Maggie Gyllenhaal explains why ‘The Deuce’ didn’t fire James Franco

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I don’t watch The Deuce and I’m not really interested in its premise, which is about the early days of the p0rn industry in New York. Maggie Gyllenhaal has a big role as a hooker-turned-director, and James Franco plays two characters, twin mobsters. Maggie was out this week promoting the second season of the series, and she obviously got some questions about James Franco and how he’s been accused of abuse, harassment and assaulting several different women in many different situations. The claims and stories go back years, and just this week, Busy Phillips spoke again about how Franco is a “bully” who violenting threw her to the ground and knocked the wind out of her (she says it’s all fine now, but still). The issue should not be “let’s see what James Franco’s costar has to say,” but here we are. Maggie is basically having to answer for Franco’s behavior more than he’s ever had to answer for it.

“You know, we at the time that the accusations against James came out in the L.A. Times we read them all, we took them very seriously,” Maggie Gyllenhaal said Tuesday on the SiriusXM show Sway in the Morning. “We spoke to every woman on the crew and in the cast to find out if they felt respected and what their experience of working with James was and everyone said that they had been totally respected by him. I feel like it would’ve been the wrong consequence to those accusations to shut our show down. It would’ve been like actually the opposite of the right thing to do… And yet, you know, look, I believe that there should be consequences for disrespecting or assaulting women. Of course, I do.”

Gyllenhaal also addressed the allegations against Franco in an interview with Vulture. “I’m so not objective,” she said. “I’m not the right person to talk about that except to say that neither of James’s characters on the show are heroes. I would say he’s walking right into the eye of the storm — he’s continuing the conversation with the work that he’s doing….I think about our show in particular: It’s about misogyny, it’s about inequality in terms of gender in the entertainment business. It’s about the subtleties of transactional sex. And I felt that it would have been a terrible shame to stop telling that story.”

[From The Cut]

Is Gyllenhaal’s answer the best? No, it’s not. I expected more from her, especially since she’s ordinarily such a fearless feminist and advocate for gender equality. What I’m feeling from her is that she doesn’t want to be the one to rock the boat on a steady job, plus she actually believes in the show and believes in what they’re doing. How many times are women put in the position of professional peacemakers and the ones who are expected to turn a blind eye to their male coworker’s issues? So while I think Maggie’s answers are not-great, I also think she’s doing more to talk in-depth about this than James Franco. Franco is using Maggie as a shield AND she’s the only one out there, promoting the show. It sucks. HE sucks.

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51 Responses to “Maggie Gyllenhaal explains why ‘The Deuce’ didn’t fire James Franco”

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  1. JadedBrit says:

    Yes – why DO women have to police their co-stars’ behaviour? So that they can be overtly or subliminally held accountable when said co-star behaves appallingly? Women™. Letting men off the hook since Eden.

    • Millenial says:

      Yup. Let’s make sure to get Allison Brie’s opinion on this, too!

    • Clare says:

      Yep – why should SHE have to answer for his actions? Unless she is the one hiring the abuser and writing his checks, or defending him, it’s not her responsibility to risk her own livelihood by discussing this if it’s not what she wants to do.

      • Muffy says:

        She’s a producer on the show, I think, so she does have more power than if she was just a costar.

      • Millenial says:

        I also read she was a producer. It’s sort of hard to tell with actors/actresses how much the producer credit really means, like if it’s just a “I get more input in my character’s storyline” or if they are actually major decision makers behind the scenes.

        I’m not sure that’s the situation here, but I’m not going to assume that just because she has a producing credit that she has the power to get Franco fired.

      • Clare says:

        I didn’t realise she was a producer, I apologise.

        Having said that – actors are often listed as producers as part of their contracts and payment structure rather than being actual producers with any power/influence beyond a ‘regular’ actor. Either way she still shouldn’t have to do the heavy lifting here – ask HIM.

      • Crumpets and Crotchshots says:

        She’s a producer— a real producer. And not only does she feels strongly about the show, she is a major creative force behind it. Her work on this is amazing. It’s not just a pay check. She is not just a random costar Dealing with this is her job. And it sounds like she did her job.

  2. Michael says:

    Show is a bore anyway

  3. Miss Margo says:

    Let me just say. I am a woman and I work in the entertainment industry. There are barely any of us, I work in a company of 50 and only 4 are women. If Maggie effing Gyllenhaal came up to me and asked how I feel, I’d be very nervous about telling the truth because exes don’t want to hear it. I’m hoping this changes but I highly doubtful Franco isn’t a complete pompous a$$hole. I doubt all the women who worked for him felt respected. Geez.

    • Betsy says:

      I rather think this, too (though I’m not in any paid industry currently and have zero connections to the entertainment industry). Women aren’t stupid! If I’m a peon trying to get started – even if I’m a major actress, but especially if I’m a behind the scenes person starting out – I do not want to rock the boat. I don’t. Women will always get punished.

      I wish that the industry were trustworthy – if Franco is still a difficult douche, recast! They’re acting! They can be replaced!

      • ItReallyIsYou,NotMe says:

        I am in human relations and I absolutely see people who are afraid to speak up every day and understand the fear of retaliation. That said, what MG describes is exactly the way that companies should respond to sexual harassment claims. Interviewing people who have worked with the accused is the usual response. In fact, they went above what most employers would do because there wasn’t any allegation of misconduct while he worked on this show (in my memory at least). It’s absolutely the norm that the accused would not be disciplined/terminated in the absence of someone coming forward with a corroborating story of improper conduct.

  4. Case says:

    It’s hard, because there’s not much she can do or say in this situation. It shouldn’t be on her to answer these questions, you know?

    I think given her role in the show and her professional relationship with Franco, she answered as well as she could. She addressed how their show responded to the allegations, which is the only experience she can speak to, and said she personally obviously believes people should be punished for assaulting women at any point. Not sure how she could’ve done much better, honestly.

  5. Sansa says:

    I would like to think he did this when he was younger in a stupid moment and has changed. The Deuce depends heavily on him and he’s gotten much better as an actor, ten years ago or whenever I first saw him he was horrible. In this role(s) he quite good playing a charming not to swift middle guy in a sleezy world of sex , gambling, porn drugs anything else that can be degraded (the women) and sold.

    • Incredulous says:

      He plays the two most boring characters on the show.

      • Honey bear says:

        Yes, exactly. I always hope his scenes go quickly. He’s not even part of the storyline anymore. Maggie is a beast though. IMO she is PERFECT for that role and I couldn’t imagine anyone else pulling it off like she does.

    • Mia4s says:

      “I would like to think he did this when he was younger in a stupid moment and has changed.“

      Sure you can think that and keep making excuses for a sexual harasser and abuser. I guess you could do that. He’s 39!!!!! The allegations generally fall within the past six years. He was 35 when he was caught texting the underage girl. A moment? I can think of 9 separate women who have told of incidents.

      There are dozens of talented actors (many of them POC) who haven’t harassed and abused women or gone after underage girls. Yes but by all means keep making your excuses for the wealthy “misunderstood” white man. 🙄

    • Rando says:

      Sansa! This sounds like rape apologist nonsense to me. People have been vocal about about his problematic behaviour consistently until now and dismissing his choices in how to conduct himself based on a youthful indiscretion is bullshit.

    • Mel says:

      His luring underage girls on social media was not “when he was young”.
      He’s a major creep.

  6. CocoNoir says:

    They. 👏🏽 Both. 👏🏽 Suck. 👏🏽

  7. Jessica says:

    I used to have the biggest crush on Franco now I can’t stand him and him being in any movie or show instantly turns me off.
    Gyllenhaal is a good actress but let’s not kid ourselves she’s from a prominent entertainment family, she and her brother got a foot in the door because of their parents i mean she’s no different to Paltrow or Dakota Johnson so I don’t expect her to rock the boat, even if she smart and usually says sensible things.

    • Brian Brown says:

      I, too, had a big crush on James Franco especially around the Tristan and Isolde (terrible movie) days. He never struck me ( and still doesn’t) as particularly bright or talented. But, it was when he started going around saying that he was completing 3 graduate degree programs simultaneously at different universities while working full time as an actor that I really started to dislike him and his pr machine. Such a load of shit.

  8. Mia4s says:

    HBO took the easy way out and are going to end the show next season. Would it have gone on longer but for Franco? Well…that is a question. As for Maggie? Eh I’m tired of women and minorities having to do the heavy lifting for trash men so they are not seen as damaging crew jobs and “business interests”. So instead I’ll just remind everyone that James Franco is garbage and his projects should not get your support.

    • Betsy says:

      This. I see upthread that she’s a producer, but is she one with any decision making? If not, it’s not her responsibility to fix him or recast it.

  9. Kerfuffle says:

    As you said, Maggie isn’t responsible for James’ bad choices. She shouldn’t be the one to answer for him.

    But good lord do I not want to watch The Deuce. It feels like the culmination of the worst impulses of HBO TV – a heavy reliance on sex and nudity just for the sake of being controversial. Hard pass.

  10. Kateeeee says:

    I love her and I don’t have any problem with her comments except what you say, that she is being somewhat unfairly questioned about his actions (I say somewhat because I think she is a producer?) when no one is asking him anything.

    The show itself is good, as if HBO knew they needed to do something pro-woman after decades of women as rape victims and plot devices and this is their best stab at that. The women and their stories are the heart of the show. It would’ve been a shame to cancel it and cause such a large ensemble to lose their jobs, though I do wish they had replaced Franco. He is easily the worst part of the show and too cheesy for words.

    I guess the question is whether you believe an abusive person can change. I think they can but I don’t know that we’ve seen any effort from Franco that would warrant protective treatment like this.

  11. DragonWise says:

    It’s 100% unfair that Maggie is being put in this position, but it also sucks that re-casting the role and/or getting rid of the character isn’t on the table. It’s simply not correct that the only option is to shut the show down.

    Also, I’m do sick of this idea that we can poll women in an (overwhelmingly male) workplace and expect to hear the truth when we’ve had to develop a tough skin to survive and don’t want to lose what we’ve wotked so hard for.

    • Anna says:

      Agreed on all.

      I have watched the show and find it interesting though I already had an interest in that time period and work history related to the theme. I love Maggie in films like Secretary and that one with Danny Trejo where she is unbelievably amazing as a recovering recently-released single mom who has been abused and trying to make her way in the world. She is powerful in this series and yeah, Franco is just annoying extra in this. I definitely wish he wasn’t it it at all, but I also am really intrigued by the way this is filmed. It’s not just sex and fluff (though nothing wrong with that); it really gets into that moment of history and the actors/characters are pretty interesting, well done as far as costuming, dialogue, character development, accuracy. The one character I don’t like who really can’t act is the one who plays Franco’s girlfriend/bartender. She annoys the hell out me. Sanctimonious and privileged. I almost stopped watching the first season only because of her. All in all, though, I think it’s a worthwhile watch (at least up through the first episodes of season two) because it’s mainly about Maggie’s character.

  12. Christine says:

    Franco is one of those actors who immediately turn me off from seeing whatever he’s in. And this was before any of this stuff came out about him. He gives off such a skeevy vibe.

  13. BaronSamedi says:

    The show would be 100% better if it only focused on the women and lost the fucking TWO characters James Franco is playing.

    But I also think that Franco’s Oscar Buzz is what got the show greenlit in the first place and yeah, why should the crew and Maggie lose a great job because he is an asshole?

    She should not have to answer for him and even implying that she doesn’t want to ‘rock the boat’ is kind of ridiculous since we know that no woman, no matter how high profile is actually safe from repercussions.

  14. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    As if 70s p0rn needs artistic exploration in the first place. The irony is ubiquitous acid rain all the way around.

  15. Darla says:

    I’d be more interested in a discussion about the People cover article of Gilbert, Goodman, and Metcalf, where they do nothing but whine through the entire thing. Not one word, not one! about the people Barr hurt. Nor even a mention of Valerie Jarrett.

  16. Keira says:

    Great recent interview with Maggie on Fresh Airwith Terry Gross.

  17. Lala11_7 says:

    I was born in 1967…and the time period that “The Deuce” is showcasing…and the infrastructure of the sex trade…seguing into the “Golden Age of Po-n”…that’s what I grew up on…I grew up in Chicago in a middle class neighborhood, yet our next door neighbors were a family of PROLIFIC sex-workers…I still remember being 6 years old in 1972 and seeing the PARADE of men and women who look like they stepped right out of a scene from “The Deuce” everyday…and on the weekend…it was SOMETHING ELSE! I will say this…they were respectful and nothing RARELY popped off at their house…their home was where they lived…NOT WORKED…but everybody in the neighborhood knew what was up with them…(Lawd…the parade of customized Cadillacs ALONE told you what was going down!)

    My Mama and Aunts were single back then…and they partied at the Playboy Club…and the various discos…and my Mama…GAWD BLESS HER SOUL…she ALWAYS HAD THE MOST AMAZING ADULT MAGAZINE COLLECTION!!!! So basically, I grew up reading Hustler/Oui/Duke/High Society/Penthouse…and when we got our first VCR in 1977…All those movies…man, I knew who Jamie Gills and Harry Reems and Seka and Annette Haven…ust like I knew…Sally Fields or Burt Reynolds….(My Mama would have lit me UP if she knew how I was sneaking in her stuff!)

    So watching the show…knowing the music and the vibes…because that’s what I grew up with…seeing how authentic it is…the conversations between sex workers and the police/mob and the putrid politics, bigotry and terrors that are showcased in the show…are all familiar to me…and on-point in the show…

    And Franco…IS problematic…and one of the magnificent things about the movement that’s calling out this type of behavior…is that it will potentially STOP problematic douches from becoming the monsters that they were working REAL HARD to be…because now the spotlight is on him…and he can’t step out of line ONE IOTA…or that’s gone be his a– and he ain’t dumb…HE KNOWS IT…which is why he’s focusing on putting out quality acting content and staying out of situations that he knows darn well he shouldn’t be in…

    I got pulled into it strictly for the women…who are PHENOMENAL! And the subject matter which is concurrently fascinating and heartbreaking…for the production value…I mean, they DID NOT PLAY…it TRULY looks like you’re in NYC in the 70s…the fashions…the buildings…the music…the garbage on the streets…IT’S ALL THERE….And Maggie is an Executive Producer…and I adore Maggie…

    And I think the show SHOULD only have only one more season…since it covers a span of years…the first season started in 71…the second season starts in 76…By the late 70s…early 80s…Once Reagan is elected…and VCRs took over everything…closing the theaters and showcases in Time Square….and crack flooded NYC….the sex trade shifted from NYC to Orange County, California…When you add the Colombians coming in and decimating the mob….That would have pretty much have realistically taken out “The Deuce” and the folks who surround that hub….would have scattered..if they survived….and the thing that holds the show together is NYC….

    • Enough S Enough says:

      Fascinating! Thank you so much for sharing.

      Yes, the female characters are fascinating. Props to David Simon and co. He creates brilliant dimensional television.

      One caveat – Maggie G is a Producer on the Show. Franco is an EP.

    • Theodora says:

      Great comment, Lala11_7. It was like a little journey back in time, I could feel a little bit the early 70’s big American city atmosphere even if I didn:t live it and I’m not an American.

    • Darla says:

      Wow Lala, that was fascinating. I would read anything you wrote.

    • Anna says:

      Appreciate this! All you mentioned is why I watch.

  18. Jenn says:

    So Franco is “walking into the eye of the storm” and “continuing the conversation” by playing characters who are “not heroes” ..both statements assert a slight bravery, as if there’s a redemption or bravery to it.
    I doubt he sees the irony or is changed by it
    – just another dude getting a pass (which he probably takes for granted) for any harm or use of women in his real life. It’s like winking at it.

    Argento has been cancelled for the same thing as Franco was trying to do – but it’s ok because he was in New York.

    He’s just foul and supporting him is foul. Like most of them he hasn’t even made any attempts to show he’s self reflected or remorseful, nothing.

  19. Enough S Enough says:

    FWIW – Maggie G’s performance on The Deuce is fearless and fascinating. I think she’s a brilliant actor who always manages to turn whatever role she’s playing into someone we’ve never seen before. In the best possible way.

    I also have chosen not to watch the scenes Franco is in (unless they’re in a scene together.) I started doing this after watched the entire show for a season and, given 2 roles to play, Franco shows us nothing that isn’t dull and utterly predictable.

    BTW – he’s also an Executive Producer on the series, which may or may not influence how the crew talk about him. (Ms. G is a Producer.)

    I agree that it’s unfair that women are all too often asked the questions about men they work with that the men themselves manage to duck.

  20. Renee says:

    I have been a fan of Maggie as an actress in the past. However, I watched her “Close Up with the Hollywood Reporter” roundtable interview with other actresses and she talked over most of them. I feel like she just came across as very privileged and self centered.
    She interrupted Angela Bassett a couple of times. Angela tried to make a point of how women of color have been silenced. Several times when Angela is telling about her experiences, Maggie decides to intervene with how she feels about it. Except, Angela isn’t talking about YOUR experience Maggie, she’s talking about her own. I became very disillusioned with Maggie.

    • JadedBrit says:

      @Renee She actually had the gall to talk over the great Angela Bassett? Good Lord, that’s the equivalent of a mortal sin – and shows not only arrogance, but an unbecoming level of immaturity. Rather like the Irritating kid in class who thinks they know all the answers, even those based on others’ unique experiences.

    • Anna says:

      Wait, what? Okay, she might be fully cancelled for me then. Dammit! Another show bites the dust. I feel like these days it’s always just a matter of time before another white woman I had admired shows her ass and has to be cancelled. The times we are living in, there is no time for coddling. It’s life or death out her for BIPOC women.

  21. Veronica S. says:

    I’m fine with her not having a great answer because IT ISN’T HER JOB TO ANSWER THAT QUESTION. SHE DOESN’T HAVE THE POWER TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT. Chances are that if she said anything, she would be the one out of job and Franco would still be there. And how does that help any woman at all?

  22. Grant says:

    This is such a shame about James Franco’s behavior because it tarnishes what is otherwise a fantastic show–frankly, it’s my favorite HBO show next to Game of Thrones. Unless I’m mistaken, the same people who created The Wire are behind The Deuce. My favorite thing about TD is that the female characters are, far and away, the most interesting and compelling characters on the show. Seriously, in my opinion it has some of the best female characters on TV at the moment–they’re the most dynamic. The male characters tend to play second-fiddle to the growth and evolution of their female counterparts. If I recall correctly, at least half the writers are female, which is pretty great and probably why the female perspective on the show is so intriguing. But it further boggles the mind as to why Franco is still there. Perhaps that’s why they’re ending after the next season…

  23. Mina says:

    She has to answer because she’s a producer and has a say in whether he remains hired or not.

  24. Darla says:

    I don’t follow him at all, but I am a General hospital fan. He played “Franco” (what a stretch huh) on GH for a very short time. It was some school project of his supposedly. Anyway, what sticks in my mind about him, is that Nancy Lee Grahn said when he was on the GH set, a lot of the other actors were excited, but she locked her dressing room door.

  25. AnotherDirtyMartini says:

    He has always given me the creeps. He’s got the creepy slimeball look big time! Why the eff isn’t JAMES being asked more about his behavior? Wtf ?

  26. Valerie says:

    Don’t be fooled by the premise! The Deuce is actually a great show. It doesn’t glorify the industry. Maggie’s character is great, and dare I use the big E word… Empowered? The first season, anyway. Two is kind of lagging for me.

    As for this interview, her answer was fine. She should not be expected to answer for Franco’s actions, and she’s not about to put her own career in jeopardy in order to answer honestly. That is, unfortunately, what would happen, and she knows it.

  27. Nancy says:

    I do watch The Deuce and I have to say, it would be a shame if the show went away. It does have a lot to say about misogyny and women in this industry that is so part of our culture now. I understand the allegations against Franco and yes, they’re horrible. It would, however, be very hard to replace him on that show, in those two roles. It is a dilemma I think. What I hope is that the producers are trying to find a way (and an actor) to replace him for upcoming seasons, but again – in those particular roles it would be tough. I can see why they didn’t jump to nix him right away, and without someone like him in those roles, the show would definitely wither.

    • Mina says:

      If it goes, it won’t be because of Franco. It will be because sadly with that pedigree both in front and behind the scenes, it should be doing better. Wasn’t even nominated for the Emmys, and that’s bad for a HBO show.