Five minutes with Betsy Franco

March 9, 2011, 12:49 a.m.
Five minutes with Betsy Franco
Courtesy of Light at 11B

When Betsy Franco, Stanford alum and mother of James, first submitted her draft of “Metamorphosis: Junior Year” to her editor, she received less than enthusiastic feedback.

“That publisher said, ‘This is too weird. This isn’t really a novel. Can you get rid of the myths? Can you get rid of the poetry?'” Betsy said. “I thought, ‘I’m willing to work with you, but that’s kind of the whole crux of the book.'”

Betsy was inspired to write “Metamorphosis” after watching a local high school production of Mary Zimmerman’s “Metamorphoses” three times. Like Zimmerman’s play, “Metamorphosis” is an adaptation of the classic Greek and Roman myths. The story centers on brooding teen artist, Ovid, who chronicles the lives of his family and friends as modern retellings of the classic myths. Her teenage protagonist’s realism stems from her plentiful experience raising three of her own.

“Oh my god. I don’t think I slept for many weekends when James and Tom were growing up. Dave was a little easier,” Betsy chuckled. “They were risk risk-takers. They got in trouble.”

Five minutes with Betsy Franco
Courtesy of Light at 11B

Nowadays, the three Franco brothers are a bit of momma’s boys, all chipping in to bring their mother’s work to the stage. Middle child Tom drew the original illustrations for the book and helped design the sets. Her eldest and youngest – James and Dave – collaborated on the audiobook of “Metamorphosis”. James is also producing a documentary about the making of the play, which he hopes will capture the teen-driven creative process of the production.

“It’s so much fun. I can’t believe they’re willing to work with me,” Betsy said. “James just put me in a movie, ‘The Broken Tower’, about the poet Hart Crane and then let me be his mom on ‘General Hospital’, and now he’s doing a documentary of the making of the play, because we involved the teens so much.”

Another perk of having celebrity spawn? Third row center seats at the Oscars.

“Oh my god. It was just pure fun from start to finish. It was just so delightful,” she said. “The actors were in front of us who were nominated and who were presenting. It was fun to see them naturally talking to each other–not that I don’t know actors are people, because my son is–but people put them on pedestals.”

What did she think of seeing her son in drag?

“That was my favorite part. I love that he didn’t even stuff it – just flat!”

The kids in the cast requested she say hi to a couple specific stars, so she went onstage afterwards to greet James’ co-host, Anne Hathaway, and found “The Social Network’s” Jesse Eisenberg at the Governor’s Ball. With a movie star son, Betsy has no qualms approaching the rich and famous.

“I mean, I have a calling card,” Betsy laughed. “I just go up to people and say, ‘I’m James Franco’s mom.'”

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