“All I know is that when I needed McDonald’s, McDonald’s was there for me.”
So begins James Franco‘s adoring op-ed about McDonald’s published in Thursday’s The Washington Post, but perhaps “op-ed” is the wrong word—the piece is really more of a love letter to the struggling franchise, where Franco worked in the ’90s when he was first trying to break into acting, had just dropped out of UCLA and couldn’t find a steady job.
Franco’s late-shift drive-thru position turned out to be more than just a financial necessity—it allowed him to practice various accents, including “Brooklynese,” Italian, British, Irish, Russian and Southern.
“I was asked to give Italian lessons to a cute young woman who thought I was from Pisa; of course I couldn’t follow up as I did not speak Italian,” Franco writes, now 37. “The casting director for NYPD Blue liked my British accent, but was put off when I revealed that I was actually just a California boy.”
Aside from accent practice, there were other perks, too, like eating “cheeseburgers that were headed for the trash” and sneaking frozen apple bars, which he would eat in the freezer, “still frozen—great with coffee.” (Not to mention eating french fries straight from the fryer: “I hate to whistle blow, but everyone ate straight from the fry hopper.”)
Franco’s op-ed is published at a time when the iconic chain faces declining profits and nationwide protests over low wages. The chain has announced plans to raise wages to $9.90—by over a dollar—though workers say it’s too little, too late.
The piece will add even more star-powered buzz to McDonald’s, which just announced release of the revamped (and, honestly, kind of sexy) Hamburglar mascot, who’ll be part of a new ad campaign.
“After reading Fast Food Nation, it’s hard for me to trust the grade of the meat,” Franco writes. “But maybe once a year, while on a road trip or out in the middle of nowhere for a movie, I’ll stop by a McDonald’s and get a simple cheeseburger: light, and airy, and satisfying.”
—Maria Yagoda, @MariaYagoda