The actor also talks about being in recovery for sex addiction and where his friendship stands with Seth Rogen.
James Franco is speaking out about the sexual misconduct lawsuit against him and taking an extended break from Hollywood. In his first interview in nearly four years with SiriusXM's Jess Cagle, the 43-year-old actor addressed the inappropriate sexual behavior allegations against him by multiple women published in a 2018 Los Angeles Times report as well as the sexual misconduct lawsuit filed against his acting school in 2019.
ET confirmed in February that Franco reached a settlement in the 2019 lawsuit by former students at his now-defunct Studio 4 acting school, agreeing to pay $2,235,000. The suit was filed by two women, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, who accused Franco of creating an environment of harassment and sexual exploitation. Franco's attorney, Michael Plonsker, denied the claims in a previous statement to ET.
In his interview on Tuesday, Franco explained why he's stayed silent.
"Well, in 2018, there were some complaints about me and an article about me and at that moment I just thought, I'm gonna be quiet," he said. "I'm gonna pause. Did not seem like the right time to say anything. There were people that were upset with me and I needed to listen."
"So, I've just been doing a lot of work," he continued. "And I guess I'm pretty confident in saying like, four years, you know? And, I was in recovery before, you know, 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."
In their lawsuit, Tither-Kaplan and Gaal claimed Studio 4 was a scheme to provide Franco and his male partners with young women they could take advantage of. They alleged they were subjected to sexually exploitative auditions and film shoots with promises of getting roles in movies that never materialized or were released.
"Look, I'll admit I did sleep with students," Franco said. "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, you know, talking to other people, other teachers or whatever, like, yeah. It's probably not a cool thing. At the time I was not clearheaded as I've said. So I guess it just comes down to my criteria was like, if this is consensual, like, I think it's cool. We're all adults so…"
Franco revealed that he's been in recovery for sex addiction since 2016 and also acknowledged cheating on all of his past partners prior to his current girlfriend, Isabel Pakzad.
"It's such a powerful drug. And I, I got hooked on it for 20 more years," he said. "And the insidious part of that is that I stayed sober from alcohol all that time. And I went to meetings, you know, all that time. I even tried to, you know, to 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."
"I'd had girlfriends," he continued. "I could never be faithful to anybody. So I cheated. I cheated on everyone before Isabel and [my sponsor's] like, 'Look, the cheating is dishonest. I don't think that's good for your sobriety, but if you're not dating someone and you wanna go and hook up, like whatever happens between two consenting adults is fine.’ Like, that's what he said. The problem was, I took that and I ran with it and used it as an excuse to, you know, just hook up all over the place. And it was like, well, we're being honest here. Right? And like you said, like I was completely blind to power dynamics or anything like that, but also completely blind to people's feelings. I didn't wanna hurt people. And I, in fact, I wasn't like really a one-night-stand guy. Like people that I, you know, got together with or dated, like 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."
Franco said that aside from all the self-reflection, one major positive aspect of being out of the spotlight for four years has been putting a stop to being a workaholic.
"I have changed," he said. "It's given me the incentive to do the work, to change. I've got it. I'm, you know, I'll keep working at it for the rest of my life. But like at least it got me off that path that was never gonna end and would probably kill me. I truly believe like, if I kept going with my work addiction, I probably would've relapsed on alcohol."
Later, he addressed his longtime friend and frequent collaborator Seth Rogen's comments in May that he no longer plans to work with him following the sexual misconduct allegations. Rogen told The Sunday Times, "I look back to that interview in 2018 where I comment that I would keep working with James, and the truth is that I have not and I do not plan to right now. ... I can say it, um, you know, it has changed many things in our relationship and our dynamic."
Franco said he still loved Rogen, though admitted he was hurt by the comments.
"I love Seth Rogen. I worked with him for 20 years," he noted. "We didn't have one fight for 20 years. Not one fight. He was my absolute closest work friend, collaborator. And um, you know, we just gelled and what he said is true, you know, we aren't working together right now and we don't have any plans to work together. Of course it was hurtful, you know, in context, but I get it, you know, he had to answer for me 'cause I was silent. He had to answer for me and I don't want that. And so that's why, you know, 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 [actor Dave Franco] or anyone to have to answer for me anymore."