James Franco is apparently no longer content to merely play twins, as he does on HBO’s The Deuce — now he’s gunning to play my favorite mutant, and my feelings are decidedly mixed about it. Deadline reports that Fox is developing a standalone Marvel film as a vehicle for Franco, with Wonder Woman scribe Allan Heinberg penning the script and Simon Kinberg producing along with Franco’s production company. Here’s the thing, though: Franco would star as the mutant and X-Men-adjacent character Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man.
Ok, bear with me here because it’s cooler than it sounds. Multiple Man was first introduced in 1975, so he’s been around awhile. He can produce clones (or “dupes”) of himself upon physical impact. Basically, punch him and he’ll pop out a copy of himself. He can only create one duplicate at a time, but his duplicates can also replicate themselves, so he can quickly amass a crew of Multiple Men — and then reabsorb them when they’re no longer needed (which also heals his injuries!).
Each duplicate operates independently, so Jamie doesn’t mentally control them. But they also aren’t perfect copies — they typically inherit a particular personality trait of Jamie’s, which can make things interesting if they don’t feel like cooperating or being reabsorbed (which is a whole other issue).
Now, if that was all there was to his power, he would make a fine C-list mutant in the Marvel arsenal. The idea of a one-man army is a little too convenient to have around for every conflict, which explains why Marvel hasn’t always seemed to know what to do with him. But over time, Jamie Madrox became a much more interesting character, particularly during his run as a member of the X-Factor team in the 1990s, and later as its leader when it becomes a private investigation firm after M-Day in the 2000s. The thing about Jamie’s dupes is that, because they’re independent, they have their own desires and experiences — which he then gains when he reabsorbs them. He can send copies of himself off into the world to become lawyers or farmers or monks, and then reabsorb them and gather multiple lifetimes of knowledge and experience. But sometimes those dupes don’t want to be reabsorbed into Jamie Prime, and he’s faced with destroying a man’s life just to become whole again.
What I’m trying to say is that he’s FASCINATING. The implications and story potential in this one seemingly simple power set are staggering. Whenever I’m asked that perennial nerd fantasy question about which superhero I’d want to be, or what superpowers I’d want to have, I always answer with “Multiple Man.” And then I feel guilty for not supporting a female or minority character and once again putting a straight white guy on a pedestal, but fucking whatever. His powers speak to me because they are the ultimate expression of indecisiveness — a personality flaw I struggle with daily. Can’t decide what to order? Just dupe yourself, order it all, then reabsorb yourself and enjoy ALL the options! Given enough time and enough dupes there’s nothing you can’t learn, do, or otherwise experience. Fuck telepathy, fuck telekinesis, fuck immortality or flight or goddamn laser eyes — give me a power that lets me live EVERYTHING.
So I love me some Multiple Man, is what I’m saying. And I’ve wanted Fox to do something with the character, though I always imagined something more along the lines of an investigative TV show. And as much as I hate to admit it…
Guys, I think James Franco might actually be kinda perfect for the role.
Ugh, I know, I know. But Jamie’s personality is built around being annoying and a wiseass and, well, fractured. Wanting to be everything, do everything, and not knowing quite what “everything” is. And Franco is like that, but as a real live human. Gawd he can be annoying, and… questionable in his life choices. But he’ll also go from an Oscar-bait flick like 127 Hours to a stint on a soap opera just for funsies. Look at his IMDb profile — dude’s got 146 acting credits since 1997, and that’s not counting his credits as a producer, writer, director, or anything else. He paints. He’s got like 3 MFAs. He’s good enough at math that he had an internship at Lockheed Martin. The fact that he even kinda looks like Jamie Madrox is just the cherry on top.
Plus, if he plays Madrox you know he’ll get the shit kicked out of him. For duping purposes, obviously.
So I may be sort of questioning all of my values right now, and it’s still too early to tell how all this will shake out — after all, we’ve been hearing about that standalone Gambit film since, like, the first Bush presidency, it feels like. But for now, James Franco’s obvious Franconian interest in this project is the least of my concerns. I’m just hoping the producers come up with a script that does Jamie Madrox justice, so I can jump up and down and yell “SEE THIS IS WHY HE’S MY FAVORITE” after I see it.
What I’m saying is: Don’t ruin Multiple Man for me, Fox. Don’t you fucking do it.