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James Franco Admits  Directing Himself as Twins in HBO’s The Deuce Was a Little Confusing

So much has been made of all that James Franco has best corset shapewear done in and outside of Hollywood since he broke through as a teen heartthrob in Freaks and Geeks that it’s probably easier to ask, What has James Franco—actor, director, writer, model, artist, soap star, USC professor, UCLA professor, Oscar nominee, Oscar host, and so on—not done? It turns out, in fact, that he’s not yet played twins onscreen, which he does as the star of HBO’s much-anticipated new drama The Deuce, premiering in September. Created by The Wire’s David Simon, the TV series centers on twin brothers Frankie and Vinnie Martino, both played by Franco, during the rise of the now-billion dollar porn industry in Times Square in ’70s New York. Franco being Franco, of course, he decided to direct himself while trying to play both parts onscreen at the same time (he’s also an executive producer of the show). In an interview with Lynn Hirschberg, he explains how he pulled it off, and how he originally started honing his Brooklyn accent—and his acting chops in general—while working at a McDonald’s drive-thru window.

When long body shaper did you know you were going to be an actor?

I started acting my senior year in high school. I had loved movies since as long as I can remember. Then finally my senior year, I started acting. And I had a girlfriend in the drama program, and she had been asked to do a one-act by this guy. And he had written this one-act and was directing and starring in it. It was this romantic piece, and they were gonna make out in it. And I got really jealous, and I begged her not to do it. But she did it anyway, as she should have. I realize in hindsight that I was jealous probably more because he had constructed this whole thing and he’d written it and directed it and was acting in it—it was, like, all the things that I wanted to do. And so as my revenge, I decided that I would join the drama class. I got the leads in the last two plays that year.

tummy control camisole Then I hadn’t applied to any drama schools ’cause I was too late, and so I wasn’t in the theater program at UCLA. But I was in L.A., and there was, like, a guy in my dorm that was on the show Cybill, with Cybill Shepherd. It was just all around me, and I was like, “Well, I, I need to do this now.” So I dropped out of school. My parents wouldn’t support me anymore. So I worked at McDonald’s for two or three months.

Oh, wow. You wore the uniform.

Oh, yeah. I got a couple dates from the drive-thru window. [Laughter.]Tthen I got a Pizza Hut commercial, and then not long after that I did Freaks and Geeks. So it all worked out.

I can’t believe you worked at McDonald’s. How did you get dates from the drive-thru?

Well, they didn’t go so well. I was in acting class, and I would practice different accents in the drive-thru, like really bad accents. But people believed me. So I’d be like [in terrible Italian-American accent] “Hey, welcome to McDonald’s. May I help you?” You know, like, that bad.

And I’d always know that they were interested ’cause they’d come back around. So, you know, a young lady would be like, “Oh, I forgot the, uh, strawberry milkshake.”She’d come back and she’d be like, “Well, I’m trying to learn Italian. Maybe you could give me some Italian lessons.” I’d go [in accent], “Yeah, yeah, sure.” But then there were a couple, I guess, with my Irish accent or, like, my Brooklyn accent—those I could go out on dates with. You know, we went to see Titanic, and I had to keep it up. You know, so like [in equally bad Brooklyn accent], “Whoa, Leonardo. Wow, he was amazing. Yo, oh.”

What movie makes you cry?

Well, it’s not a movie, but I did just go see Dear Evan Hansen, the musical. Oh my god. Like, I cried at every single song. Usually, I’m not the biggest musical guy, but there’s usually one song in every musical where I’d get emotional. And in Dear Evan Hansen, every song I’m bawling. During the intermission, they were like, “You want to come to the green room?” And it was, like, the manager’s office, this little weird cave with, like, little tea—I don’t know, it was odd. But he had special Dear Evan Hansen tissues, I guess because people cry so much.

Oh, and I’ll call the actor out, Ben Platt. So he’s giving this amazing performance, and there’s a part in the play where his character comes to the lip of the stage to give a speech for this other kid that’s committed suicide. Well, Ben comes up, and he goes to the mic, and he hawks the biggest loogie, like, right on the foot of or off the stage. And I’m thinking, like, “Is that part of the play? Is the character so awkward or anxious right that he’s clearing his throat?” But I look down. There’s these two young women in the front row, and when he spits, they’re like…

So I go see him after. I’m like, “Man, great show. What was up with that spitting part?” Ben was like, “Oh, those girls were talking the whole time. I was trying to make eye contact with them, and they wouldn’t shut up. So I just spit on ‘em.”