He’s played silver-screen legend James Dean, swapped his sexual preference (on more than one occasion) and played Peter Parker’s best friend - undeniably James Franco is one talented dude. Here, we track his most exciting roles to date, including his first stab at directing...
Fresh from his breakthrough role as Daniel Desario on hit TV series Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000), Franco stepped into the shoes of silver-screen legend James Dean, in a biopic made by HBO. He made sure that having Hollywood good-looks wasn’t his only comparable feature with Dean, by immersing himself in his idol’s passions to prepare for the part. Franco took up smoking, learnt how to play the guitar and the bongos, and how to ride a motorcycle – winning a Golden Globe award for his efforts.Rent Watch Trailer
After his success at the Golden Globes, Franco went on to play Peter Parker’s best friend Harry Osborn, opposite Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in Spider-Man. With acclaimed director Sam Raimi in the director’s chair, the new adaptation received rave reviews, and went onto become the first film to pass the one hundred million mark over a weekend. Franco signed up for two more films after the flying success of the franchise.Rent Watch Trailer
After watching Franco’s compelling performance as James Dean, Robert De Niro personally requested the rising star to play his drug using son, in City by the Sea. Although the film didn’t receive critical acclaim or perform brilliantly at the box office, City by the Sea warrants a deserved mention as it sees Franco sharing on-screen time with one of Hollywood’s most heavyweight actors. This challenging role allowed Franco to step out of his pretty-boy comfort zone and get to grips with his seedier side.Rent Watch Trailer
Less than 10 years after Franco stepped onto the acting scene, the now established actor decided it was time to cut his teeth as director, on a small project entitled Fool’s Gold (not to be confused with the sun-soaked feature, starring Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson). Franco wrote, starred and directed the comedy which cost approximately one million dollars to make, funded by Rabbit A Productions. This marks a massive stepping stone in the actor’s career, who has since gone onto to direct seven other titles.
Between 2005 and 2008 Franco was kept busy acting in a few films, one of which included Spider-Man 3. However, the next worthy film of note on Franco’s list is undoubtedly Pineapple Express. Writer and co-star Seth Rogan originally envisaged that he would play the character of drug-dealer Saul Silver, but handed it over to Franco during the audition process. This crime-caper also allowed Franco to work with big-time producer Judd Apatow, who backed this cool comedy.Rent Watch Trailer
The story of gay activist and politician Harvey Milk, played by applauded actor Sean Penn, sees Franco playing yet another real person as Milk’s lover Scott Smith. Gus Van Sant’s feature about the struggle for gay rights emerged as one of the most talked about films’ of 2008, with six Academy Award nominations and two wins. Interestingly, director Oliver Stone was originally attached to the project until Van Sant signed on.Rent Watch Trailer
Two years after the success of Milk, Franco stepped back from playing the lead part to make a cameo appearance in Date Night. With Tina Fey and Steve Carrell heading up an all-star cast, Franco lends his talents to the role of white trash criminal, Taste. The American actor shares a brief scene with on-screen girlfriend Mila Kunis, who both flee the scene when they discover that their criminal lifestyle is catching up with them.Rent Watch Trailer
Based on true memoirs, Eat Pray Love tracks author Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey of self discovery across three different countries. Franco joins Julia Roberts on-screen in a modest role, as one of her post-divorce lovers. The film received mixed reviews, coming in behind The Expendables at the US box office. Interestingly, the release of both films saw some Roberts’ sibling rivalry between Julia and her brother Eric, who stars as baddie James Monroe in the Stallone action film.Rent Watch Trailer
This film follows the 1957 obscenity trial of poet Allen Ginsberg and bookstore owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti - who was the first person to publish the sexually explicit poem Howl. The events take place primarily in the court room, but directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman add to the ambiance with monologues, drawings and non-linear flashbacks. Franco’s performance as Ginsberg, has received favourable reviews against the film which is garnering mixed feeling.Rent Watch Trailer
Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours is set to close the BFI 54th London Film Festival, with a release date of 7 January 2011. Based on a true story, Franco plays American mountain climber Aron Ralston who was forced to amputate his own arm, after being trapped by a boulder in Robbers Roost, Utah for nearly five days in 2003. Both Ryan Gosling and Cillian Murphy were rumoured potentials for the role of Ralston, before Franco secured the part.Rent Watch Trailer