Actor James Franco is becoming known for playing gay roles. The straight actor has always been open about his interest in
producing and acting in LGBT-themed movies. In one of his more recent films, Franco plays Michael Glatze, a once passionate gay rights advocate turned anti-gay preacher. In a role quite different than what he is accustomed to playing, Franco talked about the film, titled “I Am Michael,” in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News published June 10.
The film, also starring Zachary Quinto and directed by Gus Van Sant, is based on the 2011 New York Times Magazine cover story featuring Glatze. In the interview, Franco admits that he couldn’t imagine seeing Glatze’s controversial journey being adapted into a feature film.
“The trajectory of the character is not one that you would expect for a movie,” he told Mercury News in a phone interview. “You usually would expect a character to be closeted and come out and overcome those types of obstacles.”
In making the film, filmmakers understood that there needed to be a careful approach to telling Glatze’s real-life journey. The Dartmouth alum went through a spiritual transformation, one that led him through crisis resulting in his denouncement of his gay life and converting him into a conservative Christian. Glatze, now a minister living with his wife in Wyoming, gave the green light on his life being portrayed on the big screen, but there was one conditioned required.
“As long as we were going to tell the story in a very evenhanded way,” Franco said. “From the beginning, it was definitely the intention that we present the facts of his life, rather than trying to vilify him.”
The 37-year-old actor approached the role like he would any other role he has played, despite not necessarily agreeing with what Glatze said in his original narrative. He researched and transformed himself into the ex-gay rights advocate for the film. Although the topic is controversial, Franco believed it is a story that needed to be told and one that isn’t quite a pro-conversion narrative. He hinted that those who view the film will see that by the end of the movie.
Michael Glatze is the first anti-gay character James Franco has played. He has played other notable gay characters like Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, Scott Smith (the boyfriend of gay activist Harvey Milk), Aron Ralston and James Dean. For more on Franco’s interview with the San Jose Mercury News visit here.