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Stars and Scholars: James Franco

Apr 08, 2011

While his performance co-hosting this year's Academy Awards may have been panned by many critics, James Franco is still among the biggest names in entertainment. But the actor isn't only a Hollywood heartthrob, he's also an academic overachiever who seems to defy the limits of what's possible.

James Franco Academy Awards Oscars Milk Pineapple Express James Dean movie star genius yale ucla graduate degree NYU teaching student MFA Columbia University Rise of the Apes

By Douglas Fehlen

Incredible Creative Output

James Franco can make even the most accomplished people feel like underachievers. Certainly the actor's film credits are impressive, including movies that have both garnered critical acclaim and proved box office blockbusters. Captivating performances in Milk, James Dean and 127 Hours represent only a few examples of Franco's amazing talent. For the latter film, the star was nominated for an Oscar at the very Academy Awards ceremony he co-hosted with Anne Hathaway.

It is hardly his acting chops, however, that differentiate Franco from other celebrities in Hollywood. Instead it is . . . everything else. The prodigiously gifted actor has many talents that extend beyond performing onscreen. For instance, Franco has published a book of short stories called Palo Alto, titled after the city in which he grew up. He is also a painter and video artist who has recently exhibited his work at a New York gallery.

In addition to these interests, Franco has explored virtually every creative role in film and performance. He has written screenplays, served as a film director and will produce a multimedia musical production in April. He's undertaken all of these pursuits while still acting in some of the biggest films to be released on the big screen.

James Franco Academy Awards Oscars Milk Pineapple Express James Dean movie star genius yale ucla graduate degree NYU teaching student MFA Columbia University Rise of the Apes

Screen Star as Student

Perhaps the most impressive thing about James Franco's prolific creative output is that he is doing it all while amassing some major credibility as a superhuman scholar. The actor has multiple college degrees and he's working toward several others. In 2008, Franco earned a bachelor's degree in English at UCLA; he completed the program in just two years while taking more than 60 credits per quarter. The actor also completed two advanced degrees last year, including a master's in writing at Brooklyn College and an MFA at New York's Columbia University.

In addition to these degrees, Franco is on schedule to complete at least three additional academic programs in the coming years. He's expected to graduate in the spring with a master's degree in film from New York University. Add to that Franco's current enrollment in Yale's English doctorate program and an in-process advanced degree in poetry from Warren Wilson College (located in North Carolina) and the actor will have at least six degrees with more likely on the way.

Just as the multi-faceted Franco has transitioned from being onscreen to also working behind the camera, he'll be making the move from college student to that of professor. This year, Franco will teach a film editing class at Columbia College Hollywood in Los Angeles. And NYU, soon to be another of Franco's alma maters, just announced that the actor will teach a graduate class on adapting poetry into film.

While attending to all of these academic matters, Franco is set to work on and promote several films in the near future, including 2011 releases like Your Highness and The Green Hornet. It begs the question how the A-list actor can also maintain high marks in the classroom. Professors at the institutions Franco attends insist that the actor puts in as much work as anyone else, a remarkable fact given his extraordinary day job as movie star.

Learn about the multi-talented Rashida Jones, best known for playing the role of Karen on NBC's The Office.


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