It has been quite a while since we heard from actor/director/Tommy Wiseau-cosplayer James Franco, and according to a new interview he recently gave SiriusXM’s Jess Cagle, that has been on purpose. Franco was accused of sexually inappropriate behavior by five women he either taught at his acting school or otherwise mentored in 2018. After which, his longtime public persona as a sex symbol and indie filmmaker quickly crumbled. A sexual misconduct class-action lawsuit was filed against him in 2019, and since that time, his on-screen roles quickly grew rare. According to what the actor said in the recent interview, he struggles with sex addiction and an understanding of power dynamics between teachers and students.
When news of the alleged sexual misconduct first broke in 2018, James Franco’s initial response was somewhat vague denial, telling The Late Show’s Stephen Colbert that, “The things I heard are not accurate, but I completely support people coming out because they didn’t have a voice for so long.” That statement didn’t say much about where the actor stood. It sounded like he acknowledged that sexual misconduct survivors should be believed. It did not make anything clear about his particular case. Now, he’s speaking more clearly and openly.
The more recent interview finds James Franco claiming that he did have sex with his students, admitting he used his celebrity power as a “lure” to women and that he taught a class specifically titled “Sex Scenes.” The lattermost is actually part of the allegations brought against him, specifically that he had removed genital guards from his female students during the course of the class. Franco now says this decision was “stupid.”
Throughout the interview, James Franco struck a tone that he is doing the work on things he sees as issues. He claimed that he had been “completely blind to power dynamics… but also completely blind to people’s feelings. I didn’t wanna hurt people… [but] the behaviour spun out to a point where it was like I was hurting everybody.” This is obviously commendable learning behavior. It’s unclear how public opinion will judge this. He continually referenced sex addiction as the cause behind the behaviors he addmitted to. It is worth noting that experts are still divided on whether sex addiction exists. He also referenced his past substance abuse issues, while acknowledging they were not part of the behavior of which he has been accused.
James Franco also addressed the interview given by Seth Rogen earlier this year, in which his frequent co-star and friend said that he had not worked with Franco in some time and had no future plans to do so. It was perhaps not an outright condemnation, but given they had a 20 year working relationship dating back to their time on cult TV show Freaks & Geeks, Franco admitted “it was hurtful in context but I get it. He had to answer for me because I was silent.”
While the allegations in 2018 were the most notable ones against James Franco, they were not the first. In 2014, he was accused of inappropriately messaging a 17-year old on social media, which he eventually admitted to. Earlier this year, the Planet of the Apes star settled the class action lawsuit in the amount of $2,235,000. At this moment, it appears Franco may be attempting a redemption moment. However, the court of public opinion has yet to respond to his interview. but we’ll just have to see how it takes in the court of public opinion.