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December 28, 2014

LOS ANGELES—“It’s obviously not Ryan Seacrest,” James Franco answered when asked who he based his celebrity TV show host character in “The Interview” on. “It’s sort of like the monstrous version of Ryan Seacrest.” James, sporting a shaved head in this interview at New York’s The London Hotel early this month, fielded questions about the controversial “The Interview.”

In the comedy codirected by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, James plays David Skylark, who goes with his producer (Seth) to North Korea to interview dictator Kim Jong-un. The CIA recruits the duo to assassinate the despot but the latter tries to win over the visiting American TV show host. North Korea has issued threats as early as when it got wind of the movie project.

The film has become an international incident, leading to the cyberhacking of its studio, Sony Pictures, terrorist threats against movie theaters that planned to show the movie (the film’s release is in limbo as we write this) (update: Sony Pictures decided last Tuesday, Dec. 23, to release the movie in some independent US theaters and a few online video services) and doubled the tension between the United States and North Korea.

Below are excerpts from our interview with James:

Did you and Seth discuss the possible consequences before making this movie?

I really didn’t know what the response would be. It’s a fictional movie. Obviously, this didn’t happen but we kind of based it on some reality…It was never like, oh, we’re making “Zero Dark Thirty” or something like that. We didn’t really think about consequences.

In light of the hacking incident, are you afraid that your private information in your e-mails was compromised?

No, not as far as I know. None of mine has been stolen. I have stuff on there that’s my private business. I would be upset if my private business got out simply because it’s mine. But I’m not ashamed of anything that’s in my computer. It’s just that it would be a violation of my privacy.

Let’s say if the hacking exposed your bank statements, private addresses…

I would be sad if that was hacked, yeah.

Nude photos?

I didn’t say I had nude photos.

You’ve interviewed personalities. Do you still have someone that you’d like to interview?

I did interview for Playboy for a year. I did one for each issue so I did about 12 for Playboy. I really wanted to interview Cormac McCarthy. I adapted his book, “Child of God” (into a movie). I know him only by phone. I asked him if I could interview him for the magazine. Cormac famously doesn’t do many interviews.

He said, “Are you asking me if I want to do an interview for Playboy magazine?” I was like, “The magazine has a good history (of interviewing people like) Bob Dylan and John Lennon.” He was like, “No.”

Your scenes with Randall Park work really well. Can you talk about him?

Randall is so good. It’s fun to watch actors who haven’t worked on Seth’s movies. Good ones like Randall just get it. Randall ran away with it. He put a lot of his own spin on the


The whole seduction of my character by his character was really deepened and nuanced by Randall. You kind of like his character (as a result) and you actually buy that my character would become friends with Randall’s character. That was Randall sculpting that in the improvisation.

What did you think of Dennis Rodman’s trip to North Korea?

When the script or at least the concept for the movie first came up, it was when Kim Jong-il was around. I wasn’t involved but my guess is that they thought, wow, this concept is crazy. This is going to be an absurd movie. It took some years to get the movie together.

In the meantime, Dennis Rodman went over to North Korea, reflecting this crazy concept. It just keeps going. Our world is a little weird that way—a certain kind of celebrity in America and our culture can translate into power, attention or access to certain things.

The movie explores and satirizes that. I didn’t watch the “Vice” documentary about Rodman going over to North Korea. I don’t know much about their (Rodman and Kim Jong-un’s friendship) (laughs). I think Rodman wanted to be part of the movie but that wasn’t my [decision].



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