James Franco’s Track Record of Creepy Behavior: Texting Teens and Nude Selfies

GettyImages-855993326
James Franco at the 65th San Sebastian Film Festival in 2017. ANDER GILLENEA/AFP/Getty Images

Last week, James Franco was handed the Golden Globe for Best Actor for portraying The Room auteur Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist. Yesterday, he was handed on-the-record accusations of his sexual misconduct—not exactly the kind of pre-Oscars press producers of The Disaster Artist were hoping for.

On Thursday, the Los Angeles Times published an investigation featuring five women who said Franco behaved inappropriately towards them and abused his role as a mentor and teacher. The alleged behavior included taking off a guard protecting an actress's vagina for a sex scene, storming off a shoot when no women would volunteer to take their top off and pressuring young actresses to play prostitutes. 

The report was published in the wake of sexual misconduct accusations against Franco posted to Twitter during the Golden Globes. One, a since-deleted tweet from Ally Sheedy, insinuated it was hypocritical of Franco to wear a "Time's Up" button to the awards ceremony. 

Franco responded to those rumors on Tuesday’s The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. "The things that I heard that went on Twitter are not accurate," Franco told Colbert. His attorney, meanwhile, denied all the allegations from the Times' report.

The tweets and subsequent LA Times report might seem to have come out of nowhere. But Franco, known for roles in James Dean, Pineapple Express, 127 Hours and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy, has a history of creepiness that, until now has been largely brushed off as part of his eccentric persona.

The most notorious moment came in 2014 when Gawker published private messages between Franco and a then-17-year-old female fan. Franco, who was 35, asked her number of questions—including her a request for a photo, her relationship status and the name of her hotel— that suggested he was looking for a sexual relationship.

james franco texts A text screenshot published by Gawker in 2014. Getty Images

A few days later, Franco admitted on Live With Kelly and Michael that he was trying to arrange a romantic hook-up with the teen girl. "In my position, not only do I have to go through the embarrassing rituals of meeting someone, but sometimes it gets published for the world," he said. He did not comment on the age difference or power imbalance in this instance of said ritual. 

A month after the Gawker story, in May 2014, Franco posted a suggestive selfie to his public Instagram account. He deleted it later, but the photo got around: A nearly-naked Franco in the mirror, with one hand snapping the photo and the other, pressed firmly on his genitals. (Provacative Instagram posts are something of a habit for Franco, as is deleting those images after they've been posted.)

That all came after the painful 2013 Comedy Central roast of Franco. Seth Rogen, who produced The Disaster Artist and has a long working and personal relationship with Franco, made his first joke of the night about his friend's sexual kinks. "We're here tonight to live out James' unfulfilled sexual fantasies: To have a room full of friends shit all over him."

At one point, Franco seems visibly uncomfortable at one of Rogen's jokes: "James became famous for playing James Dean, which makes sense because they both sucked some dicks and made three good movies." Even Rogen noticed Franco's discomfort. "You asked us to do this man," Rogen said, laughing nervously. 

Texts, selfies and a reputation for a healthy sexual appetite are not crimes, of course. But in light of his recent allegations, these seemingly innocuous (if cringe-worthy) habits take on a more sinister look. 

The question now is, what comes next? Will Franco face Oscar punishment or the Hollywood jail imposed on some of his badly-behaved peers? If recent history is any guide, probably not. Casey Affleck won the Best Actor Oscar last year for Manchester by the Sea despite his documented history of sexual harassment. For better or worse, it's on Franco to shift how he acts and "supports" young aspiring actresses. 

After he won his Golden Globe on Sunday, Sarah Tither-Kaplan, one of his accusers in the LA Times story, tweeted: "Hey James Franco, now that you have a Golden Globe why don't you give speaking roles that don't require nudity in your upcoming films to the dozens of women who have done full nudity + sex scenes in your indie films and art projects?"