James Franco has become a fairly consistent source of media fodder in the past several years. For some fans, and critics alike, Franco’s life seems like a twenty-four hour source of engaging performance art. The actor’s choices feel unusual enough to feed the circuit of press attention, which in turn takes on a life of its own.

From a stint on General Hospital, a fairly consistent output of Funny-or-Die videos, hosting the Oscars in the same year he was nominated, to a near constant output of live tweet videos and images (including from the backstage of the Academy Awards) Franco takes the archetype of the distant, larger-than-life movie star, and turns it on its head. If we add the bevy of projects he is reportedly attached to as an actor, director, and/or producer, then stir in his return to higher education, both as a student and as a teacher (Franco will be teaching a course entitled “Editing James Franco with James Franco” at Columbia College) we find that there is ample justification for the public’s fascination. What becomes even more fascinating, however, is how the actor both receives and perceives all of this attention.

We recently attended a press event for Franco’s upcoming comedy-fantasy Your Highness (stay tuned for our coverage of the event) and while there, received some insight from the actor about the view from inside his fishbowl.

The conversation began with the acknowledgment that there is a public perception that Franco has seemingly limitless energy to engage in an overwhelming number of projects and endeavors. The trait is referenced in the media so often in fact, that it inspired Saturday Night Live to spoof the star. “Not very well though,” Franco laughingly admonished, “that guy didn’t look like me at all.”

When asked how he feels about the way the public perceives his prolific work Franco replied that:

“It’s hard, it’s out of my hands really. You know I really went to school for myself, and sometimes I forget that it’s actually not a public act. I’m there just to learn and better myself and that part of my life is not a performance, but in some ways it kind of has become material for public discussion to the point where the “New York Times” is interviewing my teachers. But, I don’t mind, I mean I’m proud of everything I’m doing. So, I don’t know, I guess it’s just that part of my life is a performance and I perform as a job, and then part of it’s kind of not. But what can you do? I can’t control it.”

When pressed to elaborate about consistent reports about his directorial endeavors and signing on for three or more movies a year, the actor both recognized and corrected the notion by saying:

“Well there’s also this phenomena where people do like to announce movies that they think I’m doing that I’m not. I mean somebody just doesn’t have the time to do all of the movies that people claim that I’m going to do. Or I have acquired the rights to a lot of books that I love and I think it helps the writers to sell their books if they announce my attachment, but it doesn’t mean that I am going to make the movies in the next year, or two, or three.”

Franco also appeared on this weeks The Colbert Report, where Colbert addressed the popular opinion of the actor as a Renaissance man in the opening bit by calling him his “Rena-nemesis,” and saying that he had “worked his way around more college campuses than chlamydia.” Colbert went on to engage the actor in a more legitimate dialogue in the interview segment of the show. During said segment Franco discussed why he is drawn to pursuits outside of acting (which he feels has creative limitations), Colbert pointed out that the star has essentially become his character from Freaks and Geeks, and the two comically gifted nerds engaged in a trivia-off on one of their favorite authors, J.R.R. Tolkien (Colbert dominated).

We’ll keep you updated on Franco’s future projects as they’re announced, in the mean time, let us know what your favorite Franco project is – or are you most looking forward to his Planet of the Apes prequel?

Your Highness opens in theaters this Friday.

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