The social-media buzz surrounding James Franco's Broadway debut on Wednesday in "Of Mice and Men" doesn't have to do so much with his performance or with the production, for that matter. The trending subject is an Instagram post that's being attributed to Franco in which the actor appears to have lashed out against a prominent theater critic.
The post has been deleted, but screen shots of it on various blogs seem to show Franco calling Ben Brantley of the New York Times an "idiot" and another insulting term that won't be repeated here. The post is attributed to the account "jamesfrancotv," which is the actor's actual Instagram profile.
Whether Franco was actually behind the post remains unclear. Brantley gave "Of Mice and Men" a negative review ("feels about as fluid as a diorama in a history museum") and had little nice to say about Franco ("a tight, internal performance begging for a camera’s close-up").
The screen shot of the Instagram post shows the message: "Sadly Ben Brantley and the NYT have embarassed [sic] themselves. Brantley is such a [expletive] he should be working for Gawker.com instead of the paper of record. The theater community hates him, and for good reason, he's an idiot."
Given Franco's social media history, there's a possibility that the whole thing is a joke, or perhaps the latest installment in the actor's never-ending performance-art piece.
The tantrum wouldn't be the first time that a journalist has been targeted after a negative review or coverage. Some recent examples:
Alec Baldwin: During the recent ill-fated run of "Orphans" on Broadway, the outspoken actor took issue with Brantley in the Huffington Post, writing: "I think it's time for the Times to get rid of Brantley. I don't know anyone, anyone at all, who will miss him or his writing."
Judi Dench: Reacting to a pan of her performance in Yukio Mishima's "Madame de Sade," the actress wrote a letter to critic Charles Spencer of Britain's Daily Telegraph: "I've always rather admired you but now realize you're an absolute [expletive]," she wrote.
Neil LaBute: The combative playwright is known for leaving online comments on articles written about him. After a negative review of his play "Reasons to Be Happy" ran in Time Out New York, he penned a rejoinder contesting some of the critic's conclusions and ended with the barb: "Keep enjoying the free tickets while they last."
Scott Rudin: The uber-producer was apparently so displeased with coverage of the play "The Testament of Mary" on Broadway that he took out an ad in the New York Times in which he slammed the newspaper's theater reporter Patrick Healy. "Let's give a big cuddly shout-out to Pat Healy, infant provocateur and amateur journalist at the New York Times," the ad said. "Keep it up, Pat -- one day perhaps you'll learn something about how Broadway works, and maybe even understand it."
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