After almost four years, James Franco has addressed allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against him. Franco was accused in 2018 of sexual misconduct by five women, four of whom were students of the actor’s now-defunct acting school Studio 4, and one who said Franco served as a mentor.
Franco was accused of, in some instances, leveraging offers of career advancement. The actor was also accused of removing students’ vaginal guards while simulating oral sex in a sex scenes class. Franco denied all the allegations at the time.
A lawsuit filed by two of the women, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, claimed Franco and his partners “engaged in widespread inappropriate and sexually charged behaviour towards female students by sexualising their power as a teacher and an employer by dangling the opportunity for roles in their projects.”
In February of this year, Franco settled the lawsuit, with Tither-Kaplan and Gaal agreeing to drop their individual claims. In June, it was reported that Franco would pay over $2.2 million in the settlement, which included both payments to Tither-Kaplan and Gaal along with a class action by roughly 1500 former Studio 4 students who said they were defrauded.
Now, in an interview with SiriusXM’s The Jess Cagle Podcast, Franco opened up about the allegations, admitting that he slept with Studio 4 students over the course of his teaching.
“That was wrong. But… It’s not why I started the school, and I wasn’t the person who selected the people to be in the class, so it wasn’t a master plan on my part,” Franco said. “But, yes, there were certain instances where I was in a consensual thing with a student and I shouldn’t have.”
Cagle went on to suggest there would be some listeners who didn’t understand how Franco couldn’t see that there was a power imbalance between himself and his students. “I suppose, at the time, my thinking was, ‘If it’s consensual, okay,'” the actor replied.
“Of course I knew, I talked to other people, other teachers or whatever, ‘It’s probably not a cool thing.’ At the time I was not clearheaded, as I’ve said. So, I guess it just comes down to my criteria was, ‘If this is consensual, I think it’s cool. We’re all adults.'” The actor added that he was “completely blind” to power dynamics, and also to others’ feelings. “I didn’t want to hurt people.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Franco talked about having a sex addiction, and discussed how as a young actor who had gotten sober after struggling with alcohol, “attention from women, success with women” became a source of “validation” for him. “Like any sort of drug or anything, there’s never enough,” he said. “It’s not enough. I’m just trying to fill that hole and it never gets filled.”
Franco added that he identified he had a problem with sex addiction after being given a book on the subject by his sister-in-law, Iris Torres. “After reading that book, it was like, ‘Oh, this is an issue that I’m not going to solve on my own’… It’s such a powerful drug, and I got hooked on it,” he said.
“The insidious part of that is that I stayed sober from alcohol all that time… I even tried to sponsor other people. 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.” The actor went on to say that though he had had romantic relationships, he had cheated on his partners up until his current girlfriend, Isabel Pakzad.
Franco also discussed how his relationship with Seth Rogen had changed following the allegations. The pair were longtime collaborators, having worked together on films like Pineapple Express, This Is the End and The Disaster Artist, but earlier this year, Rogen commented that he hadn’t worked with Franco since the allegations emerged, and did not plan to. “It has changed many things in our relationship and our dynamic,” Rogen said at the time.
Speaking to Cagle, Franco said: “I just want to say, I absolutely love Seth Rogen… 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 had to answer for me, because I was silent.”
Watch clips from the interview below.