If James Franco ends up with an Oscar nomination for his work in 127 Hours, he's got General Hospital to thank.
The actor credits the soap opera in helping him land the role of Aron Ralston, a real-life mountain climber who saved his own life by cutting off his right arm when it got stuck under an 800-pound rock that fell on him in the middle of Utah's remote Canyonlands National Park…
In fact, director Danny Boyle admits he initially had doubts about casting the Milk actor. "We saw a number of guys and he wasn't the obvious choice because he's not a look-alike and he's an urbanite really," Boyle told me the other day at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. "He's a city guy like me. He's not a wilderness guy. I wasn't sure at first. We met him and he was so relaxed—he looked stoned to me."
Studio execs convinced Boyle to meet with Franco again. "I did have to read for it," Franco said Monday at the Hollywood Awards presented by Starz. "He had me fly out to L.A. He didn't give me any material to prepare and when I got there he gave me a page-long speech.
"He asked if I could memorize and do it right away, which normally would have been difficult but I had just been working on a soap opera, General Hospital. I had to memorize like literally 70 pages a day so that little speech was no problem."
He got the part after reading it a couple of times for Boyle. Franco said, "I don't think he knew at the time that General Hospital helped me get the role."
Meanwhile, Boyle also told me he's still hoping to develop a stage musical adaptation of his Oscar-winning hit, Slumdog Millionaire. "We've been talking about it," he said. "I've always wanted to [direct] a musical. Seriously, I love musicals."