The shady side of James Franco

James Franco has been celebrated ever since he won a Golden Globe for The Disaster Artist (2017). Before then, the actor was widely lauded as an eccentric artist himself who's ahead of his time and talented enough to justify just how, well, weird he is. 

But Franco isn't just unusual. He's also pretty shady, and no amount of acting accolades can quite compensate for some of his bad behavior. 

Ally Sheedy called out James Franco's Golden Globe win

Ally Sheedy, who's most famous for her role of Allison Reynolds in The Breakfast Club (1985), was furious about James Franco's win at the 2018 Golden Globes. She's previously starred in The Long Shrift, a play Franco directed in 2014, and tweeted during the awards show ceremony (via Vanity Fair), "James Franco just won. Please never ever ask me why I left the film/TV business." She added, "Ok wait. Bye. Christian Slater and James Franco at a table on @goldenglobes. #MeToo … Why is a man hosting? Why is James Franco allowed in?"

At the time of this writing, Sheedy has deleted her tweets and never expounded on what exactly happened to make her feel this way about the actor. However, it should be noted that Franco was hit with multiple allegations of sexual misconduct on social media that same week after he was spotted wearing a Time's Up pin at the event … but more on this below.

He was accused of being sketchy about nude scenes

Following James Franco's Golden Globes win, an actress named Sarah Tither-Kaplan also called the actor out — this time for his allegedly sketchy practices on unnamed independent films.

"Hey James Franco, nice #timesup pin at the #GoldenGlobes," Tither-Kaplan tweeted. "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." She followed this up with, "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?" Tither-Kaplan added, "Tbt to me speaking up for myself and other women on a franco set and immediately getting called a diva, told I was 'out of line', and publicly humiliated by the producer."

While Franco didn't publicly comment on Tither-Kaplan's allegations specifically, he did respond to the wave of accusations that hit during the awards show … though not in any meaningful sort of way.

James Franco acted dumbfounded in response to those allegations

When asked about these allegations during a January 2018 appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, James Franco said, "I want to say that I do support [Time's Up] … It was powerful. I support change." 

However, in terms of the claims made against him, he added, "There were some things on Twitter, I haven't read them. I've heard about them." And in response to Ally Sheedy's tweets, Franco said, "I have no idea what I did to Ally Sheedy … I had nothing but a great time with her. I have total respect for her. I have no idea why she was upset. She took the tweet down … I can't speak for her."

Franco continued, "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 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 can't live if there's restitution to be made. If I've done something wrong, I will fix it. I have to. I don't know what else to do." He added, "As far as the bigger issue of how we do it, I really don't have the answers. I think the point of this whole thing is that we listen."

He may have exploited Tommy Wiseau

Franco won a Golden Globe for playing Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist and had no problem with Wiseau tagging along the awards campaign trail, including a joint appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! But when Franco finally went to accept the trophy for his portrayal of the odd filmmaker, he appeared to physically block Wiseau from speaking into the microphone on stage with him.

"Nineteen years ago he was stuck in traffic, from the Golden Globes, he said to his best friend Greg," Franco said of Wiseau, before launching into Wiseau's infamously baffling accent: "'Golden Globes, so what, I'm not invited. I know they don't want me, guy with accent, long hair, so I show them. I don't wait for Hollywood, I make my own movie.'" The actor added in his own voice, "I am very happy to share this moment with him today." 

But that rang hollow considering he'd just won an award for a movie he made based on Wiseau's life, and then basically snubbed him on stage in front of the world. Wiseau later told the Los Angeles Times that what he would have said, if given the chance, was this: "If a lot of people loved each other, the world would be a better place to live. See The Room, have fun, and enjoy life. The American Dream is alive, and it's real."

James Franco threatened to sue over satire

The People's Improv Theater in New York City, a staple for comedic and improvisational performers, received a cease and desist letter from James Franco's attorneys in July 2017 when the actor learned that they planned to host a production of a play called James Franco and Me. Kevin Broccoli, an actor and the playwright of the production, told The New York Times, "I'm not someone who's trying to get into legal entanglements by any means, but anyone who comes to see the show would see that it's totally satire and within fair use guidelines."

In the play, Broccoli's character waits in a hospital where his dying father resides, when Franco, played by a different actor each night, comes to ruminate with him about life. "The play is about mortality and making the most of what you have," Broccoli said. "I imagined that if anyone would be game for this it'd be [Franco] … I've always been kind of fascinated with him because of how much product he puts out."

He was sued for headbutting a photographer

In October 2016, a photographer sued James Franco for allegedly headbutting him during a Lana Del Rey concert. According to documents obtained by TMZ, snapper David Tonnessen alleged that the actor "viciously charged" and headbutted him without provocation two years earlier while Tonnessen took photos at Del Rey's performance at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. 

What's more, Tonnessen claimed that Franco was "smiling, rather demonically," then had a "blank expression of joy on his face" when he allegedly knocked Tonnessen down.

Franco's been accused of exploiting the LGBTQ community

In 2014, HuffPost reported that Franco called out Gawker for insinuating that he was gay and living with friend Scott Haze in a romantic relationship — but that didn't stop the actor from allegedly mocking the LGBTQ+ community often. Two years later, he told New York Magazine, "There is a bit of overfocusing on my sexuality, both by the straight press and the gay press … But if your definition of gay and straight is who I sleep with, then I guess you could say I'm a gay c**k tease … Yeah, I'm a little gay, and there's a gay James." Franco had previously conducted an interview between his "gay James" and "straight James," writing, "I'm gay to the point of intercourse."

Franco was later accused of "making a mockery" of gay porn star Brent Corrigan in the film King Cobra (2016), which was reportedly based on Corrigan's life. Corrigan said of Franco's movie, "Not approved by me. It tells a story with contempt for queer culture & mockery for porn." Around that time, The Advocate compiled a list of homophobic moments in Franco's pal Seth Rogen's films, as well as several scenes from The Interview (2014) and a scene from This Is The End (2013), in which they co-starred, and their Kimye parody "Bound 3."

His 'art' is disgusting

James Franco had an art show in New York City in 2010. What did it entail? New York Magazine reported that one video in the exhibition, called Masculinity And Me, featured monologues about rape, murder, and diarrhea, accompanied by close-ups of people urinating and defecating. Another short film, titled D**knose In Paris, featured Franco wearing a prosthetic — and very detailed — recreation of the male anatomy in place of his nose on his face. Because art.

James Franco's reportedly cheap with his casts

In August 2013, Radar Online revealed that Franco supposedly expected actresses to appear in his film, The Sound And The Fury (2014), for next to nothing just to have the opportunity to work with him. The casting call reportedly read: "For those wanting to work with James, that in itself can be considered great currency. He is a fantastic director and quite loyal to his actors!! This story is both deep and rich!"

He can't take criticism

James Franco starred in a Broadway production of Of Mice and Men in 2014. But while his performance was generally well-received, not every reviewer was impressed. The New York Times theater reviewer Ben Brantley wrote of Franco's performance, "Mr. Franco is often understated to the point of near invisibility … Though Mr. Franco musters a single, perfect tear for the play's tragic climax, I only came close to shedding one."

Instead of shaking it off and reveling in his good press from other outlets, Franco instead took a screencap of a positive review from Variety and captioned it on Instagram with (via Page Six), "Sadly the NYT and Ben Brantley have embarrassed themselves. Brantley is such a little b***h he should be working for Gawker.com instead of the paper of record. The theater community hates him, and for good reason, he's an idiot."

Franco may have gotten a professor fired

Back in December 2011, New York University professor named José Angel Santana accused the prestigious college of firing him because he gave James Franco a D in his Directing The Actor II class — and Santana claimed that the grade was so low because Franco rarely bothered showing up to class at all. Santana sued Franco for making "disparaging and inaccurate public statements" after he received the poor grade, but the suit was dismissed in April 2013, when Santana's legal team couldn't actually locate Franco to serve him with paperwork required to go to court, per The Hollywood Reporter.

"The school has bent over backwards to create a Franco-friendly environment, that's for sure," Santana told the New York Post. "The university has done everything in its power to curry favor with James Franco." Santana also alleged that Franco "bought" better grades from another professor, Jay Anania, by casting Anania in one of his productions that Anania also wrote and directed. "In my opinion," Santana said, "they've turned the NYU graduate film degree into swag for James Franco's purposes, a possession, something you can buy."

James Franco was accused of stealing a screenplay idea

TMZ reported in July 2014 that Cyril Humphris, who owns the rights to author Charles Bukowski's autobiography, claimed in a lawsuit that he gave James Franco the movie rights to Bukowski's autobiography in 2009, but that Franco hadn't put them to use by the time their deal expired a year later. Franco went on to produce, direct, and write the film Bukowski (2013), alleging in court documents of his own that he came up with the idea himself — not from Humphris' deal or Bukowski's autobiography, but from the author's other writings — and requested the suit be dismissed.

He dissed Lindsay Lohan for no reason

James Franco was on the now-infamous list of Lindsay Lohan's former partners, which was leaked to tabloids in January 2014. That March, Franco released a poetry book called Moving Pictures / Moving Sculptures: The Films Of James Franco, in which he mentioned Lohan in a poem about a starlet with whom he never went to bed. "I didn't write anything bad about [her]," the actor told Los Angeles Magazine. "And Lindsay herself has told lies about me with her people-she's-slept-with list! So I feel like what I said is much less than what she's said."

Even before Lohan's list was exposed to the world, though, Franco threw her under the bus, telling Howard Stern (via Us Weekly) in March 2013 that he'd rejected her previously. "I don't want to brag about it. I don't know how that got out," he told the shock jock with no sense of irony whatsoever. "She was having issues even then, so you feel weird. Honestly, she was a friend. I've met a lot of people that are troubled and sometimes you don't want to do that."

James Franco's former students filed a lawsuit

In October 2019, James Franco found himself in more hot water when two former students of the star's closed acting school, Studio 4, filed a class action lawsuit with claims of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, fraud, and false advertising. These students included Sarah Tither-Kaplan, the actress who originally accused Franco of exploitation in January 2018, and Toni Gaal.

According to Variety, the suit alleged that students were misled by Franco's $300-per-month drama school. While Studio 4 appeared to be a legitimate learning opportunity, the women claimed they were "intimidated and sexually objectified." Those who undressed in front of Franco were allegedly "afforded special treatment," but things reportedly got even more inappropriate in Franco's sex scene master class. In these classes, students were allegedly "pressured to engage in sexual activity that went well beyond the industry norm." The actor reportedly taped these sexual auditions and reviewed them to select students for admission. 

Franco's attorney denied the claims to Variety, stating that they'd already "been debunked." As of this writing, the star has yet to be served, but plans to "fully defend himself" and seek damages.

He's got beef with Busy Philipps

Though Busy Philipps and James Franco were on-screen lovers in the cult '90s classic Freaks and Geeks, it seems like the pair didn't always get along in real life. In her 2018 memoir, This Will Only Hurt a Little (via The Hollywood Reporter), Philipps accused her former castmate of being a "f**king bully" who physically assaulted her on set. 

The whole thing reportedly went down while filming a scene in which Philipps' character, Kim Kelly, was supposed to softly nudge Franco's Daniel Desario. You'd think a tiny nudge between an on-screen couple would be nothing — especially since they were acting — but Franco allegedly got so angry when Philipps followed the script's direction that he reportedly "threw" her to the ground. "He grabbed both my arms and screamed in my face, 'DON'T EVER TOUCH ME AGAIN!'" Philipps wrote. "And he threw me to the ground. Flat on my back. Wind knocked out of me."

Philipps later told her co-star, Linda Cardellini, about the incident, and the actress encouraged her to report the incident to her manager. The director and producers forced Franco to apologize, but he reportedly didn't face any actual consequences.