SITDOWN

James Franco Grilled by Stephen Colbert Over Sexual-Misconduct Allegations

‘The things that I heard that were on Twitter are not accurate, but I completely support people coming out and being able to have a voice,’ said Franco.

Scott Kowalchyk/CBS

On Sunday evening, following James Franco’s surprise Golden Globe win for his turn as eccentric filmmaker Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist, the actor was bombarded with allegations of sexual misconduct—some vague, others more detailed—on Twitter.

The Breakfast Club star Ally Sheedy, whom Franco directed in the 2014 off-Broadway play The Long Shrift, cryptically tweeted, “Why is James Franco allowed in?” followed by “Ok wait. Bye. Christian Slater at a table at @goldenglobes #MeToo.” She then fired off a third tweet, “James Franco just won. Please never ask me why I left the film/tv business,” before scrubbing all of them from her account.

A little context: Around the time Franco co-starred with Sheedy in The Long Shrift, he was caught attempting to pick up a 17-year-old fan on Instagram (though the legal age of consent in New York is 17). Actress Violet Paley alleged via Twitter that Franco forced her to perform oral sex on him and “told my friend to come to your hotel when she was 17.” She later alleged that Franco had offered a phone apology in recent weeks to her and “a few other girls.” Actress Sarah Tither-Kaplan, who studied acting under Franco, claimed to have endured “exploitative” treatment regarding a nude scene in one of Franco’s films.

Franco, who was wearing a Time’s Up pin at the ceremony, was due to participate in a discussion with The New York Times that the paper abruptly canceled Tuesday, saying in a statement: “The event was intended to be a discussion of the making of the film, The Disaster Artist. Given the controversy surrounding recent allegations, we’re no longer comfortable proceeding in that vein.”

Tuesday evening, during an appearance on The Late Show, host Stephen Colbert very delicately probed Franco about the recent allegations, and received the actor’s first public statements on the matter.

“I do want to ask you something, and I know I mentioned backstage that I wanted to talk to you about this, and if you’re OK talking about it, I wanted to ask you about some criticism you got on Golden Globes night,” said a nervous Colbert. “Because you were wearing a ‘Time’s Up’ pin in support of the Time’s Up movement, which has been created by many powerful women in Hollywood to say that time is up for the abuse, misuse of women—both sexually and otherwise—not only in Hollywood, but around the country. They’ve established a legal defense fund for women and men who are being abused in this way. You got criticized for wearing that. Do you know why? And do you have a response, or anything you want to say about that criticism?”

The 39-year-old actor, who appeared visibly uncomfortable, replied: “Well, first I wanna say I wore it because I do support it. I was… Look, I was so excited to win, but being in that room that night was incredible. I mean, it was powerful, and there were incredible voices, and I support it. I support change, and I support 50/50 in 2020, which just means that people that are underrepresented—women, and people of color, and people in the LGBT community—get, you know, positions, leadership positions, and they fill all positions that they’ve been deprived of. I completely believe in that. That’s why I wore it.”

Then he sort of addressed the allegations: “There were some things on Twitter, um, I haven’t read them. I’ve heard about them. OK, first of all, I have no idea what I did to Ally Sheedy. I directed her in a play off-Broadway. 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.”

He continued: “The others, look, in my life I pride myself on taking responsibility for things I’ve done. I have to do that to maintain my well-being. I do it whenever I know that there’s something wrong that needs to be changed, I make it a point to do it. The things that I heard that were 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, so I don’t want to shut them down in any way. I think it’s a good thing, and I support it.”

Colbert was not done. “Is there some way to have this conversation that piggybacks on what’s happening in social media? Because for so long accusations were not believed, when accusations happen—in your case, you say that, ‘This is not an accurate thing for me.’ Do you have any idea of what the answer might be to come to some sense of what the truth is so there can be some sort of reconciliation between people who clearly have different views of things? I mean, that’s a big question, but I don’t know how to leave… or further this discussion?”

After looking down at the ground for a few seconds, Franco lifted his head and answered: “I mean, like I said, if I… I can’t… The way I live my life, I can’t live—if there’s restitution to be made, I will… I will make it. So if I’ve done something wrong, I will fix it. I have to. I mean, I think that’s how that works. I don’t know what else to do. As far as the bigger issues of how we do it, look, I really don’t have the answers, and I think the point of this whole thing is that we listen. There were, you know, incredible people talking that night. They had a lot to say, and I’m here to listen and learn, and change my perspective where it’s off, and I’m completely willing and I want to.”

And with that, Colbert thanked Franco for being on his program and sent him on his way.