How do you respond when your friend is accused of something terrible? It’s a question a lot of celebrities have had to face with the horrid Harvey Weinstein revelations and all the alleged abusers called out in its wake. But surprisingly, we never heard what Seth Rogen had to say about the sexual misconduct allegations against his friend and recurring collaborator, James Franco. Until now. And thankfully, Rogen did not pull a Matt Damon.
In January, James Franco’s award season campaign for The Disaster Artist came to an abrupt halt when several women came forward with stories of how Franco had abused his position as a mentor, teacher, and director to coerce actresses into uncomfortable sexual scenarios.
At the time, we at Pajiba wondered how Seth Rogen, who co-starred in the film and has a long history with Franco that dates back to the 1999 TV show Freaks and Geeks, would respond. Dustin even offered some advice on the matter, urging Rogen not to pull a Matt Damon by essentially putting “his loyalty to his friends ahead of his belief of women.”
It was something we Overlords thought a lot about because we like Rogen. We recognize that his comedies have shown a lot of growth in his own wokeness toward women’s issues, going from Superbad to Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. We wanted desperately for him to get this right so we can continue to enjoy Preacher and his comedies without a creeping discomfort of knowing he said that thing. So it’s with a certain level of relief we share what Rogen told Vulture in a fascinating interview that addresses the Sony hack, the Me Too movement, and that time Nic Cage wanted to play a “white Bahamian” in Green Hornet. It’s not totally what we’d hoped for, but it’s not awful. And that’s a real accomplishment, apparently. (RIP Matt Damon.)
James Franco is something I have to ask you about. Were the recent allegations against him in keeping with the person you know?
Rogen: The truth is that my perspective on this is the least relevant perspective. I’m friends with these people and I’m a dude. All that combined makes me the last person who should be talking about this.
Is it fair to say that the allegations didn’t change anything about your willingness to work with him in the future?
Can you tell me about the experience of seeing someone you know so well involved in a controversy like that?
There are so many people with real things to contribute to the #MeToo discussion that anything I say is not going to add anything useful.
First off props to Vulture’s David Marchese. It’s not easy to ask questions like this, especially of a likable star like Rogen. Yet he didn’t give it a glancing go then run away. He engaged in what is a difficult conversation. And Rogen did too. He didn’t comment on whether he believes Franco or the accusers. He recognized his own bias and noted there are people making statements on Me Too who better warrant the spotlight than he. He didn’t sell out his friend, but he didn’t call Franco’s accusers liars either. And he essentially said, “no comment.” Which—considering he plans to continue to work with Franco—might seem a cop-out.
Marchese followed up, asking, “What you’re saying about your perspective as a white guy not being the most relevant to these larger cultural discussions — how does your awareness of that affect how you think about your work?”
I just try to be with the curve, not behind it. This is not in any way about pandering, but I think Neighbors 2 had an incredibly progressive message. I think Blockers has an incredibly progressive message. We hired Kay Cannon to direct it and she did an amazing job. We’re hyperaware of trying to be as representative as possible in the directors and writers and actors we work with. I’m sure we could definitely be doing more to be ahead of the curve in that way, but, again, I couldn’t be more aware that my perspective is not one people are clamoring for.
Here’s hoping Rogen is also now hyperaware of how Franco’s presence on set might affect the women with whom they work because this conversation isn’t over. Here’s hoping he considers that as part of the curve as he moves forward. For now, there are no upcoming projects on which Franco and Rogen are working together. But Rogen gives us no reason to think that’s a statement of any sort.
The Me Too movement has called out wide-scale harassment against women in Hollywood. The next steps forward are uncertain. But whether Rogen wants to acknowledge it or not, men like him, who produce major studio projects and who recognize their own privilege and biases, will be crucial in what comes next. What will the Hollywood of tomorrow be like for the abusers, their friends, colleagues, and victims? We’re now all tasked with imagining what we want that to be, and taking action to shape it from there.