In his first interview in four years, since five women, including four of his former pupils, came forward in January 2018 with allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviour, James Franco has admitted to having sex with his acting students, being in recovery for sex addiction, and being “completely blind to power dynamics.”
In an interview with SiriusXM, Franco revealed he had developed a destructive dependency on “validation” after getting clean for alcohol addiction. This came in the form of needing professional success and sexual approval from women and resulted in him cheating on every partner he’s ever had, bar his current girlfriend. “It’s such a powerful drug, and I got hooked on it for 20 more years,” he said, while adding that since 2016, he has been in recovery for sex addiction.
At the time of the allegations made against him during the Me Too movement, Franco said they were “not accurate” but that he did not want to “shut down” people who “did not have a voice”. Two of his accusers, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, both of whom Franco taught at the Playhouse West Studio 4 school he co-founded in 2014, went on to launch legal action in 2019, alleging Franco ran a “Sex Scenes” master class at the now-defunct acting school and that “student-actors were encouraged to perform and improvise sexual acts during the audition process.” The suit said Franco did not attend the tryouts but rather had them taped, after which he “hand-picked” his students.
“Look, I’ll admit, I did sleep with students,” Franco said on the podcast, per People. “I didn’t sleep with anybody in that particular class, but over the course of my teaching I did sleep with students, and that was wrong.” He continued, “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 a student and I shouldn’t have been.”
In June, it was reported that Franco had agreed to pay $2.23m to settle the suit, which alleged that he and his business partners had “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”.
Pressed on whether he had been aware of the power imbalance between him and his pupils, Franco said he was “not clear-headed” during that period, adding: “I suppose at the time my thinking was ‘if it’s consensual, OK’.”
Referring to his long silence on the allegations, Franco said it “did not seem like the right time to say anything” when they first emerged, adding: “There were people that were upset with me and I needed to listen.”
“So I’ve just been doing a lot of work,” he added. “And I guess I’m pretty confident in saying like, four years, you know? I was in recovery before for substance abuse. There were some issues that I had to deal with that were also related to addiction. And so I’ve really used my recovery background to kind of start examining this and changing who I was.”
Franco said not only was he “completely blind to power dynamics” but he was also “completely blind to people’s feelings,” saying that while he “didn’t want to hurt people”, the behaviour “spun out to the point where it was like I was hurting everybody.” Franco added he’d cheated on every partner, bar his current girlfriend Isabel Pakzad and he could “never be faithful to anybody.”
The interview came after Franco’s long-term collaborator and friend Seth Rogen publicly distanced himself from him earlier this year in an interview, saying he had no plans to work with Franco, who starred alongside him in Pineapple Express, This is the End, and The Disaster Artist, again. On the topic of Rogan, Franco said, “I just want to say, I absolutely love Seth Rogen .. He was my absolute closest work friend, collaborator. We just gelled.”
He added: “Of course, it was hurtful in context, but I get it, you know, 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, you know, it’s one of the main reasons I wanted to talk to you today is I just, I don’t want Seth or my brother [Dave Franco] or anyone to have to answer for me anymore.”