Franco claims add to a season of controversy: Recent allegations of sexual misconduct against the actor could reshape race.

Glenn Whipp, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

"Can I change my vote?"

That was the question several motion picture academy members were asking after five women accused actor James Franco of inappropriate or sexually exploitative behavior in a Times investigation published Thursday.

The allegations -- two of which showed up on Twitter Sunday, the night Franco won a Golden Globe for his lead turn in "The Disaster Artist" -- arrived just as the voting period for Oscar nominations was ending.

Franco, who denies the allegations, is considered a strong possibility for an Oscar nomination for playing Tommy Wiseau. Wiseau became a cult figure after the release of his 2003 film, "The Room," which many critics, official and armchair, call the worst movie ever made.

This year's eight-day Oscar voting window ended Friday evening, and, according to several awards season consultants, the heaviest voting days are the first and the last.

Which means Franco could already have banked a number of early votes but lost late ones; the nominations will be announced Jan. 23.

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Either way, Franco is a last-minute figure of controversy in an Oscar season rife with it. The fall of Harvey Weinstein, after stories in the New York Times and the New Yorker detailed multiple allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, triggered an avalanche of accusations against a number of men that reshaped this year's awards season. Weinstein was booted out of the academy, Kevin Spacey was erased from Oscar hopeful "All the Money in the World" and a handful of campaigns died in the planning stages.

Now, with Franco accused by five women of exploiting his position as a teacher and mentor, some academy members are rethinking their pick.

"I voted for him, and reading that story, I regret that I did," said an actress who, like other academy members interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private voting. "The last thing we need, right in the middle of all this talk about sexual harassment and gender inequity in Hollywood, is someone like that as an Oscar nominee."

Franco's nomination will be decided solely by fellow members of the actors branch, which, with 1,218 active voters, is by far the largest group within the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Speaking to a sliver of that group, The Times found most inclined to distance themselves from Franco to avoid an awkward situation on the night of the Oscars.


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