James Franco Explains Federline-esque ‘Spring Breakers’ Cornrows

'As soon as the woman in Florida put [the cornrows] in, the character was alive,' actor says of his drug-dealer role.
By Fallon Prinzivalli, reporting by Josh Horowitz

James Franco
Photo: MTV News

Despite the young actresses with Disney roots starring in Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers," the film is far from just another teen rom-com about traipsing on the beach and falling in love with long-haired surfer boys. This movie's stars — Selena Gomez, and Ashley Benson — are seduced by a grungy rapper named Alien, played by "127 Hours" actor James Franco.

When Gomez tweeted a photo from the set, we barely recognized Franco in character. Dressed in a bright Hawaiian shirt and donning tattoos, massive sunglasses and a gold wristwatch, this isn't the scholarly, unkempt actor we're used to spying in set photos. But what stood out the most were the cornrows neatly aligned on the top of his head. When MTV News' Josh Horowitz caught up with the actor at CinemaCon 2012, he asked Franco what inspired the cornrows for "Spring Breakers."

"That's a character that Harmony and I have been talking about for over a year," Franco said. "Harmony is one of the best, kind of, researchers that I know, and we just went through a series of looks. You know, people have said, like, K-Fed or Riff-Raff, but that character really is kind of an amalgamation of a lot of different people and inspirations."

Korine's films are notoriously gritty and provocative, and "Spring Breakers" is no different. It's a big departure from Disney's "Wizards of Waverly Place" for Selena Gomez and "High School Musical" for Vanessa Hudgens. And while Ashley Benson's "Pretty Little Liars" is a tad more scandalous, the ABC Family hit series isn't nearly as graphic as "Spring Breakers" is expected to be.

The film follows four girls who rob a restaurant to fund their spring break trip. When they're bailed out by Alien, a drug and arms dealer, they find themselves seduced into plotting and helping him with a murder. Gomez recently told Interview magazine that leaving behind her stereotypical good-girl characters is what attracted her to this role. "I was getting kind of repetitive in terms of the roles I was picking, and I really wanted to do something completely different," she said. "I want to be taking myself seriously as an actress, and this was definitely a stretch. I mean, I'd never smoked a cigarette before in my entire life. It was really funny — they had to show me how to do it."

Franco — whose usual attire doesn't include cornrows — also noticed how the character came to life with the help of Korine's direction and the small details to which he paid close attention.

"I can say this: As soon as the woman in Florida put [the cornrows] in, the character was alive. We both knew. We looked in the mirror and it was like, 'Oh my, God. He's here.' "

Check out everything we've got on "Spring Breakers."

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