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Franco Talks Annapolis!
Date: January 24, 2006

By: Kellvin Chavez
Source: Latino Review

Harry Osborn is getting ripped for his latest role; that is after James Franco put on about 15 pounds of muscle to play a boxer turned US Naval Academy plebe in the film, Annapolis.

James' character, Jake Huard, grew up wanting to attend the Academy; he even helped build a Naval ship as a teen. After a Senator grants him a space in the upcoming year, he immediately starts training in the boxing ring for The Brigades Tournament.

The Lieutenant in charge of his unit, played by Tyrese Gibson, and Jake have a difference of opinions of how things should be run. That friction on screen continued off screen; James and Tyrese did not get along throughout the three-month shoot.

I has a chance to sit down with James who talked about how that tension created a real tension in the film; he also discussed a bit about Spider-man 3. Check out what else he said:

Tyrese Gibson said that you stay in character pretty much the whole time, in between takes. Is that something that you've been doing since you started acting?
Franco: I don't know if I stay in character. But early on in my career I did a movie with Robert De Niro and I saw it as a chance as a young actor to learn from one of my idols and so I went and watched him everyday even when I wasn't working and what I picked up from observing him is that he does everything while the camera is rolling and then when they say cut he kind of goes off on his own and stays focused. So it's not like if I'm playing some military guy that I'm going to go around like this all the time or at the hotel ask them to call me Lieutenant. I just kind of keep to myself. That's what I do to just stay focused.

Is this your first lead role?
Franco: No. I've done some others, but this is the first sort of studio lead role.

Your relationship with Vicellous Shannon seemed so natural. Can you talk about that?
Franco: Well, Vicellous is just that way naturally. He was in 'Hurricane' with Denzel Washington and he's just a great young actor and it was a young cast and everyone is still pretty new to their career. So everyone is happy to be there and isn't jaded and really wanted to do the best job that they could. We were all away from home and it had that sort of summer camp feel and so it's easy to fall into that relationship.

Your father is in business in real life, but did you relate to the relationship in this that your character had with his father?
Franco: Not really. I mean, of course every son has some conflict with his father throughout their lives I would hope, but I think that I have his approval. He's very supportive.

Do you have any Hispanic heritage?
Franco: Franco is Portuguese. I'm one quarter through my grandfather. My grandfather and then I'm also Russian and Swedish.

So was it fun eating snicker's bars wrapped in Wonder Bread?
Franco: I think that that came out - Justin [Lin] came up with that right at the end. It was just going to be Snicker's Bars and he said, 'What if you wrapped it with the bread?' And he does a lot of takes.

Given our present situation in Iraq did you fear that this movie will be used as propaganda to recruit people?
Franco: Hmm - most military movies could be used that way. This movie doesn't really take a political stance and it really just humanizes the guys that go there and all of that. I mean, I have a great respect for individuals that go through there and that was one of the points of the movie rather than a political message.

'Tristan & Isolde' was very physical as well as this. I know that you went through boot camps for both of these movies. Which was one was more difficult?
Franco: Well, I'd say that both are equally strenuous. I worked for about as long on both and maybe I might feel a little silly swinging a sword, but it's just as hard as boxing. But the difference is when you make a mistake in the boxing you just get capped a little and you shake it off, but with the swords you're using real swords and so every actor had cuts on their hands and you'd get hit on the arms. So that was a little harder.

Did you accidentally cap Tyrese?
Franco: Everyone got capped. They did. I got Donnie [Wahlberg]. He got me. Everyone.

How was it working with Jordana Brewster?
Franco: I guess that we had a connection going. She's great. I signed on before everyone and then I helped Justin cast Jordana's role and Tyrese's role and she's of course gorgeous, but she had - I guess that an interesting part of the movie is that it shows women at the Academy and some of the challenges that they have in fitting in what is traditionally a man's world and I thought that she had the drive to get there.

Did Tyrese walk in wearing full military gear for the audition?
Franco: Yeah. He was wearing camouflage. I respect that. I respect when you go into an audition that the people who are most prepared are definitely the people that you want to get the role because you know that they're passionate. I told Justin that I thought Tyrese was the one. Before Tyrese came in they were leaning in a different direction and after he came in I said, 'I think that he's the one.'

On the days when you did boxing how long did you have to be in the ring and how draining was that?
Franco: Yeah. Well, I mean, the other thing about the boxing scenes is that you realize those scenes take at most ten minutes, and the last one if that long, took three days to shoot. So there's no way you can really be hitting each other for that long and survive. So it's all choreographed. That's twelve hours in the ring and it's exhausting.

You're a soldier in 'Tristan' and one in this film as well. Do you think that you personally could be a soldier?
Franco: That's rough. I don't know if could do it. I have a lot of respect for what they do, but it takes not only physical stamina to do all that, and what the Annapolis consultant told us about it, is that the biggest challenge for most people is the mental shift that's required to be there. You really have to leave your ego at the door. It's a really different way of life than most people are used to. I don't know if I could do it because it's tough.

What is your criteria for picking roles these days and why did you want to do this film?
Franco: I guess recently that I was looking for lead roles that had integrity and I think that they're pretty rare nowadays. They just ended up kind of being military figures. I guess that's where you find them. I don't know. So that's what I was doing for a while and I don't know what I'm doing now.

You've shown a lot of range over the years. I imagine that's so you didn't box yourself in?
Franco: I don't know. Yeah. I mean, I definitely like trying new things, but I also like filming like Woody Allen. I don't know - I also like playing similar roles. There's something about that that's like maybe I'll just play Jake Huard from now on [Laughs].

What can you talk about 'Spider-Man 3' and your character?
Franco: I can't say anything.

So you did sword fight training for Tristian and Isolde, boxing training for this film. How much training are you doing in snowbord gliding for Spider-Man 3?
Franco: [Laughs] That's pretty funny. I go to sleep [Laughs].

Are you filming right now?
Franco: This week we start.

Do you have any feelings about going back to that character for a third time?
Franco: It's fine. It has the possibility - you do a character three times and there's the chance that it'll get stale, but they've written a great character for me and he has a great arch and he changes in every film and I have a great time with Sam [Raimi] and Tobey [Maguire].

Kirsten Dunst said that three will be the most that she can do. What about you?
Franco: I don't know [Laughs].

Do you set goals for yourself as an actor like about who you want to work with, what you want to do and take on?
Franco: Yeah. I guess that I'd like to work with the best. If I could see at the beginning of my career where I'd be right now I guess that I'd be very happy, but you always want to work harder and do better. So I just want to work with great people.

Do you get recognized a lot in public?
Franco: Yeah, sometimes. Usually kids.

What's been the weirdest encounter with a fan?
Franco: I guess that when it happens in a different country it's strange. I was in Rome in the Vatican and people were taking my picture. It was weird.

Who is it that recognizes you?
Franco: I usually get 'Freaks and Geeks' fans or 'Spider-Man' fans.

Was there ever a point during boot camp that you felt the instructors getting on your case were crossing the line a little bit?
Franco: No. I mean, it's nowhere near what real boot camp is like, and so I just take all of that gladly, and I know that from experience that it only helps you. It's invaluable because you have a bunch of actors who've never been in the military and don't know anything. All they have is an idea of what that's like. So the more that you can have contact with someone who's really been there to put you through the paces the better, and you can't take it - if that's too much for you than I feel bad for you.

Regarding your involvement in 'Spider-Man' and the fact that the ensemble has gotten bigger with Topher Grace and the others - is it your assignment level higher or are you taking this one as just another job for now?
Franco: I approach them all with the same intensity and the same level of seriousness. There are a lot of 'Spider-Man' fans and people ask me a lot - they're like you've done all these other movies and then you do 'Spider-Man.' Is that a vacation? But it's not. It's the same kind of thing. We're playing real people, but it's just that someone swings around on webs in that world, but it's a real character that I treat just as seriously as all my other roles. I mean, it's just as deep. I have dramatic scenes in that as well.

What about working with a bigger ensemble this time around?
Franco: I mean, I'm glad that they're onboard. They're great actors. I love Thomas Hayden Church.

Did your character in 'The Great Raid' help you to build this character?
Franco: I think so. Yeah. I think that background helped. On 'The Great Raid' we worked with Dale (SP?) Die who started the whole movie boot camp thing, and so that was my first contact with anything military and yeah, it helped. It helped me to know kind of what I was getting into.

Do you want a second career as a playwright?
Franco: I like it. I enjoy it very much. It's just that I'm still very immature as a writer.


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