"When I needed McDonald's, McDonald's was there for me. When no one else was."
James Franco offered an unlikely endorsement of the fast-food chain Thursday—at a time when its treatment of employees is under scrutiny—by writing a Washington Post op-ed in which he fondly recalls working there as a struggling actor in the '90s.
It was 1996. Franco had dropped out of UCLA, against his parents' wishes, and was trying to pay his own way while sleeping on a couch in a Los Angeles house with two other actors.
"Someone asked me if I was too good to work at McDonald's," writes Franco, now 37. "Because I was following my acting dream despite all the pressure not to, I was definitely not too good to work at McDonald's. I went to the nearest Mickey D's and was hired the same day."
And he has quite the stories from the job—how he worked on different accents while manning the drive-through; how he was hit on by a male co-worker who didn't speak English; how he started eating leftover cheeseburgers even though he'd been vegetarian; how "everyone ate straight from the fry hopper."
The essay is nostalgic and anecdotal. Yet it's likely to get some serious attention in part because of McDonald's current battle with employees over wages. The chain plans to raise the minimum wage for its workers by more than $1, to $9.90, by July 1. But many workers say that's just not enough. It also says it will to sell off some franchises, so that it won't have to pay as many workers that increased wage.
Franco acknowledges all of this, and is clearly rooting for the company. "How this cost cut will affect jobs remains unclear," he writes. "But I want the strategy to work."
In closing, Franco states plainly that he was "treated fairly well at McDonald's. If anything, they cut me slack." And yes, he still eats there, every once in a while.
"After reading Fast Food Nation, it's hard for me to trust the grade of the meat," he 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."
His thoughts on the new Hamburglar remain unclear.