About James Edward Franco
After achieving recognition for playing the titular character in the TV biographical film James Dean (2001), James Franco went on to gain international fame with his portrayals of Harry Osborn in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy.
He was born James Edward Franco, nicknamed Ted, on April 19, 1978 in Palo Alto, California to Betsy Lou (née Verne) and Douglas Eugene "Doug" Franco (1948–2011). Franco's father was of Portuguese (from the Madeira island) and Swedish descent; 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 briefly attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where he studied English and drama, before dropping out in his freshman year to pursue a career as an actor. Franco returned to UCLA and earned his undergraduate degree in 2008. He moved to New York City where he worked toward his MFA at Columbia and attended New York Univeristy's Tisch School of the Arts for filmmaking. Franco cuurently plans to attend Yale for a PhD in English in 2010.
After fifteen months of intensive study with noted drama coach Robert Carnegie at Playhouse West, Franco landed his breakthrough starring role in the critically acclaimed but short-lived NBC series Freaks and Geeks in 1999. James Franco's film debut was co-starring in the 1999 Drew Barrymore vehicle Never Been Kissed, followed by the 2000 romantic comedy Whatever It Takes. But it was his standout title performance in 2001's TNT cable biopic James Dean that made critics stand up and take notice of the young actor. His portrayal earned him the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in 2002.
After retaining heartthrob status with his award-winning performance as James Dean, he would appear in Deuces Wild (2002), a '50s-style gang drama. That same year, he played the part of Harry Osborn in the live-action rendition of Stan Lee's superhero comic Spider-Man, also starring Tobey Maguire, Willem Defoe, and Kirsten Dunst. The following year would find an emerging Franco in his most dramatically challenging role to date, as a murder suspect who happens to be the son of an NYPD police detective (Robert De Niro) in City by the Sea. Impressed by Franco's turn as flm legend James Dean, De Niro personally lobbied to have Franco cast in the film. Franco would continue to work with talented collaborators, landing a role in Robert Altman's ballet movie The Company in 2003. He returned to the role of Harry Osbourn in Spider-Man 2 a year after that. 2005 was a busy year for the young actor who directed an adaptation of his own play, The Ape, and starred in a couple of historical dramas. Neither The Great Raid nor Tristan & Isolde made much of an impression with audiences, but the films showed an actor willing to try new things. He was back in theaters early in 2006 with the Naval Academy/boxing movie Annapolis. That fall he again appeared in theaters in the World War 1 drama Flyboys, directed by Tony Bill. He also agreed to reprise the role of Harry Osborn one more time in Spider-Man 3.
Having long nurtured an aptitude for painting, Franco had his first public exhibition of his work in 2006, with a show at a Los Angeles gallery. He also began writing and directing his own short films, like 2007's Good Time Max and 2009's The Feast of Stephen. Around this time, Franco made the unexpected decision to enroll at UCLA as an English major. After receiving special permission to take on a heavier than normal course-load, he received his degree in 2008, and promptly began working on his MFA at Columbia University in New York, which he completed in 2010. He next enrolled as a Ph.D. student in English at Yale University.
All the while that he was completing his higher education, Franco was living up to the description often given by his co-stars and collaborators as having a superhuman ability to complete numerous projects at once. In 2008, Franco found an awesome vehicle for his comedic chops with the action-stoner-comedy Pineapple Express, pairing him with Seth Rogen as an adorably friendly weed dealer. That same year, he earned accolades for his performance as Scott Smith in the Award Winning biopic Milk, opposite Sean Penn. Even stranger, in 2009 - at the height of success - Franco decided curiously to join the cast of the daytime soap opera General Hospital, as a performance artist, not unlike himself, named Franco. He would later refer to the role as "performance art," but the tongue-in-cheek nature of a heart-throb Hollywood star joining the ranks of daytime TV only added to Franco's fun and mischievous image. He would also appear on the show 30 Rock that year as himself, in an episode in which the actor carries out a fake relationship for the press, in order to draw public attention from rumors that he's in love with a Japanese body pillow.
Franco would make appearances in films like Eat, Pray, Love and Date Night over the coming years, but his next big splash came in 2011, when he starred in the gripping thriller 127 Hours. Playing a mountain climber who becomes immovably wedged in an isolated crevice, the almost completely solo performance earned Franco yet more praise from critics and fans, as well as numerous nominations from the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and more. Never standing still after even the biggest victory, however, Franco was soon onto the next project, reteaming with his Pineapple Express director and costars for the 2011 fantasy-stoner-comedy Your Highness.