James Franco‘s thug-life “Spring Breakers” character, Alien, wasn’t born out of thin air. In fact, he spent a lot of time with a real-life persona, Dangeruss, while making the Harmony Korine-directed film. Their friendship led to the music video for “Dope Boyz,” which MTV News is exclusively premiering, along with an essay from director Franco and candid photos of Dangeruss. Franco didn’t go about this project alone; he worked with film editors Andinh Ha and Pau Dalmases on the music video. These are his words about the experience.
I met Dangeruss through Harmony. Before I went down to St. Pete to play Alien in “Spring Breakers,” Harmony sent me innumerable videos and photos as references for my character. He drowned me in them. Harmony is a master of online research. Once he chooses a location to shoot, it turns out he is also a master at finding the most interesting and odd local places and characters. One of the last videos Harmony sent me was of a white guy in dreads, sitting in his car, rapping about Dope Boyz. This turned out to be Dangeruss, a local rapper who Harm had met at an audition and knew immediately that he was the real deal. He thought I should use Dangeruss as a main source of inspiration for my Florida gangster/mystic, Alien.
The same day I arrived, Harmony had me visit Danger at his apartment. I was surprised when we pulled into a rather nice sprawling housing development, country-club style, with fountains and manicured grass. I think there was even a driving range. When I met Danger, he was tall, thin as a stick, covered in tats and humble as hell. He was willing to help in any way. He told me about growing up in the bad part of town and having poetry as his only recourse when things got ugly. His involvement with the street and his involvement with hip-hop developed simultaneously. “While Peter Piper was picking peppers, I was selling yola at the corner store.” His lyrics are the highly autobiographical chronicle of surviving on the streets of St. Pete.
Harm and Dangeruss agreed that my character could sing one of Danger’s songs in the film, “Dope Boyz.” Dangeruss wrote out the lyrics for me and then performed it so I could see how he carried himself onstage. I was a little confused by one of the lyrics: “junkies at my door, they know the secret knock, it goes one time for the reefer, two times for the rock,” because it didn’t seem like any junkies would come to the door of that nice apartment. But as I got to know Dangeruss, I realized there were two spheres in his life, and the other one away from the one I was seeing was much darker.
Danger and I rapped onstage together for the film. It was a rush. We had an audience of hundreds on the beach, MTV style. It was my first live rap appearance. He led me through. I felt like a gangster. I didn’t want the relationship with Dangeruss to end so I asked him if I could film him for a video. I liked the idea of shooting him doing his daily routine, simple and autobiographical like his music. He watched basketball, he drove over to his friend’s house, they smoked blunts, they freestyled. Later, I flew Dangeruss to LA and we filmed more in the old movie palace downtown where Chaplin’s “City Lights” had premiered. He was epic. This video is the result.