5 Things We’d Love to See in the Upcoming James Franco Documentary

By  · Published on May 14th, 2014

Strand Releasing

If there’s anyone who doesn’t need more exposure, it’s James Franco. But don’t tell that to Lisa Vangellow, an unknown director (and former MFA student of Franco’s when she was at UCLA) who The Wrap reports has been shooting a documentary on the prolific actor since last June. And to give it a little more professional cred, it’s being cut by Franco’s own editor for his upcoming movie Bukowski, Curtiss Clayton (also of Drugstore Cowboy, Buffalo ’66 and much more).

For the film, which is simply titled Franco. A Documentary, Vangellow is said to have received access to Franco’s family and friends, including Seth Rogen. It could be revealing, but it could also be pretty standard and rather complimentary fare – even if it’s not always flattering, because anything unflattering would probably still be a conscious effort on Franco’s part, to make him seem more “real.” That’s why I thought it would be fun to look at how Franco could be influenced by other films in order to be something a little more interesting than this project sounds so far.

The Fog of Hollywood – For one segment, Vangellow should borrow Errol Morris’s interrotron and put her subject in the hot seat for an in-depth interview. The focus here will be his worst offenses as an actor and celebrity, and hopefully the filmmaker will get him to regretfully apologize for his work in Oz: The Great and Powerful, Spider-Man 3 and Whatever It Takes and as co-host of the 2011 Academy Awards.

The Franco Obstructions – Vangellow collaborates with Lars von Trier for a section in which Franco has to remake not one of his own films but just the amputation scene of 127 Hours at various locations, including in the middle of a crowd in Kolkata.

I’m Still Franco – At the end of the doc, Vangellow reveals that Franco has been punking us the whole time with claim to all these college degrees and multiple talents. In fact, it turns out he’s not even really trying to be an actor. It was all a social experiment all along.

Manakafranco – The camera just focuses on Franco for the entire time it takes for him to silently ride a cable car up to the Manakamana temple in Nepal.

Franco Through the Gift Shop – Franco’s only presence in the film is actually when he’s sitting in a chair wearing an ape mask. And also it turns out that he’s taken over as director. That last part seems very plausible.

Correction: This post originally included details about the documentary that was misleading or incorrect regarding Vangellow’s angle with the documentary based on outdated information on her production company’s website. She is not approaching Franco from the perspective of being his former student. Also, the film’s title was incorrectly punctuated as Franco: A Documentary.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.