James Franco: A Modern-Day Renaissance Man


James Franco continues to explore producing and directing film in addiction to his acting duties. source: nydailynews.com

Michael Williams

Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei and Leonardo da Vinci have all been classified as ‘Renaissance Men’, or as someone whose interests and skills span over many subject areas. Academy-Award nominated actor James Franco—known for his acting, filmmaking, writing, poetry, and teaching skills—has proven himself to be just that.

Franco is most known for his acting, having starred in popular films like Pineapple Express, Milk, 127 Hours and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy.  In addition to being a talented and versatile American actor, he is also a filmmaker, artist, author, poet, teacher and student.

“He is a very talented individual who is very passionate about those different things,”

said University sophomore Giovanni Patrick. “I think when people are passionate about something they naturally strive to be good at it and therefore seem talented.”

Franco is widely known for his blockbuster hits, but he also spends a great deal of his time working on Indie films. Whether he is acting or directing, he devotes the same passion he would as if it were bound for box-office success.

Interior. Leather Bar. was an Indie that Franco co-directed with Travis Matthews. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013. A University student Jake Robbins was one of the leads . Interior. Leather Bar. was a movie that explored both sexual and creative freedom as it attempted to capture the lost 40 minutes of the movie Cruising.

Franco has about 11 movies set to release in 2013, consisting of both mainstream and Indie films. Oz the Great and Powerful and This is the End have already been successful for Franco this year.

In addition to acting, Franco takes pride in his painting. He explained in an interview, “I needed an outlet in high school and came across painting. I’ve actually been painting longer than I’ve been acting. A movie is a collaborative effort, and with painting you just have yourself.” This passion for visual arts developed while he attended the California State Summer School for the Arts.

Franco also enjoys writing novels, memoirs and poems.  He made his writing debut in 2010 with “Palo Alto,” a collection of interconnected short stories that were created using past experiences.  The book received mixed reviews, but The Guardian summed up the responses nicely, stating, “This is a promising debut from a most unlikely source.

Franco also published a small book of poems titled “Strongest of the Litter” in 2012 and currently his newest book, “A California Childhood,” is available for purchase. Franco explores the meaning of a memoir in his newest release by incorporating paintings, personal photos, poems, sketches and stories. On August 9, Franco will be talking about this book at the Strand Bookstore on 828 Broadway. In order to attend the event, one must purchase the book or buy a $25 Strand Bookstore gift card.

Franco will be releasing two more books in the near future: “Actors Anonymous” on October 15, 2013 and “Directing Herbert White: Poems” on April 15 of next year.

James Franco continues to be a ‘Renaissance Man’ by working as a teacher, taking part in both the arts and intellectual subjects.  He has taught various courses including screenwriting, short film production and feature filmmaking/production at New York University, the University of Southern California and his alma mater, the University of Los Angeles. In his limited free time, he is a student and pursuing his Doctorate at Yale University.

Cory Jeacoma, a sophomore at the University explained, “It’s awesome that he chooses to spread his knowledge to the next generation and how he dabbles in a bit of everything. I feel like that is a reason he is such a talent, because of the fact that he doesn’t limit himself.”