James Franco is a wizard. No, I’m not talking about Oz – there’s just no way he can be an actor/director/model/producer/writer/teacher/philanthropist without some supernatural help. With all that he does, how does he even sleep? I just had to dig into James’ baby years to find out how the Spring Breakers star got his own break.
He wanted to do everything (surprise, surprise)
James Edward Franco was born on April 19, 1978 in Palo Alto, California. Lil James told his mom he wanted to be a “worker man” and dreamed of being a construction worker…then a football player… then a marine zoologist. Given his ever-expanding resume, I’ve got a feeling he’ll still end up with all those jobs.
He was a troublemaker who turned it around
Growing up, James did way more monkeying around than the toddler in this picture suggests. He led family pranks with his little bros, Tom and Dave, and got in trouble in school for graffiti and shoplifting. Luckily, James got out of it by high school and kept busy by watching plays instead.
He started acting for love
James jumped into acting at 17 after learning his girlfriend was supposed to – gasp! – kiss another boy in a play, “It was kind of like, ‘If you’re going to go do that, then I’m gonna do it too,” Franco remembers. “So I did, and I was a lead in the last two plays senior year.” His other graduating accomplishment in 1996? Getting voted best smile!
He was a Freak with Jason Segel and Seth Rogen
After hundreds of auditions in L.A., James got his first break in 1999 at 21 by playing the hot rebel Daniel Desario on Freaks and Geeks. I have no idea how a clever high school show by Judd Apatow that starred James, Seth Rogen, AND Jason Segel only lasted one season. They even made Dungeons and Dragons hilarious in this clip (long live Carlos the dwarf!)!
Protip: if you look like a Hollywood legend, milk it. That’s just what James Franco did in the TV biopic James Dean in 2001. The 23-year-old got Best Actor noms at the Golden Globes, Emmys and Screen Actors Guild awards for his role as Hollywood’s first bad boy and even won the Golden Globe.
He went from bad to good in Spider-Man
At 24, James was shot into stardom after landing the role of Spider-Man villain Harry Osborn in 2002. After years of guilt for crushing on the Green Goblin’s son over Spidey, I was relieved he became a good guy at the end of the blockbuster trilogy. He and Spidey totally look like they’re about to hug it out (and with that smile, why wouldn’t you?).
Great power, great responsibility
Now 34, James has made the move to serious actor with amazing dramas like Milk and 127 Hours, earning his first Oscar nod along the way. Of course, that’s when he’s not being a Gucci model, getting his PhD at Yale, teaching classes at New York University and University of Southern California, or volunteering with dozens of causes. Thank you, James Franco, for getting better and better with age.