James Franco To Play Controversial Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe In New Biopic

James Franco in 127 Hours
(Image credit: Disney / Fox)

It would seem that James Franco really has a thing for playing gay cultural icons. Back in 2010 he portrayed the famous beat poet Allen Ginsberg in Howl; in The Broken Tower he plays Hart Crane, another gay poet who famously killed himself by jumping off of a boat at the age of 32 (you can see the trailer for that one HERE) and now he's attached to a project in which he will play notorious photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

THR has learned that Franco will play the titular character in Mapplethorpe, a biopic about the artists life. The project is one of 11 films that is being backed by a grant from the Tribeca All Access program, which gives $15,000 to aspiring filmmakers and connects them with industry professionals. Mapplethorpe, who died of AIDS at the age of 42 in 1989, was extremely controversial during his time, as his photographs would often depict acts of bondage, sadomasochism, and coprophagia (don't look it up if you don't want to know). He was also known for taking photographs of celebrities, including Andy Warhol, Richard Gere, Grace Jones, Peter Gabriel and Patti Smith. Mapplethorpe's work often raised questions about public funding of art and the line that separates art and obscenity. The film will be the narrative debut of documentary filmmaker Ondi Timoner.

While Franco looks absolutely nothing like either Hart Crane or Allen Ginsberg, this is actually really amazing casting. While they aren't dead ringers, James Franco does look quite a bit like Mapplethorpe. Now the only question that remains is whether or not he is willing to go the extra mile required to stick a bullwhip up his own ass.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.