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James Franco On How A Prosthetic Penis Brought Him Closer to the LGBTQ Community

After the Hollywood star received Outfest's first James Schamus Ally Award, the trophy's namesake also shared some choice anecdotes.

James Franco

James Franco in “11/22/63


Late Saturday night, James Franco was presented the inaugural James Schamus Ally Award at Outfest, the Los Angeles LGBTQ film festival. The award was presented by Gus Van Sant ahead of the centerpiece screening of Justin Kelly’s new film “King Cobra,” in which Franco stars. James Schamus was the first straight ally to receive Outfest’s biggest award, the Achievement Award, back in 2014 and the festival created this new award in his name to, per a release, “honor the efforts of an individual in bringing LGBTQ stories to the forefront.”

READ MORE: Outfest 2016 Opens With A Heavy Heart And A Message of Hope

Franco was in attendance to accept the award and Schamus himself addressed Franco and the crowd ahead of the screening through a pre-recorded video message. The two shared a humorous anecdote that they believe brought Franco closer to the LGBTQ community. On the set of Gus Van Sant’s “Milk,” which was produced by Schamus, Franco had to strip down bare for a scene in a pool on the first day of filming. “I was the only one naked,” Franco said. “Everybody else was talking politics while I was swimming naked. I didn’t know, but somebody got us these fake penises to make the actress feel more comfortable. There was no fitting or anything. They just gave it to me and I put it on.”

In regard to that scene, Schamus knew that it meant something about James’ place in the community. “I first knew you were going to be blazing this trail, I remember the day specifically that struck me that you would one day be getting something like this as an award,” Schamus explained in the message addressed to Franco. “It was watching dailies for ‘Milk’ and, of course, Gus Van Sant had a vision and it was so crucial to the narrative to have you continuously naked coming in and out of the pool. I thought, ‘Wow, that is what an ally should look like.'”

While Schamus went on about how the award puts to rest the question of Franco’s sexuality and Franco remembered how Sean Penn made a comment about his “schlong” during that pool scene, the two did get to heart of the festival. Speaking about Gus Van Sant, “King Cobra” director Justin Kelly and many other filmmakers, Franco said, “So many of my heroes have been in this community, are a part of this community and I’m just honored to be awarded this. I love so many of these stories and so many people and so many artists in particular. So, I’m honored to tell their stories.”

READ MORE: Outfest’s 2016 Screenwriting Lab Fellows Share Their Transformative and Affirmative Experience

Speaking about Franco in particular and how he embodies something so essential in these tough times, Schamus said, “You do represent the spirit of creativity, of exploration, of unashamedness being who you are and I think that sense and spirit of queerness, unironically, is one of the most necessary things in these dark days.”

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