Franco runs down LaBeouf’s multitude of recent issues: Accused of plagiarizing a short film; plagiarized someone else when he apologized; wore a paper bag over his head that read “I Am Not Famous Anymore” to a film premiere; and starred in a human art exhibit, #IAmSorry. (Franco left out LaBeouf’s skywriting apology, but maybe he was short on space.)
Franco reminds everyone that it’s difficult being a super-famous young actor because “our personas can feel at the mercy of forces far beyond our control.” He says that to gain control, actors often act out in unexpected ways: Such as Marlon Brando, who did wild things like turn down an Academy Award. And James Franco himself, who appeared on daytime soap “General Hospital” while filming Oscar-bait movies to dispense with all notions of a Hollywood “hierarchy.”
While the “General Hospital” thing might be a stretch, Franco ties it together with Joaquin Phoenix’s 2010 stunt, when the actor made a documentary about giving up acting for a hip-hop career. Though it wound up all being a big joke, Franco states that it shows “an actor’s need to take back a little bit of power over his image by making such a film.”
We’ll hand it to Franco for his thesis. It must be tempting to act out to maintain some semblance of your own individual life while a control-freak industry tries to tame your every move, and all for its own profit. The pressure only increases as the years go on, when every move an actor makes is breathlessly chronicled and reported — the psychological ramifications are evident and scary.
Important note: While Franco’s analysis theoretically makes sense, and he has every reason to be sympathetic, LaBeouf doesn’t exactly fall into the same category. Brando, Franco and Phoenix (possibly the only time those three names will appear in the same sentence) all used their talent and acting skills to rage against the system. LaBeouf used jet fuel, paper bags, and a very weird art exhibit, coming off more desperate than rebellious.
Franco concludes by saying that the cycle (“acting out, followed by negative publicity,” rinse and repeat) can be “addictive,” especially toying with a media that’s obsessed with you. Either way, the headlines continue, which is really, likely, what they both want.