Commentary: The Search for James Franco

A business near Barnes and Noble declares its love for Franco while asking patrons not to block the store's entrance.

A business near Barnes and Noble declares its love for Franco while asking patrons not to block the store’s entrance.

When I found out that Naugatuck High Schooll was offering a trip to see John Steinbeck’s play Of Mice and Men on Broadway in May, I have to admit that the first thought that popped into my head hadn’t been that of actor James Franco. You know him. 127 Hours? Spiderman’s tortured bestie? That guy.

Steinbeck’s novel is a literary masterpiece, exposing social and economic inequalities of early 1930s America and migrant workers. I’d also seen the movie with Gary Sinise and John Malkovic, and I figured it’d be pretty cool.

Soon, however, rumors ran through school about James Franco and Leighton Meester (of Gossip Girl fame) taking parts as the leads, and I almost cried tears of joy. (Really, I’m not exaggerating. That day was just a roller coaster of emotions.) I admit it – I love them. This was an opportunity to see celebrities in person. So I signed up and bought my ticket, and that was that.

Chelsea Iglesias shows of her autographed hand. That's James Franco, in case you can't read it.

Chelsea Iglesias shows of her autographed hand. That’s James Franco, in case you can’t read it.

After about two months of agonizingly waiting for my chance to see Franco and Meester on stage together, the day finally came. It was the first day of the rest of my life. Or is that graduation? I wasn’t so sure at that point.

I sat through what was supposed to be only a  two-hour bus ride, with nothing to accompany me but my book The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (I got through 200 pages that day alone, thank you). It was a good day. I even missed it when we drove through Harlem to get to Times Square.

Stepping off the bus at 8th Avenue, I immediately saw the facade of Longacre Theater, where I’d been only one other time in my life. Staring at the huge poster of James Franco’s face, it was

The book signing expedition poses out front of the Longacre Theater.

The book signing expedition poses out front of the Longacre Theater.

slowly started to sink in that we’d be breathing the same air in less than five hours.

The story gets even better, trust me.

I overhear some girls talking about a book signing. James Franco wrote a book? And I’ve never read it? One of the chaperones had offered to take the girls. Could I get in on this book signing at Barnes & Noble, where my husband-to-be would be making an appearance to autograph Palo Alto?  Is that even a question? Apparently it wasn’t. Soon, we had hailed a cab (first time ever being in one, might I add, but it seemed worth it at the time) and were standing in front of the entrance to Barnes & Noble on the lower East Side of Manhattan. Except, I’m pretty sure the line stretched about eight times around

Waiting for the show to start.

Waiting for the show to start.

the entire building. No exaggerations there, people. I was also three hundred percent sure that close to none of them were there because they were actually interested in the book (No offense, Franco, because everything you touch is gold).

My brain kept telling me, “No, don’t you dare” while my heart kept telling me “OMG we’re literally in the same geographical area right now!” We got line, the end so close to the entrance, yet so far away. An hour-and-a-half later – after worrying about what body part or article of clothing I want him to sign – we have arrived around the corner from the entrance. We had endured odd questions, police directives, and mothers who thought bringing their children was a good idea. We will make it, I thought. I do believe.

And then they announce that they have run out of books. Barnes and Noble, the biggest book store in Manhattan, has run out of books. A BOOK STORE has run out of books. And  unless we have a copy with us, no one is getting in to see James.

And we have no books.

I begged that the sky would send a soft cover book through the clouds, flying at my face at that very moment. But it was clear and sunny, with no forecast of falling literature. It was a shame; I was so sure that once he saw my face he’d immediately fall in love and beg me to stay by his side forever.

Dejected, I crossed 17th Street and stuffed my face with french fries from McDonald’s,  figuring I was fortunate that I even had tickets to his play. That was still pretty great.

Our group hailed another cab back to Times Square, where we met up with others in front of the Longacre. We had spent all out free time in New York City standing in line, waiting for James Franco … and instead found fast food french fries and tears. As consolation, we stood next to the door  the actors would use to enter the theater. I began to grow hopeful again.

But, after a half hour, James Franco didn’t show. He apparently got into the theater, since we watched him perforrn, but it wasn’t through those doors. Not even his brother, Dave, who has nothing to do with this story, made an appearance. I’m pretty sure they don’t travel around together, but he’s just as beautiful, and I would have taken him as my consolation prize. Let’s share a moment of silence for their parents’ hard work.

When James appeared on the stage for the first scene of the play and started talking about beans and ketchup, I felt myself fall in love like you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once (Reference to The Fault in Our Stars? Check). I was in a trance from the beginning to the end, memorizing every picture and tone. I even remember the part where he was laying down in the “woods” and his shirt rode up a little bit. Yes, ladies, I saw skin.

The play ended way too soon, and after his final bow he started talking about a charity that we should donate to, and I just couldn’t stop staring. He wasn’t even in character, and he was just James, and it made me want to weep Niagara Falls and fling myself onto the stage. But I held it together.

With every tragic story, there must be heartbreak. After the play, we filed out into the street and waited for the cast to come out and sign autographs. I was in line until one of my teachers (no names, but they may have ruined my marriage) told us we should get back to the bus. I stared at the crowd forming with such longing. Later, I learned that three girls had gotten signed autographs, photos, and even touched James Franco’s bicep. As they got on the bus with glittering faces, I tried not to leap out a window.

Though, as we passed by, I saw him with a black hat and sunglasses, about 15 feet away from where I was sitting on the bus. All was not lost. If you think about it, our eyes could have locked then, and I wouldn’t even know. Maybe he didn’t chase after me because he had an obligation to his fans. Maybe he would find me through Twitter or search all of Facebook. Maybe he’s still searching, now ….

I guess we’ll never know.

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