James Franco has discussed how I Am Michael differs from other gay-themed films.

The biopic tells the true story of Michael Glatze, the co-founder of Young Gay America and a strong advocate for gay rights, who later denounced homosexuality after a health scare. Turning to religion, he became a pastor and married a woman in 2013.

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In a new, in-depth interview with New York Times Magazine, Franco insists that although films that deal with traditional gay-themed stories are “very important,” he’s grateful that I Am Michael differentiates itself from the pack thanks to its unorthodox story.

“There’s the coming out narrative, the fighting for rights narrative, the closeted secret affair narrative, like we saw in Brokeback Mountain. All of these films are very important, but not every movie needs to be like that,” said the actor. “Once those stories are told, we can tell unexpected ones that might challenge us or make us uncomfortable in some ways.”

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He continued: “What I think is so innovative about I Am Michael is that we’re watching a man go in an unexpected direction, and that direction brings up a lot of questions about identity, and what identity consists of, and how it’s defined, and who gets to decide. And this film tackles faith versus sexuality, and the tensions there, in an important way.

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“But what’s innovative here is not only the trajectory of the main character, but the fact that Justin made this movie about a person’s inner life, about a person’s beliefs and how they shift over time.”

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“To track that is also so fresh. You don’t really track a person’s belief step by step in most movies. Usually it’s enough for a character to have one main need, or one defining obstacle. To have a character where you see all the gradations of his beliefs is really unusual,” he added.

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