In what appears to be an unorthodox move, Franco signs up for a guest stint on the ABC soap, General Hospital, where he plays a mysterious multimedia artist named Franco. "My hope was for people to ask themselves if soap operas are really that far from entertainment that is considered critically legitimate," he writes in Wall Street Journal article where he calls his soap appearance performance art.
Franco rearranges his film and school schedule to play Julia Roberts' boyfriend in the film adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert's bestseller Eat Pray Love. "I thought it would be the best in the best sense of a Hollywood romantic movie, with the best actress for that kind of movie," the multi-tasking actor tells USA Today of the hit flick.
Franco earns a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his portrayal of mountain climber Aron Ralston in 127 Hours, the true-life tale about how Ralston cut off his own arm after being trapped under a boulder. "I have heard that people have passed out," he tells PEOPLE of the film's graphic climax. "But I have also heard that the people who have passed out have come back and seen the rest of the movie."
Franco pulls double duty as Best Actor nominee and co-host of the 83rd Academy Awards, emceeing the ceremony alongside Anne Hathaway. Checking his ego at the door, the actor puns, pirouettes and pings fans on Twitter throughout the show, but fails to win over critics. "Franco seemed distant, uninterested and content to keep his Cheshire-cat-meets-smug smile on display throughout," The Hollywood Reporter says of the much-maligned host.
Franco plays "second fiddle to a chimpanzee," according to one movie critic, in his latest film, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The special-effects adventure, co-starring Freida Pinto and John Lithgow, thrashes its competition, topping the box office for two consecutive weeks with a $179 million worldwide gross.
Franco stars as the titular Oz the Great and Powerful in the Disney prequel, which shows how magician Oscar Diggs becomes the legendary figure. Despite tepid reviews, the film, which costars Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams, opens at No. 1 with an almost $80 million haul. The next month, the actor appears as a rapper in Spring Breakers.
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): ABC; Sony; Chuck Zlotnick/FOX Searchlight; Getty; Everett; Disney