James Franco: Snapshot

James Franco
Date of Birth
April 19, 1978
Birth Place
Palo Alto, Calif.
James Franco could've easily rested on his cheekbones, but he cast his James Dean-esque good looks aside to become one of his generation's most talented and suprising actors.

The California native got his break on Judd Apatow's short-lived series Freaks and Geeks before winning a Golden Globe for his title role in 2001's made-for-TV biopic James Dean. On the tails of his critical acclaim, Franco cashed in as frenemy Harry Osborn in the Spider-Man trilogy, garnered serious praise for playing Sean Penn's lover in 2008's Milk and turned box-office stoner for Pineapple Express.

Franco, who earned his first Academy Award nomination for 2010's 127 Hours, relocated to New York City for his graduate studies, art and fiction ventures (he's published a collection of short stories), as well as a well-publicized guest stint on the ABC soap General Hospital. After playing Alien in Spring Breakers, the actor made his Broadway debut in the revival of Of Mice and Men.

James Franco: Five Fun Facts

  1. James Franco began acting in high school plays to get back at a girlfriend who kissed another boy on stage.
  2. James Franco practiced foreign accents on female customers while working at a McDonald's drive-thru. "I'd be French and then Italian. One girl who liked me came around the drive-thru again and said, 'Could you give me some Italian lessons?,'" he told the Chicago Sun Times.
  3. James Franco learned how to jump from one horse to another during the eight months of training he underwent for 2006's Tristan & Isolde.
  4. Of his onscreen kisses with Fast Times at Ridgemont High's Sean Penn in Milk, James Franco told GQ, "You couldn't help thinking, 'Oh my God, I'm kissing Spicoli.'"
  5. For his part in 2008's Pineapple Express, James Franco did not actually smoke an illegal substance. "They had this pot with the THC removed," he told Entertainment Weekly. "Sort of like Near Beer or decaffeinated coffee."

James Franco: Biography


James Franco

A California Boy

The eldest of Betsy and Doug Franco's three sons, James Franco drops out of UCLA after his freshman year to study acting at Robert Carnegie's Playhouse West. "All my friends looked at me with pity thinking I made a pretty poor move," Franco recalls to the Chicago Sun-Times. "But after you take the leap, you know in your heart if you made the right move or not."


James Franco

James the Actor

Franco lands on the small screen in Judd Apatow's cult-hit series Freaks and Geeks, alongside comedic actors Seth Rogen and Jason Segel. He also makes his film debut with a bit part in the Drew Barrymore comedy Never Been Kissed and lands his first lead role in 2000's Whatever It Takes. Although the latter flops, Franco falls for costar Marla Sokoloff.


James Franco

Playing James Dean

With his striking resemblance to screen icon James Dean, Franco headlines the eponymous TV biopic. "I took up smoking, like Dean, and cut off most of my friends," Franco tells the New York Times. "I'm doing everything I can to approximate his life." His performance earns him a lead actor Golden Globe, as well as an Emmy and Screen Actor Guild Award nominations.

Read More on James Franco's Life

Photo Credits

Top Left: Steve Granitz/WireImage

BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Yearbook Library; Everett Collection

Edited by Julia Wang

James Franco

Celebrity Central / Top 25 Celebs