Will Accusations Of Sexual Misconduct Derail James Franco?

“I was talking to him, [and] all of a sudden his penis was out,” said one woman.

Just days after taking home a Golden Globe for The Disaster Artist, James Franco has been accused of inappropriate and sexually exploitative behavior by five women, four of whom were his acting students.

The first accusations came on Twitter immediately following Franco’s win, with two accusers calling him out for wearing a #TimesUp pin.

Sarah Tither-Kaplan told The L.A. Times that Franco removed plastic guards covering actresses’ vaginas while simulating oral sex on the them in the upcoming film The Long Home, which Franco also directed.

“I feel there was an abuse of power,” she said, “and there was a culture of exploiting non-celebrity women, and a culture of women being replaceable.”

Photo by Venturelli/WireImage

A casting director who worked on set during production for The Long Home, says she did not receive any complaints about Franco’s behavior, even though she “personally checked on all the actresses constantly to make sure they were ok and comfortable.”

“James is all about giving up and comers, actors and actresses and young filmmakers a break in this business,” said Franco’s attorney, Cynthia Huffman. “I feel horrible that anyone was made to feel uncomfortable but we went to great lengths to make sure all the actresses in the nude scenes felt comfortable and safe.”

Another accuser, Violet Paley, told The Times she met Franco in early 2016 when he agreed to give her notes on her script. Paley alleges Franco pressured her to perform oral sex on him when they were in a car: “I was talking to him, [and] all of a sudden his penis was out,” Paley said. “I got really nervous, and I said, ‘Can we do this later?’ He was kind of nudging my head down, and I just didn’t want him to hate me, so I did it.”

Franco attorney Michael Plonsker described Paley’s description of the incident as “not accurate.”

The Disaster Artist, a passion project that Franco also produced and directed, has been getting major acclaim and could net him his first Academy Award, whether for acting or even directing. But will Hollywood see him as too toxic?

The Disaster Artist/New Line Cinema

The 39-year-old actor-director has built his brand as a wild child and libertine. But he’s earned criticism along the way, including for what some critics see as gay-baiting.

In a 2016 interview he even claimed there was a “straight” and “gay” Franco.

“I like to think that I’m gay in my art and straight in my life. Although, I’m also gay in my life up to the point of intercourse—and then you could say I’m straight.”

Last night on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Franco reiterated that he felt the accusations were unwarranted, but added that it was important to have these conversations.

“I have my own side of this story, but I believe in these people that have been underrepresented getting their stories out enough that I will hold back things that I could say just because I believe in it that much. If I have to take a knock because I am not going to try and actively refute things then I will, because I believe in it that much.”

Only time will tell if these allegations will derail Franco’s career, the way they have men like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. But we’ll get our first indication when Academy Award nominations are announced on January 23.

Zachary Zane is a writer and activist whose work focuses on sexuality, culture, and academic research. He has contributed to The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, and The Advocate.