Imagine a version of Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest critical darling The Master starring James Franco as Freddie Quell instead of Joaquin Phoenix. According to Franco, that version almost got made.
Indiewire reports that, at the Austin Film Festival, Franco disclosed that Paul Thomas Anderson wanted him for the role, mentioning how the director continuously called him: “So then when we 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 the best American director. I feel confident. I know I can do this.'” That’s a predictably self-assured response coming from Franco, who has become quite the Renaissance man in recent years and seems up for anything, from hosting the Oscars to starring on a soap opera.
Apparently that’s not the kind of answer Anderson was looking for, however. Franco went on to explain that the director told him, “But I want this to scare you. I want this role, going on this journey, to scare you.”
Franco said that after he saw Phoenix’s performance in the film he though, “Oh, he wanted me to like lose my mind.”
Although many would argue that Anderson ultimately made the right choice in casting Phoenix, the actor’s chances at Oscar gold were probably jeopardized when he recently expressed his dislike of award shows. It looks like Franco will second that opinion, since he said the material he was given when he hosted the awards was “crap.”