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James Franco Put Down Property Roots in L.A.

BUYER: James Franco
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
PRICE: $775,000
SIZE: 1,496 square feet, 2 bedrooms, 2.75 bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Thanks to well-connected canary with whom we’re peripherally acquainted—let’s call her Dimitri Dishdiscloser—Your Mama learned that the famously dilettantish actor/artist/author/auteur James Franco has put down some fairly modest real estate roots in Los Angeles, CA where he recently dropped $775,000 on a fixer-upper mini-compound in the hipster-sheek neighborhood of Silver Lake.

In the early Aughts, after a short turn on the short-lived Freaks and Geeks t.v. program, the rather fetching if not always clean looking Mister Franco achieved a modicum of mainstream notoriety as the brooding title character in the made for television biopic James Dean. Numerous high profile roles on the silver screen soon followed (the Spiderman franchise, City by the Sea, Nights of Rodanthe, Pineapple Express and Milk to name a paltry few) and in the last few years, along with a hefty handful of smaller roles, he starred in Howl and 127 Hours—for which he received an Oscar nomination—and maintains a recurring role on the daytime soap story General Hospital.

As if he wasn’t quite busy or successful enough with his acting career, several few years ago—amid much booing, hissing and poo-pooing by some who felt he used his celebrity to curry favor and gain access—Mister Franco decided to get himself a proper liberal arts education. He quickly earned a BFA from UCLA, then schlepped east where he somehow managed to simultaneously enroll in—and complete—four concurrent masters programs: Columbia and Brooklyn College for English, NYU for film and Warren Wilson College in North Carolina for poetry. With four MFAs under his belt he’s now working toward a trio of PhDs from three separtate academic institutions (Yale, Rhode Island School of Design and the University of Houston) and next spring he’s scheduled co-teach a film production class at USC. 

As academically oriented and arty farty as Mister Franco appears to have become the last few years, he’s hardly forsaken his Hollywood paychecks. According to his lengthy resume on the Internet Movie Data Base, the idiosyncratic actor remains in high demand with at least a dozen projects in the hopper that include the Sam Raimi-directed Oz: The Great and Powerful and the star-studded Paul Haggis-directed dramatic-comedy The Third Person with Mila Kunis, Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, Adrien Brody, Kim Basinger, Maria Bello, Casey Affleck and more. Anyhoo…

Property records we peeped show Mister Franco—who may or may not be dating actress Ashely Benson (Pretty Little Liars)—purchased the property in August (2012) using the same trust he previously used to acquire at least two other long ago sold residences in Los Angeles. A bit more on those in a minute.

Property records also reveal Mister Franco bought the two-unit mini-compound from fast-rising Tinseltown costume designer Katherine Jane “Janie” Bryant who won an Emmy for her work on the boob-toob program Deadwood in 2007. For the last five years Miz Bryant’s done up the costumes for Mad Men, a job that’s earned her two more Emmy nominations and spurred a widespread sartorial retro-style revolution of floral frocks, pinched waists, skinny ties and slim-fitting trousers. Interestingly enough, according to property records, Miz Bryant—along with a man-friend/mate—purchased the house in 2002 from musician/filmmaker and fashion world heiress Tatiana von Fürstenberg.

Don’t ask us how she knows it but Dimitri told Your Mama peripatetic Mister Franco has plans to fix up the quirky but kinda dumpy two-unit mini-compound where he’s currently shacked up with his long-time b.f.f and producing partner Vince Jolivette. We don’t really know who sleeps where—nor is it any of our beeswax—but for the sake of simplicity let’s just assume Mister Franco occupies the larger but still fairly compact 2 bedroom and 1.75 bathroom main house—marketing materials show it has 1,496 square feet—and Mister Jolivette the smaller, mostly detached one bedroom and one bathroom unit.

Listing information from the the time of the purchase shows well-worn saltillo tile floors run throughout the lower level of the upper unit—the main house—that includes a narrow dining room with French door access to up sloping backyard  and an equally narrow living room with wood beamed ceiling. The kitchen, open to the living room over a stool-height breakfast bar, has cheap-looking white cabinets, butcher block counter tops, and medium-grade stainless steel appliances.

Original wood floors that have seen their better days run throughout the second floor of the upper residence that includes a “master” bedroom with massive brick fireplace, a wee window-lined study/sitting room that may or may not be the second bedroom, a haphazard dressing room and a hall bathroom that looks fairly recently renovated with white subway tile in the shower/tub and a perfectly ordinary Home Despot-style pedestal sink.

An arched wood door in the “master” bedroom opens to a charming covered veranda with canyon views. A staircase connects the veranda to a window-wrapped room with squalid-looking wall-to-wall carpeting and downright mortifying salmon colored walls. Miz Bryant appears to have utilized the aerie as a cluttered office space where her Emmy statuette and other accolades sit prominently but carelessly on a cheap looking shelf above her desk.

The lower unit—perfectly suitable for use as a rental, home office, guest quarters or etc.—sits hard up on but well above the street and includes another claustrophobically skinny living room with a wood floors and direct access to a private balcony. There’s also an itty-bitty bedroom, a renovated bathroom with black and white tile, a short corridor with built-in dresser and an eat-in kitchen with original built-in cabinetry, not very much counter space and low-grade appliances.

Outdoor lounging and entertaining spaces include a good-sized paver-tile terrace atop a two-car car port at the front of the property and several more—ahem—rustic, dirt-floored “terraces” that climb up the slope at the rear of the property.

Although Mister Franco has lived primarily in New York City the last few years—we think they may have occupied a third floor walk up rental on the Lower East Side but we can’t be sure—this is not his first property acquisition in Los Angeles. In May 2003 he dropped $1,165,000 on a multi-story, mock-Med architectural abomination in a semi-secluded canyon in Studio City that he sold in April 2006 for $1,525,000. The following month (May 2006) he upgraded to a 1923 Tuscan-villa directly across the street from the Chateau Marmont. He paid, according to property records, $2,325,000 for the approximately 4,000 square foot house that he extensively renovated and put back on the market in fall 2009 with an asking price of $3,695,000. The three bedroom and three bathroom house sold the following February (2010) for $3,300,000.

listing photos: Keller Williams / Larchmont

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