Franco has known Penn for years and has gone to him for career advice. Back in April, after the film was shot, the two were hanging out at the Coachella music festival with Franco's actress girlfriend, Ahna O'Reilly (Forgetting Sarah Marshall). Penn would ask O'Reilly, " 'What do you think about me being the other girl?' " says Franco. "And he would always ask me if my girlfriend was the better kisser."
For Penn and Franco's first kiss, Van Sant was inspired by a video piece from artist Douglas Gordon featuring two people engaged in a three-minute lip-lock, resulting from a 12-hour make-out session.
Penn and Franco's first smooch lasted "a minute. It doesn't sound like a long time, but in front of 200 people, it's a long time," says Franco. "We're sitting on the curb, kissing. You can't deny what's going on. I'm kissing Spicoli and it's still going and it's not stopping and it was when he had a beard and the beard is scraping me. Afterwards, we were like, 'All right, how are those Raiders?' "
Next up for Franco? Tackling higher education once again, as he moves to Manhattan to pursue a master's degree in writing at NYU and Columbia; his two felines will stay back in Los Angeles with his brother.
Before classes start, he would like to go on a road trip to check out what he calls "Earth art pieces" scattered around the western USA.
"I've always wanted to see Smithson's Spiral Jetty in Utah, The Lightning Field of New Mexico. And there's Donald Judd's center in Marfa, Texas," he says.
He hopes to write and direct full time.
As for his decision to go to school just when his career is on fire, courtesy of Pineapple and Milk? Franco responds with a Zen-like attitude Saul would value.
"Some people would say (that was) really stupid. It's not like I'm gonna stop acting. It's just that before I did these two movies, I was really tired of acting," he says.
"I was putting a ton of work in and not getting as much satisfaction out of it. So I just needed something else to focus my attention on, to take the pressure off. Turns out that I love school."