It turns out James Franco's tattooed, corn-rowed and metal-grilled character in “Spring Breakers” wasn't just a product of director and screenwriter Harmony Korine's imagination.
To channel his inner gangster for the role, Franco spent some time getting to know real-life rapper Russ “Dangeruss” Curry in St. Petersburg, where much of the movie was filmed.
In the movie, Franco's character, “Alien,” is a drug dealer and rapper from St. Petersburg (or, “St. Pete's” as he pronounces it). Dangeruss, who grew up in south St. Pete, has a song called “My Fork,” a catchy little ode to a favorite utensil used for cooking crack cocaine. He has a fork tattooed on his shoulder, and another tattoo reading “MOB” across his abdomen, as does Franco in the movie.
“I didn't really know who James Franco was until he showed up at my house. When I saw him I recognized him and I said 'yeah, this guy is a big deal. He wasn't too sure what to think at first, but he a real humble, real cool guy. We kinda just clicked," Dangeruss said.
“The movie's not the story of my life or anything like that. He just wanted to meet someone who was really from the area, just to see how I talked, see how I carry myself. He spent the day with me riding around, talking, filming me, seeing what I did.”
That footage, plus some shot in Los Angeles, became the music video for “Hanging With the Dopeboys,” which Franco directed. In “Spring Breakers,” Alien raps the song with backup from Dangeruss on an MTV-style beach stage.
Dangeruss appears in one other scene, shot at a house in south St. Petersburg with extras from the surrounding neighborhood. He said he pointed out the area to producers who were looking for somewhere “real.”
“We were really in the hood for that one,” Dangeruss said with a laugh. “I had to tell them just to be cool and let everyone know up front what was going on; that they were filming a movie. You know, so nothing crazy would happen. But everyone was cool, they were mostly just excited that a movie was being filmed.”
His involvement with the project has brought him a lot of attention. Dangeruss said he's been contacted by everyone from local bloggers to Entertainment Weekly since the media caught wind that there was a real-life inspiration for such an outrageous character. For his part, the 26-year-old sounds humble, noting that the biggest reaction is coming from the people around his city.
“I think they're more excited about it than I am,” he said. “That's what feels good to me, is to see them happy about it. They're happy to see that someone who's from where we're from has a shot at making it out, a shot at doing something.”
Dangeruss' new mixtape, “The Ingredients,” will become available for free download on Datpiff.com on Friday, the same day the movie hits theaters.