James Franco Talks Battling Addiction, Depression

By Britni de la Cretaz 08/03/17

In a new interview, the actor/director talks overcoming addiction as a teenager and work addiction as an adult.

James Franco

In a new interview with OUT magazine to promote his upcoming HBO series, The Deuce, James Franco opens up about what he calls his “addictive personality” and some of the challenges he’s faced as a result.

In his teen years, Franco was arrested for underage drinking, graffiti, and shoplifting, among other things. He briefly became a ward of the state. Of that time in his life, he told The Guardian in 2011, "It was teen angst. I was uncomfortable in my own skin. I was shy.”

He told OUT that, after struggling with addiction as a teenager, he found acting and threw himself into it as an outlet for his intense focus and interests. But, he says, it “became everything, to the point where [he] didn’t even socialize.” After 10 years of doing nothing but working, the actor says he realized that he was depressed, isolated, and lonely. So he tried to switch gears, going to school at Brooklyn College. However, he says, “again it was just this sort of running, running, running.”

Franco is known for his quirky resume and artsy projects, and has starred in films such as Milk, Spiderman, and City By The Sea. He’s appeared in television shows like Freaks and Geeks and General Hospital. He also has an assortment of his own passion projects, things like short story collections and plays and art exhibits. A 2016 profile in Rolling Stone described him as “a hyperactive dilettante,” calling his days “manic” and his nights “sleepless.”

In 2014, he gave an interview to Howard Stern about the controversial film he made with Seth Rogen, The Interview. In the segment, Franco tells Stern that despite his penchant for making stoner comedies like Pineapple Express, he doesn’t actually smoke weed, saying there’s “no need” to and he hasn’t used it “in a long time.” He also said he doesn’t drink or use any other mind-altering substances; he believes they would impede his ability to function.

He tells OUT that after overcoming a work addiction in his adult life and addiction to substances in his youth, part of what he calls his “therapy” involves activities like learning to surf and taking classes at the International Dance Academy on Hollywood Boulevard. Now, he says, “I’ve started a new chapter of my life.” 

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.