James Franco – Used to be addicted
(Gentle readers, if you hate the guy because of his opinions on issues of the day and his lifestyle, stop reading now. This section is about his literary efforts only!)
James Franco is a case in point of someone who is, as we discreetly put it these days, a mite “troubled”, and he expresses this in his writing. (His statements, not mine – see below.) Immediately after overcoming drug addictions as a 17-year-old, Franco turned to acting, which he revealed became like an addiction. It seems he has the type of personality that gives him a natural tendency to get addicted to drugs and things like work – but he is getting over that. Maybe he is just a really passionate person:
“[…] I have a very addictive personality. When I was a teenager I got over certain addictions, and that’s when I started acting, at age 17. I really threw myself into it, and that became everything, to the point where I didn’t even socialize. And then after, like, 10 years of that, at age 27, I realized, Man, I’m so depressed. On the surface my life seems pretty good—I have a career and everything—but I feel isolated and lonely. So then I threw myself into school, but again it was just this sort of running, running, running.” (James Franco in an interview with Edmund White, Sex, Porn & the Eternal Appeal of ‘70s New York, in Out.com Editors, Out Magazine, August 1, 2017)
Directing Herbert White (2014) is his debut poetry collection, and cheerful it ain’t – but it is strangely touching:
I’m a nocturnal creature,
And I’m here to cheat time.
You can see time and exhaustion
Taking pay from my face―
In fifty years
My sleep will be death,
I’ll go like the rest,
But I’ll have played
All the games and all the roles.
―from “Nocturnal”, by James Franco
There is definitely talent there – and the smack of truth. In his debut novel, Actors Anonymous (Nov. 2017), amongst the many characters, “…there’s Franco himself, who prowls backstage, peering out between the lines—before taking the stage with fascinating meditations on his art, along with nightmarish tales of excess. ‘Hollywood has always been a private club,’ he writes. ‘I open the gates. I say welcome. I say, Look inside.’” (Amazon review)
Shia LaBeouf – In all sorts of trouble
Shia LaBeouf is an actor, performance artist and author. He has acted in many big-name movies, including the notorious Nymphomaniac and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, music videos and TV series, and he has portrayed some very weird characters very convincingly. In early 2014, LaBeouf began collaborating with British artist and author of The Metamodernist Manifesto, Luke Turner, and Finnish artist Nastja Säde Rönkkö, on a series of actions described as “a multi-platform meditation on celebrity and vulnerability”, in other words, performance art. The results looked like strange, emotion-laden stunts. For example, on February 9, 2014, LaBeouf arrived at the Berlin Film Festival wearing a brown paper bag over his head with the words “I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE” written on it. Meaning what? Who knows. Perhaps he meant it literally.
Also in 2014, he was charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespass at New York’s Studio 54 theatre, and afterwards voluntarily began seeking outpatient treatment for alcoholism. In 2017, he was arrested in Savannah, Georgia, for public drunkenness, disorderly conduct and obstruction, after which he was ordered to attend anger management counselling. So he has problems.
Worse, in 2013 he was accused of plagiarism in his Internet short film, Howard Cantour.com. He later removed the film, saying that he did not intend to copy the original work of author Daniel Clowes, but was instead “inspired” by him and “got lost in the creative process.” Thereafter, LaBeouf’s other work also came under scrutiny, with accusations that his comic books, Let’s Fucking Party and Stale N Mate, had been plagiarized respectively from Benoît Duteurtre’s The Little Girl and the Cigarette and Charles Bukowski’s poem Assault. LaBeouf later apologized for the plagiarism on Twitter. Critics have taken Let’s Fucking Party very seriously, writing about the book’s “expressive abbreviation”, “brutal directness” and the “elegant use of emptiness”. Yaaarrgh!! That’s fake critique, if you ask me. On his self-publishing site, thecampaignbook.com, he writes;
“Each project comes from my own tastes and relationships, and are rooted in what I believe in. Since it’s just me running this thing, you’re pretty much seeing me through those books and this site.”
Seems like LaBeouf is experimenting, and is, at times, confused (especially about things like copyright). He is expressing his troubled mind through his projects and books. It remains to be seen how he will develop as an artist.
Next in this Long Read about the difficulties of the creative process: My conclusions.