James Franco’s response to the sexual assault and harassment allegations against him is earning praise from one of the leaders of the #MeToo movement.
Ashley Judd, a longtime advocate for women’s rights and sexual assault survivor, told HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur that she was pleased with Franco’s response to accusations he had acted inappropriately towards a number of women in the past.
“I think that what James said is terrific,” Judd told the BBC journalist. “And I think that we’ve all behaved, at a certain level, unconsciously, and done things that were insensitive, inappropriate, without necessarily understanding that they were. I mean, we’ve all operated with a certain amount of tone deafness, and I like the culpability, and we have to have restorative justice.”
She added, “This is about men and women being all together and having a more equitable and just workplace, home life, social spaces. I mean, we know that when women are empowered in the workplace and are in decision-making positions that workplaces have better financial outcomes and there’s less harassment when there is more diversity. And it takes that kind of individual accountability to collectively make the change on a large scale.”
Controversy around Franco started to erupt on Jan. 7, when he appeared at the Globes and two women accused him of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior on Twitter. Then an article published in the Los Angeles Times on Jan. 11, five women accused the actor of abusing his power as an acting teacher and mentor in a sexually exploitative manner.
Franco’s attorney, Michael Plonsker, denied each of the women’s allegations, and cited Franco’s comments on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on Tuesday as his formal denial.
“Look, in my life I pride myself on taking responsibility for things that I have done,” Franco told Colbert. “I have to do that to maintain my well being. 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.”
During an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers on Wednesday, the actor addressed the sexual harassment allegations.
“There are people that need to be heard,” the actor told Meyers. “I have my own side of this story, but I believe in these people that have been underrepresented getting their stories out enough that I will hold back things that I could say, just because I believe in it that much,” he said. “So if I have to take a knock because I’m not going to try and actively refute things, then I will, because I believe in it that much.”
One accuser, The Breakfast Club star Ally Sheedy, who worked with the actor in 2014 on his Off-Broadway directorial debut, The Long Shrift, wrote in now-deleted tweets, “Why is James Franco allowed in? Said too much.” Adding “James Franco just won. Please never ever ask me why I left the film/tv business.”
When Meyers asked for clarification, Franco was quick to deny his former costar’s claims.
Shaking his head no, he said, “I had a great relationship with her. She took the tweet down. I don’t know, I really don’t. I don’t know, it was so shocking. I guess I’m just letting it be.”
In the L.A. Times article, two students of Franco’s claimed the actor would often become angry on set when they would refuse to film topless while another former acting student at the film school Franco founded said he once removed safety guards while filming an oral sex scene on the set of the 2015 film The Long Home.
Additionally, actress Violet Paley recounted her previous social media claims that Franco exposed himself and tried to pressure her into oral sex. Though she said they had a consensual relationship, Paley said: “That time wasn’t consensual.” She also alleged that he told her friend to meet him in a hotel when the friend was 17.
Franco continues to wrack up awards for his performance in The Disaster Artist. He won a Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy or musical last weekend, and a Critic’s Choice Award for best actor in a comedy Thursday night, although he skipped the show.
Shaken by the accusations, a source told PEOPLE, “He’s in a really bad place. His close friends are trying to be there for him but it’s been hard – he’s only talking to a select group of people. For now, he’s just hiding out.”
Meanwhile, with the Globe and Critics’ Choice wins and SAG nomination, Franco has been considered a lock for an Oscar nomination — and that probably won’t change.