Backstage Spotlight: Ten Facts about James Franco

The year 2010 really put James Franco in the spotlight. He starred in 127 Hours, got nominated for his first Academy Award, co-hosted the Oscars, and plunged into Hollywood spotlight, being recognized as the man of every trade, from painting, to getting his doctorate, to teaching on the college level, to acting in soap operas. It’s 2012 now and we haven’t heard much about the big guy of 2010 in quite a while. The tide changed, and Ryan Gosling became the man of 2011. Who’s to say who will be the big guy of 2012? I’m betting on JGL, seeing that he’ll be in five films this year. But that’s another story.

I decided now was a good time to write on Franco because he isn’t the man of the hour, but he’s significant enough in this generation that I think he’ll continue to do great things. I first thought of him when I was coming up with my favorite actors, and he would have made a great #6 on my list (The list is now updated to include him – check it!).

10. He looks and sounds a lot like his younger brother (shocker, right?).

I also thought of him this past weekend when I saw his younger brother, Dave, costar in the hilarious 21 Jump Street. The similarity between their looks and especially voices is uncanny!

9. He’s the Cameo King in my book.

James Franco might have more uncredited cameos than any other actors I’m aware of. The HolidayNights in RodantheThe Green HornetKnocked Up, 30 Rock, Date Night (OK, that’s the only one he was credited for). He’s either playing an action star, grieving son, mob boss, or hilariously arrogant version of himself. Check out his cameo in The Holiday below.

8. He’s a really funny guy.

With multiple videos on Funny or Die, Franco does everything from introducing us to his family, to crying about his cat, to giving “acting” lessons to his younger brother. Check out this lesson where he tried teaching his brother, Dave, about “green screen acting.”

7. He values education.

Anyone who has gone to college knows that credit loads exceeding the early 20s bracket are time-consuming at best. After a good glance at his Wikipedia page, I read that one semester Franco enrolled in “62 course credits per quarter compared to the normal limit of 19.” It’s pretty hard to believe this, so I decided to look up the source noted. I then proceeded to read a lengthy, but absolutely fascinating article written by Sam Anderson, published in New York Magazine back in July of 2010. In there, he cites that Franco, indeed, did take on the 62-credit load at UCLA, and following that, well, here, I’ll just let you read the excerpt from the article below:

As soon as Franco finished at UCLA, he moved to New York and enrolled in four of them: NYU for filmmaking, Columbia for fiction writing, Brooklyn College for fiction writing, and—just for good measure—a low-residency poetry program at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. This fall, at 32, before he’s even done with all of these, he’ll be starting at Yale, for a Ph.D. in English, and also at the Rhode Island School of Design.”

Yes, you read that right. Anderson goes on a funny rant following that, describing how Franco will become president and something to do with aliens, I think. The article is incredibly insightful, and worth a read if you’re even the slightest fan of Franco.

6. He’s a man of many every trade.

OK, so perhaps it is more accurate to describe Franco as a jack of many trades, not all. But it’s pretty unimaginable how he balances all of the graduate credits, the acting career, the interviews, the poetry writing, the teaching, the soap opera roles in a given day, week, month, and year. Does the guy sleep? Well, this picture was taken back a couple years ago, claiming that he’s quite the sleeper in class; although it was later revealed that he was attending an additional art seminar and was tired.

5. He worked at McDonald’s.

Before he took on a gazillion credits and studied at several major schools, he went to UCLA to get his undergraduate in English, but dropped out at age 19 to pursue acting. Since his parents did not support his decision to quite school in pursuit of an acting career, Franco had to support himself – and took a job at McDonald’s. Franco is quoted in this Entertainment Weekly article saying that after working at McDonald’s, he was no longer a vegetarian.

4. He’s won only one big award: Golden Globe for the titular role in James Dean.

Check out his acceptance speech at the ceremony. A couple fun things to notice in the video: first, he’s so young! second, the guy is incredibly modest; and third, did you catch that closing shot of a young Brad Pitt? Funny!

3. He’s up to star in the 2013 film, Oz: The Great and Powerful.

Intended to be a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, Sam Raimi (also Franco’s director in the Spider-Man series) will be directing this fantasy take. It’s interesting how many people enjoy giving us “before” or “after” stories about The Wizard of Oz. Take the Gregory Maguire famous book series that insighted the national popular musical, Wicked. Will there be comparisons? Franco will be playing the lead role in the film, who, from what I’ve read, turns out to be the wizard. See for yourself by reading the synopsis below, courtesy of the film’s Wikipedia page:

Oz The Great and Powerful imagines the origins of L. Frank Baum’s beloved character, the Wizard of Oz. When Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot with fame and fortune being his for the taking….that is until he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting. Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity, and even a bit of wizardry, Oscar transforms himself not only into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz but into a better man as well.

2. He produced and directed a documentary entitled “Saturday Night,” based on the behind-the-scenes of his two hosting stints for Saturday Night Live.

I was planning to embed a video for his SNL monologue when he hosted back in 2009, but I can’t find it anywhere on YouTube, so here’s the link (do check it out! it’s hilarious).

ArtsBeat gives their take on the documentary in this article. Here’s a video I have yet to watch; it’s a panel made up of Franco and some of the member from the Saturday Night Live cast at Tribeca.

1. He got a D . . . in an acting class.

Well, from what I learned from the video, it was a “directing actors” class, so technically it would be more of a directing class. Even so, you have to hand it to him for being ironic there. The sleeping photo does come up, but Franco explains the craziness behind how he got a D in the class to Roger Friedman. It’s interesting, and funny nonetheless.

Hope you learned something new about James Franco! I definitely did while researching. What are some interesting facts you learned about people in the film business?  

8 thoughts on “Backstage Spotlight: Ten Facts about James Franco

  1. I have liked Franco in a few things, Pineapple Express and the Spiderman films. I did not see 127 hrs but my brother said it was awesome. Looking forward to that Oz prequel and trying to forget about his oscar hosting.


    • At some point I will get around to seeing Pineapple Express. I’ve heard it’s absolutely hilarious. I’m with you on the Spider-Man films, and I think you’ll enjoy 127 Hours (especially his performance in it) when you see it. Unfortunately for him, I think we’re all trying to forget he hosted the Oscars 🙂 Cheers!


  2. Franco’s a legend. Love that pic of him catching some zzzzz’s in class. Never got to see his hosting the Oscars stint but heard he was a bit dopey. Looking forward to seeing 21 Jump Street even more now… the similarity is freaky! He’s easily the best thing about Pineapple Express!


    • He is! I know, cracks me up – definitely humanizes the guy in a good way. Yeah, it’s not really worth watching unless you want to see the guy kind of choke :/. Yes, I couldn’t stop laughing at that movie, and their voices are so similar it’s funny! I will have to watch Pineapple Express sometime just to see how crazy he is in it.


  3. “He’s a man of every trade”. You said it, he’s the kind of local boy makes good who never forgot that fame is something to take in moderation. He’s content to have a laugh at himself or take bit parts that others would deem beneath them, but he’ll also turn around and tune in so deep into a role that he’ll just knock your socks off.

    He’s like a kid a a buffet, trying everything he can just to say he did. I admire that and it keeps him interesting because you know he’ll never get pigeon-holed. Thanks for the factos de Franco. Fine list Kristin, very fine indeed:)


    • That’s a really great way of putting it. He’s definitely a complex guy, exercising his many talents. Very true! Unless he gets pigeon-holed into the one-man circus. Haha, just kidding! Definitely. Glad you enjoyed the list!


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