James Franco—actor, writer, something-or-other—is all over the Sundance Film Festival lineup and the films to which his name are attached are, frankly, NSFW. Back in November the New York Times's Brooks Barnes reported that, as Sundance revealed its lineup, Franco would be exploring "sadomasochistic sex in two films." With the addition of a role in a high profile movie also about sex that makes Franco the sex king of Sundance. Or something like that. This isn't Franco the movie star of Oz the Great and Powerful on display. It's not even Franco the Justin Bieber impersonator. This is Franco of the multiple academic degrees. This is Franco the Weird and Powerful.
Let's look at what will be on view in Park City:
This is perhaps Franco as we're most used to seeing him—though, really, are we used to anything with Franco? Lovelace is the high profile biopic of porn star Linda Lovelace, starring Les Misérables' Amanda Seyfried. Franco plays, get this, Hugh Hefner. Yes, James Franco, is playing the younger version of the Playboy founder, new husband. Us had pictures of Franco in the role. Hey, the cheekbones are right.
Naturally, given the subject matter, the movie—directed by the people who cast Franco in Howl— will feature a lot of sex (here's a recently released still) though it is a fairly mainstream project compared to what else Franco has on his plate.
Interior. Leather Bar.
Franco is one of the directors of this highly meta film. In it he and his co-director Travis Mathews, no stranger to the world of gay cinema, "reimagine" the "40 minutes of sexually explicit material" that were rumored to be cut out of the 1980 film Cruising. It "defies categorization" by its own description. Franco and Mathews also appear in the film. That said, Franco himself is not engaging in the sex. He told Entertainment Weekly, which also has a clip of the project:
I play a dual role in this project. I co-directed and designed it with Travis, but I’m also in front of the camera, and my presence in front of the camera is an important component of the movie. Maybe the sequel, I engage in the sex. It wasn’t my job to do that in this piece. In some ways, that would put too much focus on myself, I think, the focus I was actually having sex in front of a camera. That would take all the attention. It’s about me and it’s not about me. It’s about me lending my history and my place in movies to a project that may otherwise not get the same amount of attention. It’s enough for me to be the observer in this.
Here's a trailer:
Franco is the executive producer on this film, a documentary about BDSM porn company Kink.com, which uses the San Francisco Armory as its production studio. The film is directed by Christina Voros, who was profiled in Cosmopolitan and who has done a number of projects with Franco in the role of cinematographer. Franco told Entertainment Weekly he had spent time at the Kink.com facilities when doing a day on a Stephen Elliott movie. He explained he did not want to "normalize" the work of the Kink.com employees: "Part of what is so great about what they do is that it is anti-normal. Both films, kink and Interior. Leather Bar., try to frame the subject matter in such a way that it can’t be written off -- that there are a lot of hypocritical preconceptions people have."
So if you're a Franco fan be prepared for a lot of intellectualizing of a lot of sex acts — because Sundance will be filled with it.