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August 2005
The Great Raid: An Interview with James Franco

The Great Raid: An Interview with James Franco

By Wilson Morales

After appearing in both 'Spiderman" films, James Franco's next few films will be set within the military braches. First up, is "The Great Raid" in which Franco plays a Captain Prince who aided Colonel Henry Mucci's raid on a notorious Japanese death camp in the Philippines and rescued over 500 American prisoners. In speaking to blackfilm.com, Franco talked about his experiences in being on this film.

Did you meet Captain Prince?

James: Unfortunately, I never got a chance to meet Captain Prince. It's this stupid thing (indicates the press kit). John Dahl did about six hours worth of taped interviews with Captain Prince so I got to watch all those. We had a very interesting premiere in D.C. where a lot of World War 2 veterans showed up. He was supposed to come to that but couldn't. I'm finally going to meet him in three weeks. He lives up north (Seattle). It'll be cool. I can't imagine what it would be like for him. I mean if any of us had somebody depicting our life, it would be strange.

Has he seen the movie?

James: Yes. As far as I know he approves.

Are you nervous about meeting him?

James: No. I did the best I could. I felt a responsibility to get it right for him and the other veterans but, in the end, all I can do is give it my all and if he doesn't like it, I'm sorry.

What was it like to be in a big, traditional World War two movie after the stuff you've been doing lately?

James: Well, we shot this a while ago. This is actually my first of three military pictures, but, at the time, it was really the most action that I'd done in a film. So, it was kind of an initiation to that kind of movie. I like it. It's not too hard. I got a little wound (touches his head). I had some stitches done. I did a little dive and the binoculars hit me in the back of the head. That was a night that I had to get on a plane [later] that night. So, it was a little dramatic but it's great. I like doing action.

What are the other pictures?

James: The military pictures are Annapolis which is about the Annapolis Naval Academy and the boxing team at the academy and just about the academy as a whole and I just finished a movie shot in London called Flyboys which is about World War One aviators, about a group of Americans who volunteered and fought with the French, called the Lafayette Escadrille. The volunteered before Americans joined the war.

After being in several of the military services, which one to do prefer?

James: I actually love flying. I got myŠ.I hope I don't insult the other branches but there wasn't actually an air force at that time [referring to his WWI movie]. I got my pilot's license, certificate.

For what sized plane?

James: I can fly single prop.

So you're not John Travolta yet?

James: I don't know if I'll continue it.

Benjamin said you mostly stayed to yourself at Boot Camp. Is that a choice you made as an actor?

James: I think that's just me in general. I got along with the guys great. I said I did three military pictures and that usually means a predominately male cast and I enjoy that but usually guys like to joke around and on this movie there were a lot of Australians and they played Cricket and I guess I just like to fill my timeŠ I like to read so I was just by myself.

What are you reading right now?

James: The Red and the Black by Stendhal.

In French?

James: No.

What was it like working with John Dahl and were you surprised he would direct a movie like this?

James: Yes. John was great to work with. It was a departure for him from his other stuff. He usually does character-driven things and we even talked on set about how he's used to directing more intimate kinds of scenes between two or three characters and on this, when he was working with the Rangers on most of my scenes, he had sixty people that he had to direct. But, he was always cool. That's the main thing about John, he's always cool, he's always about serving the story. He said he'd love to just make movies, just good movies. He doesn't have to leave any kind of imprint or you don't need to know it's a John Dahl movie, or so he said. He just wants to serve the story. As far as how he operates, I kind of see him as kind of like Captain Prince in that Prince is very soft-spoken, low key guy but very smart and just gets the job done.

Was the weather or location a problem?

James: It's wasn't that we had incredibly bad weather but it was very difficult because the whole movie takes place over three or four days [five] so you have to have consistency in the weather so if there was any deviation then it would cause a lot of problems. So, we were out there, I think it only became a read problem when we were doing the raid. That part of the movie took a month and a half to shoot, just that part and we were shooting at night. I think we got pretty lucky. It's just that a few nights this fog came in and you can't have one shot and then the next shot there's fog all of a sudden. That's what the difficulty was. Otherwise, I think we were pretty lucky?

Any injuries other than the binoculars?

James: The stitches are back here somewhere (indicates back of his head). It was very quick, not anything serious. I think, when we were at Boot Camp, there were one or two guys who had to go home. One guy hurt his leg just running and there was one night where I played the Captain so at Boot Camp I had to give orders and the military advisor had me come up with plans and maneuvers and so one night he said I had to set up an ambush for the enemy camp. I'm not exaggerating. I came up with a plan and then we lay in the bushes for two hours I guess, not moving. And, finally the guys came and we opened up with the blank ammunition and then one of the guys was bitten by this spider and the whole time they'd been warning us about how dangerous Australian wildlife is and snakes and so he had go to the hospital but he came back and finished the shoot.

He says he never saw any land leeches that Jenny mentions.

Who were these guys on the Japanese side?

James: I don't know how they recruited them. The guys who played the main Japanese soldiers went to a Boot Camp as well. They just kept us separated and in the middle of the night they would come and attack us.

Were there any war movies you watched as a kid?

James: When I was coming up, the Vietnam war movies were around, Apocalypse Now and Platoon. I remember Platoon. I rented Platoon by accident. My father wanted me to get Patton and I got Platoon so we watched that. That was actually where Dale Dye started. That was the first Boot Camp for actors was on that movie. He was great. His help was invaluable.

Can you talk a bit about Spiderman Three? Do you start that soon?

James: Yeah, they're gearing up. They won't start the main shoot until January. I don't think anybody has the script. I've met with Sam Raimi a couple of times to talk about it. I think there's a little shoot. They're going to shoot something in September. On those movies, they kind of invent a lot of new effects and new techniques so what they do is they usually shoot the scene a few months out so the effects team can start working on that and figuring out everything that they're going to do so they're going to shoot one or a couple of scenes in September and then everybody will meet up in January.

Having done both films, where would you like to see your character go?

James: They're given Harry a great trajectory of the lost kid who was always trying to please his father and right before he achieves that, his father is taken from him so the only way that he can kind of become whole is to avenge his father's death and ohŠit's his best friend so they've set up a great conflict and they'll just resolve that conflict in some way.

If you weren't here today, what is your idea of a laid-back Sunday? Reading?

James: Today, I was going to go to the King Tut exhibit but it was sold out today. I was a little late on that. I think we're going to go to the Sergio Leone exhibition at the Gene Autry Museum.

There's a junket for 40-year-old Virgin. Do you keep in touch with Judd [Apatow?] and Seth [Rogen?].

James: Yeah, I spoke to Judd yesterday and I just saw Seth downstairs. I see them around every once in a while. We just got together for the release of the DVD.


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