Each time, the huddle of students watching in one room over titters with delight.
Forty-five minutes ahead of schedule, the scene is done. Breaking from a scrum of students and extras who want to take pictures with him, Franco spots me and smiles the smile, his fake mustache now gleaming in the low basement light. " acting opposite Seth Rogen, who would become a friend and frequent collaborator.
Yet from the moment the fists start flying, Franco is the most transfixing thing onscreen – he radiates Fry's arrogance, impatience and power with little more than some tiny shakes of the head and quick, disdainful glances.
He's acted in smash comedies and action blockbusters, like But Franco's an idiosyncratic and indefatigable polymath, too – or, depending on your level of skepticism, a hyperactive dilettante – who's spent the past decade hopscotching between a bewildering array of pursuits.
He was tipped as a next big thing for playing James Dean, and a prestige-picture trajectory soon suggested itself: He played Robert De Niro's son in – rising to the enormous challenge of being the only face onscreen for almost the entire movie.
Franco could have continued in this manner: maybe become Martin Scorsese's late-career muse, mumbled some profound nothings in a Terrence Malick epic, racked up more statuettes. Instead, Franco's CV exploded into a protean flurry of genre-agnostic work: highbrow and lowbrow, experimental and broad, widely seen and effectively ignored.
This smile is one of Franco's most versatile weapons: It can communicate disarming sweetness, a threat of feral menace or Buddha-like bliss.
The director David Gordon Green recalls that, while shooting Franco in "I asked him about the smile: ' What are you doing?