Oct. 14, 2013 at 7:41 AM ET
Best known for his work on the big screen, James Franco is also a budding fiction writer. After publishing a "Palo Alto," a collection of short stories, in 2011, Franco returns with his first novel, "Actors Anonymous." Here's an excerpt.
We of Actors Anonymous are more than fifty men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body.
In this volume, we relate our experiences in dealing with existence, modern society, and identity, in order to find suitable ways of acting and being in the world.
Sometimes it is painful to be oneself; at other times it seems impossible to escape oneself. The actor’s life has provided escape for many that find their lives too dull, painful, and insular. But the actor– escape artist can go too far as well.
If one puts on too many different personas or goes too far into character, one is liable to lose oneself. Some have believed that this loss is a positive, and perhaps it is for those that enjoy a rootless swirl of personality in the void, but others, like those who have come to comprise Actors Anonymous, believe that there is a balance to be struck between life and art, between self-creation and the veridic self.
We have put down our experiences in these pages in order to guide others—professional actors, amateurs, and non-actors alike—to a way of life that both defies psychological determinism on the one hand, and freewheeling insanity on the other.
We are people who work in the world as professionals, whether we make our money from acting or not, and it is important for us to maintain our anonymity. There are centuries of prejudice piled on the actor and thus it is important that no one of us is thrust into the spotlight. (God knows that some of us get enough of the spotlight as it is.) So much money is made off the aggrandizement and defamation of actors already that we ask the press, especially the tabloid press, to hold their pens, video cameras, paparazzi flash blasts, and blogs, and respect our organization’s anonymity.
This is a serious text that is intended for actors: “actors” in the most essential sense, not necessarily actors of stage and screen, but actors in the sound and fury of life. Anyone who wants this message is encouraged to glean what she will.
We are not an exclusive club; the only requirement for membership is a desire to change oneself, to be able to act decently in a controlled manner. Everyone can act, but not everyone can act well, and not everyone knows how he actually presents himself to others.
We have no spokesperson, and there is no hierarchy. We have no dues or fees, and we are open to all regardless of race, religion, nationality, or acting style.
We do not oppose anyone—even those actors trained by I______ C______ or L______ M______ or any of the other charlatan acting teachers sucking actor blood in dark classrooms across the Los
Our simple desire is to help. Not to train, but to save individuals from training, whether that training was given in a classroom, by a parent, or by what can only be called contemporary life.
We of Actors Anonymous subscribe to the following twelve steps and twelve traditions, not because they were handed down from on high by a bully studio, nor from a dictatorial director; we have no concern for deskbound screenwriters proclaiming Napoleonic ambitions of control, and we are certainly not adherents of the steps and traditions because we are beholden to the hordes of critics, both high and low, who proclaim to know something of which they write and speak but hardly do, these sideline vipers who sting and snare and then duck into their holes when the real animals of acting turn on them in anger.
We salute and live by these principles because they were generated by the blood experience of those who have lived through the profession, its trials both on and off-screen, on and offstage, for surely the pitfalls of everyday life are increased in proportion to the heights one reaches in the realms of performance. One cannot live solely in the airy realms of the imagination.
Let these steps and traditions guide you to a balanced life of creativity and truth in a world of surfaces and untruths, through realms of materialism and jealousy, past the vortices of public humiliation, and the private, tooth-ringed maws of self-doubt. We are here for you. Let us love you and guide you.
We speak of what we do.
Excerpted from “Actors Anonymous” by James Franco. © by James Franco. Published by Little A/New Harvest October 2013. All Rights Reserved.