Who IS James Franco, Anyway?

He’s sexy enough to play James Dean, funny enough to host “Saturday Night Live,” bad enough to play a classic comic book villain, sophisticated enough to be the face of Gucci pour Homme, and brave enough to go gay — twice. James Franco is more than just a pretty face, he’s the kind of actor that at 30 has already earned the respect and admiration of his peers. Ask anyone, from Tinseltown to his hometown: To know James Franco is to love him. In his latest movie, “Milk,” the story of gay activist and San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk, he stars alongside Emile Hirsch and Sean Penn. The flick opened over Thanksgiving weekend, and it already has major Oscar buzz. In it, Franco plays, as he says, “the supporting wife” role, Milk’s lover, Scott Smith. It’s a bold move, but James Franco isn’t your average actor. Here’s what we found out about the man behind all those legends.LOVES: A young, hot, serial monogamist is a rare find in Hollywood, but Franco is a lover — like his character on “Freaks and Geeks.” For four years, he dated actress Marla Sokoloff (aka the snappy receptionist from “The Practice”). After they split, he spent a year with “American Idol” wannabe Ashley Hartman. In 2005, he met the fresh-faced, up-and-coming Ahna O’Reilly. Ever since, he’s kept a constant arm around her, from Maxim parties to red carpet premieres. Although we would love to love him, we respect him for the adorable Ahna. Sure, rumors flew that he hooked up with onetime costar Sienna Miller, that he reportedly rebuffed Lindsay Lohan’s advances days before she went to rehab, that he’s a closeted homosexual who once put an ex-boyfriend in the hospital, but from what we can tell, Franco is a one-woman dude.

CAREER: The successful actor, director, painter, screenwriter, model, and film producer dropped out of UCLA, where he was studying English, when they told him he would have to wait two years to transfer to the acting department. The ambitious teen struck out on his own. It was the gamble that made his career, because soon after, he landed a part in “Never Been Kissed.” His real breakthrough role was playing rocker Daniel Desario in the short-lived, but well-loved “Freaks And Geeks,” where Judd Apatow, noticed his talent and gave him a starring role in “Pineapple Express” and a cameo in “Knocked Up”; more recently, the two created a FunnyorDie.com series of shorts together. He became a big star playing yuppie bad guy Harry Osborn in the “Spiderman” trilogy and won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of rebel idol James Dean. Then, as an established young artist, Franco made a shocking move. He returned to UCLA to complete his undergraduate degree and write a novel. These days, he’s enrolled at NYU and Columbia, pursuing graduate degrees in film and writing. This achiever isn’t just eye candy; he’s got a whole lot of brainpower! According to Vogue, James Franco is “The New James Dean,” but based on his smarts and skills, he seems like the next Clint Eastwood.

CREW: This Northern California boy is a family man, but you don’t have to take our word for it. Check out the short films he made with his family and Judd Apatow. What a son! His younger brother Davey is pretty awesome, too, and they share a brotherly rapport. Here, Franco teaches his brother how to cry on camera:

His poet/writer mother Betty is so cool, he made a video starring her, too:

In addition to hanging out with the family, Franco remains close with the entire Apatow crew, including “Pineapple Express” costar, Seth Rogen. He’s longtime friends with “Spiderman” costar Tobey McGuire — such good friends that he does the occasional free babysitting gig — and can thank his bond with Sean Penn for his role in “Milk.” Next up, Franco will play poet Allen Ginsberg in the upcoming “Howl.”

RANDOM FACTS:

  • Studly Franco is Portuguese, Swedish, and Jewish. But he’s 100% dreamy.
  • For some reason, his nicknames are Ted and Teddy.
  • As a senior, he won “Best Smile” at his high school.
  • James loves to paint. As a kid, he attended the California State Summer School for the Arts.
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