James, James, James. If we didn't love you so much, we'd almost be disappointed by our phone convo yesterday. But the point is we do love you, so we loved chatting with you on the phone, despite the "uhhhs" the "I don't knows," and the interruptions. We caught up with the actor, writer, director, ad-man, and (new one coming!) songwriter, and got the exclusive scoop (and video!) on the sixth installment of his sun-soaked 7 For All Mankind campaign that he shot with Lipman. In the video, you can watch girls kiss in a top-down convertible, as well as listen to James' first attempt at song writing, Love In The Old Days.
We also managed to ask the question on everyone's mind — the answer? Boxer briefs. Watch the exclusive 7 For All Mankind video below and read on for our full interview with James to hear more about what he's up to, what keeps him going, and what his downfall is. Trust us, you didn't see this particular weakness coming.
Let's talk about 7 For All Mankind first. I saw the latest installment as well as the earlier ones, and I know some of those campaigns surround actual parties that you threw in California. Did anything happen at those parties that couldn't be shown in the ads?
"I guess there was one real party... Yeah, there's some stuff but but we try to leak everything out. There was some nudity and stuff that I think they didn't want to lead off the first videos with, lead off the campaign with, but I think they're starting to come out. I made a 38 minute movie that's going to premiere at this L.A. MoCA show that we're doing, so it's all in there."
For the latest installment, I know that you wrote the song. What was your process like for that? How did you come about that and did you kind of sit down and flesh that out? Has that always been a dream?
"Yeah, so it's a song I wrote the lyrics for, and then a fellow student at RISD [Rhode Island School of Design], [Kim O'Keefe], wrote the music. He's a musician and we've been talking about doing an art school band for a while but the group wouldn't just do songs to try to break into the music business but would make songs that would go with performances or sculptures or other kinds of things. So we've been talking about it for a while and then I was in Detroit for a half a year shooting the Wizard Of Oz film and I love Motown music and that's sort of how we started talking about the direction for the album or at least the first song. Kim came out a couple times and we had already written the music and the lyrics and stuff and then we just recorded it in Detroit. We recorded three songs, the one on the driving video, one of them called 'Love In The Old Days' that the lyrics are in some ways inspired by what I know of my parents lives when they were in college at Stanford University. And then we recorded two more songs and I ran into Smokey Robinson on a plane and we kept in touch...he lives in L.A.. I called him and asked him if he would sing on one of the songs. He doesn't sing on 'Love In The Old Days,' he wanted to sing on another one called 'Crime.' It's going to come out in one of the later videos."
So is this something that we should look forward to in the future? Is there a full album on the horizon or is it just the three for now?
"Right now we have the three and then we're going to work on more. But the three songs have been paired with the 7 For All Mankind visual and all three of them are in the 38 minute movie."
Is there anyone other than Smokey Robinson that you're looking to collaborate with in the future?
"Smokey is kind of it. Like, he's the best."
Hard to go up from there. So, other than 7 For All Mankind, who are some of your favorite designers and there any spring trends you're into?
"Trends? What do you mean, like fashion trends?"
Yes, fashion trends.
"Ha ha...Ha. Well, I love Gucci and I like American Apparel underwear."
Boxers or briefs?
"Oh, I do boxer briefs. I have all the colors and when I was recently shooting in West Virginia, I jumped on some fine Woolworth's plaid shirts, very nice."
Is there anything you hate to see girls wearing?
"There are times when I'm just like 'God, I don't know why girls think that looks good.' I can't think of anything right now."
So, obviously you have your hand in acting, directing, advertising, writing — I still don't think I'd be able to keep up with you even for a day. If it's not crack you're smoking, what is your secret to doing it all in one day? What keeps you going?
"Crack smoking? You think that would help? Why, is there a lot of successful people who smoke a lot of crack? I just put a lot of time into each thing. You know I've studied a lot and a lot of these projects take years to do so, you know, I work on several at a time, but it's not like I just do them in a day. I kind of work on things and develop them over time and in that way I guess I can work on multiple things at once."
Is there anything you're not good at or any projects that were presented to you that you just wouldn't do, or don't think you'd be able to do?
"I don't really cook. Um, I fart a lot."
Sorry, I can't really hear what you're saying.
"Oh, it's just I have a British friend in the back seat. She's doing what they call 'taking a piss'."
I know that you have your Hart Crane movie coming out soon, in April. What specifically drew you to Hart Crane as the story to tell in you film thesis?
"I have been interested in Hart Crane for a long time. I was an English Major at UCLA when I was 18 but then I left and I started acting, but I was still very interested in literature and I felt like I had to kind of give myself an education on my own. I guess the way that worked is I didn't know that one book would lead me to another, you know, one author talking about another author and I'd go and read that author. So in a book, something short of a critical studies book, Hart Crane was mentioned and then I started reading Crane and it was very difficult poetry. But, in the introduction, Harold Bloom mentioned a biography of Hart Crane called The Broken Tower by Paul Mariani and it would give readers a much better understanding of the poetry. So I immediately read that book, and that was about eight years ago, nine years ago maybe, and I knew then I wanted to make movie out of his life for two reasons, because his art, his poetry, was so interesting but also because he had a life that I thought would work cinematically."
I know you're working on Spring Breakers with some of the younger crowd. Who has a crazier fan base, you or Selena Gomez?
"I'm sure Selena has crazier fans. I was told today by these two twins that are working on the movie that Selena Gomez has the second most number of followers on Instagram. Behind only the love of her life, Justin Bieber."
Are you Team Selena or Team Justin? I guess they're on a team together but, have you met Justin? Do you guys get along?
"I haven't met Justin but I'm definitely Team Selena."
You once gave your brother the sound advice that actors have to sniff jackets. Is there anything else that you made sure he kept in mind as he started out in this industry?
"That he's better looking than me—haha. No, just don't do it for money, develop your taste, and understand what you like, and just do those movies, and basically don't act in a movie that you wouldn't go see if you weren't in it."
Do you ever have to use pick-up lines, and, if so, what do you say?
"I don't really have pick-up lines."
Photo and video: Courtesy of 7 For All Mankind