As one of Hollywood's A-listers, James Franco is recognized as one of the most versatile thespians of his generation. He began acting in the late 1990s and achieved international fame for his portrayal of Harry Osborn in the Spider-Man trilogy. Known for his rakish charm and chiseled good looks, Franco has defied expectations by becoming more than a pretty face in Tinsel Town. Styling himself as a latter-day Renaissance man, Franco is also an accomplished film director, screenwriter, film producer, author, painter, and performance artist. Franco has presented his visual art at galleries in America and Europe, including Psycho Nacirema at London's Pace Gallery.
In addition, Franco is known for his insatiable appetite for education. In 2008, Franco was already in his late 20's when he completed his creative writing major at UCLA, needing only two years to do so. Without slowing down, Franco quickly moved to New York City and enrolled in four schools at the same time. He started attending New York University's Tisch School of the Arts for filmmaking, took courses in fiction writing at Brooklyn College, studied poetry at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina, and enrolled in Columbia University's prestigious creative-writing MFA program.
Considering everything on his plate, Franco's time at Columbia was destined to be difficult. Cell phone pictures taken of Franco sleeping during one of his creative-writing lectures famously began to show up on the internet, damaging his reputation as a serious student. To make matters worse for the actor, he reported situations where he wasn't welcomed by other students. Some students questioned his motives for being at Columbia, while others challenged the legitimacy of his degree since universities are notorious for catering to any of their celebrity students who might drive up future enrollment.
"Columbia has a great library, the Butler Library, and I don't think I can go in there anymore," Franco said, before describing an awkward run-in with a fellow student at Columbia. "So I left and I went to the writing building, which is a little more private, but I have to sit there alone in the dark."
Despite these difficulties, to say that Franco made the most of his time at Columbia would be an understatement. Not only was he awarded his MFA by Columbia in 2010, but the actor found enough free time to enroll in Yale, complete a second MFA at NYU, join the cast of General Hospital, and begin shooting the film 127 Hours. On top of that, Franco was able to put his newly honed writing skills to good use when he submitted his first book to literary agents. Published in 2010, the same year that he was awarded his degree in creative writing, Palo Alto is a collection of short stories written by one of Columbia's most famous MFA graduates.
It is important to note that Franco's work at Columbia University has not stopped since he left. Franco's creative writing has appeared in Esquire, the Wall Street Journal, and McSweeney's. Whether or not he returns to Columbia to teach, or offer his insights via a speech, the formidable talent of James Franco undoubtedly remains something of an enigma for everyone involved.