James Franco busied himself in his work as a ''defence mechanism''.

The 39-year-old actor is widely considered to be one of the hardest working figures in Hollywood, but in recent times, James has made a conscious decision to slow down and take stock of his own life.

The Academy Award-nominated star explained: ''I have achieved all the things that I dreamed when I was younger. And realising, 'Oh, those things are not going to fill the hole.'''

James freely admits to having spent the bulk of his adult life bouncing from one ambitious project to the next.

But as he nears his 40th birthday, James now realises his behaviour was designed to shield him from reality and protect himself from failure.

Speaking to Variety magazine, James shared: ''It was a defence mechanism.

''If I do a lot of things and one of them comes out and people don't like it, I'm already on to the next thing. I'm not even listening to the criticism. But it's also an escape.

''If I kept myself busy, I never had to look at myself or my life.''

James also discussed his public persona, admitting he's moved progressively closer towards the public's perception of him over time.

The '127 Hours' star likened the situation to having a ''mask'' stuck on his face.

James said: ''Why can't I have fun with it? On the other hand, it becomes you. There was a period 10 years ago that I wasn't the James Franco that everyone suddenly knew, doing all these things.

''It's almost like the mask gets fused to your face. That mask of fame sort of gets stuck on your face whether you're being facetious or being serious. It's a hard thing to talk about because you start sounding like a douche.''