Jack-of-all-trades James Franco and Bridesmaids's Chris O'Dowd are teaming up together for an upcoming Broadway production of Of Mice and Men, which should be an experience, to say the least. They took some time out of their rehearsal schedule to talk with Times culture reporter Melena Ryzik about the project last night as part of the newspaper's TimesTalks segment, dishing on drama school, the supposed joy of success, and being a comedic actor taking on one of Steinbeck's darkest tales. And just for the record, James Franco talks a lot.
The two-hour talk was mostly Franco-focused, unsurprisingly, and the actor/director/writer/artist/likely extraterrestrial had quite a bit to say about his eclectic career. For instance, it turns out the former Daniel Desario went through a pretty dark period while trying to focus on "serious" acting—probably right around the time Tristan + Isolde came out (remember that one?). "I'd been doing some movies that I just hated, and most people that saw them hated them too," he said. Then, Milk costar Sean Penn gave him some good advice: "I was feeling down and he said, 'Look, if you do a movie and it doesn't get the critical response that you want, or it doesn't get a good response, you just move onto the next one," the former General Hospital star told Ryzik. "If you do movies that you believe in, you know you did it for the right reasons, at the end of the day the only thing you have control over is what you're going to be a part of and how hard you're going to work on it."
Franco said that for him, Pineapple Express was a real turning point, bringing him back into comedy after years of hocking more serious roles. "It's weird to say Pineapple Express changed me, changed my life, but it did!" he said. Which makes sense—the 2008 stoner-flick got him back in with Freaks and Geeks showrunner/current comedy king Judd Apatow, and more importantly, re-launched an enviable best friendship with Seth Rogen
But while Franco was the interview's biggest focus, O'Dowd was the real delight, throwing out well-timed one-liners that offset Franco's monologues-when Franco spoke at length about not being nervous about performing Of Mice and Men live, for instance, O'Dowd interjected, "He should be." He told Ryzik about the stress dreams he has about coming onstage, to an empty theater, with only John Malkovich in the audience. "And before I even open my mouth, he leaves," O'Dowd joked. At one point, the 6'3 O'Dowd brought out a photo of himself with Dr. Ruth, whom he had met the night prior. "She's quite small and I'm quite big," he said. "You wouldn't think it would work, but. Hell of a lover."
And as a relative newcomer to Hollywood—an Irish native, O'Dowd enjoyed cult status fame across the pond on stellar BBC sitcom The IT Crowd, but was unknown over here until his romantic lead-turn in 2011's Bridesmaids—he had a lot of insight into achieving sudden fame. "Bridesmaids changed my life," he told Ryzik, noting (swoon!) that "so much of my career has been forged by intelligent women." Not that his new celebrity hasn't come with its share of problems: "It's like asking people to love you every fucking day," he said.
Bonus!! Chris with sex columnist Dr. Ruth
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