I got a chance to talk to "127 Hours" star James Franco Sunday morning, but it got cut woefully short. While I had meant to ask him about any number of things, I only got to two real questions, so the fact that we spent half the time talking about masturbation was just kind of a fluke. Still, enjoy.
What was your method for getting into doing the big amputation scene?
We did that one in a similar way to how we did a lot of the more physical scenes. It was a paradigm set up early on, where we shot in order, so one of the first scenes we did was right after the boulder has fallen on my arm and I try to pull it out with brute strength. Before we did that, [director Danny Boyle] said, "I'm just going to turn the camera on, and just go and don't stop." I said, "OK… I'm good with that, I'll beat myself up, that's fine. You just better get it." And Danny said the take was 22 minutes. So I was beat up, I was deep purple all over [my upper arms and shoulder]. And that's where it clicked for Danny. So that take, that became the model for how we would do a lot of those scenes.
How did it work then with when you had to sever your arm?
It was the same thing with the arm. It was set up in such a way that under the skin [of the fake arm], it was this incredibly detailed muscle and veins and nerves, so I could just go. Because of the nature of these new digital cameras called SR2Ks that are hooked up to wires that run to computers, all the operator had to hold was this tiny camera. You could do stuff that you can't do with a regular handheld film camera. So they could really go anywhere and I could just do these long takes. And because there were really no other factors in those scenes, it became a performance with the DP in some way. We were both just finding the movie as we went. And the other great thing about long takes is, Danny cut it frenetically, but within those short pieces you get a more authentic life because when you act—after a minute, or certainly after five minutes of just really trying to do a physical task—you just forget the movie or anything outside, and you're really just engaged with the task. I did everything and then he didn't call cut, so I just kept going.
Danny said that Aron Ralston, whose ordeal provided the basis for the movie, would never answer the question of whether he actually jerked off while stuck down there. Did putting that in the story feel true to you?
He's kind of a gentleman, I guess he doesn't talk about that stuff. [laughs] I think he also didn't want his mom to read it.
But you had to play a bit of that.
[laughs] OK. You asked the question. [pause] I spend a fair amount of time alone, especially when I travel maybe to something like this or for work or whatever, but I'm in hotels a lot for a lot of my life. And I don't mind it because I have a lot of stuff to do on my own. I have a lot of reading to do for school or whatever. [pause, laughs] You asked! So, when I'm alone, I do masturbate a lot. I don't know why. It's like you have those days where it's just like, I have a ton of writing to do, or a ton of reading to do, and you're just like, OK, I'm going to be on the couch all day or in bed all day just doing that… I tend to have a four- or five-time day. [breaks out laughing] So, I probably would have if I was stuck under a rock.
– The Hollywood Reporter