James Franco Plays Gay, Stays Busy

James Franco is staying busy. Franco was at the Sundance Film Festival this week in support of two films, I Am Michael, in which Franco plays former gay rights activist Michael Glatze, founder of the Young Gay America organization, who, following a health scare, renounced his homosexuality and joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and True Story, about a man who murders his family.

Franco is no stranger to pushing boundaries. His earlier work in such films as Interior. Leather Bar. and Milk have shown Franco comfortably slipping into gay roles. The actor told Kyle Buchanan of Vulture that it was, in fact, his experience shooting Milk that first opened his eyes to the realities facing homosexuality in America.

“Once I did that movie, it kind of opened me up to a lot of things I hadn’t really thought about because they hadn’t been a part of my life. Lee Daniels says that gay rights are the civil rights of our era, so I like doing a movie where I can bring themes and ideas I’ve been engaged with in such a way that those ideas are pulled into the mainstream more. I feel like that’s my place: I can in some ways lend myself and say that these are important issues of equal rights, though on the other hand, I’m very much about preserving this queer kind of space of defying identity and defying labels.”

Justin Kelly, I Am Michael’s writer/director, worked as an assistant on Milk. I Am Michael is his first feature film.

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Franco’s work in I Am Michael and True Story are a blip on the actor/writer/producer’s creative radar. In addition to writing novels (such as Franco’s 2013 Actors Anonymous), poetry collections (such as last year’s Directing Herbert White), and the sporadic musical offering, such as Franco’s EP MotorCity, with Tim O’Keefe as the duo called Daddy, and Franco’s occasional university level teaching gigs, Franco continues to pour himself into film with a staggering fifteen film projects, including animated voiceover work in The Little Prince, The Labyrinth, and Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg’s Sausage Party having already been or scheduled to be released this year.

Amongst the impressive slate of projects on Franco’s docket are the just-announced In Dubious Battle, which Franco will adapt the John Steinbeck work about a man who tried to organize a fruit picker strike in Southern California, and an as yet still-being-developed film concept from the mind of singer Lana Del Rey, report Madeleine Davies of Jezebel.