James Franco to General Hospital? Marlena’s Top 10!

By Marlena De Lacroix

James Franco to guest star for two months on General Hospital has to be the biggest bombshell news in the decades I’ve watched and written about soaps.  I just heard, and it’s fabulous!  As much as I love soaps, my mind jumped to wise guy remarks, a la David Letterman’s nightly Top 10.James Franco

And I have no shame: here’s my instant Top 10 list.  Marlena challenges you  to add your remarks after mine, all in good fun, of course.

10.  I saw James Franco in his breakout role, James Dean in a TV movie bio of Dean, the first and greatest “younger” star ever.  James Dean was a genius; young Franco displayed genius playing him.  Have you ever heard the word genius being applied to anyone (yes, even the bravura Anthony Geary) on GH?      

9.  This casting dispels the Big Lie told by the soap magazines for the 35 years I’ve been reading them, namely that every soap actor is great. Can you imagine Deke Cheatwood in a scene with Franco?

8.  Steve Burton on the same stage as Franco?  If you thought Burton’s hair stood straight up on his head naturally, you can imagine what it looked like when he heard the news. 

7.  The rumor is, Franco is doing his short two-month stint to research an upcoming movie role.  Are they going to remake Soap Dish?  Franco in the Kevin Kline role?  Or in the Sally Field (a.k.a. Susan Lucci) role?  Can you imagine Franco going to the Paramus Mall to remind himself how popular he is?

6.  Did you hear GH executive producer  Jill Farren Phelps’ statement that she felt so humbled that Franco would choose to “spend time” on GH?   This is the only time this woman has EVER been humbled by anything in her entire life!

5.  Who will be Franco’s leading lady?  Vanessa Marcil’s name is rumored.  That’s a pairing analogous to Sir Anthony Hopkins being teamed with Ashley Simpson-Wentz! 

4.  Don’t you think Sarah Brown (who is the only actress of the right age who would have been fabulous with Franco) is really sorry she’s leaving GH for The Bold and the Beautiful now?

3.  Wasn’t Franco adorable in the best friend part in the Spiderman movies?  Who is going to be Franco’s best friend on GH?  Maurice Bernard?  Laura Wright? (Her Carly is perpetually crooning that she is Jason’s best friend.)

2.  Is Franco coming on to GH as part of a deal with Disney, who makes big movies and owns ABC?  Who’s next?  Mickey Mouse?  The Little Mermaid?

1.  Hadn’t Franco last  left the movie scene to go to school at Columbia University as documented by a gushing article  the New York Times?   How the heck did Franco  ever get from Columbia to … ABC Daytime????  (I know, this isn’t funny, but I’d really like to know!)


  1. Franco played Harry Osborn in the Spider-Man movies. Harry was never adorable. He’s mentally unbalanced.

    That said, it’s a shame that soaps can’t get more A-list stars to make guest stints.

    I’m not sure, however, that Franco has enough popularity to affect GH’s ratings. He’s been a successful supporting and character actor/co-star but he’s never been the lead actor in a successful, widely popular film.

    Marlena says: Excuse moi, JTG! Look at that face, look at Franco’s superb acting; he is adorable and really talented wherever he works!

  2. I certainly can imagine Frons and the rest of the ABC/Disney execs sitting around their table at the Legion of Doom cackling in delight over the prestige factor this will gain them in the trades.

    Barbara Bloom must be getting an earful from Les Moonves: Why didn’t you get him on one of our shows?!!

    Julianne Moore? ATWT’s needs its twin Hughes sisters, Frannie and Sabrina!

  3. I remember reading comments from Susan Pratt and Dustin Hoffman that while she was on General Hospital Hoffman was there doing research for what became Tootsie, for a couple of weeks. It shows in the movie IMO, especially in the casting and actions of Southwest General’s producer, who reminds me of Monty just a little bit.

    Why is GH still the go to soap?

    I thought the same thing about Sarah Brown. To think James Franco will be acting alongside Sam and Jason does not make me want to tune in. If he was acting with Alexis and Diane, then I would be glued to the screen and enjoying every moment.

    Marlena says: I agree totally, David. But let’s not kid ourselves, we’ll all watch, no matter whom Franco is in a scene with. He’s done comedy; I wonder if he’ll be in a scene with Spinelli.

  4. horselover says:

    The show does seem to be on an upswing. Now if we could only get a new head writer and executive producer for the show.

    Marlena says: GH is on the upswing? Only because the kid actors (progeny of Sonny) are so good! In a few years when Guza and JFP are looking for jobs in Hollywood when GH is cancelled they’ll be able to put on their resumes they worked with Franco….and I’m saying this because ABC will never fire these two until the bitter end, I think…

  5. Half right Marlena,
    I love James Franco. Hot. Smoldering. Hot. Hunk. Hot. Sexy. Hot. In every woman who has a libido fantasies. Did I say HOT!!!

    How EVAH. Won’t watch. LOL.
    No, I’m serious. GH is so disgusting and despisable that even seeing a James Franco is not worth watching this show. I cannot get this time back. I can watch other hot smoldering hunky sexy fantasy mind bending libido filling men on other shows, soaps, primetime, heck youtube!

    So let this be a lesson to all you producers who have been feeding us enema pablem dribble, great casting coups won’t save pathetic insulting demeaning plots nor recoup your viewers. And I’m saying this as I’m dumbfounded at the ratings hike Y and R has received while it follows in the footsteps of GH – writing plotlines that completely mastectocize women – Ashley convinced she’s carrying a baby when she isn’t, Sharon being told her baby is dead when it isn’t it’s given to Ashley, Colleen drowns in the lake her dad freezes in and her heart is given to the man who started the whole mess that caused her to find herself in the situation that caused her death. TOO FRIGGIN MUCH.

    NOT WATCHING. Strangely, Bold and the Beautiful’s simple emphasis on family this past year has me in their pocket and I’m not moving. Whouda thunk I’d say that?

    Oh, but for your top 10, yes pair him with Vanessa, and Sarah is chewing her toes off right now for leaving … to play a surrogate mommy on B and B. My gain but come on, James Franco. LOL

    Marlena says: Renee, you scooped me on my long awaited (promised 3 months ago) Y&R column….it makes me nauseated they have gotten a ratings rise out of repeated misogynistic storylines…

  6. Not for nothing, perhaps I’m living under a shell but I do not even know who this guys is… and don’t care… I just want Genie Francis back!

    Marlena says: So do we all, so do we all.

  7. Please forgive me for curbing my enthusiasm…

    With news that Beth Ehlers will be leaving “All My Children” (which, frankly, bombed in handling her character; that should tell you about the “quality” of how today’s soaps — cough! — operate) … I’d prefer to see James Franco do “AMC” instead of “General Hospital.” (Hey, they’re both on ABC!)

    Have the “Milk” actor play a part in the poorly named Taylor Thompson’s background — say, a younger brother (and soldier) needing help — and Franco can escort Ehlers off the series.

    Then maybe Franco can escort Ehlers onto a movie set as well — motion pictures, cable prime-time, what’s good for exposure and future work. Get the five-time Emmy nominee (for “Guiding Light”) off the suds. (She deserves to branch out, and be a success at it, thanks to her range and excellence — and, hey, she was memorable in the cult classic “The Hunger”!)

    This is my “well-wishes” to the actress. I feel this way these days toward all genuinely talented thesps who leave a given daytime drama — or who should move on from one — so a performer may succeed outside this genre. (Which, by the way, is not only in awful, awful shape these days … the daytime dramas look more and more as if they have no future. Consider “GL”!)

    In delivering more “well wishes” to the “GH” viewers anxious for Mr. Franco to grace the small screen … I hope it turns out to be pleasurable viewing. Last time I checked on the serial, I concluded that [“GH”] has worn out its welcome. Certainly with me! (10/11/12 years — however much time has passed — of “The Sonny and Jason … And The Mob … And Their Conveniently Dumb Women Show” has had this impact. I question whether I will bother to check on just one day of Mr. Franco’s upcoming appearances.)

  8. IMO The first thing that came to mind I applaud that he’s giving a dying genre this kind of blitz/buzzzz..he’s studying for a Masters in film so it makes perfect sense to me.

    My second thought came to story then HOD via Bob Guza and their trickery. Who will be a part of his blitz and buzz on GH?
    Who on GH will be along for this ride?

    will it be Tony Geary? Jane Elliot? Jackie Zeman? John York? Nancy Lee Grahn, Kimberly McCullough? Tyler Christopher, Rebecca Herbst? those who have been with this show and did the grunt work for over a decade ……or…. those push aside back burnered regulated to recurring characters who never see the light of day like Kent-Masters-King, Minae? Will. I see two intense actors like Jonathan Jackson and Franco in at least one scene together? Their acting styles are similar that Depp, Dean, Montgomery Clift, Brando kind of vibe going on…

    No I’m not stuck on stupid, it will be the pets it will be Steve Burton (since its rumored they share the same agent), Maurice Benard who I think will be in his realm of greatness on General Hospital: The Fronaco Show.

    Lawd knows I wub me some Franco but my Fronsology tells me he’s being brought in to pimp and prop the “A-List” players probably
    and its a short list. Another endless stunt/ploy to give attention to those who are the chosen ones to be in the presence of his caliber of greatness..while we the fans of the “little people characters” suffer through it…but it will improve ratings so for that I’m grateful.

    As for his portrayal of Harry Osbourne in Spider, Harry was a likable character he was adorable at first e.g. Spiderman I and II he turned extremely dark towards the end and mostly all of III because of Peter Parker killing his father who was trying to kill him. He seduce Mary Jane for payback/revenge. Then for me he turned adorable towards the end when he fell dying. I especially liked that he came to his senses after being disfigured to come to aid his BFF Peter. He died saving him. JMO

    Marlena says: Well, thanks, Cyber for filling me in — I never saw Spiderman ll. The only reason I saw the first one was that the first couple of scenes of the movie were filmed in my parents’ neighborhood, Sunnyside, Queens, NY. Then in the next scenes they showed the Parker house — but it was in another much richer neighborhood, Forest Hills, which is about 4 miles away. So, after that letdown they killed Cliff Robertson and that was enough for me …

    Of course they are going to give him to Burton! And honey, it has to backfire! Unless Franco plays along, there is going to be a vast difference in their acting styles, no? You know, I spent the early part of my soap mag career mostly observing the soap press rules that all soap actors are “good.” But this is going to be … very revealing. I won’t say more, because I know someone out there in Marlenaland thinks Burton is great … as I said, I’d give a lot to know what is on the mind of Maurice, and also what John Ingle is thinking, because he is a longtime acting teacher in Hollywood …

    As far as Frons, Marlena actually knew him well in the NBC 80s when he was Peter Parker. But he became Spiderman only in his dreams

  9. 10. I saw James Franco in his breakout role, James Dean in a TV movie bio of Dean, the first and greatest “younger” star ever. James Dean was a genius; young Franco displayed genius playing him. Have you ever heard the word genius being applied to anyone (yes, even the bravura Anthony Geary) on GH?

    Actually, James Franco’s break out role was on Judd Appatow’s short lived NBC series Freaks and Geeks, in which he played Daniel, one of the “freaks”. That show was so wonderful, and begat other future stars such as Appatow himself, Jason Segal and Seth Rogan.

    Can’t wait to see who Franco is going to portray on GH, am just afraid it will be a random gangster. I’m sooooo very tired of the mobsters on GH, my favorite character at the moment is Dante, who is a cop and a definite keeper.

    Marlena says: I agree, the actor playing Dante is a breath of fresh air and real acting talent. But Jenn dear, with lots of love and respect, I was too old for Freaks and Geeks. Playing James Dean is hard enough for any actor, but for a kid from a TV series to prove himself a genius in this most challenging of roles — I remember how everyone in the industry at the time discovered him then. We should all be happy an authentic “contenda” came along whenever he came along! We are all interested to see how he’ll do on GH.

  10. I’m laughing sooooo sooo hard right now. My contact lens rolled up in my eyelid. I’m fishing it out. LoL

    …. I want to like him (Frons) so badly but I don’t and never have and never will…

    Franco was memorizing in all of them (so was the music score in III its been reported by the director) there will be a IV. He’s (Franco) got that Brando quality too. LoL

    He was absolutely spellbinding. I was thoroughly and completely pissed they K’O’d Cliff “way way too soon in the film.” (I just saw him in Charley the other night). Every time I see him I think Dina Merrill….So the pulled a bait n’ switch on you Uh? They did that too me many times in Chicago they show the south side ghetto then walk down the street the character is on the Gold Coast/Magnificent Mile (Astor Street).

    But some awesome acting was going down esp with C. Robertson also w/Willem Dafoe as Senior Osbourne..

    I haven’t seen Franco in Milk yet though with Penn can’t wait to see them act together .I didn’t like his movie Tristan and Isolde its one of my favorite love stories from Arthur Rex and I waited patiently but was disappointed it was dark, dank, and way too drabby for my taste but Franco was gor-ge-ous he lit it up set it on fire-yah every time he was on the screen…err did I say I like Franco?….. Ah that curly hair…

    As for Burton, he will have to do a tad more than blink, stop and stare; He’ll have to step it up without a doubt. Franco will chew him up and spit him out take him to school same said with Jonathan who I think is a dang good actor. To see Jason choke?

    For this alone I can not wait it will be must see TV LoL…

    Franco (and Jonathan for that matter) will take him all the way to the window to the wall. Dang Jonathan was a better actor than Burton for me 10 years ago. …I wouldn’t miss this for the world! (Gosh I hope I’m right on this one). Otherwise I’ll be choking on my words here…

    ~Cyber prays to the soap god~

    Marlena says: All I can say is LOL and I agree with you. But never underestimate Guza to write awful stuff for even the best of soap stars or soap vets or movie stars. Speaking of Brando, G isn’t even Mario Puzo, although Puzo’s heirs should sue him, no?

  11. Charles E. says:

    The publicity release claimed that Franco would be playing “Jason’s worst nightmare”. My guess- A.J. Quartermaine back from the grave! Now THAT’S something I’d like to see!

    Marlena says: Great minds think alike Charles! That was one of my guesses. But could Steve play it? Perhaps. Could Guza write it well? Nah.

  12. “9. This casting dispels the Big Lie told by the soap magazines for the 35 years I’ve been reading them, namely that every soap actor is great. Can you imagine Deke Cheatwood in a scene with Franco?”

    Hmm. This comment bothered me enough that with all your talking up of Franco, this is what I remembered when I finished your article. The reason Derk is even on the show as much as he is, is because of loyal viewers. Some of us want to see the same characters consistently on our show. Even the ones who guard the mob bosses door. After years of watching him in the background, I was thrilled to see the guy get ahead. I think he’s great in the role they are writing for him. And honestly, if Max and Diane got more airtime, I’d probably tune in to GH again. Those two make me laugh when I’m supposed to, a rarity in soaps lately.

    Oh, and I’m pretty sure his name is Derk. If you’re going to call someone out on their acting skills, at least have the courtesy to get their name right.

    Marlena says: Donna, if they gave the whole show over to Max, Diane and Milo I’d watch enthusiastically! Marlena readers know I have always loved the background characters such as Gunther on Edge of Night and Timmy on Passions. I even named my puppy Nigel Bartholomew Smythe after the OLTL butler character! And comedy — I did lots of columns on that in the old SOW days. Didn’t mean to slam or mispell Derk. You know I have a kind of hard to spell maiden name, so I am sensitive to that kind of thing too.

  13. After I got over the initial shock, I started getting really excited about this. I’m hoping Franco is going to be a lot of fun to watch, and I’m also hoping that this will force the writers and actors to step up and rise above the mediocrity that’s defined GH for such a long time.

    I guess I’m in the minority, because for the most part I like the GH cast. They are geniunely talented (with a few exceptions), imo. I think the problem is that many of these actors have been asleep at the wheel, so to speak. The writing does not challenge them (at least not in a *positive* way if you know what I mean.) They’re giving the same, uninteresting crap to do, over and over again. They’re bored and going through the motions and it shows. So maybe with Franco coming onboard, someone can wake Guza up from his nap and force him to write material that will engage the viewers *and* the actors.

    Marlena, I completely agree, not every soap actor is great, that’s for sure! Some are great, some are good, some are okay and some are God awful. Just like in movies and primetime TV. And I will say this: the worst episode of General Hospital is still better than the lamebrained Spiderman 3, lol.

    Marlena says: I always love your optimism, Melanie. I do think most of the GH cast is good, and you have to be to do Guza’s same old crime story over and over again. Will Guza deliver for Franco, and for the best GH cast, who will be on special display during his visit to people who would oridinarlily not watch soaps (like primetime and movie casting people.)? I’ve said I’ll watch GH when Franco is on! Melanie, even I’d rather watch GH than Spiderman 3 anyday, but I am NOT a superhero person.

  14. Marilyn Henry says:

    Oh dear.
    I have to make a confession. I never heard of this Franco before reading he was going to be on GH. But hey, I’m the oldie wh gave up my subscription to Entertainment Weekly last year because I no longer knew the so-called celebs they were focusing on. I grew up with movies that had STARS–your mom would know what I’m saying, Marlena. Now movies come out STARRING actors you have never seen before and very possibly will never see again. So I’m not the movie goer I used to be. (When I was a kid I never knew the sun shone on Saturday ’cause I was in a theatre or even theatres!)

    This kind of stunt casting, or ‘here today gone tomorrow’ casting has never been very exciting to the regular soap viewer because such appearances usually disrupt or interrupt the story you are wrapped up in at the moment. Impossible to get ‘into’ such characters because you know they will be gone by the time you discover who they are.

    GH has had lots of these items in the past–with Elizabeth Taylor, Sammy Davis, jr., being the biggest names that come to mind. It gives a momentary jolt but not a long range one. Personally, I feel these big movie names are only useful if they sign on to actually BE on the show long term, like MacDonald Carey or Anna Lee or Phil Carey. They had solid movie careers for a time, then moved on to soaps full time. And did extremely well. I guess my least favorite ‘stunt’ casting is when they bring on name musical groups which take up half the show performing stuff you could easier watch on late night shows. Again, they disrupt the flow. (I’ll make an exception for the acts at Luke’s Blues club, like BB King, because those seem to be a logical part of the storylines.)

    I’m still shaking my head over the terrible rumors that the very best soap in the ABC linup, OLTL, may be cut down after it has made such strides and beat GH and AMC in the ratings over and over. So very sad. (Frons again the man with no taste.)

    Marlena says: So glad to hear from you Marilyn! Just FYI, Farley Granger was the original Will Vernon on OLTL and Jane Powell was a regular for a while Loving. I agree, it is a lot better when these stars sign for a regular role. But all those wonderful old Hollywood actors who came to soaps are quite old now. At the time Sammy Davis Jr. (who did several stints on OLTL) and Elizabeth Taylor (“My curse on you Luke and Laura..) as you well remember brought prestige, validity and a lot of publicity to soaps in their guest stints. I loved B.B. King on GH. Otherwise, musical guests usually don’t mean a lot to me, but I’m not a music person.

    Who knows what’s the deal with Franco on GH? But I think he is an terrific, talented , refreshingly original actor (in the heads up style of Dean and Brando) and I am almost positive you (especially as a movie historian) will enjoy him. Tell me what you think!

  15. Marilyn Henry says:

    This probably won’t interest the other soapers who come here, but I have to tell you, I just finished painting a new paper doll book of Jane Powell which should be out in time for the Xmas market. I guess you know I work for a publisher and paint these movie star paper doll books on a regular basis–have for years. Your mention of Jane Powell reminded me–she did a soap for a while.
    My next book will be Leslie Caron. My Marilyn Monroe is usually for sale on e-bay if you type in my name and ‘paper dolls’.
    I met Jane a year ago at a paper doll convention and she and Dick Moore were both charming. I’d forgotten then she had been on a soap or I would have asked her about that experience. lol.

    Marlena says: I love, love, love your paper doll books!!! They are must haves for all old movie fans and fans of Marilyn’s beautiful artwork!

  16. Always thought Franco looked like Dean. Never knew he got the privilege to actually play him.

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