Pop Culture

James Franco on Rogen: 'If anyone should paint Seth naked, it should be me'

Sorry, bromance fansSeth Rogen didn't actually pose for the nude paintings by actor pal James Franco that are currently generating so much buzz. The portraits were copies of illustrations originally drawn by another artist — and they're entirely fictional.

In a visit to TODAY Wednesday with director Gia Coppola to talk about the pair’s new film "Palo Alto," Franco revealed that his own Rogen renderings arose from protective instincts.

"Some other artist took it upon himself to do these sketches of Seth in the nude," the actor explained to Savannah Guthrie. “Seth didn't pose for them, but this artist depicted Seth. And he wouldn't have gotten much attention for these sketches except that he put Seth's face on them."

Franco likely was referring to Christopher Schulz, a New York-based artist and independent publisher who in 2011 released a short book of photorealistic graphite illustrations titled "Seth." The 14 centerfold-style drawings imagine Rogen in the buff, striking a series of playful and intimately revealing poses.

"I felt like, 'Oh, here (this artist) is appropriating Seth's personality and his persona for his art, to get attention for his art,” Franco told TODAY. “And I thought, well, if anybody should paint Seth naked, it should be me. And so I took his sketches and then did paintings of them."

In Schulz's defense, there's ample precedent in the art world for simulated celebrity nudes. Last year, a 1991 topless painting of "Golden Girls" actress Bea Arthur, by the artist John Currin, was auctioned for $1.9 million at Christie's.