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Way Back When: James Franco

James Franco
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You know him best for his roles in movies like the ‘Spider-Man’ trilogy and ’127 Hours,’ and you can see him next spring in ‘Oz: The Great and Powerful,’ but in today’s Way Back When, we take a look at the early career of James Franco.

‘Pacific Blue’

Franco’s first acting role was on a 1997 episode of the television series ‘Pacific Blue.’ The official synopsis from IMDB is way better than anything we could imagine: “Sexy cops on bicycles patrol Santa Monica’s beach district.” Yeah, and this show somehow lasted four years. TV, you are so mysterious sometimes.

Anyway, Franco played Brian, a guy who gets in trouble with his boss at a bike shop (called “Vicious Cycle”) when he doesn’t… well, we can’t really figure out what he did wrong in the clip below, but it leads to Franco getting his ass kicked by a guy in khakis.

‘Profiler’

In 1999, Franco starred in this episode of the TV show ‘Profiler,’ about a detective on the Violent Crimes Task Force who helps the FBI with particularly heinous crimes — so it’s like ‘Law & Order: SVU,’ but worse somehow. Franco played Stevie in the episode “Three Carat Crisis,” and it looks like Stevie’s in some hot water when he knocks up his no-good brother’s girlfriend. Oops.

‘Never Been Kissed’

Franco’s first legit movie role was in the underrated 1999 rom-com ‘Never Been Kissed,’ starring Drew Barrymore and David Arquette. Barrymore plays an awkward reporter who goes back to high school to write an expose, but winds up trying to re-write her own history. Franco plays one of the dopey popular kids, and you can check out a supercut of his brief scenes in the video below:

‘Freaks and Geeks’

From 1999 to 2000, Franco played burnout Daniel Desario on the woefully short-lived TV series ‘Freaks and Geeks.’ In one of the best episodes, Daniel has been sentenced to help out the AV club, where the geeky kids convince him to join them for a game of Dungeons & Dragons in one of the series’ most oddly heart-warming moments, made even better when Daniel named his D&D character “Carlos the Dwarf.”

‘If Tomorrow Comes’

This is probably one of the most awesomely, amazingly awful trailers we’ve ever seen — the kind of trailer that feels like a revelation. Franco starred in this 2000 movie called ‘If Tomorrow Comes,’ which is like, softcore porn meets a Larry Clark movie shot on the cheapest video camera they could find back then. This trailer makes the year 2000 seem like 1987. In it, Franco plays a guy named Devin who is apparently gay but also not, and has to shoot a guy he doesn’t want to kill. The official synopsis on IMDB is one of the most confusing things we’ve ever read:

“Lost in his constant search for a mother he never knew and a father who spent his life as a petty criminal, James Franco as Adam Blande [sic] updates the James Dean mythical figure in this gripping, character-driven thriller.” Yeah, okay. Enjoy the hilarious trailer:

‘Whatever It Takes’

Franco starred in this modern-day remake of the tale of Cyrano DeBergerac, in which he plays the cocky fool who pines for the one girl in school he hasn’t been able to bed — an intelligent and beautiful young woman who isn’t so easy to get. He seeks the help of her best guy friend to make him seem smart enough to attract her, but obviously she uncovers his plan. In the scene below, Franco gets tied to a bed while wearing a banana hammock. Ladies, enjoy:

NEXT: See Chris Pratt Before He Was Famous

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