James Franco The Disaster Artist

It’s wild. So, you’re working on Galaxy Quest for Amazon, which we’re really excited about. When we spoke with you in August, you weren’t quite ready to reveal your take on it yet. Can you tell us anything more about it now?

Right now, I just handed in my first script to Amazon, so I’m in that zone. I’m excited about it. It’s a bigger idea that’s kind of morphed and changed a little bit. Not much. The thing I keep on saying about it, without giving too much away – because it’s going to be so long before people get to see it, I don’t want people to get too burnt out on me telling you what it’s about before it gets to that point – but for me, it was really important to do service to a Galaxy Quest story that gives you everything that you want and indoctrinates people who have never seen Galaxy Quest into what the fun of that world is. That Tropic Thunder, Galaxy Quest world. And also to continue the story of our original characters and have consequences from the first film. So it is mixing two casts. It’s separate kind of adventures that kind of merge, and I’m looking at this first season not as episodic, but as a serialized story. So, the only way I’ve been looking at it is, using everything from the first movie and making the reasons for everything not just – I want to avoid anything that could be viewed as a reboot for reboot’s sake. There are real reasons behind these choices – maybe too much so.

And then the other jumping off point was, I love that in 1999, as a fan of Star Trek and going to these conventions since I was a kid: sci-fi, fantasy, those worlds have changed so drastically. I really wanted to capture the difference between the original cast of Star Trek and the J.J. Abrams cast of Star Trek. I think that, to me, is my entry point. Sci-fi heroes are rock stars now. If you look at Thor, in 1999 if that movie came out, it would not be received the way it is. People would not want to see a cosmic, galactic thing on that level. But now we’re accepting it. I think just by virtue of that switch in our environment, it’ll make the story feel a little bit more fresh.

You just mentioned something I never really thought of until this moment, which is you have been in a lot of things in which there are stories within stories. Is that something you’re drawn to as a writer and performer, or is that just coincidence?

Yeah, it probably is a little bit of both. Sometimes you don’t know why you’re cast in something. But yeah, I don’t know. I think there’s something really fun – in comedy, at least – to show two sides of an equation. Maybe in a drama you can show what’s going on on the outward and what’s going on on the inward, and in comedy, we’re basically showing you, ‘Here’s outward, and here’s inward.’ You have almost two different stages to play on it.

I have one more question, and you can tell me if you don’t want to answer it. It’s kind of an unpleasant question. But with all of these stories of sexual misconduct coming out recently, I’m trying to take the temperature of Hollywood writers right now, trying to get a sense of what you guys are thinking. Are you worried at all about the work that you’re doing – Galaxy Quest, for example – are you worried all of the work you’re doing could possibly go away in the blink of an eye just for being associated with the wrong person? I’m obviously not saying that any TV show is more important than any victims or anything like that –

Here’s what I’ll say, and tell me if I’m answering it to the way you’re asking this question. I think it’s two-fold. First of all, I think there’s a giant problem in the writing in Hollywood as it stands right now. There was a statistic released a couple of weeks ago about the breakdown of writers rooms and how many women are on staff, how many people of color are on staff, how many people with different sexual preferences are on staff. That, to me, is something that I’ve been very aware of and trying to reorganize my brain to what I owe to the next project that I do. I feel like I’ve done it to a certain extent, but not as much as I want to be focused on it. I want to be very conscious of creating a writers room that is diverse, that is not just full of white dudes. So just to address writing in Hollywood, I think that’s the biggest issue, and to create an environment that is also safe where people can feel that they’re there for their talent and not feel that there’s any chance of them being affected or assaulted in any way. So that’s one part of the equation.

As far as sexual assault and all of that stuff going on, it’s an interesting time that we’re living in. Again, as a white male, it’s always about trying to look in, see how I’m a part of this system, how can I subvert this patriarchy, and do better. That’s a constant battle. If anything is a positive from this, it is the awareness of that. And I hope that is what a lot of people are taking in. We should be hyper aware of that.

As far as something being taken away, it’s tricky because, yeah, if you told me that it came out tomorrow that so-and-so was involved in this, and that affected me directly, it would be a real bummer. But I also believe in myself as a writer and the people behind me that we could make changes that would effectively take that person out, and we could continue forward. Or you just take a mulligan. At the end of the day, you just don’t want to be that person that’s facilitating more and making apologies for it. It’s a scary time, but it’s also a wonderful time because right now you’re seeing such support for people and people listening, and I think if projects get killed because of that, then maybe it’s worth it. As a person who’s not had a project lost. But I’ll also say that seeing everything so far that’s going on, no one has lost anything yet. People have been replaced for all the right reasons and stuff like that. But it’s a complicated and obviously a multi-tiered thing.

I appreciate you answering that. That’s a good answer. And I think I’m out of time.

I have two things I want to say to your podcast. [Paul is an avid listener of /Film Daily.]

Yes.

Number one: the spoiler culture argument that was going on for such a long time. I am so confused at what you guys – I feel like there needs to be a better definition of what spoiler culture is. Because I agree, I don’t want someone to tell me that – and bleep this out if this is a spoiler – that Matt Damon is in Thor. That’s a spoiler. That is a fun treat for me to see in the movie. But me knowing that the Hulk is in Thor, that’s not a spoiler for me. I think there are variations of spoiler culture, and there’s two sides. I don’t want to know who Rey’s parents are, but I don’t mind seeing a porg. You know what I’m saying?

(laughs) Yeah, there are definitely levels.

So whenever I hear ‘spoiler,’ like a spoiler is something that affects – again, you guys talked about this on the podcast. Knowing that Bruce Willis is dead at the end of The Sixth Sense, that’s a spoiler. That is a spoiler! That is a spoiler! It just is! You can’t get around that.

The other thing I wanted to bring up is, I have a lot of thoughts on who could run this new Star Wars show, too, but I think Dave Filoni would be amazing because of Rebels. But I feel like everybody you guys brought up were all working. To me, this is what I was going to say – make room for the next Sam Esmail. Make room for – all these people that you referenced, they all popped out of nowhere. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, Sam Esmail is doing Mr. Robot?!’ And I think that, hopefully, will be the person that takes Star Wars to the next level.

Whoever’s directing this year’s Sundance comedy or something.

Exactly! Because it’s like, yeah, those are the people that we’re most excited about. That people that ultimately come in from nowhere. Like, ‘Oh, who is that?’

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The Disaster Artist is in theaters now.

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