The 11 Professions of James Franco

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There was a time when James Franco was just an actor. After dropping out of UCLA at the end of his freshman year, he pursued acting as his dream, taking classes, doing auditions, and eventually landing his big break on NBC’s Freaks and Geeks. Now, nearly 14 years after that show was canceled in the midst of its first season, it’s impossible to categorize Franco with any one title. One month he’s directing a film; the next he’s hosting an art exhibition or announcing himself as a musician. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of all of his careers, so we’ve decided to make it simple for you with our list of James Franco’s 11 Professions.


1. Actor

This is, of course, the vocation most commonly associated with Franco. He began acting in plays during his time at Palo Alto High School and then began taking acting classes after his freshman year at UCLA. Shortly after Freaks and Geeks, his James Dean-good looks landed him a role playing the iconic actor in a TV biopic in 2001. He then achieved international stardom in Marvel’s Spider-Man trilogy. His involvement in 2008’s Pineapple Express and Milk showed off his versatility as an actor, and his role in Danny Boyle’s 2010 film 127 Hours garnered him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.

2. Student

This is where we began to realize that James wasn’t a typical actor. In 2006, Franco’s acting career was in a rut (he had just done Tristan & Isolde), and he decided to switch gears—only, the gear he wanted didn’t quite exist. But somehow James managed to convince UCLA advisors to waive the traditional 19-credit-per-semeseter limit and let him take as many as 62. He finished his undergrad in two years, graduating with over a 3.5/4.0 GPA, but that still wasn’t enough. No, he decided to enroll in four graduate programs: NYU (filmmaking), Columbia (MFA writing), Brooklyn College (fiction writing), and Warren Wilson College in North Carolina (poetry). He is currently a PhD student at Yale University and has also been accepted at the Rhode Island School of Design.

3. Teacher

In March 2011, it was announced that Franco would teach a one-semester course at NYU that dealt with turning works of poetry into films. He has since taught classes in English and filmmaking at USC, UCLA, and CalArts. His students have said that he’s not only present at every class, but he also is really passionate about teaching his subjects.

4. Writer

Franco began his freshman year at UCLA as an English major and then later pursued graduate degrees is various writing programs, so it comes as no surprise that he decided to put his thoughts down on paper. In 2010, he published a collection of short stories called Palo Alto, based upon his experience growing up in the town as well as submissions from others who grew up there. The book got mixed reviews, but that didn’t deter Franco from deciding to turn three of the short stories into feature films later this year. He has also written several screenplays, including the upcoming adaptation of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying.

5. Director

This is another role we might have expected Franco to take on, though probably not as early in his career as he did. Having an educational background in filmmaking led him to venture behind the camera as early as 2007 for small films for school. Since then he has directed a handful of feature and short films including As I Lay Dying and will soon direct Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God. He’s also directed music videos for bands as well-known as R.E.M.

6. Poet

Though Franco has yet to publish any of his poetic work, his collection “Directing Herbert White,” is expected to hit the presses early next year. He has already publicized various poems, including one largely panned poem that he wrote for Barack Obama’s 2013 inauguration titled “Obama in Asheville.”

7. Painter

Franco says he developed a love for painting when he was in high school and attended California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA)—Now this all makes sense! He didn’t even have summers off as a kid. In 2006, he had his first painting displayed at a gallery in Los Angeles and followed up with displays in Europe. Recently, news surfaced that he painted most of the art in his summer comedy This Is the End, and he even painted a mural of the film on a building in Brooklyn. Check out a gallery of one of his murals here.

8. Host/Public Speaker

This is probably the only job that doesn’t require maximum effort from Franco. I mean, can anyone forget that one time Franco stood onstage at the 83rd Academy Awards next to Anne Hathaway in that pink dress and blonde wig? That wasn’t the only time he’s tried his hand at hosting duties. Franco has also hosted Saturday Night Live twice and has also publicly introduced several talks by performance artist Marina Abramovic.

9. Model

We all saw this one coming. Well-known actor? Check. Pretty Face? Check. Multi-million-dollar Gucci endorsement contract? Check. Moving on…

10. Musician

If you’ve made it this far without rolling your eyes, chances are, you’ll find it at least mildly annoying to hear that Franco also makes music. He’s in a band called Daddy (with Rhode Island School of Design friend Tim O’Keefe) and the band’s debut EP, Motor City, is set to be released on Sept. 25.

11.McDonald’s Cashier

That’s right. One of the most ambitious and successful men in Hollywood actually worked at McDonald’s for a short stint after dropping out of college to pursue acting. Apparently, the job was so tempting for him that he gave up his vegetarian diet when he started working there. I have no doubt that in 10 years when he’s probably designing eco-friendly high rises or something, he’ll find a way to use his time serving fast food burgers to somehow inspire his art.