In Howl he played Allen Ginsberg, in Milk he was Scott Smith, and in this year’s Spring Breakers he simulated oral sex on a handgun.
In his new film, Interior. Leather Bar, which he co-directed with Travis Mathews, Franco once again pushes boundaries — and stimulates the rumour mill — by filming a series of gay sex scenes.
Screening at Vancouver’s documentary film festival DOXA, Interior. Leather Bar is inspired by the controversial 1980 film Cruising, starring Al Pacino. It featured more than 40 minutes of footage of gay sex that was excised from the final product. Interior. Leather Bar is part documentary, part re-creation of that 40 minutes and part philosophical queer discourse.
Franco approached Mathews, an award-winning filmmaker in his own right who has made a series of erotically charged gay films, to collaborate on the film. The two quickly hit it off, and the result is Interior. Leather Bar.
Asked to describe the link between the queer community and Franco — including Franco’s appeal to gay men — Mathews says, “He’s been doing a lot of stuff in the gay community, with gay-themed films for a while, and I think he being, you know, a sexy Hollywood movie star, just sort of adds to the intrigue of that.”
“People wonder what his deal is, and they also think he’s really hot!” he quickly adds.
And that, in a nutshell, is the appeal of James Franco.
“He was breaking the rules of drag and defying them by wearing stuff that a fat person would never, ever wear. He took it to a different level. He took it to a level of anarchy.” — John Waters, I Am Divine
Forty-four years after his cinematic debut, John Waters remains the king of avant-garde cinema, a master of midnight movies, a shocktacular producer who was – in his earlier days – completely reviled by traditional society.
From Pink Flamingos to Hairspray and beyond, Waters’ fame came in large part as a result of the actors he chose.
As for his most notable actress of all? A big, beautiful, campy drag queen named Divine.
Though Divine’s life was short, she packed a lot of punch into her career, from that legendary shit-eating scene in Pink Flamingos, to her underground disco career. Although many are too young to have watched her films, the 2013 documentary I Am Divine — showing as part of the DOXA documentary film festival — is a great way to get a taste (no pun intended) of this genuine groundbreaker.
“People like to laugh at sex, people like to laugh at dirty things, and people love to be shocked . . . so that’s my job, to get out there and shock them.” — Divine, aka Harris Glenn Milstead