Television

James Franco's Crazy Genius In Full And Gangsterlicious Flower

Let's suppose you are an actor. You can do comedy; you can do drama. You have been talked up for an Oscar, though not nominated for one. In the next year, you intend to play Allen Ginsberg, as well as show up in a comedy with Tina Fey and Steve Carell. Oh, and you are talented and funny, and you are, um, hot.

In short, let's suppose you are James Franco, and the world is your oyster.

What can you do that nobody will understand at all, and therefore everyone will talk about? What can you do that qualifies as legitimately weird? You can't just act weird on a late-night talk show anymore; Joaquin Phoenix pretty much killed that bit. You can't just say strange things in interviews.

We've seen it all, right? Every goofball maneuver that a famous actor might take on, every publicity stunt, every experiment that leads to "He's doing WHAT?"

No. No, we haven't. Because James Franco managed to truly baffle just about everyone when he decided to take a role on General Hospital. And in, reportedly, three days of work, he nailed down exposure that will last for months.

James Franco is a crazy genius, after the jump.

This all apparently has something to do with other art projects he has going, and it's all related to image and deconstruction and so forth, but from a strictly pragmatic perspective, this move is absolute genius. Even soap snobs aren't going to think this is because James Franco has to do General Hospital. No, this is clearly because he chooses to. And that choice is a genuine fake-left, go-right maneuver in a world where publicity tends to make everything seem utterly predictable.

The thing is, there are fewer entertainment Rubicons than there used to be, image-wise — the entire business is more fluid. It's okay for movie actors, up to a certain point, to do certain kinds of television. It's okay for even giant movie stars to appear in cable miniseries, for example. They can do appearances on comedies, like when Brad Pitt was on Friends or when just about everybody goes on 30 Rock.

Extremely famous people can do voiceover work on commercials, and it doesn't make anybody think any less of them. They do cameos, they do videos at Funny Or Die, and they do live walk-ons at other people's concerts (see: Jason Segel's appearance with The Swell Season, detailed in this morning's roundup). Popping up here and there, wandering into the frame in unexpected ways, is not the shock it once was.

But this does not apply to soap operas. No, sir. Well, not before James Franco.

Soap operas have remained weirdly isolated in a little bubble where, while watched by millions of people, they are assumed to have nothing to do with the rest of entertainment. Nathan Fillion, who first gained attention as Joey Buchanan on One Life To Live, graciously popped back in 2007 for its 10,000th episode celebration (a great example of not spitting on the people who gave you your big break), but other than that, you see very little traffic across that barrier.

This is a legitimately surprising thing to do, and there are fewer and fewer things like that in existence. He's probably not going to hurt himself — even if it's terrible, everyone will just blame the fact that it's a soap. And in return for three days of work, he gets attention, he gets exposure to some of the most devoted television viewers in existence, and he gets to do something that most of his peers have never done.

All in all, one of the more goofy and potentially wily moves I've ever seen from an A-list actor.

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