From the beloved TV show “Freaks and Geeks” to passion-fueled movies like “City by the Sea,” 27-year-old actor James Franco has perfected his slow burn — simmering silently, and then exploding with rage. In the love story “Tristan & Isolde” and the naval drama “Annapolis” (both arriving in theaters this month), he continues to perfect his James-Dean-like gifts, again portraying ticking time bombs. With principal photography beginning next month on the eagerly anticipated “Spider-Man 3,” then, movie geeks and Franco fans alike find themselves united by the same question: When is Harry Osborn finally going to go off the deep end?
In 2002’s “Spider-Man,” Franco’s Harry watched in horror as his diabolical dad, Norman (Willem Dafoe), became the Green Goblin and was subsequently snuffed out by the webslinger. In the 2004 sequel, the Osborn progeny seethed, stewed and descended into madness upon the realization that best friend Peter Parker was the man who offed his father. The logical progression (as comic book readers witnessed years ago) would be for Harry to assume his father’s evil identity and attempt to destroy Spidey with a hailstorm of the Goblin’s flaming pumpkin bombs.
According to Franco, however, things aren’t as straightforward as they may seem. “The second film suggests that I’m going to a dark place,” the ruggedly handsome, grinning actor admitted. “I think people will be a little bit surprised about what happens.”
Scheduled to save the day on May 4, 2007, “Spider-Man 3” has filled countless Web pages and chatrooms with speculation — most of it centering on who, exactly, the returning Tobey Maguire will be duking it out with. Thomas Haden Church and Topher Grace are believed to be Sandman and Venom, respectively (see “Topher Grace Joins Cast Of ’Spider-Man 3’ … But As Who?” ), but a recent comment by loose-lipped co-star Kirsten Dunst gave hope to all those dying to see Franco in the iconic green metallic costume (see “Kirsten Dunst Spills The Beans On ’Spider-Man 3’ Villains” ).
“I think we have … I’m going to say two and a half bad guys,” the actress sometimes known as Mary Jane Watson revealed to MTV News in September. “Because I think one of them is resurrected. But yeah, two and a half bad guys, I think, about in this movie.”
“She probably shouldn’t have said that,” Franco smiled uneasily, shaking his head. “She actually got into some trouble for that. I think she got into trouble for revealing that, so I probably shouldn’t repeat that mistake.”
Naturally, the “half” can only refer to one of two dead supervillains — the first film’s Goblin or the second film’s Doctor Octopus. And with the odds of Doc Ock’s return seeming slimmer than Dunst herself, Franco’s attempts to maintain the secrets of his character seem thwarted.
“Did she [say that?],” he fidgeted. “I’d love to talk about it. It’s the one thing people ask me. I wish I could.”
With talk of his confidentiality agreement out of the way, the conversation turned to another piece of paper — the contract binding Franco and his co-stars to three movies. With his participation almost concluded, now would seem to be the ideal time to wrap up Harry, the most foreshadowed supervillain since Superman’s dad banished Zod and his cronies to the Phantom Zone.
“I don’t know if it will wrap up,” Franco offered, admitting that “Spidey 3” looks like it could be Harry’s last hurrah. “But the character definitely goes to interesting places.”
Franco is not signed on for further sequels (“They’re so busy on the third one, nobody’s talking about the fourth one yet”), and he concedes that all indications point to Harry getting in touch with his evil side for the next installment.
One final clue that Franco does allow is that he was among a handful of actors who recently assembled to shoot early test sequences before the real filming begins. “We shot scenes that will go in the movie,” the star revealed. “They’re shooting them early because they’re literally inventing effects. So they need to give the effects team time to get up to speed.”
Well, one might deduce, if Harry is still going to be a typical angst-filled guy with no special powers, then why would Franco need to do special-effects tests?
“I don’t know. I can’t really talk about that,” Franco grinned uneasily. “In the other films, I did plenty of wire work and green screen.”
Ultimately, the good-natured Franco laughed off such cross-examinations, apologizing for his evasion while insisting that he genuinely does appreciate the fans’ interest: “It’s great to do work that you know people are interested in and are going to watch.”
The fans will indeed be watching, very closely. And if Franco so much as picks up a pumpkin in the next year and a half, the Internet chatter will undoubtedly start getting wild about Harry.
Check out everything we’ve got on “Spider-Man 3.”
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