James Franco addressed those 2018 sexual misconduct accusations in his first long-form interview in four years.
When SiriusXM host Jess Cagle asked Franco why he wanted to speak out now, Franco indicated he had been spending some time away to “do the work.”
“Well, in 2018, there were some complaints about me and an article about me and at that moment I just thought I’m gonna be quiet. … I’m gonna pause. Did not seem like the right time to say anything. There were people that were upset with me and I needed to listen,” he told Cagle in a clip released by SiriusXM on Wednesday (the full interview will air on SiriusXM’s “The Jess Cagle Podcast” Thursday).
He continued: “There’s a writer… Damon Young, and he talked about, you know, when something like this happens, like the natural human instinct is to just make it stop. You just want to get out in front of it and whatever you have to do apologize, you know, get it done. But, what that doesn’t do is allow you to do the work … and to look at what was underneath, like, whatever you did, even if it was a gaff or you said something wrong or whatever, there’s probably an iceberg underneath that — of behavior, of patterning, of just being blind to yourself — that isn’t gonna just be solved overnight.
“So, I’ve just been doing a lot of work. And I guess I’m pretty confident in saying like, four years, you know? And, I was in recovery before, you know, for substance abuse. And, there were some issues that I had to deal with that were also related to addiction. And so, I’ve — I’ve really used my recovery background to kind of start examining this and changing who I was,” he said.
Watch that exchange via the video above.
Franco was first accused of inappropriate or sexually exploitive behavior by five women (four of whom were students of his now-closed film and acting school) in a Los Angeles Times report in 2018. A lawyer for Franco denied the allegations.
During the new interview, Franco told Cagle that the “stupidest thing” he did was call one of his private acting classes “Sex Scenes.”
“It was not about sex scenes,” “The Disaster Artist” star said. “I was not teaching people how to do sex scenes or intimate scenes or anything of that nature. It was a provocative title.”
“It should have been called, you know, ‘Contemporary Romance’ or something like that,” he said. “It was a class where they did scenes about whatever their romance is, you know, what they go through as young people. So meeting people on, you know, dating apps or breakups, or, you know, just a bad date, stuff like that. That’s what was being done in that class. It was not sex scenes.”
Franco taught the “Sex Scenes” class in question at Studio 4, a film and acting school with branches in New York and Los Angeles that he co-founded in 2014.
In June, Franco and associated parties agreed to pay $2.235 million in order to settle a sexual misconduct lawsuit from 2019, in which two former students of Franco’s acting school accused him of intimidating them into gratuitous and exploitative sexual situations.
Actresses and ex-students Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal led a class action lawsuit against Franco’s Playhouse West Studio 4, saying the class was a front in which Franco and his business partners, Vince Jolivette and Jay Davis, could take advantage of young female performers. They said “The Deuce” star asserted his influence as an instructor by offering them parts in movies that never materialized or were never released, even with the expectation that Franco would star in some of the projects.
“While Defendants continue to deny the allegations in the Complaint, they acknowledge that Plaintiffs have raised important issues; and all parties strongly believe that now is a critical time to focus on addressing the mistreatment of women in Hollywood,” a June 2021 statement from both parties released to TheWrap read. “All agree on the need to make sure that no one in the entertainment industry — regardless of race, religion, disability, ethnicity, background, gender or sexual orientation — faces discrimination, harassment or prejudice of any kind.”
Franco admitted in the new interview that he “did sleep with students” — though he said no one from that particular class.
“But, over the course of my teaching, I did sleep with students and that was wrong. But, like I said, it’s not why I started the school and I wasn’t the person that selected the people to be in the class. So it wasn’t a master plan on my part. But yes, there were certain instances where, you know what, I was in a consensual thing with, with a student and I shouldn’t have been.”
As the interview continued, Cagle asked Franco why he wasn’t aware of the “power imbalance” between himself and students.
“I suppose at the time, my thinking was if it’s consensual, OK,” he continued. “Of course I knew, you know, talking to other people, other teachers or whatever, like, yeah, i’s probably not a cool thing. At the time I was not clearheaded as I’ve said. So, I guess my, I guess it just comes down to my criteria was like, if this is consensual, like, I think it’s cool. We’re all adults so…”
Finally, Franco spoke about his current relationship with Seth Rogen. Rogen recently said he has no plans to work with Franco again following multiple accusations of misconduct against his friend and frequent movie collaborator.
That was in contrast to what Rogen said in 2018, when asked the same question after multiple women accused Franco of misbehavior. At the time, Rogen said he would continue to work with his friend.
“I also look back to that interview in 2018 where I comment that I would keep working with James, and the truth is that I have not and I do not plan to right now,” Rogen told The Sunday Times in a May 2021 interview.
Here is Franco’s response to that: