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'Planet of the Apes' Star James Franco Teaching Film Students, Distributing Their Final Exam

 

Quirky actor James Franco has become something of a full-time student, graduating from UCLA, getting his MFA from Columbia and now working on his PhD at Yale, in addition to taking writing and poetry classes at various other colleges. 

Now, the star of “The Rise of the Planet of the Apes” has a new role–teaching a film class at NYU.

“It's a production class, so my students will all collaborate and work together,” Franco tells FOX411 exclusively. “By the end of the class, (they will) make a feature film that we will distribute, so I kind of see that as a way to give deserving students and opportunity to actually make something and give them the opportunities that I was given.”

In the class, Franco will instruct a dozen students on how to transfer their own poetry to film. But Franco insists that people don’t need to attend NYU in order to create art. “I'm always supportive of people that go out and make things on their own,” explains Franco. “I spent many years as an actor auditioning and trying to get parts in big movies and being rejected–and yes, in a sense that's maybe one thing you have to go if you want to do a certain type of movie–but you can also go out and do your own thing. The technology of today is more accessible, and if people can go and do that and not have to depend on other types of gate-keepers to do what they love–I think they definitely should.”

Franco worked with some of the most advanced technology in filmmaking while shooting the prequel to “Planet of the Apes.” He performed in scenes with Andy Serkis, an actor who wore a special performance capture suit to portray one of the film’s chimps.  

“Ten years ago, to do a movie like this that has a large amount of effects and CG generated creatures, actors playing humans would have to act opposite a tennis ball,” Franco says of the film’s special effects. “Now they can bring in performance capture (actors) like Andy. He can be on the set with me and I can interact with him like I would a normal actor and because of that the scenes and the relationships can be generated organically.”

Watching Serkis’ acting in a tight black unitard dotted with performance-capture gear made Franco want to try out the technology for himself. 

“I was very impressed with what they were doing,” says Franco. “And yeah, maybe one day–I would have to go through some additional training because Andy and all the actors playing the chimpanzees were very, very good at what they did.”

We will be satisfied if we just get to hear Franco say, “Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!"

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