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Spotlight on the Stars: James Franco

Howdy ladies and gentleman For this week’s spotlight piece, I wanted to go ahead and take a look at a rather unique A-lister. Someone who vacillates between humongous Hollywood blockbusters and odd little independent films, always doing his own thing. The A-lister in question? None other than James Franco. He’s many things to many people, but he’s unquestionably a star. He’s given a few incredibly good performances, but he’s never a boring actor to watch. He’s easily one of Tinseltown’s most interesting actors to follow. Almost constantly engaging in some form of art, Franco is at his core, just that…an artist. He may be a bit of a weirdo to some, but he’s an A-lister regardless and deserves this tribute.

Franco wasn’t always considered a “weird” star. He got his start basically as a heartthrob. He first came on to people’s radars when he was cast in the cult Judd Apatow television show Freaks and Geeks, though he became someone to really watch when he played James Dean in the TV movie of the same name. From there, he shot to the A-list by playing Harry Osborne in the Spider-Man trilogy from Sam Raimi. In Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, and Spider-Man 3 he built up his star power, but at the same time he was trying to become a leading man in things like Annapolis, City by the Sea, Flyboys, The Great Raid, and Tristan + Isolde. Between those movies and the Spidey trilogy, he was someone you expected to be a serious actor. That made his comedic turn (a Golden Globe nominated one, at that) in The Pineapple Express all the more interesting. From there, he began to branch out even more, playing Alan Ginsberg in Howl, taking an acclaimed supporting role in Milk, and of course his Oscar nominated tour de force in 127 Hours.

He has since made a name for himself by trying just about anything once. After he made his debut guest starring on television programs in the late 90’s, Franco has gone on to amass nearly 100 roles to his credit. It goes well over 100 when you factor in that in addition to acting, he’s an author, a director, an editor, a producer, and a screenwriter as well. He’s even done the cinematography for one of his filmmaking projects. Lately, between bigger flicks like Oz the Great and Powerful, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and This is the End, he’s lent his talents to smaller works like Spring Breakers and his own filmmaking outings. His directorial projects have included mostly student films and experimental works, though As I Lay Dying is probably the closest he’s made to a traditional piece of cinema, and trust me when I say it’s far from that.

This weekend, Franco has another of his weird directorial endeavors hitting screens in Child of God. It’s a tough watch, adapting this Cormac McCarthy story, but Franco continues to show that he’s got a future behind the camera. I don’t think he’s aced one of these yet, but he’s getting closer and closer. It’s possible that his upcoming William Faulkner adaptation The Sound and the Fury will be another step in the right direction.

It’s probably worth mentioning that he didn’t fare too well as the co-host of the Oscars, but I’ll somewhat defend him by saying that he was far from terrible and wasn’t a choice that made too much sense to begin with. Franco is not a generic leading man, so to try to box him in as a goodwill ambassador of sorts just wasn’t a mixture that was ever going to be a raging success.

Overall, Franco is without question a very talented actor with a wide range of interests. Going forward, he’s got an awards hopeful later this year in True Story, which should at least have him under consideration from the Academy. He’s also got another riotous comedy in The Interview. One day, I think Franco could become a nominee for one of his directorial projects. That day isn’t here yet, but if it does, Franco could very well become the most powerful A-lister in Hollywood. He’s definitely one of the most unique, so it could only be a matter of time here…

Stay tuned for another look at an A-lister next week!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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