James Franco is an actor, writer, director, visual artist…the list goes on. Most well known for his on-screen work, Franco has appeared in a number of major Hollywood films, including the Spider-Man trilogy, Pineapple Express, Eat Pray Love, Milk, for which he won an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actor, and 127 Hours, which earned him an Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead and an Academy Award Nomination for Best Actor, among many other awards and nominations. He played James Dean in the critically acclaimed TV film James Dean, for which he won a Golden Globe for Best Actor, Allen Ginsberg in the independent film Howl, and he also starred as Daniel Desario in the cult TV show Freaks and Geeks. His most recent films are Your Highness and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which premiers on August 5, 2011. He hosted the 2011 Academy Awards with actress Anne Hathaway.
In 2010, Scribner published Franco’s short story collection Palo Alto: Stories. His paintings and installation work have been exhibited at galleries in New York, Los Angeles, and Berlin.
Franco earned a BA from UCLA, a MFA in film from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and MFA degrees in fiction from Brooklyn College and Columbia University. He has studied poetry at Warren Wilson College and is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program in English at Yale University.
Franco is emphatic, determined, and unwilling to let anyone think they really ‘get’ him. He does what he wants and knows why he does it, no matter how much the rest of us keep wondering.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I told my mom that I wanted to be a ‘worker man,’ which was a construction worker, I guess. I liked to build things. And then I wanted to be a football player. My mom tried to break it to me gently that I was probably too small to play football, professionally. But she still gave me hope, she didn’t completely shut me down.
My mother is a children’s book author, so that was around. I remember that I wrote stuff when I was pretty young, like elementary school. There was a story called “Deep Down,” it was influenced by the comic, The Far Side, but I didn’t draw it. I drew at that time, but this wasn’t a comic. I don’t even know what it was….but I was writing young.
At one point in junior high, I read Cannery Row [by John Steinbeck] and I loved that character Ed Ricketts. He was a marine zoologist, so I wanted to do that. He kind of had the coolest set-up. In Monterrey, he lived on the water and would just go into the tide pools and stuff, and that was his job. That was a pretty cush job. I don’t know how many marine zoologists actually have it that good.