A bald James Franco melds reality and fantasy at Venice Film Festival

In Venice, James Franco rocks a bald head emblazoned with a tattoo of Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift

Art and reality merged for James Franco at the 2014 Venice Film Festival on Friday when the actor walked a real red carpet at a real premiere for a real movie he really directed and starred in -- but did so in character, sporting a fake mustache, real shaved head and a fake head tattoo of Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift.

Inside the theater and before accepting the festival's real Glory to the Filmmaker 2014 prize, Franco got a little work done, shooting an award-show scene for the upcoming movie "Zeroville." A scene also set at the Venice Film Festival. The 1977 Venice Film Festival.

So, that explains the velvet suit.

Once everyone got back to reality, it was time for "The Sound and the Fury."

In "Zeroville," Franco portrays a film obsessive "so enamored with movies that they become religion to him," he explained to the Associated Press. The adaptation of the Steve Erickson novel follows the character Vikar -- that guy with the stars of "A Place in the Sun" inked on his noggin -- on his journey through 1970s and '80s Hollywood.

Premiere-goers there to see Franco were in for a treat, and while they were told to put their phones away while filming was going on some just couldn't resist, the Hollywood Reporter said.

For the "Zeroville" scene, shot in two takes, the words "35th: 1977 Venice Film Festival" flashed on a screen, THR said. Venice Film Festival director Alberto Barbera got in on the action playing an awards presenter and Franco, as Vikar, came onstage to accept the fictional accolade.

The 36-year-old had documented his character transformation just days ago on Instagram, a medium he 'half-jokingly urged folks not to look at back in May.

A "before" shot with a full head of hair gave way to an "after" pic with a buzz cut. The bald head came next, becoming the blank slate for that tattoo, which was applied by a makeup artist. Along the way, Franco squeezed in a plug for Gucci, the fashion house that has hired him to be the face of its men's fragrance.

Franco said he can afford to have fun these days.  

"I think my endeavors used to be driven by more of a need to prove myself," he told the AP.  "But nowadays it's not the same. I have enough work I've done that I'm proud of, and will always be proud of.

"I don't have that same young man's need to make a name for myself."

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