Until about a month ago, all that really registered with us about James Franco were his good looks and that some students at UCLA really didn't want him to be their graduation speaker. All that changed when Franco announced he'd be guest starring on daytime soap stalwart General Hospital, the first pictures of which (at right) — mostly involving Secretive Expressions with a hint of Nefarious Eavesdropping — leaked online this week. Practically overnight, thanks to TV's oldest and most maligned form of storytelling, James Franco went from being just another moderately tall, dark, and handsome actor to being the star of this fall's most unexpected showbiz story. And arguably the most interesting actor in town.
To be fair, after reacquainting ourselves with his diverse résumé, it seems Franco always may have been intriguing. He's an original Apatow acolyte, via Freaks and Geeks; he won a Golden Globe for James Dean and an Independent Spirit Award for Milk; he nailed comedy as a stoner in Pineapple Express; he's about to do a 30 Rock cameo. And on a recent cross-country flight, while watching the execrably cheesy romantic saga Nights in Rodanthe (don't judge; we had to do SOMETHING while eating our Beef Sandwiches of Questionable Origin), we did a double-take when a James Franco look-alike strolled into the movie at the end. "That can't be the actual James Franco," we reasoned. "He wouldn't do this film. Would he?" Turns out he would, and he did. James Franco, it seems, will do anything. He's a decorated dramatic actor with both an action franchise (Spider-Man) and a gift for comedy, who likely could do whatever he wants and what he apparently wants is to go toe-to-toe with a longtime GH hero who suffered a head injury that turned him into a semi-robotic mobster who was once kidnapped by a Swedish megalomaniac who gave him a face transplant and brainwashed him into being half of a pop act that also sells babies. (Okay, that last bit is a lie, but we're talking soaps here: It easily could have been true.)
This latest move not only takes the cake, but frosts it with awesome. Franco essentially is doing something no one has done before: voluntarily, and apparently by his own design, embracing daytime drama. Soaps tend to be treated (unfairly) like a training ground for actors who want to achieve "real" stardom elsewhere, so an artist of James's talent, youth, and fame level choosing to act there, even for two weeks, is like eating lunch alone in the cafeteria for two years only to have the hottest dude in school ask if he can sit with you and share a plate of fries: Nobody wants to look the gift horse in the mouth, but it's awfully hard not to keep one eye on its ass just to make sure it's not secretly peeing on your leg. It feels natural to search for an ulterior motive to this career move: Is it research for a movie role? Did he lose — or win — a bet? Maybe he’s making a play for Total Entertainment Domination, and will by 2010 have also hosted a game show, run a news hour on CNN, and released a hit rap album. Or perhaps Franco is just a cool dude making what's perceived to be an uncool choice simply because — gasp — he thought it sounded like fun. Indeed, based on the photo, Franco is throwing himself into GH with gusto. His eyes are so shifty, his hands so deeply jammed into the pockets of his slick black suit, that he might as well wear a sign saying, "As soon I leave this room, I'm going to pull a gun out of my pocket, chuckle sinisterly, and then deliver an evil monologue to the wall at full volume in the middle of a crowded yet strangely blind-and-deaf public space."
Franco himself is being tight-lipped about his motives and moving along to 30 Rock without any to-do — and that's smart, because the speculation is creating way more buzz than it would if we simply discovered he has a beloved old aunt who still drinks from a Luke-and-Laura coffee mug. And in the end, we don't really care about the hows and whys; we're just fascinated that he's here, there, and everywhere. Joining General Hospital, and acting like it's just another gig, displays a ballsy disregard for conventional Hollywood wisdom, and adds a line to his résumé that has already generated more discussion than all the Spider-Man movies combined. For any ridicule Franco may get, he’s created twice as much intrigue — making him not only a clever actor, but a versatile and surprising one. So next year, when commencement rolls around again, we hope someone offers Franco the chance to give that speech. It'll probably be a doozy. Especially now that he’ll be able to deliver it while staring longingly into middle distance as one perfect tear rolls down his cheek.
For more of the Fug Girls, check out Go Fug Yourself.
Most Viewed Stories
Everything We Know About Brad Pitt’s Plane Incident
It’s Time to Get Over Your White Feelings and Start Taking Action for Black Lives
Kim Kardashian Might Vote for Donald Trump
Jaden Smith on the Many Subtle Flavors of Water
25 Famous Women on Being Alone
22 Intimate Lost Photos of Marilyn Monroe
If You See Brad Pitt As a Fallen Hero, It’s Because the Rules Have Changed
Taylor Swift’s Squad Begged Kim Kardashian for Mercy
What Fashion Week Is Like When You’re Not a Sample Size
Bask in the Glory of This Dramatic Email Sent to a UCLA Freshman by Her Future Roommate
From Our Partners
The Zoe Report
powered by PubExchange
The Cut’s Latest Fashion FeaturesCiara's Wedding Dress Was Too Big for the Chapel
To be fair, it was a 13 foot-long dress.You and Rihanna Will Both Want to Invest in Dior’s New Bag
It's got something for everyone.Polo Shirts Have Turned Their Back on Ryan Lochte
Along with his other major sponsors.Ryan Lochte Will No Longer Be Paid to Wear Tiny Bathing Suits
Speedo remains committed to transparency.Laura Brown Is the New Editor-in-Chief of InStyle
After 11 years at Harper’s Bazaar.Tyra Banks Is Going to Teach a Class on Smizing at Stanford
"If I see somebody not paying attention, I’m gonna call on them."This Floating Pier Is the Most Zen Installation Ever
Walking on water in Italy.Nation Is Appalled by Matt Lauer’s Nude Ankles During Ryan Lochte Interview
What’s the opposite of “Jeah”?8 People at the Life of Pablo Pop-up Explain Why Kanye West Is a God
"I mean, Kanye West is just Kanye West. There's not more or less you can say about Kanye West. He's just Mr. West!"A T-shirt Is Enough
Simplicity, versatility, and cool. What more could you want?
She took a perfect pencil dive off a 30-foot yacht.American Apparel Is Being Sued by Former Workers
As the company considers putting itself up for sale.A Gendered History of the Tailored Suit
From Marlon Brando to Coco Chanel.How Zendaya Developed Such Great Style at the Young Age of 19
The star's best looks from Disney to now.Proof That If You’re Chic Enough, a Little Federal Investigation Doesn’t Matter
Is this the best they could do?5,300-Year-Old Mummified Iceman Probably Would’ve Been a Street-Style Star
He had several different looks and was “pretty picky.”J.Crew Has Identified 226 Shades of Pink
Even more than there are shades of gray.Gigi and Bella Hadid Merch Is Now Somehow a Thing That Is Happening
Today in Hadidiana.Gird Your Loins for the Return of Yeezy to New York Fashion Week
The season approaches.This Indie Brand Had a Great Response to Ivanka Trump
When she bought one of their cuffs, they donated the proceeds to the Clinton campaign.