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'Maladies' Trailer: James Franco Does and Doesn't Play Himself

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"You don't need any help thinking abstractly, James."

In the upcoming film "Maladies," James Franco plays James, an actor who used to be on a soap opera and now wants to devote himself to writing and other artistic pursuits (are you seeing a connection here?). 

But Franco isn't directly playing himself like in "This Is the End." The film takes place in the 1960s, and his character moves in with his unbalanced sister (Fallon Goodson) and an understanding friend (Catherine Keener). James (the character) begins to hear voices, and he struggles to keep himself together and restart his life.

The film is the feature directorial debut of the multimedia artist Carter, who previously worked with Franco on the conceptual film "Erased James Franco." For that, the actor spent 13 hours recreating key moments from his previous performances alone on a minimal stage.

"Carter is my double," Franco told The Believer. "Whatever I’m thinking, Carter has thought about it, too." Franco credits Carter with inspiring him to take a role on an actual soap opera, "General Hospital," where he played an unhinged artist named — what else — "Franco."

Franco said that while the story is fictional, "Maladies" is fundamentally about his relationship to Carter, with Keener's character being inspired by the artist. Franco professed, "In 'Maladies' the two characters make a pact that if one of them dies the other will finish the dead person’s work. I would be honored to make such a pact with Carter, because he understands me better than most."

"Maladies" opens in select cities on Mar. 21, and will be available on iTunes and VOD on Mar. 25.