In Spider-Man 3, Harry Osborn (James Franco) not only has some kick-ass action scenes as he tries to avenge his father’s death, but is consumed with anger and is obsessed with making sure his best friend Peter Parker pays for killing his father. Superhero Hype! talked to Franco about reprising his role in the third film.
Superhero Hype!: What are you going to do in Spider-Man 4?
James Franco: Aaaaâ€¦ballroom dancing?
SHH!: Have you been waiting through the whole series to get these action moments?
Franco: Well, I kind of expected it. I mean, in the comic books Harry does take over for his father. And the way they ended part Iâ€”I assume it’sâ€”that would happen. I actually thought it would happen in part 2 until I saw that he was just left hanging at the end. So, I was pretty sure that he would come in part 3 andâ€¦you knowâ€¦my feelings toward the movies have really changed. When I signed on to the first one Iâ€¦well I love Sam and I love working with him but I didn’t know what kind of movie it would beâ€”I knew it was going to be a big blockbuster but I didn’t realize the hear that he would put into it, and the emphasis that he would put on the characters in developing the characters and the story. And, so, in the beginning I might have, you know before I’d seen the first one, I might have been reluctant to be a super hero because it would seem cheesy, but, after realizing what the movies were really like, I was happy to do it.
SHH!: What do you like about the development of Harry’s character over these films?
Franco: Well, you know people bring up the fact that I auditioned for Peter Parker and I tested and it was huge test. It must have been thousands of dollars just for this test. There were cranes and sets and they kept me waiting about six weeks. And then Tobey got the role andâ€¦I mean nobody believes when I say that I think he’s a perfect for the role. I think he has done a better job than I would do in that role. And, but after the test, after Tobey got it, I guess Sam and I got along well enough that he wanted me in the movie. And as far as I know he didn’t audition anybody else for Harry and he just called me up and asked me if I wanted to play that role. And, obviously it’s a smaller role, but they’ve given me a lot to do in that role. It’s one of the more dramatic parts. He goes through a lot in these films. And, I’ve been very happy with it. You know he’s almost a parallel to Peterâ€”they both loseâ€¦I lose a father. He loses a father figureâ€”his uncle. And then especially in this third one he’s avenging his uncle’s death, and I’m doing the sameâ€”I’m avenging my father’s death. They’ve given me a lot. And the great thing about the character too is that he doesn’tâ€¦he develops through all three films. His arch is not completed until this last film. And, so, in every movie he’s different. It’s the same path but it’s further along in the development. And, it makes it you know doing another movie more interesting.
SHH!: Can you talk about the redemptive ending there?
Franco: I think it’s perfectly wrapped up. His loyalty to his father and his loyalty to Peter and the friendship with Peterâ€”and, goes trough different developments. First he decides he’s going to avenge his father then finds out that the person that killed his father is his best friend, and he has to work through that and now he’s decided that he’s going to kill his best friend regardless of their friendship. And once that’s resolved in this filmâ€”and you know Harry struggles as well in this filmâ€”once that’s resolved, there’s notâ€”I don’t see that there’s a lot more for Harry to do that could start a new arch. But that’s really been the arch for all three films. That’s been his path. And, they would have to make up a new storyline. It could be good but that’s also the point where sequels and franchises get into a little bit of trouble, you know you have a character and they have a well-thought out story, and then that ends and you want to do more with them and so you say, “well, let’s put ’em in some other crazy situation” and it’s a lot of the time it’s not as good. So I think it’s wrapped up very, very well.
SHH!: Is this the first time you’ve worn the effects makeup in any film? And, if so, did it hinder your character or help you?
Franco: It’s the first time I’ve worn that large of a prosthetic. I’m trying to thinkâ€¦I don’t think anything I’ve done on anything elseâ€¦it’s a pain to put on, you know it takes a couple hours. I think they did a great job. It feels kind of like a raw piece of meat. And they glue it on. I lie there and have to get in a coupe hours earlier and I watch a movie and they go to work, and then they paint it andâ€¦I don’t think it really inhibited my performance at all. You kind of just forget about it except when it’s pertinent to the scene.
SHH!: Could you see out of both eyes?
Franco: I could, although part of itâ€”they put the prosthetic on and then you know I get hit with a pumpkin bomb so I guess it’s kind of acidic or something. It burns my face and it also I guess burned my eye. So they made the right eye a different colorâ€”I guess they faded the pupil and made it bluish. And so that required a contact that went over my whole eye and it was a little difficult to see out of that.
SHH!: Can you talk personally what the journey has been like and to grow up in the business? And would your film at Tribeca have happened without the learning experiences you’ve had on a thing like this?
Franco: Yeah, well I think I’ve changed a lot. I think the first one wasâ€¦we filmed it about six years ago, I think. And, you know I’d done moviesâ€”some other movies before then. I’d worked with De Niro and I’d played James Dean. But, I was still fairly new to movies and it was certainly the largest movie that I’d ever done at that point. And, I think you know Sam we did the world premiere in Japan and Sam introduced all the actors onstage and he said, for me he said, “and James Franco who I feel like I’ve grown up withâ€¦he’s changed so much since the first film.” And, I think I worked hard on the first film. I did a lot of research. I did more research before the first film than on any of them. I readâ€¦literally read hundreds of the Spider-Man comic books and did funny things like went to prep school and tried to figure out, I don’t know what Harry’s kind of background was and that kind of thing. So I did a lot work for it but I was a young serious actor and I had my doubts about doing a comic book movie. And, so, I assumed Sam’s comments are referring to my attitude, I guess. I didn’t do anything awful. And, so when we go to the second film, I had already seen the first, and I knew that they were special movies and that Sam really put something more into these movies to raise the bar for super hero movies and comic book movies and to make them legitimate. And, so my attitude was completely different and I think he noticed that and responded to it. And he’s always been very collaborative, but the second and third films, I think we had an even more collaborative and better relationship. And, the way he works with the actors on these films is he’ll bring them in before the movie and we’ll go over the scenes and really talk about them and do a lot of rewriting, which is very rare on movies, at least the ones I’ve worked on. There’s a lot of responsibility put on the actors to make sure that their roles are being portrayed properly and that the archs work and so he gave me a lot more responsibility and the second and especially on the third. I remember after the second one premiered, you know that was like a year or so before we started filming the third one, and we’d meet and talk about the character and he’d let me help him develop the character andâ€¦it’s helpedâ€¦I’ve taken that processâ€¦another thing we do is even after the scripts written and we’re shooting, there’s still so much discussion, especially with you know Tobey loves to go over things and really make it perfect. And there’s some days when we’d be on the set and we had a release date before we started filming and so the script wasn’t perfect. And so I remember sitting on set for a couple scenes and they weren’t ready and so it would just be Tobey, Sam and I sitting on a couch in the middle of the set and camera crew and effects crew and everybody would just be sitting around doing nothing because we were just working out the scene. And, might be indulgent but I think it was necessaryâ€”they really wanted to get it right. And I don’tâ€¦now I take that attention to detail that both Sam and Tobey have and that desire for just to make the best possibleâ€”the scenes as good as they can be before we shoot. I take that into other films and that collaborative process and I really try to have that relationship with my other directors.
SHH!: With your career you’ve been lucky to do “Spider-Man”â€”you’ve got all these other great films, “Flyboys,” “Dead Girl”â€¦
Franco: I think some are better than others (laughter)
SHH!: Have you done “Camille” yet?
Franco: Yeah, we did “Camille.”
SHH!: Is it in relation to the original?
Franco: No, it has nothing to do with the Dumas novel. I’ve directed two features. I’ve done two low-budget features that I financedâ€”so “Spider-Man” helped with the finances. And, I tried to take Sam’s approach. These are huge films, you know often there are five units going at the same time and he’ll be directing the main one and then they’ll be a queue of people with video monitors to show him of other shots they’ve done that’ll he’ll approve. And the effects team will be waiting and here he’s produced other movies, they’ll bring videos of actors and actresses auditioning for additional films. I don’t think he’s had a minute break for six years. And, I have never seen him lose his cool and his enthusiastic good-natured attitude. So I’ve tried to take that. It seems like a small thing but I think it’s very important. I think it makes everyone want to give their best, and I think it keeps everyone in a very good mood. And I try to be collaborative as well, like I’ve watched him be and give the actors I work with room to be creative and feel like they’re a part. I think it’s importantâ€”you know a director should certainly have a vision. But if you allow people to contribute they’ll feel more like a part of the final product and feel like they have more of a hand in it and they’ll give their bestâ€”so I try and do that. And, then, as far as like the smaller independent filmsâ€¦last year I did “Spider-Man 3” for most of the year and then I did a bunch of very small films. And I had small parts in them. But I just came to a point where I was happy. I’m grateful that I’m able to support myself and have a career but there was something about acting that became less satisfying than it had been.
Franco: I think a number of reasons. As a young actor I wasn’t sure what the whole process was like and then you learn that making movies it’s a group processâ€”it’s collaborative. And, an actor, unless they have a certain stature or are producing the movie, they have very little control over the final product, and so I had to really learn how to let go of the movie once I was done with my work. And, it’s a difficult thing to put so much time into a role and so much research and then shoot for months and then have it come out and it’s not what you expected, and then have to face the press and face everybody andâ€¦it’s a very difficult thing. And so that was a little depressing. I think I’ve learned to deal with it a little better.
SHH!: Can you talk about “The Pineapple Express”?
Franco: “Pineapple Express” is a little different. “American Crime,” “The Dead Girl,” I did the Paul Haggis film, and I don’t have a large role in any of those but if those films don’t make any money, I’m fine, because I was happy to be a part of it and I think they’re special films. And, “Pineapple Express” is a movie I’m filming right now. I’ve actually had to go on a little break so I could be here. It’s another Sony film, so they made it possible. And, that was a case where I wanted to work with my old friends from “Freaks and Geeks”â€”Judd Apatow is producing and Seth Rogan was a freak with me in that show. And, when I had did “Freaks and Geeks,” it was early in my career, and I knew it was a good show but I didn’t realize what a great environment that was. I took it for granted and after working on a bunch of movies, I realized how great that experience was and so I wanted to you know do this movie so I’d be around those people againâ€”and also just do a comedy. And, I think they do the best comedies around so it seemed like a good thing. You know I’ve wanted to do a comedy for a while, it’s just it’s hard to find one that is good, you know that you’re not making a jackass out of yourself for no reason and it’s not even funny.
SHH!: Can you talk about some of the physical challenges in this and how much of that was you in the movie?
Franco: A lot of it was me. I think if you watch that aerial battle in the beginning. I filmed that for a month and a half and then we wentâ€”even after moving on from that scene we’d go back and shoot additional shots. So I did a fair amount of that. Most of the computer-generated replicas of me are used for the wide shots, but all the stuff in close struggling with Peter is usually me. And then there’s some shots where I’m wearing a mask and they’d want to use a stuntman. I don’t know why it’s not especially dangerous work but I suppose I was shooting a different scene and they wanted to use a stuntman, I don’t know.
SHH!: I guess it must be difficult to do stuff like that on wires?
Franco: Yeah, well, it’s not especially strenuous. It’s very time-consuming. The process involves a lot of setup and very little shooting. So had to put on the suit, which takes about half an hour. The camera crew has to setup for about an hour and then the stunt team has to rehearse whatever move we’re doing, and then they have to strap me in the wires and raise me up, and then everybody gets in line and coordinated and the fans blowing air (laughter). Then they say “action!” and then it’s about like 20 seconds or less. I do like one move, and they yell “cut,” and then get down and do the whole process over again. And, so, it takes a little athletic ability to lookâ€”appear that I’m balanced on the board. I mean you have to some balancing even though you’re wired in and look good doing moves, I guess. But it’s not, you know, there’s some action movies where you do multiple moves in a shot and over and over and over again and that can be pretty exhausting. Or, I don’t know, run a lot. But this is not that. It’s really a case of working myself up for those 20 seconds and making sure that whenever I do those 20 seconds it matches what happened in the last 20 seconds and keep that continuity of performance over the course of a month and a half.
SHH!: There’s one scene that was like an old school fist fightâ€¦
Franco: That’s right. That was a little different.
SHH!: That had more like doing blocksâ€¦
Franco: That was different. That was more traditional fight. There was a little CG, but not nearly as much as the first fight. And, yeah, we choreographed that and we’d do a few more moves per shot, and Tobey and I you know would had to choreograph it before we shot it and work out the punches and the misses and that kind of thing. But, it was still different than any action movie I’ve done. I shot that for a month and a half as well. And on a normal movie, I probably would have shot that for a week at most. And, they just, I guess they just take their time and make sure that everything is absolutely perfect on these movies. I think it’s a ruleâ€”the bigger the action scene the more spectacular it is, the longer it takes to shoot, the more meticulous it is. And, some of the most spectacular action scenes in movies are in these films, so they just take a long time and they also have the budget to do it. On “Pineapple Express”, it’s a comedy but it’s also an action movie, and the actionâ€”part of the joke of it is the action is very real. You know you’re with a couple of goofballs and the situation becomes very serious or at least the action does. And, the budget on that is nothing compared to this one and probablyâ€¦a week ofâ€”I was going to say I got injured on that. It’s more dangerous to do low-budget action (laughter)
SHH!: When you have new characters come in, does that affect you in anyway, do you gang up on them, does it change the balance?
Franco: No, I mean I didn’t really have many scenes with Topher and Thomas. But I saw them in the trailer, I really like them. I knew Thomas a little from before, just from around, I guess. And, I think they were welcomed. And I think because they’re villains and I think the same is for Alfred and not so much for Willem, but they have their own separate storylines, and so a lot of their scenes are just separate from the main actors, you know. So, I don’t know. I can’t answer that much. I welcomed them but I didn’t have many scenes with any of the villains other than Willem and he was part of the first one from the beginning.
SHH!: You had a book with you when you walked in and you are taking a classâ€”can you tell me what that book is you’re reading and about the class a little bit and why you like the book?
Franco: Yes, that one is The Knight of the Burning Pestle. It’s a Jacobean drama, one of the things that helped me when I was depressed last year was I went back to school. I went to UCLA when I first came to LA and I left to act. I had some roles in movies and I left. And about a year and a half ago I went back soâ€¦it’s for one of my classes.
SHH!: And were people awestruck that you were there in class with them?
Franco: Umâ€¦they underplay their reaction, I think.
Spider-Man 3 opens in conventional theaters and IMAX on May 4.
Source: Heather Newgen