James Franco Teams Up With Gay Director For Hardcore Homage To “Cruising”

James Franco isn’t done teasing the gays: The Oscar-nominated actor-director has teamed with I Want Your Love director Travis Mathews on James Franco’s Cruising, inspired by the controversial queer thriller Cruising.

The original Cruising, directed by William Friedkin, sparked outrage before it even hit theaters in 1980: In it, Al Pacino plays a conflicted cop assigned to investigate a series of murders in the seamy underbelly of New York’s gay sexual underground. (Is there any underbelly that’s not seamy?) As Pacino delves deeper into the case, he finds himself drawn into a world of gritty S&M.

Cruising was released at a time where gay men were still sterotyped as pathological sex fiends, and protest groups demonstrated while it was still shooting, (Extras had to be picked up from a remote location and co-star Karen Allen was kept in the dark about the full nature of the film to protect her from the backlash.)

Franco (above with camera) had originally wanted to update the film, but couldn’t secure the rights. He turned to Mathews, who featured explicit sex scenes in his gay drama I Want Your Love, to collaborate on an experimental homage. After some initial discussions, Mathews turned over an initial cut to Franco after just two months.

“[James] knew he wanted real gay sex in it,” Mathews tells Indiewire. “His people went looking for a filmmaker who had filmed real gay sex, and I suspect someone who would complement his vision. We talked about why we would be interested in still looking at this film.  We talked about his interest in the film and his interest more broadly in so many gay-themed stories and visionairies. He’s worked with so many in front of and behind the cameras over the years.”

Mathews (left) and Franco both appear in the movie, a fictional re-creation of 40 minutes which was originally ut from the film to appease the MPAA and secure an R rating.

“[Friedkin] cut the film down at his own expense,” Mathews said. “Recently, when he was getting ready to do an anniversary edition, Warner Bros. told him that the footage was destroyed. It’s possible those 40 minutes implicate Pacino’s character in the gay S&M culture. That was the place we started from as a launching point: James Franco’s version of those lost 40 minutes.”

With the passage of time and changing views of gay sexuality,Cruisinghas been reevaluated by queer film historians as a significant piece of LGBT cinema. Mathews calls it “an insightful, important document of an important subculture, right before AIDS hits, in 1979 New York.”

Having starred in the gay films Milk and Howl, directed the gay bio-pic The Broken Tower, released the queer short The Feast of Stephen, and dolled up in drag for the cover of Candy magazine, Franco obviously has a serious interest in gay-male culture. But is he using his fame to champion an underrepresented facet of society or just cashing in on his appeal?

Direct your answers to the comments section.

Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #entertainment #cruising #film stories and more


  • Lefty

    Why do these film directors suddenly want to include real sex in films?
    Do none of them understand the process of acting?
    Do they think this somehow makes it more “real”?
    Or more likely, will get a lot of free publicity because of the explicit content?
    We all get plenty of “real” in our real lives.
    You get real sex in porn, because we watch porn for one single reason.
    We watch movies for something entirely different.

  • Spike

    Ohhhh, guys in jockstraps . . . chaps and bare asses.

    Steamy, sexual . . . taboo . . . .

    What total nonsense. Nothing but soft core porn for a bunch of sexually frustrated losers.

  • Cee

    @Lefty: You don’t get “real sex” in porn. You get staged and very mechanical sex. Maybe that’s how YOU have sex. That’s your prerogative. I like candid films that show how things go down in real life and in real life people have real sex. I’m not sure why you are so against real sex in films. There are hundreds of films that do not show real sex that you could watch. I don’t understand why you are complaining about the few directors who want to show real sex when you have hundreds of alternatives.

  • Cee

    @Spike: Honestly, you sound frustrated. Your comment wreaks of frustration and unhappiness.

  • MikeE

    hard sex fake sex no sex or all sex.. all I’m curious about is James Franco’s apparent obsession with all things gay. It just seems strange to me.

  • Superman

    Dammit! I never got the message about the casting call. I’d let James direct me in a gay porn anytime…especially if he starred in it with me. I’m sure he looked at a bunch of gay porn before and thought, “I can definitely do it better.” HOT.

  • joem

    “But is he using his fame to champion an underrepresented facet of society or just cashing in on his appeal?”

    Dan Avery, I have to ask: is that actually a serious question? If making a hardcore homage to Cruising is Franco’s (or your) idea of “cashing in” then someone clearly doesn’t have very good business sense. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that a movie like that isn’t going to be a nationwide blockbuster…

  • niles

    Neither. As usual, the author of the posting and the esteemed members here have missed the whole point and have become bogged down in ridiculous side issues. He views the subject as gay culture in film as a theme to be studied and explored, as one would do in a university graduate setting.

  • Lefty

    @Cee: “You don’t get “real sex” in porn. You get staged and very mechanical sex. Maybe that’s how YOU have sex. That’s your prerogative. I like candid films that show how things go down in real life and in real life people have real sex.”

    You seem to be under some confusion about how films work.
    Franco will be directing actors to have penetrative sex… umm, just like in porn.
    I don’t want to see “how things go down in real life”, because I have a life and so do you – I want to be told a story and I want to see someone ACTING.

    If you want to see real gay men having “real sex” why wait for this film to come out? Pop down to your local bathhouse. You’ll be amazed by the realism.

  • Lefty

    @Cee: “You don’t get “real sex” in porn. You get staged and very mechanical sex.”

    Also, you’re talking about one very specific kind of porn.
    There is plenty of porn around (amateur and so on) that’s basically people recording themselves having “real sex” – it’s totally real, but it’s still porn.
    It serves no other purpose than sexual gratification for the viewer.

    I’m not against porn in any way, shape or form btw.
    I just dislike the notion that documentary “realism” in films is somehow commendable.
    I find it especially odd that Franco is doing this, seeing as he’s an actor himself – to quote Olivier, “Why don’t you try acting, dear?”

  • Lefty

    Taxi Zum Klo is a great film though and that has “real (gay) sex” in it, so…

  • M


    Having dealt with Franco, and some of his, uh, FRIENDS, I can tell you this is hardly strange for him.

    I keep scratching my head as to why people think he’s straight, but that’s beyond me.

  • Spike

    @Cee: Ahh, Cee, thanks for your personal projection of me, do you project/label/assume so much about everyone one you meet, based on pretty much on nothing?

    It would never occur to me to conclude anything about you let alone suggest that you are frustrated and that you are unhappy.

    BTW, after having attended the Black Party in NY, Folsom in SF, multiple times, indulged in various aspects of the leather, BD and SM communities . . . with all parties being consenting and sober, I’m far from frustrated nor unhappy. And while it is not a scene that currently interests me, I speak from experience and without judgement. So, STFU. My comments reflect doubt that this Franco guy will do anything more then again portray a slice of the gay community in a provocative and less then factual nor fair. And of course Queerty will jump on the bandwagon much like they did with that disaster Magic Mike.

  • homo_superior

    Franco isn’t obsessed with “all things gay.” I can’t see him guest-starring on Glee, for example.

    He is interested in gay male artists of the pre-marriage equality past and specifically ones who were outsiders even in the gay “community.” He’s exploring how those artists expressed themselves, through style and media.

    He’s made his own sexual orientation rather beside the point, which may be his biggest contribution to the culture at large.

Comments are closed.