James Franco says he has spent time "changing who I was" since 2018, when numerous women made a series of sexual misconduct allegations against him.
In his first in-depth interview in nearly four years, "The Disaster Artist" star was asked on SiriusXM’s "The Jess Cagle Podcast" about why he is speaking out now about the allegations.
"Well, in 2018, there were some complaints about me and an article about me and at that moment I just thought, I’m going to be quiet," Franco said. "I’m going to pause. Did not seem like the right time to say anything. There were people that were upset with me and I needed to listen.
"There’s a writer, Damon Young, and he talked about when something like this happens, the natural human instinct is to just make it stop. You just want to get out in front of it and whatever you have to do, apologize, you know, get it done. But what that doesn’t do is allow you to do the work, and to look at what was underneath, like, whatever you did, even if it was a gaffe or you said something wrong or whatever, 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."
Franco, 43, agreed in June to pay over $2 million to settle a sexual misconduct lawsuit filed by several of his former students, according to court documents seen by NBC News.
He was sued in 2019 in a class-action lawsuit by two former students, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, who attended his Studio 4 acting school, which he ran from 2014 to 2017. They said in their lawsuit they and others were coerced into filming overt sexual acts by Franco. Franco denied the allegations in the lawsuit, including at the time of the settlement.
"So I’ve just been doing a lot of work," Franco said in the interview. "And I guess I’m pretty confident in saying like, four years, you know? And, I was in recovery before for substance abuse. And 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.”
Franco apologized in 2014 for having propositioned a 17-year-old girl on Instagram. Five women, including Tither-Kaplan, told the Los Angeles Times in 2018 that Franco had been inappropriate or sexually exploitative while working with them as an acting teacher or mentor, which Franco told Stephen Colbert at the time was “not accurate.”
Franco said in the SiriusXM interview he had sexual relationships with students of his acting school but they were consensual. The lawsuit had alleged that Franco was looking to "create a pipeline of young women who were subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education."
"Look, I’ll admit I did sleep with students," Franco said. "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. But like I said, 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," he continued. "Of course I knew talking to other people, other teachers or whatever, like, it’s probably not a cool thing. At the time I was not clearheaded as I’ve said. I guess it just comes down to my criteria was like, if this is consensual, I think it’s cool. We’re all adults so …"
Franco said he has been in recovery for sex addiction since 2016.
“It’s such a powerful drug, and I got hooked on it for 20 more years," he said about his addiction. "And the insidious part of that is that I stayed sober from alcohol all that time. So, and I went to meetings, you know, all that time. I even tried to, you know, sponsor other people. And so in my head, it was like, ‘Oh, I’m sober. I’m living a spiritual life,' where on the side, I’m acting out now in all these other ways. And I couldn’t see it."
Franco said he frequently cheated on women before his current girlfriend of four years, Isabel Pakzad.
"I didn’t want to hurt people, and in fact I wasn’t, like, really a one-night-stand guy. People I got together with or dated, I’d see them for a long time, years. It’s just that I couldn’t be present for any of them. And the behavior spun out to a point where it was like I was hurting everybody.”
The sexual misconduct accusations led Franco's longtime collaborator, Seth Rogen, to share in May that he would no longer be working with Franco on future projects. Franco responded to that statement in the interview with Cagle, which will be released in full on Thursday.
"He was asked about me, and I just want to say, I absolutely love Seth Rogen," Franco said. "I worked with him for 20 years. We didn’t have one fight for 20 years. Not one fight. He was my absolute closest work friend, collaborator. We just gelled, and what he said is true — we aren’t working together right now and we don’t have any plans to work together.
"Of course it was hurtful, in context, but I get it, he had to answer for me because I was silent. He had to answer for me and I don’t want that. And so that’s why it’s one of the main reasons I wanted to talk to you today, is I just, I don’t want Seth or my brother or anyone to have to answer for me anymore."