Noted actor, writer, eternal student, and troll James Franco completed at least 12 films in 2015 and three TV roles. He has 13 unreleased films and TV series completed or in post-production, and three more in pre-production. These are slated to be released this year or 2017.
The projects range from a film about the fledgling acting career of a male porn star (he plays himself), to a film about the murder of a gay porn mogul, to a film about the making of The Room in which he plays Tommy Wiseau, to a pokerfaced Steinbeck adaptation he directs and stars in alongside Selena Gomez, Bryan Cranston, and Robert Duvall, among others. Then there’s his most recent project, 11.22.63. The eight-part Hulu miniseries is the latest Stephen King adaptation miniseries, part of a long tradition of indulgent productions helmed by the author himself. J.J. Abrams gets in on the action to make it just a little more boring.
His adaptation of the Zola saga has even been documented on IMDb, but of course he’s doing that. Then there’s an upcoming Rogen/Franco stoner comedy … set in space. Those two rascals! Never know what they’re gonna get up to next.
This is not even counting all the countless stunts and projects Franco is always pursuing on the side. He hasn’t pursued any advanced degrees, blown it on Broadway, or published any poetry this year. He did, however, teach a high school film class last fall.
Renaissance men and WTF moves are always welcome in the cultural landscape; they help keep it entertaining and heterogenous. But with Franco, it’s definitively become his career tract — just as tedious as if he were a De Niro-esque actor signing off on any big-budget project with a pulse.
Since Franco has never been much of an actor (I would hold up his breakout project, Freaks and Geeks, as his strongest role to date), perhaps oversaturating the market is the best way. It reminds one of the business model of the street rapper: If you don’t think a specific album or single fleshed-out project is going to land, just push out as many mixtapes as possible. You keep your name in the blog headlines and on the street, and no one projects makes or breaks you. But if the ratio of good to weak gets off-kilter, eventually, even your most devoted fans get sick of it.
With the clearly bloated 11.22.63, Franco has rolled out yet another mediocre project. Too bad he didn’t sign on for more Planet of the Apes movies; Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Spring Breakers are probably the best films in which he’s ever been involved. Come on, Franco, slow down and put all your manic energy into one thing. Make us believe in you again, or just believe in you at all.