JAMES FRANCO'S SHORT FILM SERIES, BEAUTIFUL ODYSSEY, FEATURES SELF-DESCRIBED NHL BULLY-TURNED FASHION ENTHUSIAST/MARRIAGE EQUALITY ACTIVIST SEAN AVERY IN A FEW COMPROMISING POSITIONS. TOGETHER WITH DAVID LIPMAN, WHO HIRED AVERY AS AN AD MAN LAST YEAR, AND 7 FOR ALL MANKIND JEANS, THREE RENAISSANCE MEN FOUND THEMSELVES AFTER FINDING EACH OTHER
Natasha Stagg: Who did what?
David Lipman: James directed the film and I worked as the creative director. And Sean was the talent. What did we call you Sean? I think we called you the dark angel, right?
Sean Avery: That’s what it was, yes. James just somehow associated my being as the dark angel, which, in some cases could be very accurate. Probably aesthetically, certainly that day, how he found me. So, ‘the dark angel’ was attached and my character was kind of born.
DL: The film was already conceived, and James was looking for some twist. He wasn’t happy with it. And I was doing the photographs for the campaign, and I had started with Sean. We gave Sean a black eye and a cut lip, sort of his character in real life. Or, not in real life, but his active life in sports, as a hockey player. We were photographing him in a very homoerotic way. We shot him at one point with white jeans, all the way ripped down, and Sean is incredibly muscular, so a lot of his body was showing. It was very homoerotic, and then James just saw it, and came with a Super 8 camera and started to shoot. He got really into it and started to shoot Sean just randomly, and then the next thing you know they went off, the two of them alone. They disappeared.
SA: I had never met him before. He was super, super interested in what was going on and he had a camera in his hand, and him and David kind of stepped to the side, and then he came over and just started shooting me. There really wasn’t any introduction. Like, we said ‘hello’ quickly, but whatever the two of them talked about, they kind of just went into action.
NS: You guys had chemistry right away.
SA: Yeah. I think that—Yeah.
DL: Sean and James found themselves. At lunchtime that day, [James] goes, ‘I have the answer to our film,’ knowing Sean’s background by that time—the kind of athlete that he was, and the kind of outspoken character that he is. James is quite outspoken as well. So James said, ‘This is what will make the film, this is what we’re looking for.’ And it was about making a very liberal statement at that point.
NS: It ends with a man and a woman getting married.
DL: Yes but there’s a flash of Sean in that last scene as well. He’s still there, lurking in the background.
SA: I wish more people could understand what went on. For me personally, I had James Franco sort of push my boundaries. There’s a point in the kitchen when James is showing me how to kiss a man, and I’m thinking about whether I should do it. Because I know what’s gonna happen if I do it. It’s something that I’ve been dealing with for a long time throughout my professional career, because of my position with equality. My position is saying, you know what? I’m gonna take a chance and do something. So, to have James Franco, who’s also done that—It started with Milk and obviously now seeing Spring Breakers—probably what is going to go down as one of the most controversial movies that my generation has seen—him giving a gun a blowjob—two guns, actually…
DL: I actually told James this morning I think he topped Travis in Taxi Driver and beat him for best gun scene in a movie ever.
SA: There’s no other man in Hollywood that would do that scene at this point in time, right now. I really, really, truly believe that. Nobody would do that except James Franco.
NS: But you would too, right?
SA: Yeah, I think that’s where the irony comes in. The two of us worked on a campaign [having had] no idea who each other were.
DL: They had to put it in the film, no matter what—make sure that it lives in the film, not on the cutting room floor.
NS: The kiss?
NS: Sean, how did James Franco teach you how to kiss a guy?
SA: He just told me that it wasn’t that hard. He said, just kiss him. And, I thought, you know what? I guess it really isn’t that hard. And then a million different images went across my head in that two- or three-second period when I was standing in a kitchen full of people. It was now in front of me; it really was. And he had just done it, because it was acting, and that’s what the character called for. So, it was definitely a really interesting moment in my career. I’ll say my career because I’m not gonna define it by a sport or by acting or advertising or modeling or anything. It was kind of amazing, really.
DL: James continually surprises me. One week I go see Oz and the next week I go see Spring Breakers [laughs]. And we’re going to work on another [film] now. We think we’re going to be even more groundbreaking on the next one, which Sean’s going to be in again. It’s got a whole other story, and it’s got a lot of twists and turns. The beauty of James is, he probably the most engaging man—or person—I’ve ever worked with.
NS: Where does he find the time to do all this?
DL: He doesn’t sleep. I mean, I don’t sleep: I probably only sleep two and a half hours a night. He probably sleeps a half an hour. But he’s much younger than me, so he can get away with it. He does not sleep. This morning he looked like he got some rest, a good three hours sleep.
NS: Will the three of you always be friends?
DL: Absolutely. As they say, best friends forever. I would go through wars and I would go through fires with them, just as much as I would do for my children and the girl I love.
NS: Sean, this film will surely perpetuate rumors about James Franco and about you. How will you deal with that?
SA: I’ve been dealing with that for twelve years during my NHL career. And it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. What I do, my sexual preference, where I go, who I hang out with, it just doesn’t matter. And then the ironic thing about me personally, is, I could kiss a man in a movie and I could turn around and stand up for one of my friends or stop a burglary or stop an armed robbery, probably with my bare hands. So, what does it really matter?
DL: You know, you’re probably the first one who’s gonna break this story. It’s gonna start with V. No one’s gone where you’ve gone, and where you’re going, and that’s the intent of the film. There are people that watch it and don’t even get it.
V followed up with James Franco in Los Angeles.
NS: Was your idea for the film a message about marriage equality?
James Franco: I'm for equal rights for everyone. We were trying to make interesting images.
NS: Where do you see everyone, emotionally, in the end of the film?
JF: I think the film addresses the complex emotions that are involved in any relationship and the way that some relationships kill other relationships.
NS: Sean Avery says you taught him how to kiss a man.
JF: I asked him to do it. There isn't much to it. You realize that it's just like kissing a woman, but there is a rougher texture.
IMAGE COURTESY 7 FOR ALL MANKIND JEANS