- James Edward Franco
April 19, 1978 (age 42)
- Actor, Author, Film Director, Screenwriter, Film Producer, Teacher, Model
- Marla Sokoloff
- Betsy Lou Franco, Douglas Eugene Franco
James Edward Franco (born April 19, 1978) is an American actor, filmmaker, teacher, and author.
His first prominent acting role was the lead character, "Daniel Desario", on the short-lived cult hit television program Freaks and Geeks. He later played the title character in the TV biographical film James Dean (2001), for which he won a Golden Globe Award. He played Harry Osborn in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy (2002–2007). He is also known for his roles in the films Pineapple Express (2008), Milk (2008), 127 Hours (2010), Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), Oz the Great and Powerful (2013), Spring Breakers (2013), and This Is the End (2013). He also had a recurring role in the ABC soap opera General Hospital. For his role in 127 Hours, Franco was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. In 2013, he also starred as a villain in Homefront with Jason Statham in a lead role.
Franco volunteers for the Art of Elysium charity and has taught a class at New York University in feature filmmaking and production. In 2013, he began teaching a course in short film production at the University of Southern California and a course in screenwriting at his alma mater, University of California, Los Angeles.
Early life and family
Franco was born in Palo Alto, California. His mother, Betsy Lou (née Verne), is a writer and actress, and his father, Douglas Eugene "Doug" Franco (d. 2011), ran a Silicon Valley business. The two met as students at Stanford University. Franco's father was of Portuguese (Madeiran) and Swedish descent. Franco's mother is Jewish (her family had immigrated from Russia, and her father, Daniel, changed the surname from "Verovitz" to "Verne" some time after 1940). Franco's paternal grandmother, Marjorie (Peterson) Franco, is a published author of young adult books. Franco's maternal grandmother, Mitzie (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's family upbringing was "academic, liberal and largely secular." He grew up in California with his two younger brothers, Tom and Dave ("Davy"), who is also an actor. Talented at mathematics, Franco interned at Lockheed Martin. Franco was often encouraged by his father to get good grades and did well on his SATs. He graduated from Palo Alto High School in 1996, where he acted in plays. In his high school years, Franco was arrested for underage drinking, graffiti, and for being a part of a group that stole designer fragrances from department stores and sold them to classmates. These arrests led to him briefly becoming a ward of the state. Facing the possibility of juvenile hall, Franco was given a second chance by the judge. "It was teen angst. I was uncomfortable in my own skin. I was shy. I changed my ways just in time to get good grades," he recalled of his troubles with the law.
Although the idea of becoming a marine zoologist interested him, Franco had always secretly wanted to become an actor but feared being rejected. He enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) as an English major, but dropped out after his first year against his parents' wishes to pursue a career as an actor, since he would have had to wait two years to audition for their acting program. Franco instead chose to take acting lessons with Robert Carnegie at the Playhouse West. Around this time, Franco took up a late-night job at McDonald's to support himself since his parents refused to do so. He was a vegetarian until working there. While working at the establishment, he would practice accents on customers.
After 15 months of training he began auditioning in Los Angeles for acting, his first paid role was a television commercial for Pizza Hut, featuring a dancing Elvis Presley. He found guest roles on television shows but his first break came in 1999, after he was cast in a leading role on the short-lived but well-reviewed NBC television series Freaks and Geeks.
Franco achieved worldwide fame and attention in the 2002 superhero film Spider-Man, when he 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 Maguire. 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 the media
Viewed as a sex symbol, Franco was named the Sexiest Man Living in 2009 by Salon.com. There has often been frequent media coverage of Franco, particularly regarding his interest in going to colleges. In addition to that, Franco has also claimed to have been strongly misquoted by reports in the media and news outlets reporting erroneous information about him. This led to the actor being parodied in an episode of SNL's Weekend Update segment, which an Entertainment Weekly writer deemed "clever". In a 2011 interview, he stated:
I’ve been perceived as this guy yelling, "Hey, look at me. I want attention." I’m not going to school to get articles written about me. I’m just going to school. But the fact that I’m going to school or that someone takes a picture of me sleeping is like, "We’re gonna jump on that and criticize him for his antics." What antics? I write. I make movies. I’m going to school. I hosted the Oscars. I take these projects seriously.
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.