James Franco on playing gay characters: 'You know what, maybe I'm just gay' (Exclusive)

James-FrancoImage Credit: Matt Carr/Getty Images“Is James Franco gay?” is a favorite query of the pop-cultural chattering classes. It’s not like it’s unique to him: Having the public ponder your sexuality is a celebrity rite of passage. But the thing that makes Franco’s case so interesting is that, unlike the loud denials from some stars and even louder silences from others, the response from the 127 Hours star (who, for the record, has been in a years-long relationship with actress Ahna O’Reilly) is actually pretty nuanced. Franco addressed the rumor-mill mentality in an exclusive interview with EW for our recent cover story. “It’s funny because the way that kind of stuff is talked about on blogs is so black-and-white,” Franco says. “It’s all cut-and-dry identity politics. ‘Is he straight or is he gay?’ Or, ‘This is your third gay movie — come out already!’ And all based on, gay or straight, based on the idea that your object of affection decides your sexuality.”

The actor definitely doesn’t let the speculation inhibit his choice of roles; Franco’s filmography is packed with gay characters, from Allen Ginsberg in Howl, to activist Scott Smith in Milk and poet Hart Crane in his just-wrapped feature The Broken Tower. “There are lots of other reasons to be interested in gay characters than wanting myself to go out and have sex with guys,” he says. “And there are also lots of other aspects about these characters that I’m interested in, in addition to their sexuality. So, in some ways it’s coincidental, in other ways it’s not. I mean, I’ve played a gay man who’s living in the ’60s and ’70s, a gay man who we depicted in the ‘50s, and one being in the ‘20s. And those were all periods when to be gay, at least being gay in public, was much more difficult. Part of what I’m interested in is how these people who were living anti-normative lifestyles contended with opposition. Or, you know what, maybe I’m just gay.”

Read more:
EW Exclusive: James Franco talks directing William Faulkner, and how Jacob from ‘Lost’ helped him land ‘Blood Meridian’
This Week’s Cover: The Oscar Race is On!
James Franco on ‘Kimmel': ‘127 Hours’ actor talks Oscar hosting gig

Comments (273 total) Add your comment
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  • E.

    This is the best response to questions about sexuality I’ve ever seen from a celebrity. Bravo, James!

    • Amy

      I don’t like gay people and thats okay.

      • Wottadoosh

        They don’t like you and that’s more than okay.

      • John Berggren

        I don’t like bigots, and that’s ok!

      • Lance

        I don’t like gays or people who think that’s okay.

      • Gerd

        I like gays but not peole who think it’s okay. I’m on the fence concerning bigots.

      • Kris

        That’s ok Amy/Lance. Gays don’t like you either.

      • Mark

        Being gay means that we might like Lance. Depends on if he’s fat. Which he probably is. So, ok, no, we don’t like him enough to care. James franco, on the other hand….yum.
        PS..bigots are ok. Most of them are in the closet or live in Montana.

      • sheila

        Amy – Please go away. No one cares what you think and you are distracting from how very hugely cool James Franco is.

      • Sheila

        You don’t like left-handed people either? Because the principle at work in the female fetus (all fetuses are female until a hormone is added that converts them to male) that decides sexuality is exactly the same one that decides handedness… left handed or right handed. That’s it. So if you’re going to be a bigot, at least do it consistently.

      • dammmm

        We don’t like you either Amy. That’s why you will be wearing bell bottoms this summer. We’re already making you wear Hammer pants again. Piss us off and we will destroy your wedding dress choices.

      • sheila

        Same to Lance

      • Tom

        how can you generally not like gays? That makes no sense. It’s like not liking women.

      • DJ

        I like everybody…accept Amy.

      • DJ

        make that ‘except Amy.’

      • 101flyboy

        Exactly, Tom. How can you umbrella an entire group of people like that. It’s like saying I don’t like pizza eaters. Why do people allow ONE single thing to define a persons’ entire being? Totally ridiculous. But then again, we’re sane and Lance and Amy are not, so we really shouldn’t understand.

      • MG

        We are all children of God, and he loves everyone. No one has the right to judge.

      • Michael

        Sweetie…Odds are that something you are wearing, watching or eating was in some way created by the gays. You like us. You really do.

      • PeteThrntn

        Amy, meet Lance. Now get married and raise bigoted offpring, and may you be blessed with a gay or lesbian child to show your pitiable ignorance.

      • Caracticus

        A Troll is a person who posts purposefully provocative comments to make OTHER posters get riled up etc. Amy may in fact be a 12 year old boy who thinks all this is funny. And Lance may be just a horrible human being who isn’t worth listening to at all.

        So, if you come across a post like this, and NO ONE has called them a horrible name or suggested they take their own life in a painful way, go ahead and post something. The meaner the better! But if someone has beat you to it, just move on.

      • JAR

        amy, it’s not OK, because you really need an intervention on your outfit, hair and make-up.

      • Ryan

        As for what books I am talking about, start with “The Science of Desire: The Search for the Gay Gene and the Biology of Behavior” , it explains how scientists have not yet found the “gay gene” but have proven it exists. That doesn’t mean kids of gay parents WILL be gay or vice versa, but they proved that the gene does exist and could be dormant within all of us. there are millions of other unanswered questions, aside form the one about whether it exists at all.

      • cowswithguns

        I like potatoes, hope thats okay

      • Kentucky Gentle Man

        this article is ridiculous. SHAME ON EW! They take most of the interview out of context for the sake of a part of a quote. Its lazy. James is making fun of the people on the blog who spend time wondering, “is he gay?” “is he straight” NO ONE SHOULD CARE ! Now that ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY is making a big front page story on their website over this, they are just as bad as the commentors who throw around words like “bigot” when they aren’t really reading to what other people are writing. WHICH IS THE SAME AS EW using the last sentence to make their SPECULATIVE STORY. GAY, STRAIGHT, BI, TRANS, EVERYONE SHOULD SEE HOW LAZY EW IS BEING and ignore this bad site.

      • Someone

        People who don’t like gay people just need to the heck.

      • Mud

        I like people who are not afraid to be who they want to be. I do not like people who dis like people for being them selves. Gays are here they are not going away, so deal with it.

      • craig

        so Mark it is ok to slam fat people now..there are plenty of gays that like chubby guys they are called chasers!

      • Mike

        I recently saw a Discovery Health Channel special — I think it also aired on regular Discovery too; behavioral zoologists have now classified and found ‘gay’ behaviours in over 3700 species of animals! Does Amy hate left-handed people, and blond-haired people too? Or just those with green eyes? Just because someone is in a genetic or biologic minority does not mean you should hate them OR you should be a biggot or racist or — a hater. As far as the James Franco article — let the guy act in whatever he chooses to act in, he’s great at it. I first noticed him in the Spiderman movies — where he plays a straight guy, but really who cares! EW does a disservice to James Franco and all great actors by trying to peg them into a square hole — that’s what James Franco was trying relate to and unfortunately both Amy and Lance missed the boat — as well as James Franco’s valid point!

      • geoff

        Yeah well I hope you don’t have a child that is BORN gay its not a choice. Can you follow this dear

      • stadler

        I don’t particularly care for Amy’s comment, and I certainly don’t agree, but I am more disturbed by all the self-righteous hate. She’s entitled to her opinion, just like you. I’d rather know where she stands than have you fools bully real bigots into burying their true feelings.

      • Mike

        We don’t like you either.

      • Luke Sassypants

        Wow, gay people can be hateful, self righteous and mean? Say it isn’t so. Maybe they will be more tolerable when they stop trying to shove their agenda down our collective throats.

      • Craig

        @Luke Sassypants… Can you tell me what the “gay agenda” is? I was late to the meeting.

      • 101flyboy

        Why do people say “gays are shoving their agenda down our throats”, yet they are the ones who keep bring up this big bad gay agenda, and they’re the ones who actually go out of their way to be anti-gay, and then cry when called upon it. Sad hypocrites, I guess that’s what you need to do when you can’t take responsibility for your actions.

        I, too, wonder what the gay agenda is. I guess maybe I need to seek out a brochure.

      • Tibby

        Amy, I dont like shallow, narrow-minded skank, so crawl back up Sarah Palin’s hooch and eat some more!!

      • Brett

        I like James Franco. I don’t care if he’s gay. And I don’t care if he likes me. But if he met me, he would. ;)

      • C Men

        Lance is a gay name. Every guy I know named Lance is gay.

      • ger

        Luke Sassypants, it’s not my agenda I’m trying to shove down your throat …

      • Nothin wrong with bein gay

        They don’t like u either. No biggie jiggle. Lifes to short fir your ignorance.

      • Mike

        I like turtles.

      • DiMi

        I’m straight, and I don’t like bigots of any kind. Heterosexism is not okay. My guess is that you just enjoy being deliberately cruel. I don’t like sadists either.

    • Jessi

      Why is it that when someone says he/she doesn’t like gay people, they immediately get attacked?
      So what if I don’t like them? Do I have to? Of course not. I puke when I think about gay people. Its okay. No need to get mad. Its my life, not yours.

      • bb

        It’s because you are small-minded. I don’t think of your sloppy sex life at all.

      • DCK

        I believe that people should like or not like anyone they want. It seems very odd, though, to blanket a group of people and say that you don’t like them. How do you even know that you don’t like the gay lady in Arkansas that you never met? You don’t have to like that she is attracted to other women, but do you like that she just donated $10,000 to a needy family or that she volunteers with the developmentally disabled population? I hope for everyone that the like or dislike people based on the entirety of their individuality.

      • Michelle

        Yeah,isn’t it kind of like saying “I don’t like black people” or “I don’t like blondes.” Maybe that’s just me who thinks that way.

      • Pukerboy

        That’s right, it’s okay, Jessi. All men puke when they think about you, and that’s okay, too. It’s their lives, not yours.

      • Greg

        People who puke when they think about gay people are clearly thinking about gay people a LOT which can only lead to obvious reasons for this obsessive thinking: 1) They are pretty sure they are gay 2) They KNOW they are gay and his or her parents didn’t love him or her enough, so they hate themselves as well.
        Also, anyone obsessed with gay people, the way most anti-gay people, clearly “doth protest too much.” Great article and statements by Franco, by the way.

      • 101flyboy

        Oh, and it is your life. And a pathetic one at that.

        How can a person instantly dislike a person for their SEXUALITY of all things. How ridiculous.

      • NotBetty

        @Tom – I appreciate the sentiment, but there are a whole lot of people out there who don’t like women.

      • Joey

        Keep your opinions to yourself.

      • spike

        I puke when I see some grown woman with a silly stripper name like “Jessi.”

        Head back to your trailer park, girl.

      • Donald

        Yes, it is ok to no like gay people, but sometimes it’s just self-hate, maybe you are gay yourself.

      • TJ

        @Jessi You have an androgynous name, I bet you’ve been faced with being gay in your lifetime

      • John

        i puke when i think about how ugly u r jessi

      • mark

        @Jessi. If you puke whenever you think about gay people, why do you read EW? Isn’t this place full of gay people. You must be puking tons. The enamel on your teeth must be terribly worn down. Talk to your dentist ASAP.

      • Chris

        Jessi- the reason people get mad is b/c its simply not acceptable in 2011 to make anti-gay slurs. What if you said “I don’t like black people” is that an acceptable statement? “YOU” may think it, but you probably wouldn’t say it in public. Because we as a nation have at least gotten to the point where most realize it’s based on nothing but ignorance. I’m not saying racist bigots are not out there. They have just been driven into the closet – usually afraid to show their true colors. Gay people are starting to come out of the closet b/c more and more people realize it is also based on ignorance. As more gay people make themselves known you will realize that we are your neighbors, friends, and yes even your family. You see its easier for us to “pass” (except for a few who drop their purse every time they open their mouth – god luv em). So be careful Jessi the person you are degrading, may be the same person you happen to love.

      • tom

        Amy, Lance, and Jessi Are gay people, they dont like themselves ;-/ I like everyone, except them, and my boss…….hmmm thats another discussion

      • J.A.

        Because it is evil to hate others based on any quality that one is born with and which harms no one else. One’s sexual preference is such a quality. I believe that, most of the established medical community believes that, and an increasing number of the people in this country do also.

      • Ryan

        Interesting, Jessi, that you feel free to attack people but get all bent out of shape when people attack you back. You’re free to not like gay people. And good people are free to not like you. Stop whining.

      • G

        It’s nice how everyone preaches tolerance yet attacks this Jessi person when she gives an opinion. Doesn’t matter if you agree with her or not, saying “You’re from the trailer park!!” is pretty immature. Same thing with how people treated Amy and Lance on here. They are entitled to their opinions just like everyone else.

      • Marylynn

        @Michele: I really don’t like blondes but I like gay people. Blondes don’t like me either so it works out even.

      • Djse

        If just thinking about gay people makes you puke, this article must have been really difficult to read, let alone comment on.

      • molly

        Jessi,
        That’s o.k., because I’m sure they hyperbole when they think about you too.

      • Ryan

        @G-

        Why is it okay for Jessi to attack me, but not okay for me to attack Jessi? You’re quite the hypocrite.

      • tori

        Jessi, I understand what you are saying, but to say that you don’t like millions of people you’ve never met is just plain immature. You can disagree with a person’s sexuality til your face turns blue, but in the end he or she is not going to change and all you’re doing is letting his or her sexuality define them rather than all the other great things about them. Get a little perspective Jessi.

      • Andy

        Because it’s just rude, narrow-minded, and pompous.

        If you don’t like gay people that is fine you can go about living your pathetic life that way but you don’t need to hunch over your keyboard and announce to the world “Gee, gays make me puke”

        && I’m sure they puke at the thought of your vagina that probably sags lower than a wizards sleeve. <3

      • Grumpster

        Well, there is no law that says you have to like someone or not…so in that sense, she can do what she wants.

      • 101flyboy

        No-one said anti-gay bigots aren’t allowed their bigoted opinions, G. With that said, they also need to understand that society is going in a different direction, thus, expect the consequences for their behavior. Free speech goes both ways.

      • Tibby

        Why are you thinking about other people having sex? Makes me wonder why your parents gave you a white trash stripper name!!

    • Stephen

      Even if Franco were gayer than Richard Simmons eating a Hebrew National at a pride parade, and I ain’t talkin’ about the hot dogs either, I would still watch everything he made. So what? Who cares?

      • slick

        Joy Behar, is that you?

      • Joy, Gay and Happy.

        Yes.

      • Maharani

        while there is promiscuity in the gay coimmnuty, there is 90 times more of it in the straight communities.as soon as you get all heteros to live with monogamy, then and only then can you insist on it in the gay coimmnuty.

    • Michael

      He’s inspired me. And I must, after all of these years, reveal a secret that has been eating me up inside. I am…

      A HUGE fan of Whatever It Takes.

      Phew!! What a relief.
      (It is a great response and one I expected from someone comfortable in his own skin. Love James!)

      • kristine

        best.comment.ever. interwebz win!

  • TQB

    Talented, smart, sexy AND a great sense of humor.

    • Dan

      Yes, but he’s no Randy Quaid!!!

      • JB

        hahah you said it!!

  • Ryan

    JF is the freakin Man! He is so talented and continues to grow in talent and popularity by the year. Who cares if he’s gay or straight! He is the MAN

  • Liz

    Franco, you’re awesome.

  • Amber

    Gay or straight (or bi – that’s a valid orientation as well), I don’t care. I’m just happy he’s willing to take so many varied gay roles. He’s in a position now to get a project made solely because of his name. I’m thrilled to have him as an ally.

    • Mariano

      the Marriage Equailty bill before the State Senate. With Morahan’s aptsionase help (he came out strongly against gay marriage in July), the bill was defeated 24-38. While many Democrats gave

  • Amy

    I absolutely adore him.

    • wordwarrior

      Keith wins the award!
      People’s sexuality is NOT the most important thing about them. Someday, we will figure this out. Adults could pay more attention to protecting children from licentiousness and allow other grownups live their lives.

      • Kazushi

        It is common engouh and you don’t want it. I know that many gay men were even more promiscuous in the days before HIV/AIDS my ex-wife was in theatre/ dance and I know. A few years back I was dating after divorced girls often declined condoms and if I sucked or bf with my guy friends sometimes it was bare. Once in a while I went to my city/county health department for HIV screening and if you answer a survey, you get a really good deal on the test plus counseling. I highly recommend this if you’ve ever had sex with more than one person and check out the US map with the number of AIDS cases and where they are. It’s engouh to make you want to go steady or get married.

  • keith

    He is a great actor and I’m very impressed with is response. Frankly, it’s too nuanced and intelligent for most people who write celebrity blogs or read them.

    • DiMi

      1. Yes, I agree that it’s a nuanced answer that challenges the way we construct sexual categories, but I find Franco just a bit patronizing and intellectually smug, and it makes me like him less than I might have. Also, those of us who have read about sexuality know that his answer is not a original; he’s just paraphrasing some prevailing theories.

      2. Keith, do you understand that according to your own definition, you think that his answer is too nuanced for YOU because you have read this blog. Calling other people stupid is never a good idea; it just makes you sound insecure.

      • Ulvu

        The photos are fbualous. Saw so many things that we did not have an opportunity to see at the wedding. Like a the beautiful wedding cake. The pictures bring back all the fun memories we have from Mark and Jody’s special Day. It was all so fun.

  • TorontoTom

    I hope other celebs follow his lead and answer this kind of obtrusive tabloid question with the same humour and laissez-faire. Why not? Reacting like it is no big deal is the only way to make it what it is – no big deal!

  • Renee

    THAT’S a great answer. Bravo!

    • Yoshiharu

      When Energy 92.7 first started out in 2004 it had a a great anluch (its rating were pretty good) with a great tag line; “The Beat of the Bay”While the station did work with its “gay audience” it also made a effort to reach out to others as well. This is why its raiting in the beginig were so good as there was alot of cross over audience. Then everything changed…A new program director came in and “The Beat Of The Bay” tag line was changed to “Pure Dance” (the minunite dance purists come in you know your in trouble). Lets not forget a atenna switch that did little to improve the signal quality. Lets also point out that the “pure dance” meant good dance remixes of popular songs were replaced with repittious “club anthems” sprinkled with too many Madonna songs. Also the station ditched its corss over appeal to narrowcast on the residents of castro distrct only. This narrowcasting reached its peak when they hired the vastly overrated “Karel” to do a talkshow 5 nights a week. I ask you this: What is a boring talkshow host doing on a dance station that bills its self as “pure dance”?I’m a dance music fan and I gave up on them in 2009. The music was bad, I’ll listen to KFI for a crappy talk shows and it doesnt help that the signal sucked. Could a narrowcasting that Energy 92.7 did work? Yes, as long as you did not pay $30 million for a station that has trouble covering the makret your supposed to serve. I do belive a dance station could work. Energy in its early years proved that it could. It was fun while it lasted.

  • TMI

    I knew it. No surprise there. LOL

    • SirLizard

      TMI, you are clueless and you totally misinterpreted what JF had to say.

    • 101flyboy

      No, he didn’t come out. In fact he’s saying he’s more than “just” gay or “just” straight. His characters are more than just gay, also. Stop the obsession with the sexuality of others, is basically what he’s saying.

  • M

    This is a great response. He is very mature.

  • MLLASH

    I **ADORE** James Franco!!!!

    • Italo

      not at all!!! matter fact more pelpoe need to start doing this so they actually know because alot of pelpoe THINK they are safe when they have no clue they arent so go ahead and ask and if he has a problem then maybe he isnt the one for you ..why would you not want to know? always good to be assured

  • Tye-Grr

    Seriously, James Franco has become one the f*cking coolest people on the planet. I want nothing more than to be his friend. Thank you for being yourself and without reservation. Totally refreshing.

    • Emoney

      Totally. I just think he would be beyond awesome to hang out with. Smart, grown-up, funny… Very cool guy.

    • tvgirl48

      I have to agree. That was the best response ever and I love that he’s not terrified to discuss that kind of thing. He just seems like such a genuinely interesting person.

  • Chaz Winterbottom

    Oh EW you are shameless.

  • Trey

    Overrating him much?

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