At Screen Comment we love us a good, brainy actor every once in a while—actor/filmmakers? Even better. In the previous two decades there was Spacey, then there was Malkovich, and now it’s the new guard with James Franco. Franco has that wonderful and compound quality: self-effacing while at the same time exuding a certain authority over American filmic output. The same guy who appeared in “Pineapple Express” as a stoner who’d make the guys from “Wayne’s World” jealous is also the guy who directs the “The Clerk’s Tale.” We guess it’s unnecessary to mention that in the last few years Franco earned advanced degrees in Literature from Harvard and Columbia, pursuing what was likely a demanding academic career well beyond the start of his acting years.
But what makes James Franco tick? He’s always struck us as leading man in spite of himself. After the recent leading role in “127 hours” we’ve been wondering when his involvement in a primo Hollywood production would come. The speculation is over: Franco will appear in in 20th Century Fox’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” slated for release in August. In it, Franco’s Dr. Will Rodman tinkers with genetic engineering to create a uber-race of apes who turn on everyone and fight for supremacy. Whereas “127 Hours” was a sneak peak at Franco’s ability to carry a movie—and a terrific success, both critically and commercially—the “Planet of the Apes” role is the first summer tentpole Franco carries all by himself.
More marquee roles are sure to follow for Franco, ever the consummate professional as well as committed to the film arts in its many forms. All told, he has seven projects in development, his involvement ranging from acting, directing, producing and screenwriting, including “The Adderall Diaries,” (slated for a 2013 release) which he wrote, produced, directed and acted in.
We think James Franco is the one to watch.