James Franco tends to be a polarizing figure. Either you’re into his polymathic, actor/director/poet/writer/Ph.D. student/is-it-all-performance-art? thing, or you find it unbearably precious and frustrating. That’s enough of a challenge for most people, but gay audiences face an added issue: Is Franco, who devotes a striking amount of creative energy to gay-themed projects like Interior. Leather Bar and The Broken Tower and yet identifies as straight, gay-baiting or gay-engaged? Is he a hyperartistic closet case or just a really enthusiastic fan?
Those looking for an answer may find it—or perhaps end up more confused—in the March issue of Four Two Nine magazine. Editor-in-chief Kevin Sessums convinced Franco to speak on the gay question in a novel and surprisingly effective (at least to my reading) way: The straight James Franco would interview the gay one. The conversation that unfolds between the two Francos is only occasionally cutesy (Gay James: “You jerk me off all the time.”). More often, the men struggle to unpack the implications of sexuality and identity in Franco’s work. Here’s one of the most revealing moments:
Straight James: Let’s get substantial: are you fucking gay or what?
Gay James: Well, I like to think that I’m gay in my art and straight in my life. Although, I’m also gay in my life up to the point of intercourse, and then you could say I’m straight. So I guess it depends on how you define gay. If it means whom you have sex with, I guess I’m straight. In the twenties and thirties, they used to define homosexuality by how you acted and not by whom you slept with. Sailors would fuck guys all the time, but as long as they behaved in masculine ways, they weren’t considered gay.
This observation—that gayness might be defined as something separate from homosexuality—is astute and thought-provoking, and it’s not the only moment like it in the interview. If you can stand a modicum of Francovian self-indulgence, pick up a copy and read the rest—if for no other reason than the make-out session at the end.