Was it tempting fate, to direct and star in a movie called The Disaster Artist?
James Franco is, famously, one of Hollywood’s most indomitable multitaskers: acting in movies while enrolling at Columbia University and NYU; shooting an arc on General Hospital while performing some meta-commentary, in real life, about shooting an arc on General Hospital; appearing totally stoned while hosting the Oscars.
But this week’s high-low mashup is a new extreme. On Sunday night, Franco won the Golden Globe for best actor – musical or comedy for his performance in The Disaster Artist, which he also directed and produced. The ceremony’s time’s up music (pun intended) had scarcely started to swell when comments about Franco’s mistreatment of women popped up on Twitter. News of Franco’s alleged misdeeds, colliding as it did with the Time’s Up pin on his lapel and his all-black attire, smacked of hypocrisy.
Actress Ally Sheedy, who deleted her tweets not long after she posted them, called out Franco as he took the stage to accept his award. Sheedy worked with Franco in 2014 on the off-Broadway play The Long Shrift, which he directed.
Hers were not the first or only comments about Franco’s inappropriate behavior. Violet Paley and Sarah Tither-Kaplan also tweeted about Franco during the Globes telecast:
Cute #TIMESUP pin James Franco. Remember the time you pushed my head down in a car towards your exposed penis & that other time you told my friend to come to your hotel when she was 17? After you had already been caught doing that to a different 17 year old?
— Violet Paley (@VioletPaley) January 8, 2018
Hey James Franco, nice #timesup pin at the #GoldenGlobes , remember a few weeks ago when you told me the full nudity you had me do in two of your movies for $100/day wasn't exploitative because I signed a contract to do it? Times up on that!
— Sarah Tither-Kaplan🌈 (@sarahtk) January 8, 2018
Later in the week, Paley and Tither-Kaplan, along with three other women, would come forward with their detailed allegations in the Los Angeles Times. But Franco — perhaps unaware of the impending L.A. Times story or in willful denial about how graphic it would be — continued his press tour. (At least, he continued most of his press tour: The New York Times canceled Franco’s TimesTalk, originally scheduled for Wednesday, citing “recent allegations.”)
Hot on the heels of his Golden Globes victory, Franco went to the National Board of Review’s awards gala, where he presented his movie’s adapted screenplay award. (The winners of the NBR gala are announced ahead of time.) That same night, he appeared as a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
All the late night hosts seem to be undergoing a post-Trump, post-Weinstein reckoning of sorts. It’s probable they are feeling haunted by how soft they’ve been on alleged sex abusers in years past. Even a year ago, it seems unlikely Franco would have had to address, even briefly, these tweets and the claims of these women.
A useful point of comparison here is Casey Affleck. Affleck, like Franco, was considered a promising talent who nevertheless alienated audiences with a piece of elaborate performance art that didn’t go over well; who, like Franco, was accused by multiple women of using his position of power on film sets to sexually impose himself on them; and who, like Franco, was an awards season favorite in spite of it all for Manchester By the Sea, for which he went on to win an Oscar last year. (Should tradition reign, Affleck will present this year’s trophy for best actress.)
But, praise be, we’re not in 2017 anymore. So on Tuesday night, Colbert closed out his interview by asking Franco to address the allegations. Franco insisted that his support of Time’s Up was genuine:
“There were some things on Twitter. I haven’t read them. I’ve heard about them. First of all, I have no idea what I did to Ally Sheedy… I had nothing but a great time with her, total respect for her. I have no idea why she was upset. She took the tweet down. I don’t know, I can’t speak for her, I don’t know. The others, look: In my life, I pride myself on taking responsibility for things that I’ve done. I have to do that to maintain my well-being… The things that I heard that are on Twitter are not accurate, but I completely support people coming out and being able to have a voice because they didn’t have a voice for so long.”
Colbert followed up, asking, essentially, what now? Franco, with a look in his eyes like a man who would rather be licking the floor of a dive bar bathroom than having this conversation, said, “If there’s restitution to be made, I will make it. If I’ve done something wrong, I will fix it. I have to.”
Not mentioned in this interview was the fact that, in 2014, Franco tried to pick up a 17-year-old girl via the most chivalrous of all methods: Sliding into her DMs. (He was 35.) After the text exchange leaked, Franco said of the incident, “I’m embarrassed and I guess I’m just a model of how social media is tricky.”
Wednesday evening, Franco continued to make the late night rounds as a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers. Unlike Colbert, who saved his allegations-themed questions for the end of the interview, Meyers opened with them.
“I’m glad you’re still here,” Meyers said, commending Franco for showing up even though his appearance was booked before the allegations surfaced. “I wonder if you have read those tweets [from the Globes] and, if so, how you respond to them.”
By this point, Franco said that yes, he did read the tweets, and he maintained that they weren’t accurate. Meyers asked if Franco had reached out to Sheedy. “Are you not curious as to why she would do that, if you had, from your perspective, a good relationship with her?”
Franco insisted their relationship was “great” and that he didn’t know what to make of Sheedy’s tweets, which he pointed out, again, she’d deleted. But Meyers pressed him on it: “Not curious enough, though, to reach out to her? As someone you had a good relationship with before, to try to understand why she would have done that?”
Franco’s reply: “I don’t know. It was so shocking. I don’t know. I guess I’m just letting it be.”
“I have my own side of this story,” Franco said as they closed out this portion of the proceedings. “But I believe in, you know, these people that have been underrepresented getting their stories out enough that I will hold back things that I could say.”
Just hours after Franco’s Late Night interview aired, the L.A. Times published its investigation.
Tither-Kaplan, who tweeted during the Globes, is one of four former acting students of Franco’s who said “they believed Franco could offer them career advancement, and acquiesced to his wishes even when they were uncomfortable,” as the L.A. Times reports. (The fifth woman described Franco as a mentor.)
[Tither-Kaplan] told The Times that in a nude orgy scene she filmed with Franco and several women three years ago, he removed protective plastic guards covering other actresses’ vaginas while simulating oral sex on them.
Two other student actresses also recounted negative on-set experiences. Both said Franco became angry when no women, while at the shoot, would agree to be topless.
Through his attorney, Michael Plonsker, Franco “disputed all of the women’s allegations.”
Thursday night, Franco won a Critics Choice Award for best actor in a comedy. But he was a no-show; actor Walton Goggins accepted the award on his behalf. TMZ reports that Franco did fly to Los Angeles with plans to attend the show but backed out upon arrival. A source told People that Franco is “in a really bad place, so bad that he changed his phone number. His close friends are trying to be there for him but it’s been hard – he’s only talking to a select group of people. For now, he’s just hiding out.”
As for Friday: It’s the last day of Oscar voting. Wonder how many Academy members wait until the last week to fill out those ballots, and if the testimonies of Franco’s accusers will sway them.