James Franco's beef with Gawker stretches back to at least 2008, but recently it intensified after my colleague J.K. Trotter wrote a post called "James Franco Is Living With a Man" based on an innuendo-filled New York Times piece that probed Franco's relationship with an actor he has directed multiple times and is sharing an apartment with in Brooklyn this summer, Scott Haze. Haze is Franco's muse, no homo...well, maybe (big winks all around). In response, Franco, a self-identified straight man, said that Trotter, a gay man, was being homophobic. That's 2014 for ya! Isn't the world a crazy place?
Given all of this background, I was surprised when a publicist pitched me an interview with Franco to coincide with the release of Kink, a documentary about the BSDM website Kink.com. Would I like to speak to James Franco? Of course I would! Not only would such a discussion have the potential to be an air-clearing, click-grabbing event, I am genuinely interested in Franco's public profile. I admire how willing he is, as an A-list heartthrob type, to push the boundaries publicly acceptable communication. I liked Interior. Leather Bar, which he co-directed with Travis Matthews. I think it's cool for a straight dude to confess curiosity about man-on-man sex in such a public manner. I like having conversations with people, period. It seemed like we could have a lot to talk about.
I didn't let myself get too invested in the idea of an interview with Franco. The pitch that came to me (let me underline its unsolicited nature and establish the theme of me sitting behind my desk not reaching out to James Franco) was from Kink's publicist, not Franco's. To negotiate this, it would have to go through Franco's people, and I assumed its very existence implied that it hadn't.
After agreeing to the interview, I received an email from the Kink publicist (who works at a film publicity firm that I very much enjoy working with, by the way) making sure that it would focus on Kink.
"Without a doubt," I wrote back. "I'll want to talk about his career in general esp. in terms of his sexuality, but we will stay on task." I also wanted to take him to task for willfully misinterpreting Christopher Schulz's hypothetical sketches of a nude Seth Rogen, which Franco repainted without crediting initially and later justified doing so by saying that Schulz just did the sketches for attention. I wanted Franco to tell me more about what it is to do things with the express purpose of attention, but I thought I should play that one close to my chest.
A few days later came another email from the Kink publicist saying that Franco's rep wanted more detail. Did I have a specific angle? Now I was the one who had to do the pitching. What a country! But OK, fine, whatever, I really wanted to have this conversation. My pitch read:
For sure. In addition to specific points about Kink, I would want for our conversation to more broadly cover his status as someone who is exploring sexuality in a public space. I think what Franco does is often bold, and I definitely relate to his open curiosity, as someone who writes about sex regularly myself. I was really impressed by his audacity with Interior. Leather Bar (my review: http://gawker.com/bi-curiouser-a...), and I think it's really bold of him to use his platform to have taboo conversations.
Because Kink is about generally taboo sexuality, I think that is a natural place for the interview to go when discussing sort of how this fits in to his broader career.
Let me know if you need more, [publicist friend]. I'm happy to nail this down.
I was told I'd hear back ASAP. I did not hear back ASAP.
I did, though, a few days later, receive an invite to Kink's "opening night celebration," which is happening tonight at Eastern Bloc in the East Village from 11 pm - 2 am. Having not heard back about the interview, I thought, "Fuck that. I can go to Eastern Bloc whenever."
But then, someone that I have exchanged emails with in the past, personally invited me, explaining that he was in charge of putting together a press list. I was really stoned when I read that last night and thought, "Well, why not go to Eastern Bloc tomorrow? Would be great to hear Frankie Sharp spin and look at Amanda Lepore. Maybe I'll have an impromptu convo with James even and we can laugh about all of this."
OK, I'll go, sounds fun, thanks.
A few hours ago, I received word that Gawker had, in fact, been disinvited from the party by Franco's people, who just a few days ago, were actually entertaining the idea of allowing me to talk to their client, who has had a contentious relationship with Gawker for six years strong (yesterday was the sixth anniversary of the post that started it all).
I confirmed with the Kink publicist that this is, indeed, what happened.
So I will not be having a conversation I did not elect to have, nor attend a party that I never asked to go to. "Here you go, NO!" I have heard twice this week. That seems kind of mean. The behavior of Franco's camp seems kind of cowardly. It's, above all, asinine because the party, which has a list, doesn't start till later so I could seriously roll in and plant myself there early waiting for the party to start if I were so inclined.
But naw. I'll find something else to do. Maybe 11:11?
I still do want to talk to James Franco, though. More than ever, in fact.
So I'm letting this be seen and felt:
JAMES FRANCO, I CHALLENGE YOU TO A CONVERSATION.
Update: Franco has responded.
[Image via Getty]