James Franco is finally saying something about those allegations

In his first interview in four years, the actor finally opened up about accusations of sexual misconduct, but largely evaded specifics.

James Franco attends the premiere of HBO's "The Deuce" third and final season at Metrograph, in New ...
Charles Sykes/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Nearly four years after facing allegations of sexual misconduct, James Franco has finally spoken publicly about his past. In his first interview since the Los Angeles Times published a damning exposé in 2018 about the actor and director’s allegedly sexually exploitative behavior as an acting and film teacher (leading to a class-action lawsuit in 2019), the actor spoke with SiriusXM’s Jess Cagle about the accusations he’s faced and the ways he used fame to “lure” people.

“Look, I’ll admit I did sleep with students,” said Franco, who taught at Studio 4, a now defunct film school he founded which served as the primary setting of the accusations in the Times story and the lawsuit. “Over the course of my teaching I did sleep with students, and that was wrong.”

When asked about why he did not consider the power imbalances in these situations, he said, “I suppose at the time my thinking was, if it’s consensual, (it’s) okay. Of course I knew, I talked to other people, other teachers, whatever — yeah, it’s probably not a cool thing. At the time I was not clear-headed as I’ve said, so I guess it just comes down to my criteria: like, if this is consensual, I think it’s cool, we’re all adults.”

Franco’s admissions, though, largely do not touch upon the specifics laid out in the Times story or the lawsuit, which led to a $2.2 million settlement earlier this year and claimed he “sought to create a pipeline of young women who were subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education.” Franco “would always make everybody think there were possible roles on the table if we were to perform [in parts involving] sexual acts or take off our shirts,” a former student said in the Times article. Some students in the class who did go on to work with Franco allege inappropriate on-set behavior from him, including pressuring them into scenes involving nudity or simulated sex.

“I wasn’t the person that selected the people to be in the class, so it wasn’t a master plan on my part,” Franco said, referencing one of the masterclasses he taught titled “Sex Scenes,” a provocative name he chose for a course that he said ultimately had nothing to do with actually enacting or teaching intimate scenes. Otherwise, despite his apparent candidness in the interview, he did not elaborate on any of the specific details or scenarios that his accusers have laid out.

As for what Franco does own up to, he attributes his behavior with women as the result of a muddled web of addictions to work, alcohol and sex. After becoming sober from alcohol at the age of 17, he says that the validation from young fame and success filled the void from his addiction. But sex and work, fueled in fact by his sobriety, became only exacerbated his destructive tendencies.

“It’s such a powerful drug,” he said of his sex addiction, which he has been in recovery from since 2016. “And I got hooked on it for 20 more years. And the insidious part of that is that I stayed sober from alcohol all that time. So, and I went to meetings, you know, all that time. I even tried to sponsor other people. And so in my head, it was like, ‘Oh, I’m sober. I’m living a spiritual life.’ Where on the side, I’m acting out now in all these other ways. And I couldn’t see it.”

His own sponsor told him at one point, “‘Look, the cheating is dishonest. I don’t think that’s good for your sobriety. But if you’re not dating someone, and you want to go and hook up, whatever happens between two consenting adults is fine.’” But, Franco noted, “the problem was, I took that and I ran with it and used it as an excuse to just hook up all over the place. And it was like, ‘Well, we’re being honest here, right?’ And like you said, completely blind to power dynamics or anything like that.”

The last four years and the silence he’s taken in the wake of the 2018 allegations have been spent addressing the “iceberg underneath” his behavior. Yet, his decision to finally speak out were related to his relationship with Seth Rogan, a longtime collaborator and friend who recently indicated he had no plans “right now” to work with Franco. “I love Seth Rogen,” he said. “I worked with him for 20 years. We didn’t have one fight for 20 years, not one fight. He was my absolute closest work friend collaborator. We just gelled. And what he said is true. We aren’t working together right now and we don’t have any plans to work together.”

“Of course, it was hurtful in context but I get it,” he added. “He had to answer for me because I was silent. He had to answer for me and I don’t want that. And so that’s why it’s one of the main reasons I wanted to talk to you today: I don’t want Seth or my brother [Dave Franco] or anyone to have to answer for me anymore.”