Franco explains why he's backing off from public personas and how he transformed into Tommy Wiseau.
As James Franco promotes "The Disaster Artist," it looks like the eccentric actor and director is switching to a less-is-more approach with fame -- and that means focusing on fewer projects, cutting back on public stunts and getting off Instagram entirely.
"It's very liberating," he told Variety in an interview published Tuesday. "I just got rid of it. When I first got on [Instagram], it just felt silly. I treated it like it was a joke. You get in that weird seductive space where it feels private, but it's also public. And you get hooked on the reaction."
One reason he gave up the addictive social media platform was that he didn't want to be drawn in to the selfie-obsessed culture personified by the Kardashians.
"I was testing the bounds. It's sort of the way I see people like the Kardashians. They are staking out new ground and what these spaces are. They are making a lot of money off of it. What will happen if I do that? And you get reactions."
Franco said his experimenting with public personas and the constant stream of new projects earlier in his career was a "defense mechanism" that he's now weaning himself off of.
"If I do a lot of things and one of them comes out and people don't like it, I'm already on to the next thing. I'm not even listening to the criticism. But it’s also an escape. If I kept myself busy, I never had to look at myself or my life."
Here are three more takeaways from the interview:
Gucci warned him off taking weird selfies
Another reason why Franco decided to ditch Instagram? The sage advice of fashion powerhouse Gucci, who didn't want to be associated with bizarre pictures from the actor.
"There was some photo I did" while he had an endorsement deal with the brand, Franco explained. "I wasn't naked. I'm sure Rihanna has posted a bunch more risqué photos. It was just the attitude of the photo. It was sweaty. My hand was in my boxers. It just looked gross."
Gucci told him, "Don't do any more photos like that."
He didn't realize he was bombing at the 2011 Oscars
One of Franco's weirder moments in the public eye was at the 2011 Academy Awards. He had been nominated for Best Actor for "127 Hours," and he also agreed to co-emcee the event with Anne Hathaway -- a performance that famously bombed and "ruined" that year's Oscars in the eyes of some critics.
"I shouldn't have been doing it," Franco said, explaining that he accepted the hosting gig because he was uncomfortable about being nominated while "everyone was talking about Colin Firth," who ultimately won for "The King's Speech."
He justified it to himself as "This will be an experiment, this will be weird" and thought it would help him not look so bad if he lost. He even thought he was doing okay as a host at the time, because people were laughing in the auditorium.
"Honestly, I think the biggest criticism of me, it seemed like I was high or low energy. In my head, I was trying to be the straight man. I guess I just went too far or came across as the dead man."
He completely transformed himself to play Tommy Wiseau
It was a challenge for the actor to turn himself into someone as bizarre as real-life "Room" director and star Tommy Wiseau, the title character "The Disaster Artist," but Franco proved to be up to the challenge.
To get the right physique for the film's big sex scene, Franco went on a lengthy Whole Foods salads for lunch and dinner, and did 300 sit-ups and push-ups every day. "[Wiseau] is muscular, but it's a very strange muscularity," Franco said.
His facial features also required a lot of work. "I had two-and-a-half hours of prosthetics. We used cheeks because he has very severe cheekbones. A nosepiece not for the full nose but for the bridge. We did a little piece on the eyelid because he has a lazy eye on one side. And blue contacts."
To get Wiseau's accent and speech patterns right, Franco studied the original dailies from "The Room" and listened to Wiseau's private taped journals -- and even directed scenes of "The Disaster Artist" while still in character.