The longstanding onscreen friendship of Seth Rogen and James Franco has been filled with unexpected twists, from drug-fueled food orgies to the threat of real-world nuclear annihilation. But now Rogen has effectively ended their working relationship in a belated response to sexual-misconduct allegations dating back to the emergent MeToo movement.
In an interview that ran in the Sunday Times, Rogen was asked whether he planned to continue working with Franco, who in 2018 was hit with multiple allegations of sexual-misconduct relating to his acting school, Studio 4. (Franco has repeatedly denied the accusations through a lawyer, and settled a related lawsuit out of court).
“The truth is that I have not, and I do not plan to (work with Franco) right now,” Rogen told the The Times.
The statement comes following an incendiary Instagram post by actress Charlyne Yi, which resurfaced the allegations against Franco and accused Rogen of enabling him. According to the actress, she had tried to quit a role in the Rogen-produced, Franco-starring The Disaster Artist over Franco’s behavior, only for producers to “bribe” her to stay on with a bigger part.
“Seth Rogen was one of the producers on this film so he definitely knows about the bribe and why I quit,” Yi wrote in her post. “Seth also did a sketch on SNL with Franco enabling Franco preying on children. Right after Franco was caught.”
Rogen has largely been silent about the Franco allegations
For a while in the ‘00s and ‘10s, Franco and Rogen were a genre unto themselves. Both breakouts of Judd Apatow’s 1999 cult classic Freaks and Geeks, the two went on to become something of a modern day Martin & Lewis for the stoner set, starring in a string of hits, among them the much-loved Pineapple Express and This is the End, R-rated animated Sausage Party and The Interview.
The latter, about two inept journalists’ attempts to infiltrate North Korea to assassinate Kim Jong-Un, became the impetus for North Korea’s Sony hack and led the hermit nation to threaten annihilation if US theaters screened the film. The Interview, in turn, became a cultural touchstone and a rallying point for free speech despite middling reviews.
The pair would follow up The Interview with an awards run for The Disaster Artist, a Rogen-produced adaptation of Greg Sestero’s biography about cult film The Room and enigmatic director Tommy Wiseau. The film’s awards prospects, however, were derailed when several women came forward with allegations of abuse and impropriety by Franco, whose reputation as a harasser was such an open secret that Rogen even joked about it alongside the actor on SNL. It was one of the highest-profile stories of the #MeToo era, and torpedoed the film's award momentum.
The allegations resulted in a tidal wave of accusations about Franco’s behavior. Following the revelations, Franco has largely kept a lower profile, while Rogen has found success as the producer of Amazon’s breakout hits The Boys and Invincible.
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Rogen says his onscreen relationship is over… for now
Yi’s post, timed for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, brought Franco’s behavior back into headlines, and put Rogen — who has spent the past year leaning into his chill “goofy uncle” persona while lining up projects such as Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical coming-of-age film (playing the cool uncle, natch) — in an uncomfortable spotlight.
Following the unexpected bombshell from Knocked Up costar Yi, Rogen has remained largely silent on the matter, instead focusing on his autobiography, Year Book, and doing press for Invincible.
The Times interview finally breaks the silence. And while Rogen chooses his words carefully, he does effectively put distance between himself and his onscreen BFF in a predictably affable, Seth Rogen-y way.
“What I can say is that I despise abuse and harassment, and I would never cover or conceal the actions of someone doing it, or knowingly put someone in a situation where they were around someone like that,” says Rogen.
Still, the lingering aside of “right now” looms in the statement. Whether that points to a potential future in which the long-rumored Pineapple Express 2 comes into fruition is anyone’s guess.
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