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In a rare and far-reaching interview, James Franco admitted sleeping with students from the drama school he brought with him and said he believed that despite the striking power imbalance, their encounters were consensual.
The Oscar-nominated actor has faced multiple sexual misconduct allegations since 2018 – which he denied at the time – and earlier this year settled a class action lawsuit brought by two former college students who alleged they were sexually exploited and victims of fraud in the now -closed school.
Franco went into these allegations and his struggles with sex addiction in an interview with The Jess Cagle Show, which was published several excerpts from the conversation on YouTube on Wednesday before full release on Thursday afternoon.
“There were people who were mad at me and I had to listen,” Franco said when asked why he had been silent so far. “I’ve just worked a lot and I’m pretty confident that I can say four years? There were some issues I had to deal with that also had an addiction related recovery background to start looking into and changing who I was. “
The lawsuit focused on his drama school and a class called “sex scenes”.
The 2019 lawsuit alleged that Franco and two other men had sexually exploited female students at Studio 4, an acting school founded by Franco in 2014 and based in New York and Los Angeles (he taught there and also taught acting at the college level) .
The plaintiffs, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, wanted to represent a class of more than 100 former students. They claimed the school’s goal was to “create a steady stream of young women who can be objectified and exploited,” as well as “bypassing California’s” pay for play “regulations,” which prohibit actors from being used for Get audition paid. They told NPR in 2019 that they were promised that, as paying students, they would be offered the opportunity to audition for roles on Franco’s projects.
Part of the complaint was in a class called Sex Scenes, which required students to audition and pay an additional $ 750. Tither-Kaplan said she assumed the course would teach her how to professionally navigate sex scenes, but that she saw her goal in being more for the students, “getting naked and doing sex scenes and not yourself.” to complain and to push the limits ”.
Franco dismissed the lawsuit’s allegations at the time, and his attorney also said he would seek damages from plaintiffs and their attorneys “for filing these whimsical advertisements for the lawsuit”. The women dropped their claims in February 2021 after the parties reached a preliminary settlement and Franco officially agreed in late June to settle the $ 2.2 million lawsuit.
“I didn’t sleep with anyone in that particular class, but during the course of my class I slept with students and that was wrong,” Franco said in a video clip. “But… that’s why I didn’t start the school, and I wasn’t the person who picked people for the class. So it wasn’t a master plan on my part, but yes, there have been certain cases where … I had an amicable deal with a student and shouldn’t have been. “
Cagle pushed back and asked Franco how he could not have been aware of the power imbalance between students and their teacher, a very famous actor.
“I suppose I thought at the time, if it’s consensual, okay,” said Franco. “Of course I knew, you know, talking to other people, other teachers or whatever, yeah, it’s probably not a cool thing. At the time I wasn’t clear … my criterion was, if that’s consensual, I think it’s cool, we’re all adults. “
Franco characterized the class of sex scenes as provocative, he said it was about dating and relationships and should have been called something in the direction of “contemporary romance”.
Franco spoke about his sex addiction and how it affects his personal and professional relationships
At another point he admitted that he did “Let a lot of people down” like his students, the Oscars, and his staff in various films. Franco talked about being overworked and approaching his limits while juggling a Broadway show, making movies, and teaching at four Los Angeles schools.
A year before the allegations of misconduct surfaced, he said: one of his agents staged an intervention that he’s a workaholic.
He spoke of addiction problems, first with alcohol and then with sex. He said after sobering up at 17, he sought validation through professional success and then attention from women. The problem is that “there is never enough”.
Franco admitted he was unfaithful in relationships and said he cheated on “everyone” in front of his current girlfriend. He said his sponsor has suggested that infidelity and dishonesty may harm his sobriety but is not concerned about “whatever happens between two consenting adults” while he is single. Franco said he used that as an “excuse to just meet up anywhere”.
“It was like, ‘Well, we’re being honest, right here,’ and as you said, completely blind to power dynamics or something like that, but also completely blind to people’s feelings,” he said, adding that his behavior was reaching a point where he “hurt everyone”.
“I love Seth Rogen,” said Franco. “I worked with him for 20 years, we didn’t have a fight … He was my absolute closest work friend, an employee, we just made an appointment. And what he said is true, we are not working together right now and we have no plans to work together. “
Franco said that while Rogen’s comments were hurtful, he understood that Rogen had to answer for him because he was silent himself. He added that this was another reason to speak up – “so people no longer have to answer for me.”
This story originally appeared on the Morning edition Live-Blog.