People love to love James Franco and they seem to love to hate him, too. I think it must be because he does absolutely everything. The prolific multi-hyphenate’s latest project is a music video for a song titled “Love in the Old Days” by Daddy, his musical enterprise with artist/musician Tim O’Keefe.
When producer Ted James remixed one of Daddy’s songs, “Love in the Old Days,” Franco cast Kenneth Anger in the music video, presiding over a masked bacchanal based on Anton LaVey’s lycanthropic “Das Tierdrama” ritual (which was, in turn, based on The Island of Doctor Moreau by HG Wells).
Alexandria Symonds of Interview magazine asked Franco a few questions about the short film and working with the notoriously mercurial—and appropriately monikered—Ken Anger:
Alexandria Symonds: How did Kenneth Anger react when you approached him with this concept? Or was it more collaborative—did you come up with the idea together?
James Franco: This is the first time I’ve worked with Kenneth. But I’ve been very influenced by his work before this. I met one of his close collaborators, a guy named Brian Butler, and Brian and I have been talking about various projects for a while, and we just haven’t been able to do any of them yet. Brian has a movie that he wants to direct, and he wants me to be a little part in. And then when I learned that he did a lot of stuff with Kenneth, I couldn’t have been more excited.
So Brian set up the meeting, and Kenneth is a—[laughs]. He’s a nice guy, but I think he’ll admit, he’s a very strange guy. So the conversation was very weird. We met at the Chateau Marmont, Brian was there. I’d have this whole conversation with Brian, because Kenneth was really quiet, and I’d ask Kenneth something, and it was like he wasn’t even listening—but then, he’d kind of become aware. And he’s very smart, he’s been through so many different kinds of experiences, and was a part of so many different things, traveling with the Rolling Stones at the end of the ‘60s. So at times, if you can get him to talk, he’s very knowledgeable and informative. But at other times, it feels like he’s just thinking about other things.
Alexandria Symonds: What about on the set? What was it like to direct him? Did you basically just let him do his thing?
James Franco: Right. So, I read this book called Sway, that’s a fictional novel, but it uses Kenneth and the Rolling Stones, and this guy, Bobby Beausoleil, who was part of Manson’s group, as characters. I don’t know how true any of it is, but I’m sure the writer did research to make a lot of it at least based on fact. In that book, he has the character of Kenneth Anger making the films—the films that Kenneth actually made. And there were certain approaches that he had to these films, where he would shoot a lot of things kind of documentary-style, just people doing their regular routines. Or sometimes, he would stage these basic rituals, but in the editing, turn them into something much more energetic and artistic than they were when they were just filmed.
I guess I used whatever was in that book as kind of a guide about how to work with him. All I really needed was this basic ritual of, I guess you would call it, “The Marriage of Hell.” And we had imagery that was people in animal masks, that was based on certain images that Kenneth’s friend Brian had shown me. I always saw Kenneth as the Priest of Darkness; his films have strangely fused art and weird, kind of religious rituals. And I knew in one of his performances he plays that weird instrument called the theremin. So, if I just had him kind of preside over the wedding and play the theremin, I knew I could shoot it similarly to the way he shot his movies, and then edit it, and make it into something even more.
Brian Butler—who recently moved into the former Hollywood Hills home of Donald Cammell, he tells me, “for inspiration”—was the creative director for the piece. Butler will soon commence production on a feature film called King Death (this is the project Franco alludes to in the Interview interview). He’ll be appearing in Berlin on Saturday night at the Mindpirates space showing some of his short films with a musical performance.
Read the rest of the James Franco interview at Interview
Below, Daddy’s “Love In The Old Days” (Ted James 1999 Remix):