43 Seriously Strange Facts About James Franco

Penelope Singh

“I don’t need a vacation in the traditional sense, like I would if I had a job I hated.” – James Franco

Whether you love him or hate him, you can’t deny the fact that James Franco is one of the hardest working and dedicated individuals in the entertainment industry, and even beyond. James followed his dreams and became an actor, then decided that wasn’t enough to satisfy his creativity and ended up dipping a toe in practically every form of expression and entertainment. There’s only one James Franco in the world, and no matter how weird or confusing he may be, we’re lucky to have him and learn from him!

James Franco Facts

43. Stacked Cast


To help support Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s “And Action!” program for young and aspiring filmmakers, James Franco starred in a high school student’s first ever short film—Dumpster Diving—alongside Rogen, Nick Kroll, Michael Pena, and Hannah Simone. That’s quite the cast for a first time director, let alone one in high school!

42. Three’s a Crowd

James has two younger brothers, Tom and Dave Franco. Most people probably recognize Dave, as he’s begun to really make a name for himself as an actor. Tom, however, has only dabbled in acting and is most known for being the founder of the Firehouse Art Collective in Berkeley, California.

41. Together at Last

The Disaster Artist is the first time that all three Franco brothers have appeared in the same film together. Dave co-stars with James, while Tom has a much smaller part.

40. A Gap Year and Then Some

It didn’t take Franco long to figure out college wasn’t for him, and he dropped out of UCLA his freshmen year, in 1996. However, after forging a successful acting career, Franco decided to go back about ten years later and ended up graduating with a degree in English literature and a 3.5 GPA. Not too shabby!


39. Live From New York

While attending NYU, Franco began working on a short film about Saturday Night Live cast member Bill Hader, but ended up expanding it to a feature-length documentary about the show itself after creator Lorne Michaels gave him full backstage access. The documentary would sit in limbo for about two years due to legal constraints, until it was finally released on Hulu Plus in 2010.

38. Five Finger Discount

Franco hasn’t been shy about his rebellious behavior growing up, from graffiti to stealing, but his most elaborate criminal act consisted of stealing expensive colognes from department stores and selling them to kids at school. He probably didn’t mention this cologne crime ring when Gucci asked him to be the face of their own fragrance several years later.

37. High, I’m James

When Franco first met with director Danny Boyle to discuss 127 Hours, Boyle thought Franco was high, but after meeting a second time he realized that’s just Franco’s demeanor—cool, calm and collected. But Franco is also best friends with Rogen, so we can’t completely rule out the stoned possibility.

36. Next Best Thing

Franco originally auditioned for the role of Spider-Man in the 2002 film of the same name, but eventually lost out to Tobey Maguire. However, director Sam Raimi saw how talented Franco was and decided to offer him the role of best friend Harry Osborne instead. Franco didn’t even have to audition, and in fact, the casting call was pulled after he accepted the role.

35. A Star Is Born

On March 7, 2013, at the age of 34, Franco was awarded star number 2492 on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

34. Come Back Any Time

Franco has hosted Saturday Night Live four times, which seems like a lot, but when you look up people who have hosted the most, he’s still quite far down the list. But at least that’s twice as many times as his good buddy Rogen, who showed up during Franco’s last monologue to point that out.


33. I Thought Franco Was in This?

Franco was so convincing as the rapper/gangster Alien in Spring Breakers that acclaimed actor Gary Oldman didn’t even know it was him. Oldman saw the film and asked someone where they found that creepy ass guy, to which he was told, “That’s James Franco.”

32. World’s Worst Boyfriend

I’m sure everyone has a horrible story they regret from a past relationship, and Franco is no exception. When he was living in New York, his cat scratched his then-girlfriend in the eye, but he was so swamped with work that he made his assistant take her to the hospital. To be fair, he still feels bad about it.

31. Everyone Remembers Their First

Franco’s directorial debut came all the way back in 2005, when he co-wrote, directed and starred in the film Fool’s Gold. Since then, he has 38 directing credits to his name, 18 of which are feature films, with the rest either short films, documentaries or television episodes.

30. In Your Dreams

Franco was supposed to play Arthur in Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending dream film Inception, but was replaced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt after he had to pull out due to a scheduling conflict.

29. Double Feature

It’s not uncommon for an actor to have more than one film released in the same year, and some even have more than one film released in the same month. And then there’s Franco, who had two movies released on the same day! May 3, 2002 saw the release of Spider-Man and Deuces Wild, both featuring ol’ Jimmy Franco.

28. Thanks for the Memories

Most people hate their part-time jobs, but Franco not only appreciated working at McDonald’s, he also paid respect to the company by writing an essay about his time there for The Washington Post titled “McDonald’s Was There For Me When No One Else Was.” You and me both, James.


27. Before They Were Famous

Franco’s first paid acting gig was in a Pizza Hut commercial that aired during the Super Bowl in the 1990s. He even had a line—well, a word—in it. All he says is “Right,” but he delivers it perfectly—what else would you expect?

26. Real or Fake

Franco may not have any real tattoos, but he has been spotted sporting various temporary tattoos. He was photographed with them all over his arms at one of his book signings, and with the words “game” and “over” on his knuckles. But the most bizarre fake tat was seen on his Instagram account, where he posted a picture of a tattoo of actress Emma Watson on his neck, with the name Emma written underneath.

25. Head in the Clouds

When Franco was in high school, he got fired from two separate jobs for the same reason: reading at work. He was let go from a coffee shop for reading behind the counter—doesn’t feel like that big of a deal—and fired from a golf course for reading while behind the wheel of a golf cart on the driving range—that one feels like a little bit more of a big deal.

24. Based on a True Story

Franco’s critical success generally comes from playing real-life people in films, with three of his four Golden Globe nominations, and two of his wins, coming from films based on true stories. He won for playing James Dean and Tommy Wiseau in James Dean and The Disaster Artist, respectively, but lost for his role in 127 Hours. His other loss came from playing the fictional drug dealer Saul Silver in Pineapple Express.

23. I’d Give My Right Arm

Surprisingly, 127 Hours is the only role that landed him an Oscar nomination, which he ended up losing to Jean Dujardin from The Artist.

22. Franco With a Twist

Whereas most actors start on soap operas and work their way towards film roles—think George Clooney—Franco did the opposite, and purposely sought out a role on a soap opera in 2010 while already an established film actor. He landed a role on General Hospital as the character Franco, an artist and serial killer. So basically he just played himself, minus the whole murdering people thing, I hope.


21. Mama’s Boy

James wasn’t the only Franco to appear on General Hospital—his mom, Betsy Franco, later joined the show and kept the realism going as she played James’s characters mother.

20. Bound 3

Franco and Rogen filmed their shot for shot music video remake of the Kanye West song “Bound 2” while on break during filming for their movie The Interview. It took three hours total to film—three one-hour sessions during their lunch breaks—which, according to West, was still a lot longer than he spent filming the original version.

19. Smokes Let’s Go!

Franco smoked two packs of cigarettes a day to get the full James Dean effect before playing the actor in the biopic. Franco claims he had never smoked before and has since quit.

18. Layers

Franco starred in the 2013 film Palo Alto, which was adapted from a book of short stories, also called Palo Alto, that he himself wrote, based on the memories he had of growing up in Palo Alto, California. That felt like the Russian nesting doll of facts!

17. Never Too Late

Franco might just be the oldest boy to ever have a bar mitzvah, considering he had his at the age of 37, not the traditional age of 13. It was a bit unorthodox but it was official nonetheless, and seemed like quite the star-studded event, as it was hosted by Rogen with appearances from Miley Cyrus, Jeff Goldblum, and Zac Efron.

16. Switch It Up

Franco and Rogen were originally supposed to play the opposite roles in Pineapple Express, but both of them decided it was best to switch. According to Rogen, he floated the idea by Judd Apatow, and then later that day Franco pitched the same idea to him, so it worked out perfectly.

15. You Get a Degree! Part One

Franco was only getting started when he got his degree from UCLA. In 2008, he moved to New York and attended various colleges in pursuit of various degrees. He went to Columbia University for creative writing, the NYU Tisch School of Arts for filmmaking, and Brooklyn College for poetry. Oh, and he also found time to make a trip down to North Carolina to study poetry at Warren Wilson College.

14. You Get a Degree! Part Two

I struggled to get through four years of university for one degree, and here was Franco in 2010, after already getting a handful of degrees, going back to college to study for his PhD in English at Yale. Then, in 2011, while still attending Yale mind you, he enrolled in the Rhode Island School of Design’s literature and creative writing program. I’m exhausted just writing all of those degrees down.

13. Imparting His Wisdom

Not long after earning an MFA from the NYU Tisch School for the Arts, Franco would return to impart his knowledge of film with the current crop of students, teaching the class “Directing the Thesis I.” If you’re wondering how good of a teacher he was, he currently has a 3.9 rating on Rate My Professor, though several students have commented that he would return papers marked with As that he didn’t seem to have ever read. 

12. Student Life

Franco wrote, directed, and starred in his thesis film Broken Tower for NYU, about the poet Hart Crane. It ended up doing a few festivals and was released on DVD and VOD, but was widely panned by critics and audiences, receiving a lowly 20% on Rotten Tomatoes from the critics and an even lower 18% from the fans.

11. Find a Way

Franco has a series on YouTube called Making a Scene where he spins a wheel to randomly select two scenes from two different movies, then finds a way to blend them together to create an episode, that he later films. Episodes include a blend of Dirty Dancing with Reservoir Dogs, and The Dark Knight with Beetlejuice.

10. Not Picky

According to Franco’s IMDB page, he has 147 acting credits, which consist of pretty much any form of visual entertainment, from films to TV shows to TV movies, short films, and miniseries. Included in that list are 14 projects that are complete but not yet released, in post-production or that he is currently filming. 

9. This Is Your Captain Speaking

Franco is a legitimate pilot, having gotten his license to add authenticity to his role as the World War I pilot Blaine Rawlings in the 2006 film Flyboys.

8. Gooble Gobble One of Us

Franco got his first prominent role on the short-lived but critically acclaimed TV show Freaks and Geeks, as heartthrob bad boy Daniel Desario. The show also co-starred Franco’s future collaborator—and best friend—Rogen.

7. Student of the Game

Franco attended Robert Carnegie and Jeff Goldblum’s Playhouse West acting school for 15 months before catching his big break. Insert awkward joke here about Carnegie Hall and practice. 

6. James of All Trades

It would take a while to list everything Franco has accomplished or worked on in his life, as he’s constantly getting involved in new projects and hobbies. Just know that Franco considers himself an actor, director, author, painter, teacher, artist, and photographer, just to name a few, and you’ve gotta admit, he has the work ethic and accolades to back them up.

5. Looky Lou

As an actor, Franco dives deep into his roles and his characters, which means he sometimes goes to extreme lengths to get in the right headspace. This was never more apparent than when he was preparing for his role as a prostitute in the film Sonny. He shadowed an actual male prostitute around for a while, which ended up with him in a room, sitting in a chair with his shirt off, watching the prostitute in bed with another man.

4. Spare Some Change

If for some reason Franco loses everything he has and ends up on the streets, he’ll at least have an idea of what to expect. This is because he actually spent a few nights living on the streets to get a feel for what it’s like being homeless while preparing for his role as a drug addict in City by the Sea.

3. Call Me by Your Name

To the “delight” of many cast and crewmembers on the set of The Disaster Artist, Franco stayed in character as Tommy Wiseau throughout the production of the film, meaning he ended up directing the movie as Wiseau and not Franco. To add even more confusion to the mix, the movie is about Wiseau making his movie, The Room, so Franco was pretending to direct while also actually directing.

2. You Want Fries With That?

Franco needed to support himself after dropping out of college to pursue acting, so he picked up a job at McDonald’s. He utilized his time wisely though, as he would practice different accents on the customers.

1. Con Artist

Working on all of those accents at McDonald’s paid off for Franco in the dating game, as his Brooklyn accent helped him land several dates while working there.

Sources1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46

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