This year’s awards season has been rocked, from the start, by a wide array of sexual misconduct allegations. Now, newly published accounts about Golden Globe winner James Franco threaten to upend his awards run.
Five women came forward to the Los Angeles Times in a report published Thursday, accusing Franco of sexual misconduct, much of it during his tenure as an acting professor at Studio 4, which he launched in association with Playhouse West in 2014.
Franco has already won a Gotham Award, a Golden Globe and a Critics’ Choice award for his performance in “The Disaster Artist,” which he directed. He has also received Screen Actors Guild and Film Independent Spirit Award nominations for his work, in addition to winning prizes from the Detroit, San Diego, Dublin and Houston film critics organizations. When the misconduct allegations landed the day before Academy voting closed, he was also considered an Oscar contender.
While Academy voting ends Friday, Jan. 12, most ballots have already been cast, so Franco could easily be named when the nominations are announced on Jan. 23. If he is, that will put the Academy in an awkward position, particularly after all of the organization’s recent maneuvers to address sexual misbehavior in the industry.
There are also ongoing questions about whether the Academy will invite last year’s best actor winner Casey Affleck to present the best actress award, as is the tradition. A campaign was launched last fall by a Brooklyn-based filmmaker amid debate over previous settlements Affleck made with two women who accused him of sexual harassment. The petition garnered nearly 20,000 signatures.
The Academy did not immediately respond to queries about the organization’s plans to address the allegations against Franco, who also co-hosted the Oscars ceremony with Anne Hathaway in 2011.
SAG voting, meanwhile, extends for another week, until Friday, Jan. 18. However, Franco has not been favored to win; the lead actor race has come down to Golden Globe winner Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”) versus Timothée Chalamet (“Call Me by Your Name”) for most of the season, though the guild has awarded comedic performances like Franco’s in the past, such as Johnny Depp’s in “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”
Balloting for the Spirit Awards is scheduled for Feb. 3-Feb. 16, meaning “The Disaster Artist” could conceivably be penalized by voters for Franco’s alleged behavior. Anyone who is a member of Film Independent can vote, and pretty much anyone can be a member of Film Independent. (The membership deadline for voter eligibility this year is Jan. 19.)
Franco has questioned the accuracy of the allegations while stating intentions to right any perceived wrongs.
“In my life I pride myself on taking responsibility for things that I have done,” he told “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert earlier this week, before the L.A. Times report. “I have to do that to maintain my well being … If I have done something wrong, I will fix it.”
To recap the overall landscape, Harvey Weinstein’s hopes for a return to the Oscar season fray died in October after countless women came forward with horrifying stories about his behavior. Planned Weinstein Co. release “The Current War,” already critically maligned at the Toronto International Film Festival, was removed from the 2017 calendar, while the filmmakers and financiers behind “Wind River” wrestled that film back from the company and self-funded a campaign (which yielded a first-time director nomination on Thursday from the Directors Guild, for writer-director Taylor Sheridan). Weinstein was also expelled from both the Producers Guild of America and the motion picture Academy.
Kevin Spacey, who was accused by actor Anthony Rapp of sexually assaulting him in his youth, was first nixed from the Oscar campaign for “All the Money in the World,” then cut from the film entirely. He was ultimately replaced by Christopher Plummer, who has reaped Golden Globe and British Academy nominations for his 10 days of mid-November work, and could yet earn an Oscar bid as well.
A steady stream of allegations against Dustin Hoffman have trickled out, including misconduct with a theater co-star in 1984 and, in stories broken by Variety, accusations that he exposed himself to a minor, sexually assaulted two other women and harassed another. He was in the midst of a campaign for “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” when he was confronted publicly by HBO personality John Oliver about some of these allegations. Soon after he was passed over for a supporting actor nomination by the Screen Actors Guild (which was otherwise quite friendly to Netflix productions). He now appears to be a lower-tier contender at best.
Meanwhile, speaking earlier of Oldman, some in the media have pointed to a past allegation against the “Darkest Hour” star as a disqualifying offense: Oldman was accused in 2001 of attacking his ex-wife Donya Fiorentino in front of their children, an accusation he denied. (Following the couple’s divorce, a Los Angeles court awarded Oldman custody of the children.) The actor has also been criticized for comments made in defense of director Mel Gibson’s dark chapters.
And now, Franco. The stories published in the L.A. Times report feature detailed descriptions of workplace misbehavior, including allegations that Franco removed protective plastic guards covering actresses’ vaginas while simulating oral sex in filmed scenes. In October, Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said the organization “is concerned about sexual harassment and predatory behavior in the workplace, especially in our own industry. We believe our Academy has a role to play in fostering a safe and respectful atmosphere for the professionals who make motion pictures.” Then, in December, the institution affirmed a “code of conduct,” stating that “there is no place in the Academy for people who abuse their status, power or influence in a manner that violates recognized standards of decency.”
UPDATED: This story has been updated to reflect the results of Thursday’s Critics’ Choice awards.