James Franco has admitted to using his fame “as a lure,” sleeping with students at his defunct acting school Studio 4 and being “completely blind” to both “power dynamics” and “people’s feelings” in his first in-depth interview on the sexual misconduct allegations against him, which surfaced in 2018.
Franco’s comments came in an installment of SiriusXM’s The Jess Cagle Show unveiled Wednesday, which saw him explain his behavior as an extension of the addiction he’d struggled with since he was a teenager. While he managed to get his addiction to alcohol under control at age 17, he said he would later “fill that hole” that still existed within him through other means, also putting his addictive tendencies toward his work.
“Along the road of trying to get success and climb the top of that mountain, attention from women, success with women also became a huge source of validation for me,” Franco told host Jess Cagle. “The problem with that is…like any sort of drug or anything, there’s never enough. It was never-ending.”
The “insidious part” of all of this, from his perspective, was that even as he fell into sex addiction, he stayed sober from alcohol, consistently going to AA meetings and even trying to sponsor other people. “So in my head it was like, ‘Oh, I’m sober. I’m living a spiritual life,'” he said, “where on the side I’m acting out now in all these other ways, and I couldn’t see it.”
When Cagle pressed Franco about a lawsuit surrounding his conduct at Studio 4, which alleged he used the school “to create a pipeline of young women who would be subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation,” he maintained that he never had a “master plan” to use the school for that purpose. He added that he “was not clear-headed” during the time he was sleeping with students and justified the behavior to himself as okay, given that it was “consensual.”
Franco said that “one of the stupidest things” he did while at the school was naming one of his classes “Sex Scenes.” He pointed out that he never looked to teach students “how to do sex scenes” through this class, “or anything of that nature,” giving it that name just to be provocative. “It should have been called ‘Contemporary Romance’ or something like that,” Franco said. “It was a class where they did scenes about romances…what they go through as young people—so, meeting people on dating apps, or breakups, or just a bad date, stuff like that.”
In the course of the multi-part interview, Franco was also asked why now is the time for him to speak out with regard to accusations which were made around four years ago, explaining that “it did not seem like the right time to say anything” when they came to a head in 2018. “There were people that were upset with me,” he said, “and I needed to listen.”
He added that while “the natural human instinct” when “something like this happens” is “to just make it stop”—making mea culpas immediately, so as to be able to move on with one’s life and career—that would ultimately have been in service of no one. “What that doesn’t do is allow you to do the work and to look at what was underneath. Whatever you did…there’s probably an iceberg underneath that of behavior, of patterning, of just being blind to yourself that isn’t going to just be solved overnight,” he said. “So, I’ve just been doing a lot of work and I’m pretty confident in saying, [it’s been] four years… I’ve really used my recovery background to start examining this and changing who I was.”
Franco admitted at one point that while he never wanted “to hurt people,” his behavior wound up spinning out of a control to a point where he was “hurting everybody.”
Among those he hurt was his longtime friend and collaborator Seth Rogen, who declared in an interview back in May that he has no plans to work with Franco again. “I just want to say, I absolutely love Seth Rogen… He was my absolute closest work friend, collaborator, and we just gelled, and what he said is true,” said Franco. “We aren’t working together right now, and we don’t have any plans to work together.”
Of course, Franco continued, Rogen’s comments were “hurtful”—but he said he understands them. “Because I was silent, he had to answer for me, and I don’t want that,” he told Cagle. “That’s one of the main reasons I wanted to talk to you today, is I just don’t want Seth or my brother or anyone to have to answer for me anymore.”
While Franco’s career as an actor and filmmaker has for the most part stalled in the years since his sexual misconduct scandal unfolded, he told Cagle that in the end, he’s glad he went through what did. “If anything positive has come out of this, it’s like, I’ve changed. It’s given me the incentive to do the work to change,” he said. “I’ll keep working at it for the rest of my life, but at least it got me off that path that was never going to end and would probably kill me.”
Franco’s school was shuttered in 2017, with the actor-filmmaker settling lawsuits with multiple former students in February of this year.
The first clip from his sit-down with Cagle can be found above. View the others below.
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