Could we have heard James Franco’s name called out for a Best Actor nomination instead of Joaquin Phoenix? According to Franco, chances are that could have happened if the actor didn’t misunderstand director Paul Thomas Anderson during early conversations about the Weinstein powerhouse film The Master.
During a short Q&A at The Austin Film Festival, Franco who’s known to think outside of the box for his bold film choices, admitted that it was his inability to be fearful that stopped him from nabbing the lead role of troubled Freddie Quell in the Oscar-baited film The Master.
Franco, who was there to promote his experimental meta-film Francophrenia, was asked if he was fearful or intimidated by the roles he took on. Of course, Franco said he couldn’t really think of a role that he was fearful in taking on, but he did share details on an old anecdote about his experience of almost being cast in The Master.
“When he [Paul Thomas Anderson] started talking about the role he said ‘Do you feel like you can do this?’ And I said ‘Yeah, totally. Look, I think you’re like the best American director. I feel confident. I know I can do this.’ And he said to me ‘But I want this to scare you. I want this role, going on this journey to scare you.’ And I was like ‘Scare?! I know I can do it.” Franco now had the laughing audience in the Stephen F. Austin Intercontinental ballroom in the palm of his hand. “And so, incredible movie, needless to say I didn’t get the part. I guess I wasn’t scared enough or something, or whatever reason I didn’t get it. And then when I saw Joaquin in that movie I realized ‘Oh, he wanted me to like lose my mind.’
Of course, in the end, the role went to Joaquin Phoenix, who turned in a terrifically nuanced performance for the film, a performance so enthralling that the critical praise has been streaming in since initial screenings of the film.
Do you think James Franco could have measured up to the role?