Franco, who plays identical twins on the HBO seris, was accused in early October, along with his business partner Vince Jolivette, of sexually exploiting aspiring actors.
Speaking to Rolling Stone, Simon defended The Deuce’s decision not to remove Franco from the programme, arguing that “proportionality got lost” in the reporting of the allegations. However, he did add that Franco had appeared apologetic over the alleged incidents.
“I do think it’s fair to critique James, as I think James has critiqued himself, on the notion of being a little bit flippant or unaware of the power of being James Franco,” Simon said. “And that when people say ‘yes,’ they might not be saying yes if it was anyone but James Franco—that young actors and actresses could get into situations where they would say ‘yes’ and have fundamental regrets.”
Simon also attacked journalists who reported on the allegations, suggesting Franco should not have been treated in the same way as figures including Harvey Weinstein.
“The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone,” he continued. “There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favour from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show.
“Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm… Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it.”
In their lawsuit, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal alleged that Franco encouraged them to push beyond their comfort zones while teaching them at his own acting school, Studio 4, and that they were subjected to sexually exploitative auditions for film roles.
They also alleged that they were often asked to participate in on-camera sex scenes or scenes involving nudity, and that during the filming of an orgy sequence for a film, Franco removed plastic guards covering other actor’s genitals while simulating oral sex on them.
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Franco has denied the allegations in Gaal and Tither-Kaplan’s lawsuit, calling them “not accurate” and “ill-informed”, in a statement via his lawyer Michael Plonsker.
“James will not only fully defend himself, but will also seek damages from the plaintiffs and their attorneys for filing this scurrilous publicity seeking lawsuit,” Plonsker said.