I couldn’t use this for one thing, so I’ll put it here instead:
A book of erotic fiction framed around sexual encounters with James Franco sounds like the foundation for a hilarious “Portlandia” sketch. Apologies to Fred and Carrie, but Sean Joseph Patrick Carney already beat them to it.
At the beginning of November, Carney, an artist and teacher at Portland’s Pacific Northwest College of Art, launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the $2,000 needed to bring this incredibly significant, utterly necessary project into existence. By the end of the month, he had the money, and attention from popular blogs such as The AV Club and Gothamist. Now, Carney and his publishing group, Social Malpractice, are celebrating the release of “Fucking James Franco,” a collection of 13 satirically steamy run-ins with Hollywood’s premiere renaissance man.
I spoke with Carney about where in the hell this idea came from, why it couldn’t have worked with any other current actor, and how James Franco is like Morrissey.
What was the impetus for this project?
Sean Joseph Patrick Carney: The ubiquity of James Franco in all types of different media and hearing, since he ventured into visual arts, several different artists that I know constantly disclaiming, sort of disparagingly, “fucking James Franco,” and being sort of upset. The more times I heard that, the more I laughed to myself, “What about fucking James Franco? What about actually having sex with him?” I had been talking about it a little while with Gary [Robbins] from Container Corps, who runs the art press, and I do a publishing label, so I print my own books that are sort of in zine format. We approached a bunch of different artists and asked, “Would you be on-board doing this satire/erotic fiction book?” It’s mostly people from our network, friends of ours who live in different cities. We boiled it down to 13 [stories] we really liked. It’s about 80 pages long, and it’s got a little traction on the Internet, which is surprising.
Why do you think there’s been such fascination with this project?
I was actually talking to an artist that I know who was James Franco’s teacher when he was doing one of his MFAs, and he was laughing when I explained the project to him, and he said, “Yeah, he’s kind of everywhere. How can you not do something with that?” He’s kind of turned himself into an icon of public domain. But I think half the interest is coming from people who don’t understand this is a bunch of visual artists who are taking this as part satire and also a way to explore writing as a visual art form. So half the people are crazed fanatics of James Franco who are going to be sorely disappointed when they read the book and realize it’s not very arousing. The other half are people who appreciate the joke and the vagueness about it—is it sarcastic? Is it supposed to be ironic? What’s the purpose of this thing?—and hopefully are curious to see where a whole bunch of different writers, artists and musicians would take such a ludicrous concept.
So what is the purpose of the book?
I think a little bit of it is an interest in a collaborative approach to something. I basically approached these people and told them the name of the book, and that it’s going to be erotic fiction, and I got extremely varying degrees of responses from people. The styles things are written in is quite diverse. There’s a twinge of satire involved in it, but it’s more about the cult of celebrity than James Franco specifically. I really liked “Pineapple Express,” I loved “Freaks and Geeks.” I think he’s a talented individual, and a lot of the visual art I’ve done in the past is satire but from a place of interest in something. I’ll be satirizing or making light of something that I think is culturally relevant, even if it’s high culture, like addressing the binary politics of the United States, left versus right, and then I did a long project about Joaquin Phoenix. Very serious satire would be a good way to put it. I take it pretty seriously. I know it seems dismissible, but we put a whole lot of hours into this. At a certain point, you have to ask yourself, how ironic could I actually be right now when I’m spending all my free time putting this together?
What are some of your favorite interpretations of the concept?
There’s a girl named Jaclyn Campanaro, who’s one of the contributors, and her entire piece is basically a Twitter timeline of a drunk girl at a bar who runs into James Franco, and she’s trying to communicate with him while asking for advice from her Twitter followers. She has no cursory knowledge of anything artistic or intellectual, and he keeps trying to start these intellectual conversations while she’s asking people on Twitter what she should say to certain things. Then it becomes an extremely graphic sexual romp, and she’s posting pictures of it and tweeting with her left hand on her iPhone and everything’s misspelled. That one’s really great. Ryan Pierce, who’s a painter, wrote a prison-yard fantasy where Ryan takes on the role of Curtis, who’s the big guy in the yard, but there’s a bigger guy in the yard named Big Bruise who’s got his eye on James Franco when he comes into the yard, and he needs to protect him. Carina Johnson, who’s from San Francisco, wrote about being Tobey Maguire on the set of “Spider-Man,” and those two developing a sexual relationship that involves a lot of marijuana.
Do you think this concept would’ve worked with any actor?
I don’t think it would’ve worked with anybody else. It wouldn’t catch if it was “Fucking Ryan Gosling” or “Fucking George Clooney.” They don’t have that odd, almost performative quality as people. Like James Franco’s persona, no one knows if he’s full of shit or totally sincere. He’s going on “General Hospital,” then he’s pursuing, like, eight graduate degrees, then he’s in the Venice Biennale while acting in “Your Highness” at the same time. It’s like, what the fuck is this guy doing? He’s everywhere, and I think people are fascinated with something like that. I can’t think of anybody who transcends as many different forms of media. I’m not saying it’s always in a wonderful or respectable manner, I just mean I can’t think of another example of somebody who’s so oddly intriguing and seemingly sentient but totally vacant at the same time.
Has any effort been made to make James Franco aware of the book?
I’ve determined through multiple different angles that in the art world, everyone is only a few degrees of separation from one another. He’s literally one from me, through multiple different individuals. So people know about this thing. And with the Internet, he can’t not know about it. But I have no idea how one would contact him. I’m assuming firstname.lastname@example.org is probably not a legitimate e-mail address. All these people keep saying, “Do you think he’s going to come to the launch party?” It’s laughable, because I’m sure he’s quite busy, but it speaks to the nature of him and why people are fascinated with him, that people would assume, “Well, if anybody would show up, he would.” He would be the person to crash the party debuting the erotic fiction book about him. I’m sure Mr. Franco has plenty of things going on in his life that this does not have priority.
I’m sure he’s too preoccupied with fucking, actually.
[Laughs] The most interesting thing is 10 out of the 13 contributors made him homosexual. I don’t know what that means. I didn’t ask them to take any particular angle.
I’m not sure if that says more about the artists or Franco’s image.
He’s Morrissey-esque. He’s asexual but incredibly virile at the same time.
You can make him anything you want to be in your fantasy.
[Laughs] He can be your Franco.
To order a copy of “Fucking James Franco,” go here.