James Franco has clearly spent time studying the Al Franken strategy. Allegations of sexual misconduct emerged on social media before and during the Golden Globes show — where Franco won an award — from actors Ally Sheedy, Violet Paley, and Sarah Tither-Kaplan. Those allegations got picked up by activists during the broadcast, turning Franco’s big night into a big headache. The controversy it generated reached enough amplitude for the New York Times to cancel Franco’s appearance at a TimesTalk event scheduled for today, a decision the paper said came directly from those accusations.
Stephen Colbert carefully raised the issue on last night’s Late Show, in a scene somewhat reminiscent of Jay Leno’s 1995 interview with Hugh Grant after his arrest with a prostitute. Instead of confessing with abject humility, as Grant did, Franco insists that he has “no idea” about the basis for the allegations. Franco flat-out denied that anything untoward took place with Sheedy in the play he directed, and offered somewhat more ambiguous denials about the other two women, calling them … “not accurate”:
Later, during an appearance on CBS’ “The Late Show,” host Stephen Colbert questioned Franco about the allegations. Franco said the things he’s heard about on Twitter aren’t accurate but he supports people coming out and having a voice.
When asked by Colbert about how to come to some sense of the truth so that there can be a possible reconciliation between the people who have different views, Franco said if he’s done something wrong, he will fix it.
“If there’s restitution to be made, I will make it,” Franco said.
“I’m here to listen and learn and change my perspective where it’s off, and I’m completely willing and want to,” he added.
All the while, Franco made sure to give vocal support to the “Time’s Up” movement, their “fifty-fifty” parity goals, and the empowerment of women. “If there’s restitution to be made,” Franco said, “I will make it” — but while still denying he’d done anything that required restitution.
Colbert appeared to get frustrated by this logical cul-de-sac, and for good reason. If nothing happened, why does Franco talk about restitution? He says he wants to “learn and change my perspective,” which is an odd way for someone who’s done nothing wrong to talk. Franco is either unwisely attempting to use politically-correct jargon where flat denials would work better, or he’s using that jargon to hide the fact that he’s not issuing flat denials.
Franken tried the latter, and it worked — for a while, until his colleagues suddenly turned on him for political expediency. Given the nature and scope of the scandal in Hollywood, Franco should worry that the same fate awaits him.
Addendum: Kudos to Colbert for spending almost five minutes trying to pin Franco down on these allegations. He did so fairly, apprising Franco of his intention to discuss the issue ahead of time, and gave Franco plenty of space to answer. Some hosts might have intentionally avoided the issue to keep access to A-listers.