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James Franco, 'Michael' co-stars film at East Rockaway High School
Sporting sunglasses and a leather jacket, actor James Franco late Wednesday night greeted about 70 fans who had been staked outside East Rockaway High School for hours waiting for a glimpse of the star.
“There’s going to be one photo,” the Oscar-nominated actor told the crowd, which had been lined up single-file, smartphones in hand, ready to take selfies with him.
Instead, the “Spider-Man” and “127 Hours” star motioned for them to gather around him for a group shot, placed his left arm around one female fan and gave a thumbs up with his right hand.
Franco had been filming inside East Rockaway High School for his upcoming biopic, “Michael,” which tells the story of a Michael Glatz, a gay activist who becomes an anti-gay Christian pastor.
The film also stars Zachary Quinto, who is best known for his roles in the latest “Star Trek” franchise and the FX series “American Horror Story.” Quinto plays Franco’s partner in the film, and Emma Roberts, who starred in the most recent “AHS” season, portrays Franco’s girlfriend after he renounces his homosexuality.
The film also features Charlie Carver of “Teen Wolf” and HBO’s “The Leftovers.”
Carver and Quinto were also filming at East Rockaway High School Wednesday. While on a short break earlier in the evening, Carver took photos and exchanged hugs with about 30 fans.
“He told me I was beautiful,” said Lauren Maccarone, a senior at East Rockaway High School, who asked Carver for a retake of their photo because she wasn’t thrilled with how the first came out. He obliged.
Maccarone, 17, was among the few who also landed some face-to-face time and a photo with Franco earlier in the day before the crowd swelled.
And she got a rare glimpse of the set inside the high school auditorium in between takes. She said Franco was sitting in a chair on the stage with a few other actors and about 40 extras dressed as students sat in the audience.
“It looked like they were in an assembly,” she said.
“Michael” has been filming at various locations on Long Island for the past two weeks, including Westbury, Freeport and Rockville Centre. A producer for the movie said the entire movie is being shot on the island.
East Rockaway Board of Education President Kristin Ochtera said the one-day shoot at the high school was “one of those lucky accidents.”
Ochtera said another location had fallen through, and one of the film’s producers happened to run into another East Rockaway school board member while they were both walking their dogs in the neighborhood.
After their dogs exchanged sniffs, Ochtera said the board member and producer started talking about the film, and the shoot quickly came together.
NBC’s “Smash” had filmed a promo at the high school in February 2013 after Lowe’s teamed up with the since-canceled TV series to restore East Rockaway’s theater, which had been heavily damaged by superstorm Sandy.
“Since we had some filming done before, we knew it was something that we could do,” Ochtera said.
With school still closed for the summer, she also said “the timing was right,” and “we’re always looking for creative ways to create revenue that helps the tax base.”
She added, “We just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
That was also the case for East Rockaway resident Michelle Eckert, 23, who stopped by the set Wednesday on her way home from the gym. She also got there just in time to nab a photo of just her with Franco.
“I was really surprised they were filming in East Rockaway,” she said. “It’s not a big-name town. It was cool.”