James Edward Franco was born in Palo Alto, California on April 19, 1978. His mother, Betsy Lou (née Verne), is a children's book author and occasional actress, and his father, Douglas Eugene Franco, ran a Silicon Valley business. His father was of Portuguese (from Madeira) and Swedish ancestry, while his mother is Jewish, from a family of Russian-Jewish descent. His maternal grandfather, Daniel, changed his surname from "Verovitz" to "Verne" some time after 1940. His paternal grandmother, Marjorie (née Peterson), is a published author of young adult books. His maternal grandmother, Mitzie (née Levine), owned the prominent Verne Art Gallery in Cleveland, Ohio, and was an active member in the National Council of Jewish Women.