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Lines stretched far and wide at the Venice Film Festival Friday with people angling to see James Franco receive the “Glory to the Filmmaker” visionary award before the premiere of his latest film, The Sound and the Fury. But audiences were in for a surprise, as they were told that Franco was using the occasion to film a scene from his new film Zeroville in which he plays a man obsessed with movies.
“35th: 1977 Venice Film Festival” flashed on the screen as festival director Alberto Barbera acted the part and said in Italian that he was awarding a special jury prize to celebrate an incredible contribution to the art of editing to Mr. Isaac Gerome.
Franco, with a shaved head covered in Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift tattoos and mustache, wearing a ’70s-style open-breasted velvet suit, came to the stage to accept the fictional award, saying simply, “That’s not my name.”
Despite a sign requesting that cell phones and flash cameras be put away, iPhones were out in droves to capture the scene, and a cell phone even went off midspeech. The scene was enacted twice before the real ceremony started, with Franco then announcing he was shooting a film that he hoped to premiere in the festival next year.
“What we mostly admire in James Franco is that even if he could just be fully satisfied with his huge success in the USA, nevertheless he exposes himself to further challenges,” said Barbera during the actual prize ceremony. “James Franco is omnivorous. It is a total performance, based on his curiosity and cleverness.”
Franco accepted the award, calling the festival, which he attended for the fourth time, his home.
The actor explained to the press earlier in the day that the reason he became a director was to play the types of roles that no one was offering him.
“If I’m going to make this effort to be a director, I should really just do the movies that I want to make, that no other director I’m working with is making,” he explained.
He said that the pressure of doing everything he wants to do has been lifted, and he felt gratitude for being able to accomplish the many roles he’s wanted to play in life. “I think for a long time, it seems like my behavior shows that for some reason I’m worried about running out of time,” he said.
“I guess I just felt like for a long time that I have a lot of interests, and when I was younger there were many voices or just tacit pressures that were saying, ‘Well you are this and you should not be doing that, or you should only be working on this at this time.’ “
Franco calls the past four to five years of his life as a director and as a teacher a new chapter in his life.
“The need to do all these things now is less motivated by a fear that I won’t get everything done,” he said. “I just feel like being creative and doing creative things is the best way to live.”
He credited Pineapple Express as the film that most changed his life, as it made him realize he wanted to spend his life making movies with people he likes.
“I’d rather be making movies with these people than going to Hawaii with them,” he said. “It’s just the way I’ve learned to live my life, and it’s what makes me happy.”
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