James Franco Working At McDonald's As A Teenager Makes Him Part Of A Club Of Public Figures Who Held Down McJobs

In a Washington Post personal essay, James Franco has finally come out about his McDonald’s past. “All I know is that when I needed McDonald’s, McDonald’s was there for me. When no one else was,” Franco wrote in the article, Thursday. Turns out that Franco — actor, writer, director and all around kook (or pretend kook? We could discuss his authenticity for days) — started off his illustrious, confusing, and above all erratic (not erotic — sorry, Franco) career as a fast food worker, under the auspices of the Golden Arches.

At the age of 18, Franco wrote, he dropped out of UCLA and decided to go to acting school. To finance his drama classes, he needed to get a job. “I went to the nearest Mickey D’s and was hired the same day,” he recalls. The stint at the drive-thru got Franco a couple of dates, the way he tells it, and allowed him to over-salt the fries, as he waited to be scooped up by cult masterpiece Freaks and Geeks. But he still thinks of those days fondly. “When I was hungry for work, they fed the need,” he wrote, in appreciation.

Although it may be fun (or irritating, depending on your perspective) to imagine Franco's soon-to-be-very-famous face under the ubiquitous purple visor of the drive-thru lackey, he’s not the only famous/successful person to have started off in McDonald’s hallowed halls. Here are just a few other people who have the big M on their resume:

1. Rachel McAdams


Fellow Hollywood star McAdams told Glamour magazine in 2012 that she had done a stint at Mickey D’s. “[I worked at McDonald's] for a good three years,” she said. “I was not a great employee; I broke the orange juice machine one day.” Despite her poor performance, McAdams, like Franco, hailed the fast food chain as “a great place to work.” As with Franco, the struggling-creative-trying-to-make-a-break narrative explains McAdams’ employment history. She was 16 at the time, and directing children’s theatre.

2. Andie MacDowell


Actress MacDowell fondly recalls her days working in a McDonald’s in South Carolina. She called the restaurant, according to Forbes, “a great environment to work in, with lots of camaraderie and teamwork.”

3. Jeff Bezos

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Bezos, American business magnate, investor, and founder and CEO of Amazon.com, hails his stint at McDonald’s as a time of personal growth. Aged 16, he learned how to crack eggs with one hand. “My favorite shift was Saturday morning,” he has recalled of that era. “I would get a big bowl and crack 300 eggs in it.” He commends the McDonald’s environment as an excellent starting point. “You can learn responsibility in any job, if you take it seriously,” he said. “You learn a lot as a teenager working at McDonald's.”

4. Seal


British soul singer Seal (better known, perhaps, depending on the reader, as Heidi Klum's ex-husband), worked at McDonald’s for all of two weeks. Clearly he couldn’t take the heat — and quit after one paycheck.

5. Pink


Perhaps due to reasons similar to those implicit in Seal’s early exit, Pink isn’t full of enthusiasm for McDonald’s. She worked there as a teenager, and has no desire to revert to the fast food worker lifestyle. “Sometimes I dream I am back there, broke and working at McDonald's,” she has said. “It's like the worst nightmare because I would never want to be back there. I've worked hard to get where I am.”

6. Andrew Card


Card, a former White House chief of staff who served George W. Bush from 2001 to 2006, became a McDonald's employee in 1967. He seemed to make the most of it, mining the experience for useful life lessons and political insight. “I remember thinking that McDonald's was unique as a great equalizer,” he recalls. “Wealthy and poor, black and white all came to McDonald’s and stood in the same lines and sat at the same booths. The fact that the restaurant was integrated was somewhat novel for South Carolinians at the time. For me, coming from New England, the fact that it was novel was a shock.”

Macy Grey, Sharon Stone, Shania Twain, and Jay Leno have all done their bit, churning out French fries with a smile — it shouldn’t be so surprising in the entertainment industry after all. Make it, and you’ll be able to hire a private chef to cook you steak frites for forever and a day. Fail, and you could just be covered in ketchup and lovin’ it your whole life. Still, I wouldn't bet on Franco not going back to experience it anyway, despite his success. Just, like, as a piece of performance art, you know?

Of course, what Franco's op-ed in defense of McDonald's (and, in fact, the above list) obscures is that, for many people, McDonald's isn't one weird stint in a lifetime of fabulousness. It's the only paycheck available, for years on end. And it's a pretty meager paycheck at that.

Images: Getty Images (6)