James Edward Franco is an American actor and director. He is recognized for his performances in 127 Hours, Pineapple Express, The Interview, and The Disaster Artist, among other roles. However, he first rose to prominence as Daniel Desario on the TV Series Freaks And Geeks before playing James Dean in a 2001 television biopic about the iconic actor. He has also appeared on the soap opera General Hospital as a recurring character. James Franco was born in Palo Alto, California, the son of Betsy Lou (née Verne), a writer and occasional actress, and Douglas Eugene Franco, who ran a Silicon Valley company. He interned at Lockheed Martin before considering becoming a Marine Zoologist. He graduated from Palo Alto High School in 1996 and attended UCLA before dropping out to pursue his acting career a year later.
As a performer, Franco established a reputation for taking on unusual projects and obtaining respect and success as an actor and filmmaker, winning many accolades. So far in his career, Franco won 33 awards out of 112 nominations.
James has also been the subject of several allegations involving sexually exploitative behavior for a long time. Many women, including acting students Franco taught, have accused him of sexually predatory behavior. His career, even so, has remained unaffected. Yet, in light of paying a 2 million dollar settlement over the summer and his recent acknowledgment of having sexual relationships with some of his pupils, actor James Franco has once again received attention for all the wrong reasons.
It’s been well-known for a long time that Hollywood protects predators. Unfortunately, following the #MeToo movement and the revelations about Harvey Weinstein, it appears that many in Hollywood are hiding a dark past. One such alleged individual is James Franco. James Franco has been accused of sexual misconduct since at least 2014. The claims range from sexual misconduct to online messaging with a minor to on-set behavior deemed improper, and more. The sheer number and severity of the allegations against him paint a troubling picture of his conduct as an actor and member of Hollywood’s elite circle. Each new accusation only serves to tarnish his reputation further and cast doubt on his fitness to continue working in the entertainment industry.
This article will provide a timeline of Franco’s many sexual misconduct allegations and examine how James Franco has allegedly used his fame and power to abuse others, often with little to no impact on his career.
In 2014, James Franco admitted to flirting with a 17-year-old girl on Instagram. The girl had recorded screenshots of her conversation with James Franco on Instagram, where he had attempted to entice her to his hotel for a hookup. The 17-year-old Scottish teen was on vacation in New York and bumped into him at a Broadway show he was performing in (Of Mice and Men). After being tagged (allegedly at his request) in a photo they took, James continued to flirt with the teenager. He failed in his attempts to persuade her.
James, gave a disgracefully poor apology when the allegations became public, blaming “the trickiness of social media” for his actions:
“I guess I’m, you know, embarrassed, and I guess I’m just a model of how social media is tricky.” He added, “In my position, not only do I have to go through the embarrassing rituals of meeting someone, but sometimes it gets published for the world.” “I used bad judgment, and I learned my lesson.”
In early 2018, after winning a Golden Globe and being seen wearing a #TimesUp pin at the Golden Globes award show, several people associated with James Franco accused him of improper behavior.
One of those sexual misconduct allegations surfaced on January 11th, 2018, when actress Violet Paley tweeted, “Cute #TIMESUP pin James Franco. Remember the time you pushed my head down in a car towards your exposed penis?”
In an interview with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show days later, James Franco denied all allegations of wrongdoing. He told Colbert: “The things that I heard that were on Twitter are not accurate, but I completely support people coming out and being able to have a voice because they didn’t have a voice for so long.”
He would later say similar comments on The Late Show with Seth Meyers.
“One of the things that I’ve learned is that this is a conversation that needs to be had,” Franco said. “There are people and women and others that have not been a part of this conversation, and I truly believe — and [it is] why I was wearing the pin — is that they need to be a part of this conversation. So I support them.”
He continued: “I have my own side of this story, but I believe in these people that have been underrepresented getting their stories out enough that I will hold back things that I could say just because I believe in it that much. If I have to take a knock because I am not going to try and actively refute things then I will because I believe in it that much.”
The Los Angeles Times published a devastating report on February 11th, 2018, in which claims of sexual misconduct against James Franco were leveled in detail. The article included instances from when he taught at Playhouse West and later events at his Stage 4 school in Los Angeles.
The article featured accusations from five women who had worked with James Franco – four former acting students and one who claimed to have received mentoring from the actor. All five accused him of exploiting his power and position to coerce aspiring actors into unwanted sexual encounters.
“I felt like I was selected for something based on my hard work and my merit, and when I realized it was because I have nice [breasts], it was pretty clear that was not the case,” student Hilary Dusome said to The Los Angeles Times, “I don’t think he started teaching with bad intentions, but he went down a bad path and damaged a lot of people in the process.”
“He just took advantage of our eagerness to work and be a part of something bigger,” fellow student Natalie Chmiel added “We were all these up-and-coming actors who were so hopeful.”
Students quoted in the article reported Franco growing visibly angry at one point when students refused to go topless for a scene, storming off in a fit of anger.
Franco also taught a Sex Scenes class, which instructed students on the “art” of being intimate on camera. The film’s footage would inevitably appear on the internet because the master class was included as part of a docu-series. One actress, Sarah Tither-Kaplan, later discovered her naked body on pornography websites.
“I feel there was an abuse of power, and there was a culture of exploiting non-celebrity women, and a culture of women being replaceable,” said Tither-Kaplan to The Los Angeles Times.
But, the worst would come while filming a “bonus orgy” scene for The Long Home, where James was alleged to have removed plastic guards over actresses’ vaginas while simulating oral sex. When a co-star refused to appear topless for Franco in another scene, she was allegedly dismissed and sent home.
“I got it in my head pretty quickly that, OK, you don’t say ‘no’ to this guy,” Tither-Kaplan said.
Student Katie Ryan claimed that the actor “would always make everybody think there were possible roles on the table if we were to perform sexual acts or take off our shirts” in the actor’s projects.
Franco’s attorney Michael Plonkser would again declare these allegations to be false.
In October 2019, Tither-Kaplan and Gaal sued James Franco, Vince Jolivette, the Rabbit Bandini production company, and Jay Davis (the firm’s general manager). According to the lawsuit, the women accused Franco and his partners of “sexualizing their power as a teacher and employer by dangling potential roles in their projects,” according to the lawsuit. In addition, the lawsuit alleged that Franco coerced actresses into filming “overt sexual acts.”
Franco’s attorney Michael Plonsker responded with the following: “This is not the first time that these claims have been made, and they have already been debunked. We have not had an opportunity to review the ill-informed complaint in-depth since it was leaked to the press before it was filed, and our client has yet to even be served. James will not only fully defend himself, but will also seek damages from the plaintiffs and their attorneys for filing this scurrilous publicity-seeking lawsuit.”
Yet, James would settle the case for $2.2 million in the summer of 2021. While settlements do not imply guilt, months after this settlement, James would go on to admit to inappropriate behavior with his acting students. Despite this, he still denied the earlier allegations brought against him.
Recently, after years of sexual misconduct allegations, James Franco admitted to improper behavior on the Jess Cagle Podcast, confessing to numerous sexual relationships with his female students. In his statements to Jess Cagle, Franco said the following about his sexual misconduct allegations:
“Look, I’ll admit, I did sleep with students. 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. Franco continued, “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. […] “I suppose at the time my thinking was ‘if it’s consensual, OK.'”
Franco told Cagle that he was under treatment for substance abuse and attempted to connect this to his sex addiction:
“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”, he continued, “Once I couldn’t use 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, I guess, or success or whatever that is.”
Continuing further: “Along the road of trying to get success or climb the top of that mountain, attention from women, success with women also became a huge source of validation for me. The problem with that is, like any sort of drug, there’s never enough.”
It’s difficult to say at this point about whether his career as an actor may be taking a hit from his recent lawsuit and public comments on the Jess Cagle podcast. However, a long-time friend and co-star Seth Rogen has already stated that he will not work with James Franco in any manner again:
“What I can say is that I despise abuse and harassment, and I would never cover or conceal the actions of someone doing it or knowingly put someone in a situation where they were around someone like that.”
Apart from the instances listed above in which James admitted to wrongdoing, it is essential to note that these are all accusations. However, these women’s allegations cannot be disregarded or ignored when put together with his recent admissions. Therefore, it is critical that men and women in Hollywood accused of sexual misbehavior be held accountable.
#MeToo has forced many predatory celebrities in Hollywood to have their day of reckoning. But it’s not enough. We still have a long way to go.