Between James Franco gleefully skipping among throngs of screaming fans, Danny McBride mugging for the cameras, and a conspicuously anatomically-correct minotaur strutting its stuff on stage for a capacity crowd at Storke Plaza, it was a proud day to be a Gaucho.
The crowd, estimated at over 3,000 attendants, turned out Friday for the world premiere of Your Highness, which brought the film’s director, David Gordon Green, and stars, James Franco, Danny McBride, and Justin Theroux, to an afternoon rally at Storke Plaza, and a series of screenings at Pollock Theater that evening. Colleges nationwide vied for the honor of hosting the premiere in a contest organized by eventful.com, in which UCSB handily outvoted the competition.
As a cadre of medieval trumpeters announced their arrival, McBride and Green made their way down the red carpet, which stretched down Storke Plaza’s eastern staircase, and climbed onto a temporary stage beneath a thirty-foot poster for the film.
“Thank you for bringing us here!” McBride boomed over loudspeakers to the screaming crowd. “It’s real exciting not to be doing this on Sunset or Hollywood Boulevard somewhere.” Green added, “This is who we made the movie for – all you guys.”
The crowd, which rampantly disobeyed requests to conduct themselves in an orderly and controlled fashion, was all too glad to welcome them. Many bore signs expressing their affection for the film’s stars, with James Franco first in many of their hearts. “Franco’s gonna be here any minute,” McBride assured them, “he’s finishing putting on his makeup.”
The music that had been blaring over the loudspeakers as McBride and Green spoke to reporters along the red carpet was handily drowned out by screams and cheers when the crowd got its first glimpse of Franco, who was obsessively documenting the affair on a series of disposable cameras handed to him by an assistant.
The film itself, an R-rated comedic take on the classic sword and sorcery formula, was something of a labor of love for Green and McBride, who attended film school together at North Carolina School for the Arts.
“We made something we’d really want to see,” McBride said of the film. Green concurred: “With every movie, the inner child in me is dictating what it becomes, and here it’s the eleven-year-old that waited two days in line for Return of the Jedi.”
Justin Theroux, most recently writer of hits like Tropic Thunder and Iron Man 2, simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to play the film’s villainous wizard. “It was a super-funny script,” he explained, adding that the chance to work with McBride and Green was too good to pass up.
The screening itself served as an impressive demonstration of the capabilities of UCSB’s Film and Media Studies Department’s new, state-of-the-art Pollock Theater. Professor Charles Wolfe, whose efforts over the better part of the last 15 years made Pollock Theater’s construction possible, said simply of the red-carpet hubbub: “If you build it, they will come.”
Richard Hutton, executive director of UCSB’s Carsey-Wolf Center, introduced one of the screenings. “I am thrilled, absolutely thrilled, to be able to welcome this maxed-out crowd to our new Pollock Theater,” he told the excited crowd before ceding the stage to the film’s director and stars. “We’re so glad to be here,” Franco said, “we basically made this movie for Santa Barbara.”
“We try not to think about what the world is ready for, and instead just what we are ready for,” McBride said of the film’s unusual blend of fantasy adventure and stoner comedy. “Hopefully the world is ready for it.”
Whether the world is ready or not, one thing was absolutely clear: UCSB was ready for Your Highness.