I’m sure you don’t remember me. We studied briefly together at UCLA when we were both undergraduate students. To be more concise, we studied in the same study abroad program in England through UCLA. You were in the English department on the creative writing track, I believe, and I was a theatre major who was studying directing for the stage. The classes we took together were on the early and later works of the great English playwright William Shakespeare. We spoke a little in our class and discussion group. You and your assistant (who was taking the class with you) were actually very nice to me and I appreciate that from anyone. For the record, I did read one of your short stories that someone in the creative writing track showed me and it may have been the worst short story I have ever read. Seriously. I’ve read more compelling and better structured stories written by children. But I digress.
I recently read an article on gawker.com that depicted an image from your instagram showing how you described critic Ben Brantley of The New York Times as a “little bitch” for writing a mediocre review of your performance in “Of Mice & Men” by the great American novelist John Steinbeck.
Where to begin?
I’m not really interested in your personal life, so I won’t comment on how you prey on underage girls on the internet. Nor do I want to elaborate on how awful you are in the films you appear in, especially the ones you write and direct yourself. Nor am I going to comment at this time on how you have the audacity to use websites like kickstarter.com when you get paid in the millions for working on high budget Hollywood films. While that kind of entitlement baffles me, it’s an issue I address in a recent play I’ve written. I also won’t go into your ludicrous and pompous actions in the art world. And I don’t want to go into how you buy higher educational degrees because you’re incredibly insecure about being kind of dumb. I know this because I studied with you and still remember some of the things you said in class. I don’t like being mean, but you’re kind of an idiot and buying several MFA’s and being a PhD candidate at Yale University doesn’t change that. The list with you really does go on and on, but, again, I digress.
What I will comment on is this audacious approach to your most recent endeavor: the theatre. Granted, I’m no huge fan of Ben Brantley. I mean, he’s probably the smartest theatre critic who works at The New York Times and, while that isn’t saying much, it’s worth noting. Now I can understand how your feelings have been hurt. Brantley wrote, “Though he sports a Yosemite Sam accent, Mr. Franco is often understated to the point of near invisibility. It’s a tight, internal performance begging for a camera’s close-up.” This is common amongst film actors who haven’t done much theatre. He’s not asking you to be fake, he just wants you to push the truth out to the audience, which is an element you lack in your acting, even in your best film performances. Brantley’s critique here doesn’t sound like illegitimate criticism. I would bet money that’s he’s right. I know it’s hard to not take it personally, but you should keep the note in mind for your next live performance.
The statement that I’m sure hurt even more was when Brantley wrote, “Though Mr. Franco musters a single, perfect tear for the play’s tragic climax, I only came close to shedding one. That was in the first act, when a dog (a real one) is led offstage to be shot because it stinks. That dog seemed to have true fear and bewilderment in its eyes. It felt, well, human, in a way none of the people did, and my heart sank when I knew it wouldn’t be coming back.”
Ouch. Your performance was less authentic than a dog’s. I’m sure that stings. You have every right to be upset, but this leads me to my point.
What truly bothers me about your response to all of this is what bothered me about Alec Baldwin when he was criticized by Ben Brantley. You are not entitled to a good review. I understand that you are in the inner circles of Hollywood and that you are not used to harsh criticism and that you’re used to people fawning over your work, even if it doesn’t deserve it. But the theatre works differently. Everyone from off-off broadway actors to Broadway stars are subject to ruthless criticism. To be honest, it’s a luxury to even get reviewed. Good reviews are things that are earned. Some actors work in the theatre for years before they even get reviewed (let alone Broadway). And sometimes it takes years before any review is actually positive. It’s possible you’re ignorant of this fact. I’m not sure.
The other thing that bothered me was your audacity to speak on behalf of the theatre community. You have no right to do this. At all. You're a mediocre Hollywood movie actor who is only on Broadway because your face is pretty and because you’ve been in overpriced Hollywood garbage. Mostly. You have absolutely no right to say that the theatre community hates Brantley and that he’s an idiot. I may not like him all that much myself for different reasons, but he’s an intelligent man. Well, at least far more intelligent than you. He very often knows what’s he’s talking about and you rarely utter anything that’s worth listening to. Again, your bought off degrees don’t impress me. I remember when our professor from UCLA laughed at you for saying asinine things in class. I haven’t forgotten that. I don’t think you have either.
You’re extremely entitled. I get it. But once you cross over into my pond (theatre), you don’t get a free pass. You will be subjected to criticism just like the rest of us. You’re not special.
And please learn to spell “embarrassed” before you attach that label onto another person. I imagine it would be handy for a PhD candidate at Yale.