James Franco looks so relaxed in Pineapple Express. Usually he’s the angsty superhero or the angsty soldier or the angsty James Dean. In Pineapple he just plays the pot dealer, stoned out of his mind and kind of oblivious to the crazy action going on around him. Perhaps the reunion with his Freaks and Geeks collaborators, Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow, made him more comfortable.
James Franco: I hadn’t done a comedy for a while. I had directed a very low budget movie called The Ape and it was playing at a festival in Austin. Judd was there and he came and saw it and it’s kind of funny. After he saw it he said, "I miss the funny Franco." I hadn’t really done a comedy other than The Ape since Freaks and Geeks. So then we started talking about ideas and he said, "Well, I’m going to do this movie Knocked Up with Seth, but after that you guys should do a movie together." I read it and thought that it was very funny, but I said, "Oh, Seth, you get to play the good role, or the role that I want, Saul." They were like, "Nah. You can play Saul." I think around that time I met David, or we all met at Superbad and Judd said, "I’m thinking about having him direct." Sounded like a good idea.
Crave Online: Did the wardrobe help you get into character?
James Franco: Certainly, I’m sure. Once I had that outfit on Saul just came along. I guess that it was originally based on someone that I wasn’t allowed to meet. We don’t have any changes in the movie and so picking the right outfit was fairly important. So I wasn’t a fan of the Guatemalan pants, but I was convinced that I should wear that. Then the t-shirt is a special creation by David Gordon Green. It’s a kitten sitting in a shark’s mouth, but he’s happy about it. The shark is rescuing the kitten.
Crave Online: Did you take any inspiration from the great stoner characters like Jeff Spicoli?
James Franco: Yeah. I watched a lot of pot movies before we did this. My favorites were always the characters in movies that weren’t necessarily in stoner movies. So, Spicoli in Fast Times which isn’t exactly a stoner movie or The Big Lebowski which I think is more than a stoner movie or Brad Pitt in True Romance. I don’t know. Somehow they’re like goofy stoner guys, but there’s something more going on, I guess. So maybe that’s the kind of inspiration that they gave me.
Crave Online: Are you going to continue doing comedy on FunnyorDie.com and are you going to give acting lessons to your brother?
James Franco: Actually, I think the latest is that my mother has a comedy troupe in Palo Alto. She’s been taking acting lessons through Stanford Extension. So that’ll be the latest episode in the Franco household. As far as I know Funny or Die is filming her this week.
Crave Online: Did you get a concussion from running into the tree?
James Franco: No. Danny got the concussion. I took a head shot but I’ve got a hard head. In the woods when we’re running around like morons there’s a shot where I run into a tree and that’s actually me hitting the tree and I make a sound like that. That’s the sound that I actually made. My head got cut and I got stitches. Evan took me to the hospital. But you can see that I finished the shot. I got up and ran off-camera. Then I looked around and everyone had very wide eyes because blood started pouring down my face. If you buy the DVD I’m sure it’ll be on there in the behind-the-scenes.
Crave Online: What are you planning on doing with your university degree now?
James Franco: A lot of useful things with a liberal arts degree. I think I would teach enjoy teaching as you can see if you go to Funny or Die. I think that would be a great thing. Maybe I’ll do it on the side. I’m going to continue school and get my graduate degree.
Crave Online: In liberal arts?
James Franco: In writing and directing.
Crave Online: So you mom is in Palo Alto. What would Saul be doing there?
James Franco: In Palo Alto? I don’t know. Saul’s cruising around Stanford University getting crazy. Saul goes to college. I don’t know. We certainly, in high school, smoked a fair amount of marijuana and got in trouble for it and that was it.
Crave Online: Until this movie?
James Franco: No. Wizard Smoke isn’t the same.
Crave Online: They cut out a scene where you bite Rosie Perez’s ass. What inspired you to do that in the first place?
James Franco: We had a fight scene and it was kind of unusual, a male/female fight scene which is fairly unusual. Then we had one take where were like, "Let’s just wrestle and see what happens." I had my shot and I went for it. I didn’t think I bit her that hard, but she said there were teeth marks and I think that one of her cousins was after me after that she said, one of her family members. I’m joking.
Crave Online: Was this was a nice reunion for the Freaks and Geeks?
James Franco: Yeah. There was one episode of Freaks and Geeks where his character and my character had a thing where he had a crush on a girl and he got advice from me. For me that was one of the cooler episodes. That kind of dynamic was great, getting to work together again is cool.
Crave Online: Who do you play in Milk?
James Franco: I play a guy named Scott Smith who was Harvey Milk’s lover. I think they were together the longest of all of Harvey’s relationships. They met in New York and Scott was a struggling actor. Harvey was a businessman fully in the closet and then one day, I don’t know how sudden it was, but eventually he decided he didn’t want to live that way anymore and so they both moved out to San Francisco and were part of the gay movement at the time. They opened the camera shop together which has become famous, Castro Camera. That’s where Harvey then eventually ran his campaigns out of, that store. They knew nothing about cameras and I think that Scott knew even less about politics, but he ran Harvey’s early career. He was his campaign manager. Harvey ran four times and I think that Scott was the campaign manager for the first one.
Crave Online: Did you get to know Scott?
James Franco: He passed away in the mid ’90’s, but after Harvey died he was known as the Widow Milk. Even though they had broken up before he kind of took over his estate and inherited all of the stuff. It’s good. It’s really good.
Crave Online: How was working with Diego Luna?
James Franco: He’s great. I love Diego. I’ve known him for a while. He’s incredible. I love Mr. Lonely and he was really funny in Milk.
Crave Online: What attracted you to that movie?
James Franco: I’ve been a huge fan of Gus Van Sant since the early days with Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho. I watched those before I was even an actor and I loved them. So it was basically a chance to work with two of my heroes, Gus and Sean Penn. We shot in San Francisco and it was an amazing experience.
Crave Online: Does your grandma still live in Brooklyn Heights?
James Franco: Shaker Heights. She’s the queen of Shaker Heights. I’m supposed to do Letterman for this and I’m trying to get my grandma to come out. We’ll see.