It has been said that creative people are both crazier and saner than the noncreative. The actor James Franco would appear to fit the bill. I've always wondered if he was homospatial.
James Edward Franco (born April 19, 1978) is an American actor, film director, producer, screenwriter, author, painter, performance artist and professor at New York University. He left college in order to pursue acting and started off his career by making guest appearances on television series in the 1990s. Franco landed a lead part on the short-lived cult hit television program Freaks and Geeks and later achieved recognition for playing the titular character in the TV biographical film James Dean (2001), for which he was awarded a Golden Globe Award. He achieved international fame with his portrayals of Harry Osborn in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy.
Franco is critically acclaimed as an actor. He has done both dramatic and comedic work in projects and has appeared in an eclectic range of projects since the 2000s, ranging from period to contemporary pieces, and from major Hollywood productions to less publicized indie films, as well as fantasy movies to biopics and soap operas. Other notable films include Pineapple Express, a stoner comedy that earned him his second Golden Globes nomination, the Harvey Milk-biopic Milk (both 2008) as well as Danny Boyle's 2010 movie 127 Hours, about real-life mountain climber Aron Ralston's struggle to free his hand from a boulder. His performance in 127 Hours earned him nominations for many high-profile awards, including the Academy Awards, Golden Globe and SAG Awards.
Franco is currently teaching a class at New York University about transferring poetry to film.
Nicknamed "Ted", James Edward 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 (her family's surname had been changed from "Verovitz" to "Verne"). His paternal grandmother, Marjorie (Peterson) Franco, is a published author of young adult books; his 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"), the latter of whom 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 exceptionally 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, a judge decided to give Franco a second chance. "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 rejection. 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, since he would have to have waited 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, for his acting classes, he would practice accents on customers. Knowing that the aspiring actor was doing his best to follow his passion, Carnegie poignantly told Franco to pay him what he could and later on pay him back.
Franco has received an extensive education, and continues to do so. Dissatisfied with his career's direction, Franco reenrolled at UCLA in the fall of 2006 as an English major with a creative writing concentration. 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 over 3.5. For his degree, Franco prepared his departmental honors thesis as a novel under the supervision of Mona Simpson. While at the university, the actor studied French, the Holocaust, philosophy of science, and American literature among other things. To continue acting, he would study on film sets.
He was selected as the commencement speaker at his alma mater, UCLA, and was to speak at the ceremony on June 12, 2009. On June 3, however, a press release announced Franco's cancellation due to a scheduling conflict, making it the second cancellation in a row, after commencement speaker Bill Clinton had canceled the appearance. On January 26, 2011, Franco and the Harvard Lampoon released a satirical video on prominent comedy website Funny or Die mocking his last-minute cancellation.
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 (NYU), and Brooklyn College for fiction writing, while occasionally commuting to North Carolina's Warren Wilson College for poetry. He received his MFA from Columbia in 2010. Franco is a Ph.D. student in English at Yale University and will also attend the Rhode Island School of Design. The actor opted against watching the 2011 Academy Award nominees be announced (where he was a top contender) in favor of attending class. "I’m not gonna miss class to go and presume that I’m going to be nominated, but if you want to bring out a camera crew to Yale and wait and see if I get nominated, I’d be happy to step out of class and say I’m very grateful", he commented.
He has been accepted to the University of Houston for the doctoral (Ph.D.) program – one of 20 people to be selected out of 400 applicants – in literature and creative writing and plans to enroll in fall 2012. Having previously shown a desire to teach, in March 2011, it was announced that Franco will teach a fall semester course on modifying poetry into short films to ten to twelve third-year graduate film students at NYU. The course will focus mainly on production, meaning that the students will be in charge of creating their own film based on poetry. At the time of the announcement the actor had yet to put together a syllabus, but has until the summertime to do so.
When asked about his education, Franco said that he loves school and that it keeps him focused as well as grounded. "I go to school because I love being around people who are interested in what I’m interested in and I’m having a great experience . . . I’m studying things that I love so it’s not like it’s a chore", he told the Washington Post, according to a New York Magazine article. Franco has also credited his education for helping him "take acting seriously" when his parents did not see it as a successful post-college career. Franco developed an aptitude for art—painting in particular—during his high school years while attending the California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA). Franco has said painting was the "outlet" he needed in high school, and 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, from January 7, through February 11, 2006. He launched his first European art exhibition in 2011 at Peres Projects in Berlin.
He 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."