AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
The Oscars may have taken place all the way back in February, but that hasn't stopped anyone with a talk show, magazine or platform of any kind from bringing up the televised debacle to James Franco every chance they get.
And this week, it was Playboy's turn as they once again queried the actor-turned-professional student on his hosting stint—and this time around, he appears to be completely over toeing any party lines.
"It's hard to talk about because it's like assigning blame—not a fun thing to do," Franco told the mag. "For three or four weeks we shot the promos and the little film that played in the opening. In the last week, when we really started focusing on the script for the live show and did a run-through, I said to the producer, 'I don't know why you hired me, because you haven't given me anything. I just don't think this stuff's going to be good.' "
Failing to help matters was the producers' insistence that Franco come onstage dressed as a poor man's (a very, very poor man's) Marilyn Monroe, a bit James didn't think worked and which was an unfunny substitute, in his eyes, to the bit he really wanted to perform.
"I was so pissed about that I was deliberately going to fall onstage and hopefully my dress would fall off or something—they couldn't blame that one me; I was in high heels. The plan had been that I was going to sing as Cher and then Cher was going to come out onstage; that got axed when Cher and the song from Burlesque weren't nominated. I told them, 'Look, this is the thing people are going to talk about, the images they will take away from the show.' "
Franco said that his protests fell on deaf ears, so eventually he caved and went with the flow—albeit somewhat apathetically.
"I just didn't want to fight anymore," he explained, noting that, "Me in drag is not funny."
"I was going with their program; I wanted to do the material they gave me, not be one of the many cooks doing the writing. There were a lot of cooks who shouldn't have been cooking, but were allowed to. There were some cooks my manager tried to bring in, like Judd Apatow, who wrote some very funny stuff that wasn't used."
Still, for all the subsequent fallout and criticism, immediately following the show, Franco said that the feedback was nothing but great, with the telecast's producer even giving him a hug and informing him, "Steve Spielberg just told me it was the best Oscars ever!"
This despite his seemingly low-energy performance, which Franco explained was all part of his master plan and most definitely not his way of showing that he "wasn't into it or was too cool for it."
"I thought, 'OK, Anne is going the enthusiastic route. I've been trained as an actor to respond to circumstances, to the people I'm working with, and not force anything.' So I thought I would be the straight man and she could be the other, and that's how I was trying to do those lines. I felt kind of trapped in that material. I felt, 'This is not my boat. I'm just a passenger, but I'm going down and there's no way out.' "
So for all those wondering, yes, Franco is his own worst critic. And that's saying something, considering just how crowded that particular field was a few months back.
Still, the sting of the Oscars criticism doesn't hold a candle to a violent and otherwise troubling blind item that Franco unwittingly got embroiled in a few years ago.
Back in 2008, the New York Post infamously ran a blind item alleging that an unnamed closeted actor snuck into his ex-boyfriend's apartment and raped him in such a brutal, violent manner that the man was hospitalized. The paper also claimed that said actor paid his victim $500,000 to keep the situation quiet.
Enter Gawker, which reran the item on its site, broke down the possible contenders for the despicable title (complete with morality-eschewing poll), and then followed those up with an item declaring Franco as their readers' best guess.
Franco was disgusted, to say the least.
"Then Gawker picked that up and did this 'Gay Rapist' story that was so f--king offensive, because I have friends who have been raped. They did a very classy online reader's poll asking which actor who had a big movie out that summer had beaten up and raped his boyfriend and then paid him off so it wouldn't go to court.
"My lawyer called them and said that it was completely untrue and to take it down. They said, 'Well, we're just reporting what the New York Post told us. If James wants to make a comment on our blog, we're happy to report it.' It was a choice. Either let this thing build and become bigger and bigger, or just let it go and let them be the petty scumbags that they are."
Well, if he's going to insist on taking such high roads, we can certainly excuse his participation in a couple ill-conceived drag jokes, right?