Navigating the complex world of male-female relationships used to be a tedious chore of demonstrating mutual respect and polite conversation, with only the flimsiest guarantee of it ending in a hot threesome. Fortunately, as Neil Strauss’ The Game outlined in 2005, all the frustrating vagaries of romance can be avoided if you just follow the pickup artist’s instruction booklet, mashing various “negging” and “pawning” buttons until at last you defeat the boss level of a woman’s natural precautions. It’s a subversive, proudly sleazy, ultimately shallow approach to human sexuality—so naturally, James Franco is all up in that.
Deadline reports that Franco has signed on to co-produce and star in an adaptation of Strauss’ bestseller set to begin production next year, with Franco donning the big, furry hats and tiny, furry soul patches of master pickup artist Mystery, whose seduction skills remain the envy of less sexually active toadstools everywhere. After serving as Strauss’ “wingman” and Virgil-like guide down through the increasingly rashy circles of the “PUA” community, this Steampunk Cowboy of Love also managed to beguile the fair, 2:15 a.m. lady of basic-cable television by hosting VH1’s The Pickup Artist back in 2007, where he soon taught an entire generation of “Nice Guys” how to conjure unfulfilling sex out of thin, nightclub air like so much vape smoke.
Mystery (real name Erik Von Markovik) also wrote his own magnum opus, The Mystery Method: How To Get Beautiful Women Into Bed, which asserted—among many other sweet nothings—that saying “no” is all just a part of a woman’s “anti-slut defense.” Today, his teachings live on in Mystery’s “PUA boot camps,” various subreddit threads, the “#redpill” hashtag, and other places we’ll one day recount to our loving, adoring sex-robots when explaining how it all began.
As for Strauss, he’s since expressed some regret over the way The Game’s techniques for treating women like achievement levels to be unlocked has somehow mutated into something dehumanizing. Talking to Buzzfeed last year, Strauss—who’s also taught PUA workshops—lamented that the community has attracted “some really damaged people with hateful and distorted views of reality gathering other people who share those views,” famously culminating in extreme cases like Santa Barbara shooter (and PUA forum frequenter) Elliot Rodger. Nevertheless, Strauss tells Deadline that he’s “forever grateful for my time in the underground world of pick-up artists, because it showed me that a guy who had given up all hope of ever being comfortable with himself and others could change.”
It’s that heroic story of gaining self-confidence through manipulating the drunk and shallow that Strauss is now hoping to tell, in a movie starring the man whose artistic career has been one long stint of “peacocking.” Like his similarly upcoming role as The Room’s Tommy Wiseau—another man you don’t want to imagine having sex, yet are repeatedly forced to—it’s probably too soon to determine whether Franco’s portrayal of Mystery will be wholly comic or slightly sympathetic. Though given Franco’s own propensity for embracing skeeviness, both ironically and as a career move, it’ll probably be a bit of both. You like movies like that, right? You seem like you might be pretty smart, despite what you’re wearing.