James Franco spoke to Cornell’s graduating class this weekend and gave them plenty of advice about how to pursue their dreams, bringing up his own past as a McDonald’s worker and encouraging them to try new things.
Franco shared his own stories about working his way to the top, saying his parents announced they wouldn’t help him if he didn’t go to college.
“My parents said that they would no longer support me if I wasn’t in college, so I got a job at the only place that would hire me —Mcdonald’s. At the time, I knew that I wanted to be an actor at any cost… If I wasn’t taking orders at the [Mcdonald’s] drive through, I was rehearsing scenes with my classmates — often when I was at the drive through window, I was practicing different accents,” James said.
Franco is a perfect commencement speaker. Not only is he an accomplished actor who has spent time on Broadway and earned Academy Award nominations, he also has five degrees and is working on a doctorate. He has also taught several classes at USC and NYU, but this weekend’s speech wasn’t about garnering accolades for his accomplishments. Rather, Franco spoke seriously about what it takes to get ahead in life while peppering in a few jokes. James recalled hearing Steve Jobs speak at his own graduation.
I will TEACH a
filmmaking and acting class
In NEW YORK this SUMMER!
We will… https://t.co/8zSZcqX22m
— James Franco (@JamesFrancoTV) May 19, 2016
“He told us before dropping out of Reed, he took a calligraphy class which led to all the different fonts that are now available to Mac users. So take that as a lesson — learn calligraphy and you too may have a movie made about you starring Michael Fassbender… You don’t have to lose your mind and go to every school like I did, but be a bit like Steve Jobs – every once in a while, try a calligraphy class, because you don’t know where it will lead,” Franco said.
Despite all his time spent in educational institutions, Franco hasn’t always been embraced by the students to whom he’s supposed to be giving speeches to. In 2009, he was scheduled to speak at UCLA but cancelled after receiving backlash from the graduating class, who felt he was one of their peers rather than someone with enough experience to give them advice. James shrugged it off, saying none of them had bothered to vote for who the speaker would be in the first place.
In 2012, Franco said that to give a commencement speech is harder than it looks.
“Commencement speeches are the worst kind of speech, because you need to be enthusiastic and inspiring in your own voice. There is nothing cheesier than that. No wonder Will Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen gave their Harvard speeches in character.”
James Franco has been as busy as ever, with his most recent project a remake of the 1996 Lifetime movie, Mother May I Sleep With Danger. While the first film was about a teenage girl whose jealous boyfriend turned out to be a murderous psychopath, the second will take a bit of a turn. Tori Spelling — who played the high schooler in the original — will play the mother in the remake and will discover that not only is her daughter gay, she’s in love with a vampire. Franco will make an appearance in the movie, as well as executive produce.
While Franco may take on projects that aren’t so much in the realm of “serious acting” — he’s well known for several roles in which he plays a stoner — he says his own life is the exact opposite.
“If you know anything about me, you probably know that I’ve played a lot of characters who actively partake in the use of marijuana. Actually, that’s often the only thing people know about me. And I don’t know whether I should take that as a compliment of my acting abilities – because I actually don’t smoke weed – or if I just have a naturally stoner’s demeanor that lends itself to movies like Pineapple Express and This Is the End. But in fact, for most of my adult life I’ve done the opposite of checking out – I’ve been struggling to find a way to check in,” James said.
[Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images]