James Franco


  1. Ashton Kutcher, That 70s Show, TV, 1998-2006.   All about teens in  Wisconsin  (first title had been Teenage Wasteland). Michael was  the pretty boy and  dumb, of course.  Franco auditioned but Kutcher won the role. And the girl, Mila Kunis,14 to his 23. She’d told the suits she was 18 next birthday (without specifying an y partIcular  year!)  and he was with Demi Moore. Six years after the series folded, they met up again, dated, wed in 2015, and have two children. Another title had been:The Kids Are Alright.
  2. Tobey Maguire, The Cider House Rules, 1999. Author John Irving went through four directors before settling on the Swedish Lasse Hallström to handle what Roger Ebert called a David Copperfieldish story (or, indeed, stories). For Homer, finally leaving his orphanage and surrogate father Michael Caine (winning his first Oscar), Hallström looked at The Class of ‘97 – Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, James Franco, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ethan Hawke, Edward Norton, Ryan Phillippe, Mark Wahlberg, Paul Walker. And chose Leonardo DiCaprio, who passed it to his (monotoned) pal, Maguire. 
  3. Tobey Maguire, Spider-Man, 2001.   Franco tested for  the role of Spidey’s alter-ego, Peter Parker – and his pal won  it. No matter, director Sam Raimi kept Franco on board as the son of the psychopathic villain,  Green Goblin.
  4. Jonathan Bennett, Mean Girls, 2003.   James was up for  Aaron Samuels, in Tina Fey’s first movie script seet but not shot in Chicago’s wealthy North Shore area. And based on the lessons of Rosalind Wiseman’s non-fiction hit (wait for it):  Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence.
  5. Orlando Bloom, Elizabethtown, 2004.  Auteur Cameron Crowe’s second misstep in six films (after Vanilla Sky, 2001).He  wrote shoe-designer (!) Drew Baylor for Bloom. When he was committed to Kingdom of Heaven,Crowe read other possibles: Franco, Chris Evans, Colin Hanks, Christopher Masterson, Sean William Scott – and chose Ashton Kutcher (!) until he projected zero chemistry with co-star Kirsten Dunst. Bloom be came free, created shoes yet little magic with Dunst. They were far from Tom Cruise-Renée Zellweger Mk II.
  6. Brandon Routh, Superman Returns, 2005.
  7. Stephen Dorff, Black Water Transit, 2008.     Franco was Nicky when Vin Diesel was set to star in the previous summer in the on/off Bruce Willis project – with eighteen producers. When Diesel quit, so did Franco, Kevin Bacon and Sophia Okonedo.  The next version was never seen in any cinema since its market screening (ie looking for buyers) at the 2009 Cannes festival and so, Transit transferred direct to video.
  8. Seth Rogen, Pineapple Express, 2008.    Rogen wrote Saul Silver for himself – back in  2001. By the time  he was famous enough to attract a budget, he felt co-star Franco (cast as Dale) would be funnier and swopped roles with him
  9. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Inception, 2009.    Or Gordon-Levitation… after he succeeded the too busy Franco as Arthur in UK director Christopher Nolan’s thriller  within…  the architecture of the mind.
  10. Josh Brolin, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, 2009.    Among six possible replacements for the over-fatigued  Spanish star. Director Oliver Stone decided upon his from his 2008 study of George W Bush. The sub-title stems from a Michael Douglas-as-Gordon-Gekko line in the first, 1987  film.

  11. Chris Pine, This Means War, 2010.  .    Director McG first selected Franco and Bradley Cooper as the two CIA buddies falling for the same bird. Even if she is Reese Witherspoon.   Otherwise Colin Farrell, Bradley Cooper, Sam Worthington warring with Seth Rogen or Justin Timberlake. Way back at the turn of the century, it was to be Martin Lawrence v Chris Rock. But they’d all read the script.  As Chicago critic Roger Ebert put it “So bad it’s nothing else but bad.”
  12. Garrett Hedlund, On The Road, 2010.  Argentina-Brazil-Canada-France-Germany-Holland-Mexico-UK-US. 2010. Francis Coppola tried to write a script but “never knew how to do it.”  Numerous attempts were made at filming Jack Kerouac’s 1957 “beat” classic. He even mused on playing himself (or his aka Sal Paradise) in 1957 opposite Marlon Brando as Neal Cassady (aka Dean Moriarty). Marlon never replied to his invite, probably thinking it was a fake. 1979: Francey bought the rights. 1995:  He planned a 16mm black-white version with “beat” poet Allen Ginsberg. (Johnny Depp declined in the 90s).2005: Joel Schumacher helming Billy Crudup-Colin Farrell…or Brad Pitt-Ethan Hawke. Finally, Coppola & Son (Roman) and 26 other producers (!) had Brazilian Walter Salles directing English Sam Riley, Australian Garrett Hedlund – and Kristen Stewart  as Mary Lou, once offered to Lindsay Lohan and Winona Ryder. Salles also checked Joseph Gordon-Levitt-James FrancoHedlund first committed in 2007.

  13. Toby Kebbell, Wrath of the Titans, 2011.     Far too busy to join the Clash of the Titans sequel as Agenor what with being the 2011 Oscars host with an Oscar nomination, five films  in  pre-production, recording an album, writing short stories, opening his own art exhibition, studying  a  PhD in English at Yale and  digital art at the Rhode Island School of Design… and preparing his directing debut.
  14. Jesse Eisenberg, While We’re Young, 2011.    Impossible to help Ben Stiller loosen up  – because he was shooting  Oz: The Great and Powerful. His intended co-star Cate Blanchett also quit due to scheduling and was replaced by Nicole Kidman’s usual sub, Naomi Watts. 
  15. Aaron Johnson, Savages, 2011. Like Leonardo  DiCaprio, Tom Hardy and  Garrett Hedlund, Franco  was far too busy to take up Oliver Stone’s  drama about two pals growing such great pot that Mexican drug lords threaten to kill their girl  unless they work for their cartel.
  16. Logan Marshall-Green,  Prometheus, 2011.    Among the season’s usual testees chasing Ridley Scott’s (is it?it isn’t/oh yes, it is) Alien prequel – Franco was seen for  Charlie Holloway…. described by Marshall-Green as  “an ESPN X-Games scientist” who leaps before he looks.
  17. Joaquin Phoenix, The Master, 2011.      For his first outing since the  2007 Oscar-winning There Will Be Blood, director Paul Thomas Anderson rushed to Franco to play Freddie when first choice Jeremy Renner had to split  for The Avengers.  Then it became  known that Phoenix was on the comeback trail.
  18. Chris Evans, The Iceman, 2011.    Plan A,  Franco and Benicio Del Toro, became Plan B:  putting Evans and Ray Liotta  on the sidelines of the true story of the Polish-American serial killer Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon).  When caught in 1986, he   had slain more than 100 people.
  19. Peter Sarsgaard, Lovelace, 2012.    Documentary directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman chose Franco (from their 2009 Howl) for the Deep Throat porno star’sabusive “manager”-husband-“Traynor”, Chuck Traynor. However, once Sarsgaard proved available,  Franco was switched to the classier side of the sex industry: Playboy creator Hugh M Hefner. Amanda Seyfried was Linda – killing off a rival Lovelace biopic, Inferno, planned for Malin Akerman and Matt Dillon, with Bill Pullman as Hef. Throatwas the surprise porno-chic phenomenon attracting millions to screenings… including Hollywood gentry Warren Beatty, Johnny Carson, Sammy Davis Jr, Jack Nicholson, etc. It cost peanuts and made gold bars – a global $600m-plus, probably the most profitable movie ever produced.  Franco went on to head the HBO series, The Deuce – as twins in the 70s/80s  New York porno business.
  20. Matthew Goode, Stoker, 2012.     Busy.  Prison Break TV star Wentworth Miller wrote the script – naming it for Dracula author Bram Stoker. Plus an added homage… Franco, Goode, Joel Edgerton, Michael Fassebender and  Colin Firth were seen for the most mysterious Uncle Charlie since Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt some 60 years earlier.

  21. Reeve Carney, Mystery White Boy, 2012.     Busier.  Franco was early in the frame for the singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley . However,  Franco, the  multimedia artist, was into five films, with six other in post-production,  blogging, tweeting, Instagramming,   publishing his  short stories and poetry, dressing as Janet Leigh for a Psycho art work, directing more than  20  films that few have seen and still, found  time for  favourite “performance art” – his recurring role in the ABC daytime soap, General Hospital.
  22. James Marsden, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, 2012.      Busiest. Franco’s schedule didn’t mesh when Matthew McConaughey had to pass on playing JFK in the film based the  White House butler for eight presidents over 30 years. (Marsden looked a teenager).   Franco was co-helming an arty gay  porno,  Interior. Leather Bar inspred by the LA legend  of 40 minutes of hardcore cut by director William Friedkin from  Cruising in 1979.
  23. Damian Lewis,  Queen of the Desert, 2013.      A hot Emmy-winner due to TV’s Homeland, the Welshman took over from Franco, who had substituted  Jude Law as  Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Doughty-Wylie, the war hero lover  of Nicole Kidman – aka the female Lawrence of Arabia.
  24. Adam Driver, While We’re Young, 2014.      Impossible to help Ben Stiller loosen up  – because Franco was shooting Oz: The Great and Powerful. His intended co-star Cate Blanchett also quit due to scheduling and was replaced by Nicole Kidman’s usual sub, Naomi Watts. 
  25. Spencer Rocco LoFranco, The Life and Death of John Gotti, 2016.   According to New York Post, Dominic Cooper (the UK Mama Miastar) was all set to play John Gotti Jr – after Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr, James Franco, Shia LaBoeuf, Jeremy Renner and Channing Tatum withdrew from what was then Gotti: In The Shadow Of My Father. Canada’s LoFranco was perfect for Travolta… unknown, far from A Lists or stealing movies. While Juniors, writers, directors and years sped by, John Travolta remained literally The Teflon Don as Gotti Sr, was known when the untouchable head of New York’s Gambino Mafia family.  When the film finally opened in June, 2018, Gotti was rapidly  sleeping with the fishes,  roasted by critics and was hit – as in mob  hit – by the public, scoring a mere $1.6m opening weekend. Not the first but the biggest disaster of Travolta’s career.
  26. Boyd Holbrook, The Predator, 2017.   Clashing schedules forced Benicio Del Toro out and Holbrook, the Logan villain, in. Not the promised re-boot, but a fifth sequel as auteur Shane Black was less keen on starting all over than exploring the creature’s pathway. He had rôle in the in the original 1986 chapter – so as to be around for any re-writing!










 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  26