Now that Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master has hit theaters, it seems impossible to imagine anyone but Joaquin Phoenix bringing the necessary sideways scowl and akimbo arms to the role of Freddie Quell. But according to the omnipresent James Franco, the role, like so many before and after it, could have been his, if only he weren't such a big, brave boy of a Franco.
Speaking at a presentation for Francophrenia, his "humorous psycho-thriller" about his purposefully-weird stint as a villain on General Hospital, Franco the Actor responded to a question about if any role had ever intimidating him. According to EW, he couldn't come up with any examples--once a thespian has played Tristan in Tristan + Isolde, they are unflappable--but that very fact then led him to regale the crowd with a "funny story" about how his trademark Franco fearlessness may have cost him the lead in The Master. Said Franco:
"Well, I don't know if this is a funny story but it's a true story. Paul Thomas Anderson was getting ready to make the Master and he called me and we met. And we talked and we ended up meeting for coffee. We didn't talk about the Master but I met him to chat. And then he kept calling me and he wanted to talk and talk but I didn't know what he wanted to talk about because we'd always just kind of bullshit on the phone. So then when he 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.' 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.' And so I guess that's just to say I usually don't get scared of roles."
Lucky for James Franco, most roles do not require him to get scared--only to stare with either intensity or a marijuana-fueled haze--and despite losing this part, he still has about a dozen films coming out in the next year, so do not worry about James Franco. Let him worry about James Franco, and then make a film documenting that worry. Franxious, maybe.