James Franco was ‘Definitely Not Too Good to Work at McDonald’s’

May 14, 2015

“All I know is that when I needed McDonald’s, McDonald’s was there for me. When no one else was.” –James Franco

In high school, A-list actor-to-be, James Franco, was arrested for underage drinking, graffiti, and stealing cologne from department stores which he’d then sell to his classmates. For these offenses, he faced the possibility of juvenile hall, but a judge granted him a second chance. “It was teen angst. I was uncomfortable in my own skin. I was shy. I changed my ways just in time to get good grades,” Franco told the Guardian.

Applying himself academically enabled James to attend UCLA. He’d secretly longed to be an actor, but feared rejection; thus, he decided to major in English. In a recently penned op-ed letter to The Washington Post, Franco explains, “I soon realized that half the city was working in the movie industry and the other half was trying to get into it, and because I hadn’t applied to the theater department as an incoming freshman, I would have to wait two years to even apply.” Refusing to wait what seemed like an unbearably long two years, Franco left UCLA after only one year of studies, and spent over a year learning the craft of acting at Robert Carnegie’s Playhouse West in the valley. He wrote, “My parents, who both had master’s degrees and valued education, told me I would have to support myself if I wasn’t enrolled in college.”

Franco found himself jobless, with minimal job experience, no car, sleeping on a couch in a valley apartment that he shared with a couple of aspiring actors. “Someone asked me if I was too good to work at McDonald’s. Because I was following my acting dream despite all the pressure not to, I was definitely not too good to work at McDonald’s,” Franco wrote. He visited the closest McDonald’s and was hired immediately. “As soon as I got to McDonald’s and was paying my own way, I started eating the cheeseburgers that were headed for the trash after being under the warming lamps for more than seven minutes. I would also sneak frozen apple bars and eat them in the freezer, still frozen–great with coffee,” he admits.

The resourceful James used his late-shift drive-thru position to his acting advantage by trying out a variety of accents with fast food-ordering customers. For example, one night he might speak with a Brooklynese accent; the next a British one. After three months on the job, he booked a Super Bowl commercial for Pizza Hut featuring a computer-generated Elvis Presley. “From that point on, I could support myself through acting,” James recalls.

James’ breakthrough starring role was the NBC television series Freaks and Geeks, and later he received a Golden Globe Award for his portrayal of James Dean in the biographical TNT made-for-television film James Dean. But it was his role of Harry Osborn, the best friend of Spider-Man and the son of Green Goblin, that brought about worldwide fame in the 2002 Spider-Man. Franco has been constantly working on projects since whether he’s acting, writing, producing, or directing. But on top of that, he’s been described as an “extreme scholar” who has accumulated academic credits via studying while on film sets. He has earned a BFA in English from UCLA, has two MFA degrees in writing from Columbia University and Brooklyn College, and yet another MFA in film from New York University. And that represents a mere portion of his academic accomplishments.

He has also authored eight books…and now add to that list his op-ed in support of McDonald’s, their French fries, and how much he appreciated his time while working there!