10 Artists James Franco's Better Suited to Portray than Robert Mapplethorpe 

Yep, this is happening.
  • Yep, this is happening.

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.

James Franco as Julian Schnabel.
  • James Franco as Julian Schnabel.

Julian Schnabel. As a fellow straddler of the worlds of art and cinema, Franco is uniquely qualified to play this portly polymath.

James Franco as Salvador Dali.
  • James Franco as Salvador Dali.

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.

James Franco as Keith Haring.
  • James Franco as Keith Haring.

Keith Haring. Though Franco doesn't seem especially interested in street art, he's about as hyperactive and prolific as the late Keith Haring.

James Franco as Egon Schiele.
  • James Franco as Egon Schiele.

Egon Schiele. Compare photos of these two, especially when Franco was young; the resemblance is uncanny.

James Franco as Richard Serra.
  • James Franco as Richard Serra.

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.

James Franco as Pablo Picasso.
  • James Franco as Pablo Picasso.

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!)

James Franco as Jeff Koons.
  • James Franco as Jeff Koons.

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.

James Franco as Rembrandt.
  • James Franco as Rembrandt.

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.

James Franco as Cindy Sherman.
  • James Franco as Cindy Sherman.

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.

James Franco as Robert Mapplethorpe.
  • James Franco as Robert Mapplethorpe.

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.

James Franco as James Franco at the 2010 Rob Pruitt Art Awards.
  • James Franco as James Franco at the 2010 Rob Pruitt Art Awards.

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

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