Hugh Hefner must be confident by now. Both actors are best of their generation and I see Oscars in their future.

    It would have been an interesting take, if he got the role but I'm still confident he would have nailed the role too and still be considered for Oscars. However, I agree the right choice was undertaken in the end. Just like how James Franco has played some unique roles that only he was born to play.

    On the positive note, Spring Breakers will ensure that he is remembered due to it becoming a future classic for generations, so all ends well. If only, he could pick up an Oscar for that, it sure would mean something i.e. Oscar voters can think outside the box.

    When it comes to weirdness Joaquin and James tend to lead for this generation. Love to sit them in a room with Christopher Walken and Helena Bonham Carter and just hear them talk, just think it would be very interesting. Anyway, the Oscars are Bulls**t as agreed by many, and he did his best with the lame script. Not to worry, Billy Crystal wasn't great either, if people were more honest.

  • oize | October 20, 2012 7:24 PM

    let's wait another decade before we start calling spring breakers a "classic". I saw it, and it's far from a classic. At best, it will be remembered in the vein of Donnie Darko.

  • bob | October 20, 2012 11:08 AMReply

    when asked it there was a part that ever intimated him?

    (I have never read something on Indiewire that didn't have a typo.)

  • T | October 20, 2012 10:29 AMReply

    james franco should work in a supermarket as a bag boy...

  • iche | October 20, 2012 10:27 AMReply


  • Alex | October 20, 2012 10:03 AMReply

    James Franco for Inherent Vice!

  • matty d | October 21, 2012 1:56 PM

    i like it

  • dudeabides | October 20, 2012 9:42 AMReply

    thank god that didn't happen!

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