Ahead of his Oscars co-hosting gig, here’s last July’s New York Magazine profile:
Plenty of actors dabble in side projects — rock bands, horse racing, college, veganism — but none of them, and maybe no one else in the history of anything, anywhere, seems to approach extracurricular activities with the ferocity of Franco.
Take, for instance, graduate school. As soon as Franco finished at UCLA, he moved to New York and enrolled in four of them: NYU for filmmaking, Columbia for fiction writing, Brooklyn College for fiction writing, and — just for good measure — a low-residency poetry program at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. This fall, at 32, before he’s even done with all of these, he’ll be starting at Yale, for a Ph.D. in English, and also at the Rhode Island School of Design. …
Franco says all of his pursuits are possible, at least in part, because he’s cut down on his acting, but he’s still doing plenty of that. In the next year or so, he’ll be appearing in the films Eat, Pray, Love (as Julia Roberts’s boyfriend), Howl (as Allen Ginsberg), 127 Hours (as the one-armed hiker), Your Highness (a medieval comedy), William Vincent (an indie film by one of his NYU professors), Maladies (put out by his own production company), and Rise of the Apes (a prequel to Planet of the Apes). And of course there’s his epically weird stint on General Hospital — the crown jewel in the current science project of his career.
All of which raises a small army of questions:
(1) Can James Franco possibly be for real?
(2) If he is, then — just logistically — how is all this possible?
(3) And perhaps the biggest mystery of all: Why is Franco doing it? Are his motives honest or dishonest? Neurotic or healthy? Arrogant or humble? Ironic or sincere? Naïve or sophisticated? Should we reward him with our attention or punish him with our contempt? Is he genuinely trying to improve himself or is he just messing with us — using celebrity itself as the raw material for some kind of public prank?
Watson has lots in common with a top-ranked human Jeopardy! player: It’s very smart, very fast, speaks in an uneven monotone, and has never known the touch of a woman.
A member of a generation that seems to have lost interest in the idle pleasures of sleepaway camp, Anna has spent the last three summers working on an ibex farm in the Catskills, just ninety minutes from her Manhattan home. Anna’s parents, Leslie Wilhelm, an editor of style and fashion books, and Walter Gilliam, a partner at a boutique investment firm, love that they can see their daughter often. (Williams, Anna’s last name, is a portmanteau of her parents’ surnames.) How often? “The toll collectors on the New York Thruway are becoming close friends,” cracks Anna’s father, referring to the highway connecting New York City to the Catskills. “We’ve always let Anna pursue her dreams, but we like to be able to visit wherever they may take her,” counters Anna’s mother, who has accompanied her daughter on long trips to Uganda, Bangladesh and the Mississippi Delta.
1981: Peter Tosh on the stoop, Sonny Rollins (!) on sax