Date of Birth: April 19th 1978
Franco was born in Palo Alto, California to Betsy Franco (née Verne), a poet, author and editor, and Doug Franco. His maternal grandmother, Mitzi Verne, runs the Verne Art Gallery, a prominent art gallery in Cleveland, Ohio. Franco's father is of Portuguese and Swedish descent, while his mother is Jewish, a descendant of immigrants from Russia. Franco grew up in California with his two younger brothers, Tom and David, and graduated from Palo Alto High School in 1996, where he was elected by his senior class as the boy with the "best smile". He then enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles as an English major, and studied acting. Much to the disapproval of his parents, he dropped out after his freshman year and chose to pursue a professional career as an actor, taking acting lessons with Robert Carnegie at Playhouse West. After fifteen months of training, he began auditioning in Los Angeles, California and got his first break in 1999, after he was cast in a leading role on the short-lived but well-reviewed television series Freaks and Geeks. Franco has since described the series as "one of the most fun" work experiences that he has had.
Franco's first major film was the romantic comedy Whatever It Takes (2000), where he met his co-star, now ex-girlfriend Marla Sokoloff. He was subsequently cast as James Dean in director Mark Rydell's 2001 biographical TV film of the same name. The role brought Franco much critical acclaim, and he was distinguished in 2002 with a Golden Globe Award, as well as nominated for an Emmy Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award. Franco was originally considered for the lead role of Peter Parker in the film version of Spider-Man, but was instead cast in the supporting role of Harry Osborn, the son of the villainous Green Goblin. Actor Robert De Niro handpicked Franco to play his son in the drama City by the Sea. Both Spider-Man (2002) and Spider-Man 2 (2004) were very well-received critically and commercially. Franco has also co-starred with Neve Campbell in Robert Altman's The Company (2003).