James Franco




April 19, 1978


Palo Alto, California

Palo Alto, CA


43 years old


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A little about James

Smells like teen spirit

In his high school years, Franco was arrested for underage drinking, graffiti, and being a part of a group that stole designer fragrances from department stores and sold them to classmates. These arrests led to Franco briefly becoming a ward of the s...

Welcome to McDonald's, how may I help you?

He dropped out of UCLA after his first year there to become an actor. To support himself, he took up a late-night job at McDonald's to support himself because his parents refused to do so. While working there, he would practice accents on customers...

Getting into character as James Dean

In 2001, he was cast in director Mark Rydell's TV biographical film James Dean. To immerse himself in the role, Franco went from being a non-smoker to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, bleached his dark brown hair blond, and learned to ride a mo...

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James Franco


The allure of stepping into the art world

It’s the freedom of making something that doesn’t need to entertain, that isn’t going to be tallied up in the box-office tolls. And it’s something that, frankly, I’ve done longer than I’ve been making films. My public life and my professional life started in film, and so that’s what I’m known as. But there’s the making of the work, and then there’s the showing of the work.


When we did Freaks and Geeks I remember sitting around Seth Rogen and Jason Segel, the four of us was just like, THIS IS IT! WE MADE IT! HOLLYWOOD HERER WE COME! Even though that show was so good, when it first came out a not a lot of people watched it, so we kind of had that moment and it kind of was taken away, and then it was given back to us when it played reruns
[Tommy Wiseau] also financed it at the tune of $6 million. It does not look like it was made for $6 million. It looks like it was made for about $60. It came out in 2003, and Tommy intended it to be a great drama. He wrote on the original poster that it was a Tennessee Williams-level drama. It's a very simple story. [Wiseau] casts himself as Johnny, this great guy, all American guy, and he has a girlfriend and best friend named Mark. And basically the plot of the movie is his girlfriend and his best friend have an affair and betray him, and — spoiler alert — he commits suicide at the end. And that's kind of it. But that says nothing about all the bizarre creative decisions — the weird side...
Doing these other things [in art school] was a release, and I think it made me a better actor. Because when I was only acting, I was trying to do all of these things as an actor. I was on my own mission. I was acting for myself — to do a great performance for me, not for the movie. But that’s not my job as an actor. My job as an actor is to help the director achieve his or her vision. As soon as I got to direct my own films or escape the film world and into these other realms, when I came back to the film world, I could be pure about it. I don’t think my performance in Spring Breakers could’ve happened if I didn’t do all this other stuff. I couldn’t have lent myself to that if I didn’t have...
Tommy Wiseau is the master rewriter of history, because when he was making The Room I think he was completely sincere. He was aiming for [Marlon] Brando and James Dean and came out with something completely different. But when he realized that people were laughing at his film, he then rewrote his whole script [of his life]. ... He came out and said, "Oh, I intended it to be comedy." Whereas, in fact, he had kept it in theaters — on his own dime — for two weeks to qualify for the Oscars.
I know just from my own reaction to celebrities doing certain things — that it’s so fucking annoying, and it is repellent in a lot of ways, and it’s just gross a lot of times. But I’ve done everything that I can to respect these professions that I’m interested in. I’ve gone to all these schools. I went to the art school that so many of my favorite artists have gone to. But when an actor goes into music, when an actor writes a book, when an actor goes into the art world — before it even is made, people are considering it bad.
He goes, "Yeah, I approve, 99.9 percent." And I'm like, "Wow, and what's the 0.1 percent?" And you think he's going to say, "You know, I never said that," or whatever, and he goes — director to director — he goes, "Yeah, James, I think you should look at lighting in the beginning of [the] movie." And I'm like, "Oh man, I'll tell my cinematographer to watch The Room for pointers." But then we realize only later that he had been wearing his shades through the whole movie, so it's like, "Yeah, of course the lighting is off." ... I realized in that screening ... when [the audience was] cheering for him, they were cheering his story. They were cheering him on and the will it took to get his mov...