James Franco to return to Northwestern on Saturday as A&O, Hillel winter speaker


Source: A&O Productions

James Franco will be in Evanston on Saturday as A&O Productions and Hillel's winter speaker. Franco spoke at the Chicago Humanities Festival at Northwestern School of Law last week.

Tyler Pager and Rebecca Savransky

James Franco will speak Saturday at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall as part of a combined effort between A&O Productions and the Fiedler Hillel Center.

Franco is known for his roles in the “Spiderman” trilogy, “127 Hours” and “Pineapple Express.” He also wrote and directed a short film, “Herbert White,” which debuted in 2010 at the Sundance Film Festival.

A&O spokeswoman Rosalind Mowitt said Franco was the second highest ranked speaker on the poll the group sent out to students.

“This is honestly one of the highest polling speakers we’ve ever been able to bring,” the Weinberg senior said. “He also appeals to a wide variety of people. In addition to having something intelligent to say about the film industry, he’s also a very funny guy.”

The event will feature a Q-and-A session with Franco, moderated by RTVF Prof. Jeffrey Sconce.

Franco recently spoke at a Chicago Humanities Festival event at Northwestern’s law school, where he showed a screening of the film and read excerpts from his upcoming poetry collection “Directing Herbert White,” which covers his experience directing the film.

A&O chairman Demetrios Cokinos said the partnership with Hillel allowed the group to bring a more well-known speaker.

“We’re both funded for our own speaking events and whenever you can combine to just do a bigger speaker event, it just makes everyone happy all around,” the Communication senior said. “There’s a bigger auditorium, bigger draw for campus and just someone that everyone likes more.”

Franco earned a Golden Globe for his role in “James Dean” and received an Independent Spirit Award and nominations for an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award for his performance in “127 Hours.”

He will make his Broadway debut this year in the stage adaptation of the John Steinbeck novel “Of Mice and Men.”

Franco grew up in a Jewish family and his grandmother was an active member in the National Council of Jewish Women.

Weinberg senior Andy Rodheim, Hillel’s vice president and chair of the speaker committee, said Franco was a good option because of his Jewish background and campus-wide appeal.

“Every year we try to bring a high profile Jewish speaker that we think students would be really interested in listening to and with the opportunity to cosponsor with A&O, we knew we could get an even higher profile speaker,” Rodheim said. “Franco was a perfect fit.”

A&O spokeswoman Shelly Tan said Franco’s many talents will engage all students.

“He’s such a multi-talented performer that honestly if you have anything to do with pop culture or any interest in pop culture, you will have encountered him in one sphere of influence or another,” the Medill senior said. “If you have any interest in pop culture at all, this is one show you’re not going to want to miss.”

Tickets for the event went on sale at 10:30 a.m. and were sold out by noon.

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Twitter: @beccasavransky