James Franco Has a Prosthetic Penis in Gus Van Sant's Milk?!
by Kevin Powers
August 13, 2008
James Franco continues his media domination as of late donning the cover of this month's GQ and before that appearing on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." Putting career commentary and Pineapple Express experiences aside in these pieces, the juiciest bit of news seems to be the intimate scenes between Franco and co-star Sean Penn. Penn plays the first openly gay elected politician, Harvey Milk, while Franco assumes the role of love interest, Scott Smith. Not only do the two kiss, but they also have a couple of nude scenes together in which each is wearing a prosthetic penis. Say what?! I think most knew Gus Van Sant's Milk was gay-centric, but I doubt folks knew Franco and Penn got so close. Is Milk this year's Brokeback Mountain?
For the kiss, the GQ article (via our friends at SlashFilm) helps contextualize things a bit, indicating that it's not meant to be gratuitous, but squarely a positive an influence on the story as a whole. Franco still considers it a pretty unusual experience, however.
"In filming a key moment between Franco and Penn, Van Sant was partially inspired by a work by the artist Douglas Gordon in which a man and a woman are filmed kissing. 'It just looked very real,' says Van Sant, who was surprised to discover that Franco, who has a keen interest in art and its practitioners, knew Gordon. He also knew that, in order to capture such a natural kiss on film, Gordon had cast two people who didn’t know each other and instructed them to kiss for twelve hours. 'Douglas was worried that he contributed to Sean and I having to kiss for twelve hours,' says Franco. 'It wasn't twelve hours, but it certainly felt like it. The first kiss of the movie was out on Haight Street, with, like, 200 people watching, outside. It was a crane shot—I'm sure in the end it will be a really cool shot, but it starts close and then it takes maybe a minute. That's a long time on film with everybody watching and, like, a fake mustache getting in your mouth. It was long enough that you couldn’t help thinking, 'Oh, my God, I'm kissing Spicoli.'"
As for the nude scenes, Franco went into detail of these sequences on Jimmy Kimmel's show last week, which you can see in this YouTube video at about 4:45. It's hard not to be befuddled when Franco describes one of the scenes. "We're both dancing and we're both naked, and we both now had prosthetic penises. He finally put it together that I'm wearing the Boogie Nights prosthetic. And he said 'James that time in the pool!' And I said 'Yeah I was wearing the prosthetic.' And he said 'God, I'm so relieved.' And then, he's like 'You show me your prosthetic, I'll show you mine.'"
When it comes down to it, the whole affair is pretty interesting. I don't want to say funny, because I feel that would belittle the intended direction and purpose of Milk. For whatever risque scenes there might be in the film, the story is a serious look at a historical figure who was tragically assassinated. However juicy the news might be right now, I imagine Van Sant will present these scenes in a pretty artful way. And I imagine Franco prove another dimension as an actor. All in all, this makes Milk a pretty compelling film to catch come December. Does any of this make you want to see the movie even more?