Deauville: James Franco Feted With Career Tribute, Talks 'In Dubious Battle' and Income Inequality

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James Franco

The director and star calls the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency "scary."

In Dubious Battle on Monday won over the hearts of the audience at the Deauville Film Festival, where the pic received a warm welcome and director and star James Franco was feted following its mixed reception in Venice.

He was welcomed onstage by French actress Ana Girardot, who recited a poem in the spirit of Franco’s creative experimentation.

Franco was on hand to present his fifth directorial effort — adapted from the John Steinbeck novel — as well as receive a career retrospective from the festival. It was the multihyphenate’s second time at Deauville, which screened his James Dean biopic in 2001 at the start of his career.

Steinbeck’s story of striking farm workers was important to the Northern California native, he said, though he added that the book ranks among Hawaii native President Barack Obama’s favorites as well. 

That the film was screening on Labor Day in the U.S. was not lost on Franco. “Even though the novel takes place in the Great Depression, it’s still very relevant to a lot of things that are going on now and as long as certain social relationships are in play, stories like this are still important,” he told The Hollywood Reporter earlier in the day.

“I read the news every day and I feel like there are so many [unjust] things. The issue that my movie addresses is rights for the working class and it’s still a very important story to tell,” said Franco. “A lot of jobs in America are being sent overseas and the workplace is changing. I think it’s something that should be addressed, I don’t want a situation where a small minority of the country is living in these walled off palaces and the rest of the country is in poverty.”

He characterized the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency as “scary,” though he dismissed the importance of an actor’s political views on a reality TV star running for president.

Despite being listed as starring in 20 upcoming projects and directing at least a handful of those, as well as being attached to both the stripper tale Zola Tells All and the sci fi actioner Kin, Franco says his impressive IMDb credits are deceiving. Several of the projects are helmed by his graduate students from UCLA, USC and Cal Arts, where they asked him to take part in their films.

“I feel like there is a certain kind of overexposure, but I also know what it’s like to be a young filmmaker,” he said, noting that having his Hollywood name attached can boost a first-time filmmaker's prospects. “I can do that, just lend myself and put myself in those films to get those films made, it’s worth the risk.”

While Franco is immersed in the indie world, he doesn’t rule out a return to Hollywood blockbusters or franchises, either in front of or behind the camera.

“The more money it costs, the more people have a say in how it’s made, so it would have to be the right people that I’m working with. I’d have to believe in their vision on whatever the money is being spent on,” he said, pointing to CGI-heavy endeavors such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Franco has another, smaller, project with longtime collaborator and Spring Breakers director Harmony Korine in the works, he said.

While he boasts several job titles as notches on his creative belt — including novelist, photographer, poet, professor, sculptor, student and seemingly any new outlet that fuels his creative fires — there’s only one thing Franco rules out: “I’m not running for president.”

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