James Franco narrates Charles and Ray Eames film

Hollywood's artiest actor lends his voice to new biopic of design legends
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James Franco has carved out a name for himself as an actor of some substance with unshowy parts in Milk, 127 Hours, and Pineapple Express not to mention his idiosyncratic hosting of the Oscars with Anne Hathaway earlier this year.

He’s also authored a novel, exhibited his own films at the Gagosian Gallery in LA and his paintings in New York. Now, the Hollywood star has lent his voice to a new film about the lives and work of seminal American designers Charles and Ray Eames.

Charles and Ray Eames in their studio (1960) and James Franco at Austin Film Festival the earlier this yearCharles and Ray Eames in their studio (1960) and James Franco at the Austin Film Festival earlier this year

The pair, who changed the course of design history in the 1940s and 50s with their furniture designs, are the subjects of the film The Architect And The Painter (watch the trailer above). Charles (the architect) and wife Ray (the painter) met at Cranbrook Academy of Arts in Michigan in 1940 and went on to become the era’s foremost design power couple.

Not only were they responsible for some of the most iconic pieces of furniture of the 20th Century including the Eames Lounge Chair and ottoman (originally designed for their film director friend Billy Wilder in 1968) and the classic DCW (Dining Chair Wood, image below), they also worked in film, art and industrial design, as well as (little known fact) creating splints for wounded soldiers during World War II, all from the same Venice Beach, California, studio.

Eames, DCW (Dining Chair Wood, 1946) Eames, DCW (Dining Chair Wood, 1946)

The film traces their lives together from the birth and development of modernism to the rise of the computer age with their work with IBM - in some ways the Apple of its day. Throughout their fame the pair maintained a relaxed fun-loving attitude to their work. In the film, one Eames office worker recalls her initial impression thinking, "I've come to work in Disneyland" when she joined their creative team. Another comments, "They were introducing people to look at the world differently: life was fun was work was fun was life."

Over the course of 40 years their experimental approach led the way in pioneering the use of new technologies in furniture design such as molded plywood, resin, mesh and fiberglass. But as one former employee recalls in the film “Perhaps the greatest Eames design of all was the image of Charles and Ray."

The Architect And The Painter opens in the US on November 18. The DVD is due for release the following month.


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