James Franco was born in Palo Alto, California, and his first professional acting role was in a Pizza Hut commercial in 1997, after having recently dropped out of UCLA in the middle of his freshman year. In 1999 Franco was cast in NBC’s Freaks and Geeks, alongside Seth Rogen and Jason Segel. The show was cancelled after one season, but has since developed a cult following.
Franco portrayed 1950s bad-boy James Dean in a TV biographical film in 2001, for which he won a Golden Globe Award. Franco immersed himself in the role, cutting off contact with his family and girlfriend, and taking up smoking cigarettes. (Previously not a smoker, Franco began to smoke two packs a day.)
In 2002 Franco was cast as Harry Osborn in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, and also starred in the two sequels (2004, 2007). Franco was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in 2010 for his portrayal of Aron Ralston in 127 Hours. (Despite his penchant for commitment to a role, Franco thankfully did not actually cut off his arm for this movie.)
Franco re-enrolled in UCLA in 2006, and received an undergraduate degree in English in 2009 with a GPA of 3.5. (Franco received permission to take 62 credit hours a semester, although this author can not confirm how many credits Mr. Franco actually enrolled in.) In 2010 he received a Masters of Fine Arts from Columbia University’s writing program, and is currently pursuing his PhD in English at Yale University.
Franco has taught a class at New York University in filmmaking and production, and began teaching a course at UCLA earlier this year. He is also an adjunct professor of English at UCLA.