James Franco Cast in 1st Film Role Following Sexual Misconduct Allegations

James Franco Cast in 1st Film Role Following Sexual Misconduct Allegations
James Franco. Shutterstock

Back to the big screen. James Franco will star in the World War II drama Me, You, his first film project since being accused of sexual misconduct four years ago.

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“I am excited to board this phenomenal project and to be working with the legendary [director] Bille August,” the Pineapple Express star, 44, said in a statement to Entertainment Weekly about the film on Tuesday, July 12. “I’m a huge fan of his work, and Me, You is a truly brilliant script.”

Based on Erri De Luca‘s novel Tu, Mio, the movie follows 16-year-old Marco, who befriends a fisherman named Nicola (Franco) during a trip to Italy with his father in the wake of World War II. As Nicola “beguiles” Marco with his stories of his military service, the teen also meets and falls in love with 20-year-old Caia (Daisy Jacob), who suffered at the hands of the SS during the war. The pair’s stories “awaken a ferocious resentment for the SS in Marco,” per the film’s synopsis. After encountering a group of “rude” German tourists, the teen decides to avenge Caia and her family.

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Me, You marks Franco’s first film project since he was accused of sexual misconduct in early 2018. “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. I do it whenever I know that there is something wrong or needs to be changed, I make it a point to do it,” the 27 Hours actor said during a January 2018 appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. “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, you know, shut them down in any way. It’s, I think, a good thing and I support it.”

Days after he denied the allegations, five of Franco’s former students accused him of inappropriate or sexually exploitative behavior, claiming that he abused his power to pressure women into participating in scenes they didn’t feel comfortable filming. “I feel there was an abuse of power, and there was a culture of exploiting non-celebrity women, and a culture of women being replaceable,” Sarah Tither-Kaplan, who studied at his film school Studio 4 in Hollywood, told the Los Angeles Times in January 2018.

Another woman, aspiring filmmaker Violet Paley, was involved in a consensual romantic relationship with the Disaster Artist actor after meeting him in 2016. However, she claimed he pressured her into performing oral sex on him while sitting in her car. “I was talking to him, all of a sudden his penis was out,” the 23-year-old alleged to the paper. “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’s attorney Michael Plonsker disputed all of the allegations at the time. In February 2021, Us Weekly confirmed that Franco had reached a settlement with Tither-Kaplan and the other women who filed a class-action lawsuit against him, claiming sexual exploitation. According to court documents, the plaintiffs agreed to drop their suit in exchange for an unspecified cash settlement.

Later that year, the California native addressed the accusations while revealing that he entered treatment for sex addiction in 2016. “It’s such a powerful drug, and I got hooked on it for 20 more years,” Franco told SiriusXM’s Jess Cagle in December 2021. “The insidious part of that is that I stayed sober from alcohol all that time. … In my head, it was like, ‘Oh, I’m sober. I’m living a spiritual life.’ Where on the side, I’m acting out now in all these other ways, and I couldn’t see it.”

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The Oscar winner also revealed that he decided to take a “pause” from the spotlight and focus on his recovery in the wake of the allegations against him. “I’ve just been doing a lot of work,” the Deuce alum said when asked about what he had been doing since 2018. “I was in recovery before, you know, for substance abuse, and there were some issues that I had to deal with that were also related to addiction. And so I’ve really used my recovery background to kind of start examining this and changing who I was.”

If you or anyone you know has been sexually abused, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). A trained staff member will provide confidential, judgment-free support as well as local resources to assist in healing, recovering and more.