Talking (Spider) Sense with "Spider-Man 3" actor James Franco

NOTE: This interview contains spoilers.

Spider-Man 3 opens nationwide on May 4th, and in anticipation of the event, CBR News will be over the coming days presenting a number of new special spider-features. We spoke earlier this week to director Sam Raimi, actor Tobey Maguire, and actor Thomas Haden Church. In this fourth of a series of interviews with the cast and crew of Spider-Man 3, CBR News spoke with actor James Franco about the new film, his character, and his feelings about the whole Spider-Man experience.

This seemed to be the perfect character arc for you in this movie.

I think that's right.

Would you have been willing to do the film had that arc not been as prevalent?

Just refused? [laughs] I think that would have caused a lot of problems.

You must have had concerns going into it that they weren't going to have the balance right; that there wouldn't be enough to feed you as an actor.

When I did the first one, I knew it would be a big movie and be a successful movie. But until I actually saw it I didn't realize how special these movies were and the heart that Sam would infuse into them. After seeing the first one I think I was a convert. I just totally believed in Sam. I was on board. There was never any question about doing the third one. And as far as the arc that was in it, we had been developing this script since the premiere of "Spider-Man 2." I remember meeting with Sam and his brother just after "2" came out, and we met a few times over the course of the year just to talk about [Harry]. It wasn't a surprise, I was pretty confident.

So you had an active role in developing this arc?

Well, that's the great thing about Sam. He is extremely collaborative. Since the beginning he's been collaborative. In the first one, I remember Toby, Kirsten, Willem and I going in, and the characters were just being [discussed] at that point. There were a lot of discussions about the characters and who they would be and how they would act. [Sam] really involved the actors. Then from there on to the second and third film he's become even more collaborative, especially on this third one. He gave the actors a lot of room and responsibility to make sure that their characters were being portrayed properly and, exactly what you're talking about, that the arcs were complete.

Can you talk about the physical stuff you had to do?

I was much more a part of the action in a much bigger way in this film than in the others. I now realize why Tobey was so tired after the first two films [laughs]. It's not that any part of the action scenes are especially dangerous or strenuous, it's just that they take so long to do. I have three main action sequences in the film and they each took a month to a month and a half to shoot. Compared to a dramatic scene, which at most takes a day. Maybe two.

What was your favorite part of the movie?

For my character, I enjoyed the turns he gets to take. I enjoyed watching the turns.   Harry's definitely villainous in this film but there's a point where he becomes the old Harry and is a bit more innocent and goofy. It was unusual for me to have those kinds of scenes in the "Spider-Man" franchise. Those were fun. I had a really good time working out the scenes and playing the scenes when Harry turns back and Peter's not sure what's happening. It was fun to work that out. Just as a viewer, I thought the way they executed the Sandman special effects were incredible. I thought some of those battle scenes between Spider-Man and Sandman were incredible.

Your character goes through so many transitions over the course of the "Spider-Man" series, particularly in this movie. Can you talk about how you as an actor get to those transitions?

Well, Harry goes to extremes in both directions in this film. But I didn't find it difficult playing the scenes. I feel like everything that he goes through has been justified by what has happened before. I guess I find that as an actor, as long as it feels real and justified it's not that difficult to play for some reason.   When we worked on it, Sam and I really plotted out where the changes were and how those changes would happen. What the triggers were. We just made sure we nΩew where Harry's mental state was in each section of the movie. Once we figured that out, it was pretty easy.

How did you feel about him dying? Because Harry continues to live in the comics.

Right. There's some series in the comics where I've seen him die. I remember one where he even has a child of his own. It's the third generation of Osbornes and Harry gets blown up in a building or something. I feel like ["Spider-Man 3"] was a great way to go out. Harry's arc in these films is not complete until this third film. His major conflict is between his father's memory and avenging his father and the loyalty he feels to Peter. Harry's struggling with that through all the films and he struggles with them both in this film. And now that that's resolved, I don't know what the character can do besides fight alongside Spider-Man and that seems a little strange. I'm happy the character goes out on a strong point.

Good news is that because Harry died, you don't have to answer questions about Spider-Man 4.

Well, people certainly ask. People probably asked Willem, "How do you feel about not being in 'Spider-Man 2?'" And he ended up in "Spider-Man 2!"

So you think you're going to be in "Spider-Man 4?"

No. [laughs.] I don't think anybody knows what's happening. I think they've ordered a script for it but it doesn't necessarily mean Sam or Tobey are going to do it. I'm sure they would like to if it's right. But I know Sam has worked probably six or seven years straight. We finish shooting but he goes on to post-production and after that's done he goes on to pre-production for the next movie with designing the effects and writing the script. So he has really not had a break for six years so I'm sure he's a little tired but I know he loves these movies more than anything and he identifies with Peter Parker. It's been such a perfect fit for him I can see it being very hard for him to let it go. If they were to make another one I think they should either use the same group – Sam and Tobey and Kirsten or whoever else – or if they change one they should just change everybody.

What are you doing after your next project, the Judd Apatow comedy "Pineapple Exrpess?"

Nothing definite. I went back to school. I'm at UCLA. I'm almost done. I'm an English major with a creative writing specialty and focus. I think I'm going to do a study abroad program over the summer in London where I'll study William Blake and Shakespeare.


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