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James Franco plays the boyfriend of Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) in "Milk." He spoke to Ramin Setoodeh:
You've said you have "the girlfriend role" in this movie.
I didn't come up with it, but people say to me, "Oh, you're playing the housewife role." Meaning, I think, a lot of actresses get offered a certain role where the protagonist is the male that has all the action, and the female is the supporting character without a lot of substance. I'm sure as an actress, if those are the kinds of roles you're constantly offered, that can be annoying. But it's the first housewife role I've ever been offered.
Did you do your own stunts?
The skinny-dipping scene.
Yes. So when it comes out on DVD, if you'd like to pause it, you can see my ass.
Do you have any skinny-dipping experience?
Not that I can remember. It's not that hard. You just take your clothes off and jump in the water.
But everyone else in that scene has their clothes on.
I was fine with it. I've shown my ass in other movies. That scene in particular felt a little weird. It's one thing if everybody is naked. It's another thing if everyone is in suits and you're the naked guy.
Did Gus Van Sant really say he wanted you to kiss Sean Penn for 12 hours?
He was kidding, obviously. We didn't kiss for 12 hours. But it inspired one shot where Sean and I are on the sidewalk kissing, and it's, like, a minute long. That's a long time to kiss anybody, and there were, like, 200 people behind the camera watching.
You're taking fiction writing at Columbia. Do you have your stories workshopped?
Are you a mean work-shopper?
I'm not going to say you should write the way I write. I'm going to say, I know this is where you're going; this is where I think you should improve in that direction.
So you're not the guy who hates everything.
There's nothing positive about that.
Are some people meaner on you because you're an actor?
At UCLA it happened in a couple workshops, where one person was going off on my story. They probably hated the way I wrote my name. They'd go after everything. And then, usually, after the first submission, they'd chill out.