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James Franco Soars in FLYBOYS
By Don E. Peterson
September 21, 2006
Harry Osborne (James Franco) prepares to bring an end to Spider-Man.
© Columbia Pictures
For actor James Franco, research is key to immersing himself in his roles and with his new World War I aerial film FLYBOYS (opening Friday) he decided to get his own pilot's license.
"I'm obsessive about research and I had signed on [to FLYBOYS] four months in advance," explains Franco who says what sealed the deal to get his license was going up in an airplane with the director Tony Bill who is also a pilot. "Tony took me to this great little airport called Santa Paula which was a World War II base. They have these great old planes from World War II and I went up in this open cockpit plane and did all these loops and everything. It was a blast and I thought, 'Well, I have some time, I might as well get my license.' So I went every day and I got it."
Part of his inspiration for FLYBOYS was actor Steve McQueen, who did the film THE WAR LOVER that Franco was particularly fond of.
"He played the pilot and you watch him in and around the plane and it's so natural and detailed, because he was a real pilot," says Franco. "So I hoped to try and come close to that and I felt that maybe the only way was to do it."
In FLYBOYS, Franco plays Blaine Rawlings, a troubled American who heads to France to join the Lafayette Escadrille, an elite group of American pilots in World War I who were sent into battle against the Germans. Inspired by a true story, the film mixes action, adventure and romance and features some incredibly dazzling World War I aerial combat sequences.
"What appealed to me about this, is it's a war film and everything is on the line," says Franco. "The stakes are so high because of the situation and so right off the bat it's a place of great drama. But with the people that I've played, and the character that I play in this film they are people that have volunteered to be there. They're volunteering themselves and putting their lives on the line and I can't say that I've ever done anything like that in my life. Because they do that I have such great respect for them. They're heroes. They're volunteering for something that they believe is the right thing and they're willing to risk everything for that. I think that's really what this movie is about. At the time these men volunteered, America hadn't entered the war. No one wanted to go until they found The Zimmerman Telegram and they were like, 'Okay, we're going to go.' But before that, the country didn't want to go, but these men believed that it was the right thing and they were willing to fight for it and sacrifice for it."
Up next for Franco is SPIDER-MAN 3, reprising his role as Harry Osborn, Peter Parker's former friend and now sworn enemy. This time, Franco will be picking up his father's mantle and become The Green Goblin something that was completely different in contrast to shooting a reality-based film like FLYBOYS.
"Yeah, I guess on SPIDER-MAN, no one really has to swing from building," Franco says with a laugh. And although the Internet is rife with chatter about last minute reshoots on the sequel, Franco says that those rumors are false.
"Oh, there was some quote that was actually much ado about nothing in regard to some test screenings that never took place and there wasn't enough action in it," says Franco. "That was a lot of baloney. I think that I was asked, 'What are you going to be re-shooting?' and I think I said, 'Some actions.' It was just scenes that were already in it that we were only filling out a bit."
Additionally, Franco just wrapped CAMILLE opposite Sienna Miller.
"It's a quirky love story about these two kind of crazy Kentucky kids," he adds. "It's sort of a road trip movie."
And after being in uniform in both FLYBOYS and ANNAPOLIS in the same year, the big question is does he wear a uniform in CAMILLE?
"No," Franco says with a smile, "but I did wear the same tuxedo for the whole movie."