Oscar Scandals: James Franco, Disgraced Actor, Addresses Sexual Misconduct

James Franco Addresses Sleeping with Students and Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Allegations

Appearing on SiriusXM’s The Jess Cagle Show, clips of the episode slated to air in full on Dec. 23 see Franco opening up about why he remained publicly silent, what his “Sex Scenes” class entailed and allegations that he was creating a “pipeline” where women would be “subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education.”

“In 2018, there were some complaints about me and article about me, and at that moment I just thought, I’m gonna be quiet. I’m gonna be — I’m gonna pause,” Franco said of his decision to remain silent about the public allegations. “Did not seem like the right time to say anything. There were people upset with me and I needed to listen.”

James Franco

He referenced writer Damon Young, noting that “when something like this happens, like the natural human instinct is to just make it stop.” But, Franco says, the desire to get out in front of what was happening — even with apologies — doesn’t leave space for the accused to “do the work and to look at what was underneath whatever you did.”

“Even if it was a gaff or you said something wrong or whatever, there’s probably an iceberg underneath that of behavior, of patterning, of just being blind to yourself that isn’t gonna just be solved overnight,” he explained.

Brought by former students of Franco’s now-defunct school Studio 4, the class-action lawsuit was filed by actresses Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal in 2019 after Tither-Kaplan made allegations against Franco alongside other women in L.A. Times storty.

The suit, which also names the actor’s production company Rabbit Bandini and partners Vince Jolivette and Jay Daviss as defendants, alleges sexual exploitation by the producer and actor during a master class on sex scenes that Franco taught at the former school (open between 2014 and 2017). Among those allegations is that the actor pushed students into performing increasingly explicit sex scenes on camera in an “orgy type setting.”

It asserts that Franco “sought to create a pipeline of young women who were subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education” and led students in the course to believe that role opportunities in Franco’s films would be available to those who went along.

Franco addressed the allegations in an interview on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. “The things I heard are not accurate, but I completely support people coming out because they didn’t have a voice for so long. I don’t want to shut them down in any way. I think it’s a good thing and I support it,” he said.

Franco’s attorneys also continued to deny the allegations in court filings, calling them “false and inflammatory, legally baseless and brought as a class action with the obvious goal of grabbing as much publicity as possible for attention-hungry Plaintiffs.”

During the podcast interview with Cagle, Franco discusses the nature of the class in question from his perspective, saying its title was “provocative” but wasn’t accurate to what was actually being taught and done in the course.

“The stupidest thing I did, or one of the stupidest things I did, at the school was I called one of my classes — a masterclass — ‘Sex Scenes.’ It was not about sex scenes. I was not teaching people how to do sex scenes or intimate scenes or anything of that nature,” he said.

He goes on to point to Netflix’s The Chair and a fictional class that “everybody wants to take” and run by “cool” female teacher as an example of what he means, before denying claims made in the lawsuit about what occurred in his own course.

“She has class called something like Sex and American Literature or something like that, to be provocative and cool, but they’re reading Melville in the class. That’s basically what I was doing,” Franco says. “It should have been called Contemporary Romance or something like that. It was a class where they did scenes about whatever their romance is. What they go through as young people. So meeting people on dating apps, or breakups or just a bad date — stuff like that. That’s what was being done in that class. It was not sex scenes.”

While Franco’s description of the class is notably different than what was alleged in the 2019 suit, the actor admits that “there were certain instances” where he slept with students, though he says it wasn’t “with anybody in that particular class” and he “was in a consensual thing with a student and I shouldn’t have been.”

“Over the course of my teaching, I did sleep with students and that was wrong. But like I said, it’s not why I started the school and I didn’t — I wasn’t the person that selected the people to be in the class. It wasn’t a master plan on my part.”

Franco addresses his history of drug abuse and sex addiction, and how his relationship to fame exacerbated his addiction-related behaviors. “Once I stopped using alcohol to sort of fill that hole, it was like, ‘Oh success, attention — this is great. And so, in a weird way, I got addicted to validation.”

“It’s such a powerful drug,” Franco said of sex addiction. “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. I went to meetings all that time. I even tried to sponsor other people. An 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.”

He added, “I [was] completely blind to power dynamics or anything like that, but also completely blind to people’s feelings.”

“I’ve just been doing a lot of work,” Franco says in separate clip. “And I guess I’m pretty confident in saying like, for years, you know? I was in recovery before for substance abuse, and there were some issues that I had to deal with that were also related to addiction.  I’ve really used my recovery background to kind of start examining this and changing who I was.”