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Sundance: James Franco on ‘The Interview’s’ VOD Release, Superhero Films

James Franco isn’t ruling out a return to the superhero genre that helped make his name with Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” films, although he doesn’t sound that enthusiastic about donning a cape or mask.

“If it’s the right role, I guess,” said Franco during an interview at the Sundance Film Festival. “There’s a lot of graphic novels that I like that aren’t superheroes.”

In particular, Franco said he was drawn to a graphic novel by Derf Backderf entitled “My Friend Dahmer” that sounds pretty far removed from the webspinner films. Backderf went to high school with Dahmer, the infamous serial killer, and paints a portrait of the murderer as a disturbed young man.

“He was a bit crazy in high school,” said Franco. “Ten years after that, when Dahmer was caught, somebody called up the writer and they were like, ‘Dude, somebody from our high school just got arrested for all these murders,’ and he actually thought that it was another guy, because there was somebody who was even crazier in high school.”

Franco was at the mountainside festival to promote “True Story,” which looks at another murderer, Christian Longo. He stars as a man who killed his wife and three children in the bleak drama.

The film’s director, Rupert Goold, said “True Story” is an indictment of modern society’s propensity to understand the root causes of devious or criminal behavior as a way of explaining horrible events.

“It’s a weirdly slightly Catholic, right-wing standpoint, which is not my politics at all, the idea that there is such a thing in the world as evil or the incomprehensible,” said Goold. “There are acts that need to be defined as outside acceptability morally.”

The “True Story” director pointed to the coverage of the terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo, some of which indicated that Western exploitation of the Middle East had inspired the radicalism that led to the murders of staff members at the French satirical magazine.

“You want to understand where those terrorists are coming from, but it’s important for the world to say that is beyond the pale,” said Goold.

Franco had his own similar experience with terrorism, albeit of the cyber-variety, when threats of violence and a massive hacking of Sony Pictures forced the studio to alter its release plans for his recent comedy “The Interview.” The picture centered on an assassination attempt on North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. The country has been linked by officials to the attack.

The Interview” ultimately debuted in several arthouse theaters and on-demand. Its digital and cable release has earned more than $40 million. Franco had mixed emotions about the results.

“The fact is they only charge $6 to view it online, to rent it online, and the whole family could watch it for $6,” he said. “That could have been five $14 tickets.”

Franco expects that on-demand platforms will continue to grow, particularly for smaller, offbeat films.

“I can’t see that stopping, you know, this VOD outlet, which to me is sort of exciting, especially as a person who likes to make projects that are not ‘The Avengers,'” he said.

Franco added that as a teacher of graduate film classes, he was pleased that there are more avenues for distribution available to rising talent.

“I want my students to be able to find ways to make their movies,” said Franco. “The fact that (‘The Interview’) kind of opened up a door in a bigger way or at least made people aware that this is an option I think in some ways is exciting.”

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