Over the past few years, as he’s pursued everything from art, filmmaking, and writing to soap opera acting — in addition to his highly successful movie career — we have wondered, “What is James Franco thinking?” Tonight, when his Inside the Actors Studio episode aired, we finally got some answers. After the jump, we’ve listed every insight we gleaned from the interview, from Franco’s wild times with Nicolas Cage to the actors he loved as a teenybopper to his favorite curse word.
1. James Franco’s parents, both painters, met at Stanford, where they studied art.
2. The name “Franco” is Portuguese.
3. Franco’s mother is descended from Russian Jews, meaning that he is technically Jewish.
4. His mom writes children’s books and recently published a novel, Metamorphosis.
5. He has two younger brothers. One, Dave (who Franco calls “Davy”), was in the audience and said Franco gave him a tough time as a kid.
6. Franco used to steal cologne from Macy’s fragrance counters and sell it out of his gym locker.
7. Because of his bad behavior as a teenager, he became a ward of the court.
8. He used to want to be a marine zoologist.
9. Franco was a teenage fanboy: “Secretly, I wanted to be an actor. I know this because I had pictures of actors all over my wall from a very young age. I had, like, Johnny Depp on my wall, I had River Phoenix.” Hmm…
10. He dropped out of UCLA because they wanted him to wait two years before auditioning for their acting program.
11. Franco learned to act at the West in Los Angeles, where his teachers included Jeff Goldblum and Robert Carnegie.
12. Since his parents refused to support him after he left college, Franco got a job at McDonald’s.
13. To prepare for the role of James Dean, Franco cut himself off from his friends and family: “I called up my family, said, ‘I’m not gonna talk to you for three or four months.’ I told my friends I wasn’t going to see them, and I told my girlfriend that I wasn’t gonna talk to her, either. She was the most mad. She almost killed me.”
14. A five- to six-minute action sequence, such as the ones in the Spiderman films, can take Franco upwards of a month to prepare for.
15. When Franco was researching his role as a gigolo in Nicolas Cage’s directorial debut, Sonny, he and Cage went to male strip clubs together to talk with the dancers.
16. Originally, Seth Rogen was supposed to play Franco’s wacky drug dealer in Pineapple Express, and Franco was supposed to play Rogen’s straight-man character.
17. Franco says that Gus Van Sant and Sean Penn are probably his favorite director and actor, and that he would have played a “pizza guy” in Milk if they hadn’t cast him in a bigger role.
18. When he began writing and making films, before going back to school at UCLA, he wouldn’t show anyone his work.
19. Franco has attended no fewer than five different grad schools.
20. When he met with Danny Boyle to discuss a role in 127 Hours, Boyle thought Franco was stoned.
21. While filming the movie’s infamous arm-slicing scene, Franco cut through three custom-made prosthetic arms — one of which was supposedly designed to be impossible for him to get through.
22. Asked whether his short story collection, Palo Alto, is autobiographical, Franco replied, “There’s a lot of me in there.”
23. Franco’s favorite word is “Scotch” — because he likes the way it sounds.
24. He doesn’t like speech tags like “I thought” or “he said” in books.
25. “Sometimes rabbits, like, turn me on.”
26. Embarrassment is Franco’s #1 turn-off.
27. Motown is Franco’s favorite sound.
28. His favorite curse word is “shitburger.”
29. One occupation Franco would never like to try is designing weapons, because it would make you “feel pretty bad about yourself.”
30. He believes that, “If you’re obsessed with something… that… equals talent on a certain level.”
31. Franco also believes that helping people “is the key to life.”