All the things I do, I think they’re kind of connected in one way or another... but maybe it looks like I’m just kind of a mad scientist gone off the rails. I don’t know.

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I’d really gotten into film at a certain point. I remember watching “My Own Private Idaho” on VHS. It became my favorite movie. When I first watched James Dean films, I was in high school. And I’d go to San Francisco to see plays. And so I was really into movies and acting, but I was scared.

I loved literature, but I wanted to be creative rather than just a critical studies guy. And so I decided, I’m just going to leave school and pursue acting. And my parents were not happy. They said, “Well, you know we were supporting you because you were going to UCLA, but if you’re not going to UCLA, we’re not going to support you.”

And so I ended up working at the cafeteria at UCLA even though I wasn’t a student there. And there was this photo of Marlon Brando on the wall—it was really weird. I would just look at that picture and be like, “Alright, I’m working in the cafeteria, but Brando’s here, and you know we’re doing it.”

I was not happy with my career. So I saw Judd Apatow after 5 or 6 years, and he was like, “Dude, I always thought of you as a comedic actor, why are you doing all these weird dramas? Why don’t you come back with us?” And I was like, “Yes, please!” So I did “Pineapple Express” and “Milk” that year, and I also went back to school. In one year, everything kind of changed.

Once I got to Los Angeles, I remember having a sort of epiphany—like, “Oh I can do this!” I feel like LA, or California as a whole, contributed to that feeling that I could do what I wanted, or at least try...

Watch James Franco talk about his inspirations and get the entertainment that shaped him, on Google Play.