James Franco has admitted he had sex with his acting students at a school he previously ran, saying it was wrong but that he was struggling with a sex addiction.
He said the sex was consensual, which at the time he thought made it “OK”, but that he now acknowledges “that was wrong”.
In an interview on the SiriusXM podcast, the 43-year-old claimed he was “completely blind to power dynamics” at play.
It’s the first in-depth interview he’s done since five women, including four of his former students, made sexual misconduct allegations against him in January 2018.
At the time, Franco denied the allegations as “not accurate”, but also said that he did not want to shut down people who “did not have a voice”.
In 2019 two of the accusers launched legal action against Franco, saying he and the co-founders of the Playhouse West Studio 4 school abused their powers as teachers.
They alleged they “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”.
The allegations referred to “sex scenes masterclass” Franco taught, in which he was accused of having “intimidated them into performing gratuitous sex scenes”.
Franco was accused of removing vaginal guards from women while simulating oral sex scenes in class.
“[Franco’s masterclass] was little more than a scheme to provide him and his male collaborators with a pool of young female performers that they could take advantage of,” the lawsuit alleged.
Franco paid $3 million to settle the lawsuit in February this year.
In May, his long-time colleague and friend Seth Rogan told the Sunday Times that he had “no plans” to ever work with Franco again in light of the allegations.
In the podcast, Franco said Rogan’s comments were hurtful at the time but that he “got it”.
Franco also said that he used to crave sexual validation from women, saying: “It’s such a powerful drug, and I got hooked on it for 20 more years.”
Franco has a history of substance abuse and has been in recovery from alcohol addiction since he was young.
“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.”
He emphasised that he hadn’t started the school to seek that validation.
“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.”