Gaining prominence from playing the lead character Daniel Desario on the short-lived cult hit NBC’s television series Freaks and Geeks, James Franco has since then starred in a long list of movies, directed several others and even written many screenplays. Lets take a look at how this talented actor had made it big.
James Franco was born on April 19, 1978 in Palo Alto, California. His mother, Betsy Franco is a writer and actress from an immigrant Russian Jewish family. His father, Douglas Eugene “Doug” Franco, was of Portuguese and Swedish descent, and ran a Silicon Valley business.
He grew up in California with his two younger brothers, Dave Franco, also an actor and Tom Franco. He was great at mathematics, and interned at Lockheed Martin. He graduated from Palo Alto High School in 1996. In his high school years, he was arrested for underage drinking, graffiti, and for selling stolen designer fragrances from department stores to classmates. These arrests led to his briefly becoming a ward of the state.
He went on to attend UCLA, majoring in English but dropped out after his first year against his parents’ wish to pursue a career as an actor. He instead chose to take acting lessons with Robert Carnegie at the Playhouse West. Around this time, he took up a late-night job at McDonald’s to make ends meet, since his parents refused to do so. He was a vegetarian until working there.
Career In Acting
After fifteen months of intensive study at Robert Carnegie’s Playhouse West, James began actively pursuing his dream of finding work as an actor in Hollywood. His first paid role was a television commercial for Pizza Hut, featuring a dancing Elvis Presley. After that he did some guest roles on TV shows.
His first big break came in 1999, after he landed himself a starring role on NBC’s television series, Freaks and Geeks (1999) which ran for 18 episodes and was cancelled due to low viewership. Later, the show became a cult hit. He made his film debut in 1999’s Never Been Kissed, followed by the 2000 romantic comedy Whatever It Takes in which he first met his girlfriend, Marla Sokoloff, whom he dated for four years.
James rose to fan-magazine fame when he was cast as the lead in TNT made-for-television movie, James Dean (2001). To immerse himself in the role, he went from being a non-smoker to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day and has since quit. This role won him a Golden Globe Award and nominations for an Emmy Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award. Since then, he has been working round the clock.
Worldwide Fame and Attention
Franco apparently auditioned for the role of Peter Parker in “Spider-Man” (2002), but settled for the part of Harry Osborn after Tobey Maguire won the lead. Spider-Man was a commercial and critical success. He catapulted to fame with his role in Spider-Man. He next starred in Sonny, directed by Nicolas Cage in 2002. The movie was panned by critics. Next he played a homeless drug addict in the City by the Sea (2002) co-starring Robert De Niro.
The success of the first Spider-Man film led Franco to reprise the role in the 2004 sequel, Spider-Man 2. The movie was well received by critics and was a big financial success. The following year he made and starred in the black comedy The Ape. In 2006, Franco played Tristan in Tristan & Isolde, for which he practised horseback riding and sword fighting as well as cemented his sex symbol status in Hollywood.
The same year, Franco went on to garner acclaim in 2006 for his performance Flyboys for which he had to take training for his Private Pilot Licence. He again played Harry Osborn in Spider-Man 3 (2007). It stands as Franco’s highest-grossing film to date.
Later Roles (2008 – Present)
He next starred in Pineapple Express (2008), a stoner comedy and played Scott Smith in the award-winning film Milk (2008). He originated the fictional character of Robert James Franco Frank, a multimedia artist, in the ABC soap opera General Hospital. He played the role from 2009 to 2012.
In 2010, he scored Academy Award nomination for his performance in the adventure drama 127 Hours (2010). Some of the later film roles include the comedy Date Night (2010) opposite Tina Fey, the drama Eat Pray Love (2011) opposite Julia Roberts, the comedy Your Highness (2011) opposite Natalie Portman and Danny McBride, the sci-fi drama Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and the crime drama Spring Breakers (2012). In 2014 Franco starred in the controversial Sony comedy thriller, The Interview. It was all set for a December 2014 release, but it never made it to the theatres. The North Korean government threatened action against the United States if Columbia Pictures released the film.
After the cyber attack and other threats major cinema chains opted not to release the film, leading Sony to release it for online rental and purchase on December 24 followed by a limited release at select cinemas the next day. It turned out as Sony’s most successful digital release. In 2015, Franco was cast in the lead role for the Hulu limited series 11.22.63 which is based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King. The eight-episode series premiered on February 15, 2016.
Franco dissatisfied with his career’s direction, re-enrolled at UCLA in 2006 with English as major. He received permission to take as many as 62 course credits per quarter compared to the normal limit of 19 while still continuing to act. He received his undergraduate degree in June 2008 with a GPA of 3.5/4.0.
Moving to New York City in 2008, He enrolled at Columbia University’s MFA writing program, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts for filmmaking, Brooklyn College for fiction writing and studied poetry at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina.
In 2010, he received his MFA from Columbia in 2010 and was accepted at Yale University, pursuing a Ph.D. in English. In 2011, he completed his master’s degree in filmmaking at NYU and was accepted at the Rhode Island School of Design. A year later, he was accepted into the University of Houston’s creative writing program, though it was announced soon after that he wouldn’t be attending the Texas school.
In March 2011, it was announced that Franco would teach a fall semester course on modifying poetry into short films to ten to twelve third-year graduate film students at NYU. He has since taught classes in English and filmmaking at USC, UCLA, and CalArts.
Franco has described himself as Jewish. In 2015, he had an official Bar Mitzvah ceremony, presided over by a Rabbi. After meeting on the set of Whatever It Takes, Franco dated co-star Marla Sokoloff for five years. He was later in a relationship with actress Ahna O’Reilly, until 2011. He confirmed their separation in an interview for Playboy magazine’s August 2011 issue, saying that his interest in education got between them. He received unwelcome attention in April 2014 for trying to set a date with a 17-year-old girl from Scotland in New York (age of consent in New York is 17) via social media. The woman filmed the conversation they had and released it to the public. Franco acknowledged flirting with her. In late 2014 James was romantically linked to model Erin Johnson after the two were spotted out in Los Angeles together.