At times, it’s hard to tell who’s quizzing whom in the Q&A with James Franco about his upcoming HBO series on the 1970s Times Square porn industry.

Stonewall riot witness and New York writer Edmund White, author of the 3,300-word piece in Out.com, ends up answering as many questions from Franco as he asks.

Both sides share intimate accounts of their lives and careers.

“Written by The Wire’s David Simon, [“The Deuce”] stars Franco playing two very different brothers — frequently in the same scene — and Maggie Gyllenhaal as a sex worker transitioning into adult films,” Out starts out.

Franco says he’s at the International Dance Academy on Hollywood Boulevard, “about to take my hip-hop lesson,” when the chat begins.

One exchange:

White: “People say to me, ‘Oh, you write so many sex scenes,’ and I say, ‘Yeah, but I’m trying to show you what sex feels like, which is almost never done.’ Because pornography is designed for one-handed reading, it has to follow a certain rhythm where it leads to a climax, whereas real sex is oftentimes funny because the body fails, or the spirit fails, or you think you’re going to do something but it doesn’t come off.

“I try to show what actually goes on in your mind: You’re worried about the cramp in your leg, or whether you can keep it up, or whether she or he is really enjoying it. In one novel or another I said that sex is the most intense form of communication we have but we don’t know what we’re saying or what the other person’s hearing. We don’t know what we’re communicating through sex. Anyway, we get to see you naked in the first episode.”

Franco: “Oh, that’s right. [Laughs.] Yeah, I remember in writing classes talking about sex scenes, and it seems like, generally speaking, if you lean too heavily on physical descriptions of sex it’s just supermarket romance fiction. To go into people’s heads and the actual experience of sex is much more of a deeper examination of what it feels like.”

Franco adds: “I had to direct sex scenes in ‘The Deuce’ and… whooo, it was interesting, I have to say. Maggie Gyllenhaal, in addition to being just an incredible actress, is fearless, and she really led the charge with how she handled the sex scenes and how she handled herself, and really set the template for everyone else. If I didn’t have someone like her I think it would have been really, really hard to engage in those scenes, but she just made it so easy. She’s fearless.”

Why call it “The Deuce”? That was the nickname for Manhattan’s 42nd Street from the late 1950s until the late 1980s.

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