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James Franco

19 Apr 1978 (Age 40)

James Franco Biography

James Edward Franco is an American actor, film director, screenwriter, film producer, author, and painter. He began acting during the late 1990s, appearing on the short-lived television series Freaks and Geeks and starring in several teen films. In 2001, he played the title role in Mark Rydell's television biographical film James Dean, which earned him a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film.

Franco achieved international fame with his portrayal of Harry Osborn in the Spider-Man trilogy. Since then, his films have included the war film The Great Raid (2005), the 2006 romantic drama Tristan & Isolde, and Justin Lin's drama Annapolis (2006). In 2008, Franco starred in the comedy stoner film Pineapple Express and received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.

He played a prominent role in the 2008 biographical film Milk. In 2010, he played the lead role in Howl as Allen Ginsberg, and 127 Hours, a film about Aron Ralston, an American mountaineer who cut off his own arm to free himself after he was trapped beneath a boulder. He was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance.

Early Life And Family

Franco was born in Palo Alto, California. His mother, Betsy Lou (née Verne), is a poet, author, and editor, and his father, Douglas Eugene Franco, runs a non-profit agency and a shipping container company; the two met as students at Stanford University.

Franco's father is of Portuguese and Swedish descent and Franco's mother is Jewish, a descendant of immigrants from Russia. His paternal grandmother, Marjorie (Peterson) Franco, was a published author of young adult books; his maternal grandmother, Mitzi Levine Verne, owns the Verne Art Gallery, a prominent art gallery in Cleveland, and was an active member in the National Council of Jewish Women.

Franco grew up in California with his two younger brothers, Tom and Dave, who is also an actor. Talented in mathematics, he interned at Lockheed Martin. Franco graduated from Palo Alto High School in 1996, where he acted in plays. He enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) as an English major, but dropped out after his freshman year against his parents' wishes to pursue a career as an actor, taking acting lessons with Robert Carnegie at Playhouse West.

Career - Early Work

After 15 months of training, he began auditioning in Los Angeles, California, and got his first break in 1999, after he was cast in a leading role on the short-lived but well-reviewed television series Freaks and Geeks. Franco has since described the series as "one of the most fun" work experiences that he has had.

His first major film was the romantic comedy Whatever It Takes (2000), in which he co-starred with his then-girlfriend, Marla Sokoloff. He was subsequently cast as the title role in director Mark Rydell's 2001 TV biopic James Dean. He received a Golden Globe Award  and nominations for an Emmy Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award.

In the 2002 superhero film Spider-Man, the most successful film of his career to date, Franco played Harry Osborn, the son of the villainous Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) and best friend of the title character (Tobey Maguire). Originally, Franco was considered for the lead role of Spider-Man/Peter Parker in the film, though the lead went to Tobey Maguire.

Todd McCarthy of Variety noted that there are "good moments" between Maguire and Franco in the film. Spider-Man was a commercial and critical success. The movie grossed $114 million during its opening weekend in North America and went on to earn $822 million worldwide. In this same year, Franco was cast in the drama City by the Sea (2002) alongside Robert De Niro. The following year he co-starred alongside Neve Campbell in Robert Altman's The Company (2003).

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 it proved to be a big financial success, setting a new opening weekend box office record for North America.

With revenue of $783 million worldwide, it became the second highest grossing film in 2004. The following year, he appeared in the 2005 war film The Great Raid, in which he portrayed Robert Prince, a captain in the United States Army's elite Sixth Ranger Battalion.

In 2006, Franco co-starred with Tyrese Gibson in Annapolis and played legendary hero Tristan in Tristan & Isolde, a dramatization of the Tristan and Iseult story also starring English actress Sophia Myles. He then rode with the Navy's precision flying team, the Blue Angels, and completed training for his Private Pilot License in preparation for his role in Flyboys.

Franco appeared briefly in The Wicker Man, the remake of the seminal horror film. He appeared in the film alongside Nicolas Cage, who directed him in Sonny. Also in 2006, he made a cameo appearance in the romantic comedy The Holiday. In 2007, he again played Harry Osborn in Spider-Man 3.

In contrast to the previous two films' positive reviews, Spider-Man 3 was met with a mixed reception by the critics. Nonetheless, with a total worldwide gross of $891 million, it stands as the most successful film in the series, and Franco's highest grossing film to the end of 2008. In this same year, Franco made a cameo appearance in the Apatow-directed comedy Knocked Up, which starred Freaks and Geeks alumnus Seth Rogen, Jason Segel and Martin Starr.

He starred in the film Pineapple Express (2008), a comedy co-starring and co-written by Seth Rogen and produced by Judd Apatow, both of whom worked with Franco on Freaks and Geeks. In the New York Times review of the film, critic Manohla Dargis wrote: "He’s delightful as Saul, loosey-goosey and goofy yet irrepressibly sexy, despite that greasy curtain of hair and a crash pad with a zero WAF (Woman Acceptance Factor).”

“It’s an unshowy, generous performance and it greatly humanizes a movie that, as it shifts genre gears and cranks up the noise, becomes disappointingly sober and self-serious." Franco's performance in the film earned him a Golden Globe nomination in the category for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy and also a MTV Movie Award nomination in the category for Best Comedic Performance.

Though no longer a cannabis user, Franco was awarded High Times magazine Stoner of the Year Award for his performance in Pineapple Express. In 2008, he also appeared in two films by American artist Carter exhibited at the Yvon Lambert gallery in Paris. On September 20, 2008, James hosted the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live (SNL), and a second time on December 19, 2009.

Franco starred opposite Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, and Emile Hirsch in Gus Van Sant's Milk (2008). In the film, he played Scott Smith, the boyfriend of Harvey Milk (Penn). Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times, in review of the film, wrote: "Franco is a nice match for him [Penn] as the lover who finally has enough of political life." For his performance in the film, Franco won the 2008 Independent Spirit Award in the category for Best Supporting Actor.

In late 2009, Franco joined the cast of the daytime soap opera General Hospital on a recurring basis. He plays Franco, a multimedia artist much like himself, who comes to Port Charles with some unfinished business with mob enforcer Jason Morgan (Steve Burton). Franco calls his General Hospital role performance art; in summer 2010 the fictional Franco held an exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, while the real Franco held an exhibit at the museum based on his experiences on the soap opera.

Franco made an appearance on the situation comedy show 30 Rock, where he played himself and carried on a fake romance with Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) in a scheme concocted by their respective agents. In May 2010, he was cast to star in Rupert Wyatt's Rise of the Apes. Franco produced and directed a documentary titled Saturday Night documenting a week in the production of an episode of SNL.

The film began as a short for an NYU class but grew due to his two episodes as host, while short stories he wrote for other classes appeared in Esquire and McSweeney's.

In 2010, Franco played poet Allen Ginsberg in the drama Howl, and has received acclaim for portraying mountain climber Aron Ralston in 127 Hours. His 2011 roles include the comedy Your Highness, opposite Natalie Portman, and Rise of the Apes, a science fiction film co-starring Freida Pinto. On November 29, 2010, it was announced that Franco and Anne Hathaway will host the 83rd Academy Awards. In 2011, Franco directed a film version of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying and appeared in two episodes of ABC's General Hospital.


In 2010, Franco published a collection of short stories called Palo Alto. The book is named after the California city where Franco grew up and is dedicated to many of the writers he worked with at Brooklyn College. The book received mixed to positive reviews; Los Angeles Times called it "the work of an ambitious young man who clearly loves to read, who has a good eye for detail, but who has spent way too much time on style and virtually none on substance".

The Guardian said that "The Hollywood star's foray into the literary world may be met with cynicism in some quarters, but this is a promising debut from a most unlikely source."

Personal Life

Franco reportedly has "an unusually high metabolism for productivity...a superhuman ability to focus". Dissatisfied with his career's direction,Franco reenrolled at the UCLA in the fall of 2006 as an English major with a creative writing concentration. Having received permission to take as many as 62 course credits per quarter compared to the normal limit of 19 while continuing to act, he received his undergraduate degree in June 2008 with a GPA over 3.5.

For his degree, Franco prepared his departmental honors thesis as a novel under the supervision of Mona Simpson. He moved to New York to simultaneously attend graduate school at Columbia University's MFA writing program, New York University's Tisch School of the Arts for filmmaking, and Brooklyn College for fiction writing, while occasionally commuting to North Carolina's Warren Wilson College for poetry.

As of 2010, Franco is a PhD student in English at Yale University and will also attend the Rhode Island School of Design.

Franco In February 2009

Art—painting in particular—is a talent Franco developed during his high school years while attending the California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA). Franco has said that painting was the "outlet" he needed in high school, and that he "has actually been painting longer than he has been acting."

His paintings were displayed publicly for the first time at the Glü Gallery in Los Angeles, California from January 7, 2006 through to February 11, 2006. Franco can also be seen painting in a scene in Spider-Man 3. Franco enjoys reading on the set of his films. Pineapple Express producer Judd Apatow has said of him: "He's a very education-minded person. We used to laugh because in between takes he'd be reading The Iliad on set. We still haven't read The Iliad. It was a very difficult book. With him, it was always James Joyce or something."  

April 2006, Franco mentioned he has been in a relationship with actress Ahna O'Reilly. In 2008, Franco was named as the new face of Gucci's men's fragrance line. Viewed as a sex symbol, Franco was named the Sexiest Man Living in 2009 by Salon.com. In response to questions regarding his sexuality now that he has portrayed three gay characters during his acting career, he insists he finds plenty more dimensions to the characters than their bedroom proclivities.

He was selected as the commencement speaker, the youngest, at his alma mater, UCLA, on June 12, 2009. On June 3, 2009, a press release announced Franco's cancellation as UCLA's commencement speaker due to a scheduling conflict, making it the second year in a row, after Bill Clinton, that the commencement speaker had canceled the appearance.

On July 8, 2009, Franco and the Harvard Lampoon released a satirical video on prominent comedy website Funny or Die mocking his last-minute cancellation. In the December 27, 2010, issue of Time Magazine, Franco was named by Joel Stein as "The Coolest Person of the Year."

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