Video: James Franco Talks ‘Palo Alto’ and River Phoenix

Series: New Releases at the Film Society




Palo Alto
Gia Coppola, 2013
USA | Format: DCP | 98 minutes

Artistic Teddy (Jack Kilmer, son of Val) cannot articulate his feelings for April (Emma Roberts, niece of Julia), who fills the void left by her distracted parents via a relationship with her soccer coach (James Franco.) Meanwhile, the erratic behavior of Fred (Nat Wolff), Teddy’s best friend with father issues of his own, spirals increasingly out of control when faced with the prospect of being left behind, as school “slut” Emily (Zoe Levin) searches for love the only way she knows how.

Adapted from the short story collection by James Franco, writer-director Gia Coppola (granddaughter of Francis, niece of Sofia) connects the lives of these affluent but troubled teens in this mesmerizingly assured debut. Combating listlessness and uncertainty with sex, drugs, and acts of self-destruction, the kids of Palo Alto exist beyond the film’s titular California city—they’re in every high school in America.

Venice Film Festival, 2013
Telluride Film Festival, 2013
Toronto International Film Festival, 2013
Tribeca Film Festival, 2014

“A formidable debut that shows amazing promise, and care.” —Nicolas Rapold, Film Comment

“One of the best movies ever made about high school life in America.” —David Ehrlich,

“Luminous… Coppola is a talent to watch.” —Jon Frosch, The Atlantic

Venue: Walter Reade Theater, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center



James Franco recently stopped by the Film Society of Lincoln Center for a Q&A following a screening of Palo Alto, the debut feature by Gia Coppola based on his book of short stories. The movie also stars Franco, along with Emma Roberts, Nat Wolff, and Jack Kilmer (son of Val, who also makes an appearance).

April (Roberts) deals with her parents’ neglect by entertaining advances from her soccer coach (Franco). Meanwhile, troubled teen Teddy (Jack Kilmer) can’t bring himself to confess his feelings for April, and constantly gets into trouble with erratic best friend Fred (Wolff).  Each teen deals with coming-of-age in Palo Alto the best way they know how—which isn’t always best. The film, which screened at the Venice, Telluride, Toronto International, and Tribeca Film Festivals, gained attention with its show of promise from first-time director Coppola (granddaughter of Francis Ford).

Franco discussed the inspiration for his book, based on stories from his own upbringing in the affluent title city in Northern California. He also talked about the process of collaborating with Coppola to adapt the book into a film. Of course, this wouldn’t be a James Franco interview if it didn’t touch upon any of his other ambitious projects. But you’ll have to watch for yourself to hear about those…