General Hospital, James Franco

James Franco couldn't be cooler — and hotter — these days. The guy has earned the reviews of a lifetime for his performance in 127 Hours. He's considered a shoo-in Academy Award nominee for best actor. And he and Anne Hathaway have been picked to co-host the Oscar ceremony on Sunday, February 27. But he's not forgetting about General Hospital! Franco, who twice appeared on the ABC soap as a serial killer, has agreed to return for a two-episode stint airing the Friday before the Oscar telecast and the day after. It'll serve as a teaser for a longer story arc he plans to do on the serial later in 2011.

Credit the coup to GH executive producer Jill Farren Phelps. "When we realized James would be in L.A. for the Oscars and all the other awards shows, we asked if he'd consider coming back and doing a little something for us," Phelps says. "He was happy to do it and requested that we use the appearance to plug his next story. He's also expressed an interest in directing at GH. He's been really, really good to us. Whatever James wants, we'd love to make it happen!"

So far details on Franco's February gig are slim — Phelps will only say that his psychopath character, also named Franco, is still obsessed with hunky mob hitman Jason Morgan (Steve Burton). "Franco will remind Jason and the audience that he's still out there. We just haven't seen or heard from him because he's been terribly busy."

In an interview with TV Guide Magazine last summer, Franco said the intense memorization required at GH prepared him for his 127 Hours audition, in which director Danny Boyle handed him a lengthy monologue and asked him to step outside for a few minutes and learn it. "James has been very gracious in crediting us," notes Phelps. "Apparently, we worked his memorization muscle to the point where he was able to blow Boyle out of the water."

Mutual love affair aside, it's rather stunning that Franco — who is being inundated with movie offers these days — still has a jones for GH. "The more you get to know James the less surprised you are about what excites him," Phelps says. "He is fearless about doing what he wants to do. I guess he must feel there's still something to learn here at GH. Maybe he's just doing it for the fun." Adds the exec with a laugh: "He certainly isn't doing our show for the money!"

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