James Franco as The Master‘s Freddie Quell? Hard to picture and maybe that’s because the role was born for no else but the talents, (and craziness) only Joaquin Phoenix could produce. Nevertheless, during a discussion panel at the Austin Film Festival, James Franco shared a pretty nice bit of info about how Paul Thomas Anderson courted him for the part of Freddie Quell, but ultimately “wasn’t scared enough” to win the role.
“Well, I don’t know if this is a funny story but it’s a true story,” he regaled, when asked if there was a part that ever intimated him. “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,” he continued. “And then when I saw Joaquin [Phoenix] 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.”
Clearly, PTA made the right choice. And while we might forever wonder what Franco’s Freddie Quell would’ve looked like, we can rest assure that neither of them have any love for the Academy. “You know, I’ll say one, I’ll say a role. The Oscars was challenging because the material they gave me was CRAP!”