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Ginsberg believed that to combat a repressive society, poets needed to serve as models for rigorous honesty and self-examination.
He believed in “total confession” and in showing “his asshole to the world.” As Ginsberg would later say, “You don’t have to be right.
At about the same time he first read “Howl,” Franco was partaking in his own rebellion of sorts.
“I used to approach acting with a very antagonistic [attitude],” he says. Franco finished at UCLA and then enrolled in four graduate programs—two for fiction, one for poetry, and one for film.
“I was very hard to get along with, and it made working in film very unpleasant. “I think all of his friends asked him, ‘Why are you doing this, you crazy person? “One graduate program is hard enough, and he’s going to do four?
In addition to the two gay-themed poems he adapted for student films (Frank Bidart’s “Herbert White” being the other), Franco portrayed a 17-year-old swimmer dating an older man in the gay indie film , took a queer studies course at NYU, and created performance art pieces about gender and sexual confusion. I suppose that’s the reason one wouldn’t do that, right? He also grew up in a liberal household—his mother is a poet and author—where he says it was OK to be unique and artistic. They didn’t think me acting in a soap opera was the greatest idea.
And then there’s Franco’s first solo art show this past summer in New York City; it featured video monologues with lines like “We’re all gender-fucked—we’re all something in between, floating like angels.”And now, just in case Franco hasn’t confounded us enough (and blown the lid off the conventional thinking about how many gay projects an A-list actor can tackle without imploding), he’s taking on arguably his most challenging role yet: iconic gay poet Allen Ginsberg, a man who discovered within himself “mountains of homosexuality.”As the City Lights poetry room grows suspiciously crowded with gay men (has someone alerted a float? He leans back in his chair and ponders the question. It’s more interesting to me to play roles and relationships that haven’t been portrayed as often.”“If you were gay or bisexual, would you tell me? “Are we at a point where someone like yourself could matter-of-factly come out without the world stopping for a day or two? But no, that wouldn’t be something that would deter me. Everyone thinks I’m a stoner, and some people think I’m gay because I’ve played these gay roles. I ask Franco if he’s ever been counseled to slow down on the number of gay-themed projects he accepts. “You want to know what my agents did try to talk me out of? But they know that I’ve always wanted to do a movie about the Beats, so no one tried to stop me from playing Allen Ginsberg.” At first blush James Franco as Allen Ginsberg seems like a counterintuitive casting choice.
“In this history of cinema, there are so heterosexual love stories,” he whispers. Dustin Lance Black, who wrote the screenplay for codirector Rob Epstein told him that he and collaborator Jeffrey Friedman had selected Franco for the role.