Actor and producer James Franco has finally commented on the sexual misconduct allegations that effectively grounded his career in 2019, but he may have done more harm than good.
Franco was once a hot commodity in Hollywood, but that changed in the wake of the #MeToo movement when the Freaks and Geeks star was accused of inappropriate or sexually exploitative behavior by five former students at his Studio 4 acting school in a 2018 Los Angeles Times exclusive.
Then in Oct. 2019, the New York Times broke the story that two former students had filed a lawsuit against Franco and his partners, claiming that the program “was little more than a scheme to provide him and his male collaborators with a pool of young female performers that they could take advantage of.”
Though Franco vehemently denied the claims, the case was eventually settled, along with a class action lawsuit from students who claimed to have been defrauded. In June 2021, the terms of the settlement revealed that Franco had paid out a total of over $2.2 million to resolve the two separate legal disputes.
It’s unclear why Franco is opening up about the scandal now. However, in an interview with SiriusXM’s Jess Cagle on Tuesday, the 43-year-old maintained his naivety that he had any ill intentions with his acting school. On one controversially named class in particular, called “Sex Scenes,” Franco said that he hoped the name would be “provocative and cool,” similar to classes in the Netflix fictional drama series The Chair (released in Aug. 2021).
Cagle wasn’t having it, though. Reading from the lawsuit, the host added, “He was looking to create a pipeline of young women who would be subject to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education.”
“It’s obviously very different than what you just told me,” Cagle continued. “But why would someone have at least that perception where they accuse you of that?”
After a heavy, contemplative sign, Franco conceded. “Look, I’ll admit I did sleep with students,” he said. “I didn’t sleep with anybody in that particular, but, over the course of my teaching, I did sleep with students and that was wrong.”
“But like, I said, I, it’s not why I started the school and I, I didn’t, 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.”
Well, great to hear that’s not why he started the school, anyway. Like if your toddler gets up on the counter ⏤ they just happened to be there, and certainly weren’t planning on reaching for the cookie jar.
Cagle pressed on. “I think some people listening to this would say, ‘How could you not see that there would be a power imbalance among a teacher, who is not just a teacher but is James Franco, a very, very famous, powerful actor and producer and a student.’ How were you not aware of that?”
“I suppose at the time, my thinking was, if it’s consensual, OK. Of course, I knew, you know, talking to other people, other teachers or whatever, like, yeah, it’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…”
Franco just went and said the quiet part out loud! Yeah, no, still not cool, my man. Perhaps this is why Franco’s former collaborator Seth Rogen recently stated that he has no plans to work with the actor anytime soon.
“I do look back at a joke I made on Saturday Night Live in 2014 and I very much regret making that joke,” said Rogen in May of 2021, recalling a monologue joke he previously made about Franco preying on underage girls. “It was a terrible joke, honestly. And 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.”