Behind the Scenes with James Franco

From hosting the Oscar’s, directing, acting, and teaching, James Franco is a man of many talents. After high school, James attended UCLA and majored in English. To overcome his shyness, he took acting classes while there and subsequently he left after only one year of school. After fifteen months of intensive study at Robert Carnegie’s Playhouse West, James began actively pursuing his dream of finding work as an actor in Hollywood. In just a short time, he landed the starring role on “Freaks and Geeks which has since become a cult-hit.


Although he had been working steadily, it wasn’t until the TNT made-for-television movie, James Dean in 2001 that James rose to fan-magazine fame and got to show off his true talent. Since then, he has been working non-stop. After losing the lead role to Tobey Maguire, James was cast in the role of “Harry Osborne”, Spider-Man’s best friend in the summer 2002 major hit Spider-Man and he returned as Osborne for the next two films in the trilogy.


His next role was in “City by the Sea” in which Robert De Niro personally had him cast, after viewing his performance in James Dean. He continued starring in several films, “Pineapple Express” opposite Seth Rogen, “Nights in Rodanthe” starring Richard Gere and “In the Valley of Elah” starring Tommy Lee Jones. Also starring opposite Sean Penn in “Milk” in which his performance earned him an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actor. Definitely growing out of his shyness, James is turning into a legend of his own.


For his role in “127 Hours”, in 2010, James was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor which was followed by his outstanding performances in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” in 2011, “Oz the Great and Powerful” in 2013, “Spring Breakers” in 2013, “This Is the End” in 2013, and “The Interview” 2014. In 2014, he decided to try acting on Broadway and made his debut in “Of Mice and Men”.


Recently, James starred and directed the feature film “In Dubious Battle” with Selena Gomez, Vincent D’Onofrio, Robert Duvall, Ed Harris, Bryan Cranston and Danny McBride. On directing himself as an actor, he says, “I’ve done it many times before, it’s something I’ve grown used to. As a director you’re viewing everything from above or the outside. You just want to make sure all the pieces are working well together. I’ve acted in enough films that I can feel it from the inside, like okay, this is right… I actually do not like to act in a movie that I am directing. I enjoy directing other actors more. I enjoy the collaboration between directors and actors so much that if I can get away with not being in a movie that I’m directing, I will.”


AMBI Group, the movie development, finance, production and distribution group owned and run by Andrea Iervolino and Lady Monika Bacardi, is financing In Dubious Battle and producing with Rabbit Bandini Productions and That’s Hollywood Pictures Production. The film is based on John Steinbeck’s gritty, realist style novel In Dubious Battle, which portrays the struggle between labor and capital in 1930’s America as close to all-out warfare.


James says, “Acting is an art form and you want to take roles that are challenging. To me, I think playing a dark character is more of a challenge. Not that I want to always play those roles, but it is a challenge and challenges are rewarding and fun.”


James has taken his talent to the classroom as he has taught students at NYU, Columbia, UCLA, and finally USC. “I have been very fortunate. I have had to work hard but have had opportunities to do everything that I wanted. That’s one of the reasons I’m teaching. I’m trying to give back to other people. This is what I want to do now, continue to be creative in a way that I can give back.”


As for the future, James said, “as I start branching out and pursuing my other interests I can say, OK… this is a place where more earnest kinds of exploration can happen.”