Hip actor James Franco satirizes himself as he plays a Hollywood version of, well, himself, in Columbia Pictures' wacky comedy “This Is The End.”
Says writer-director and co-star Seth Rogen, “The things we mock in James Franco in the movie are real, but Franco in real life is nothing like the way he acts in the movie. He genuinely does like art and weird stuff, but it’s not pretentious and he’s not in-your-face about it. He doesn’t care what others think about his art. He just likes art.”
In “This Is The End,” six friends – who just happen to be James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, and Craig Robinson – are trapped in Franco’s house as the end of the world begins outside. And we’re not talking about any old California-slides-into-the-ocean earthquake… we’re talking the fire-and-brimstone Apocalypse – the real Biblical deal.
Franco says that he didn’t hesitate to sign on for the project – even though he wouldn’t have even considered the project if it had been with anyone other than the writing-directing team of Rogen and Evan Goldberg. “We’re playing extreme versions of ourselves, and I would really only trust Seth and Evan to depict me in an outrageous way,” he says. “Their take on me is funny – of course, I don’t think I’m really like that, but yes, it’s a version of me, it’s their version, and it’s funny. But going back to `Superbad,' through all their movies, they put in a level of heart, or emotion, that grounds the characters, and that’s in this movie, too. I was game for it because the way they make movies, their sensibility is just so solid.”
“The way my character is on the surface, he’s a pretty shallow person,” says Franco. “He’s a guy who thinks that Seth can’t be his friend and anybody else’s – like sixth grade behavior. So that’s where we took the character deeper. In real life, Seth has been there at important points in my career – ‘Freaks and Geeks,’ ‘Pineapple Express’ – so we took that and decided that the character of James Franco would have this affection for Seth and need to connect with him. Really, he’s obsessed with Seth.”
In the film, Franco’s house is filled with art. Not surprising, in a way, because the real Franco cares deeply about art. However, the filmmakers and the real Franco make it clear that there’s a blurry line between the art he cares about and the art that the pretentious character he plays prefers. “My first conversation with James Franco was about the fact that the character is a ‘version’ of James Franco,” says production designer Chris Spellman.
“People know I’m interested in art,” says Franco. “I just went to school for it and for a while I was collecting art – I sold most of it a while ago so I could go to school and not work so much. So it was kind of a funny idea that the Franco character would be collecting art, and Seth asked me if there was any particular artist that I wanted to have in the character’s house. And I thought, there’s a way to take this to a different level. There’s a painter that I really like named Josh Smith – his work is hard to place because a lot of it has a very humorous feel, even though it’s abstract work. Josh was interested. Not only interested, but wanted to create new work, and it would be special because it would be work that was only intended for this movie. And as Josh and I were talking, we came on the idea that we could do the paintings together. Josh and I spent two days together and we painted a lot, through the night, ten huge paintings and a bunch of little ones.”
Together, Franco and Smith created art that directly references the movie. “The idea is that my character is somewhat obsessed with Seth,” says Franco. “So the subjects of the paintings are shows I did with Seth – there’s a Freaks painting and a Geeks painting, there’s a Pineapple Express painting.”
Distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International, “This Is The End” will be shown exclusively at Ayala Malls Cinemas nationwide starting Sept. 11.