Palo Alto’s Own James Franco Receives Cinequest Maverick Spirit Award - NBC Bay Area
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Palo Alto’s Own James Franco Receives Cinequest Maverick Spirit Award

Actor-writer-producer-director-megatasker, prolific instagrammer and tweeter, James Franco, was back in his hometown Palo Alto Sunday to receive a Maverick Spirit Award at a Cinequest pre-festival event.

Franco, who was nominated for a best actor Oscar in 2011 for 127 Hours — and co-hosted the ceremony with Anne Hathaway — was presented the award during a “Storytelling Reimagined Conclave” at the Four Seasons Palo Alto.

"This means a lot, this is where I grew up," Franco said to applause from the crowd, which comprised mostly of fans and locals, including his teacher from Palo Alto High School, Esther Wojcicki. Franco, who graduated from high school 20 years ago and is working with Wojcicki on a film workshop for students from his alma mater, said the experience has humbled and inspired him. "They help me remember why I love doing ths," he said. "The kids are already there ... they are making all these videos with their cell phones, so why not help them a bit."

Franco, 37, joined Jaunt CEO Jens Christensen and Marty Cooper, the "father of the cellphone," to talk about storytelling through everyday life: from cell phone videos to social media to virtual reality.

"I'm always open to new kinds of technology in storytelling," Franco said, adding that he had had a "holy s__" moment when he was introduced to virtual reality for the first time.

Every year Cinequest picks “Mavericks” — visionaries in the worlds of Silicon Valley innovation and the film arts who are known for their bold, independent and creative approach to the silver screen. Former honorees include J.J. Abrams, Kevin Spacey, Harrison Ford, Neil Gaiman and Sir Ben Kinsley.

This year, Cinequest’s “most prestigious accolade” picked “Renaissance Man” Franco, American screen icon and Oscar winner Rita Moreno and independent film consultant/producer Robert Hawk.

Known for his breakthrough role in Freaks and Geeks, Franco — who has over 100 acting credits (including Milk, Pineapple Express and The Interview) — has added “educator” to his list of titles. Apart from teaching film at Palo Alto High School, he teaches classes at NYU, USC, and UCLA.

“Franco lays waste to the phrase 'multi-tasking,' Franco's bio on Cinequest's website says.

Franco told Cinequest he never rests: “It’s an impossibility. I don’t even like to sleep. I feel as if there’s so much to do."

Cinequest opens March 1 with “Eye in the Sky” starring Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman.

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