Yesterday the Hollywood Reporter revealed that performance artist, actor, scholar, author, film critic, etc. James Franco will play Robert Mapplethorpe in Mapplethorpe, a forthcoming biopic being produced by, among others, Eliza Dushku, about the controversial photographer who died of AIDS in 1989. While I don't doubt Franco's ability to portray the celebrated photog of phalluses and other body parts, I can think of at least ten other artists he could play on screen more convincingly.
Julian Schnabel. As a fellow straddler of the worlds of art and cinema, Franco is uniquely qualified to play this portly polymath.
Salvador Dali. When needed, Franco can grow a killer mustache. His own artistic interests also seem to be compatible with Dali's brand of surrealism.
Keith Haring. Though Franco doesn't seem especially interested in street art, he's about as hyperactive and prolific as the late Keith Haring.
Egon Schiele. Compare photos of these two, especially when Franco was young; the resemblance is uncanny.
Richard Serra. Though Serra comes off as a sternly serious fellow nowadays, he was a funny, charming fellow in his youth. I imagine Franco would enjoy playing the transition of the latter man into the former—with the help of an Oscar-earning makeup team, of course.
Pablo Picasso. Aside from Anthony Hopkins playing old man Pablo in 1996 there hasn't been a major Hollywood Picasso biopic since the Modernist master's death. I want to know more about his youth, and I want that youth to be embodied by James Franco; just look at how nicely he fills out that suit. (And Marie-Thérèse will be played by Mila Kunis. Action!)
Jeff Koons. He'll have to shave and master that weird Koons accent—seriously, what is that?—but I bet Franco can pull this off. Plus he'll get to drive the BMW art car—playing Jeff Koons is the art world's version of playing Batman.
Bruce Nauman. This one's easy because Franco already played Nauman once, when he re-enacted Nauman's "Art Make-Up" (1967-68). I'm not sure why Franco did it, but I imagine he'd be happy to re-create the entire and astonishing breadth of Nauman's oeuvre.
Rembrandt. And you probably thought I wasn't going to tarnish the sacred territory of pre-Modern art history with my Francoface Photoshop smashups. Perpetual squinter Franco seems to thrive in darkness, much like the Dutch master.
Cindy Sherman. Franco, as you can see, has dressed in drag on at least one occasion (for a shoot with Terry Richardson, obvs) and he pulls off the Sherman look uncannily well.
Bonus: Robert Mapplethorpe. You know, really, Franco has fairly similar facial features and body shape to Mapplethorpe, so this isn't all that bad a casting call.
Bonus 2: James Franco. When, invariably, it comes time to make a biopic of the great 21st century artist James Franco, you can bet James Franco will want a shot at the role.
Follow Benjamin Sutton on Twitter @LMagArt