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Award-winning actor James Franco has admitted sleeping with students at his acting school, in his first public comments about misconduct allegations made against him four years ago, claiming he suffered from a sex addiction.

Speaking to the Jess Cagle Podcast, Franco defended his decision to “sleep with students” while teaching at the Studio 4 school, claiming he felt that if the sex was “consensual” it was okay, and also that he “was not clearheaded.”

Although the actor accepted that his behavior was “wrong,” he argued that he only did it because he'd developed a sex addiction, calling it a “powerful drug” that he “got hooked on” for 20 more years after he became sober.

Franco was previously accused by ex-students of starting his acting school “to create a pipeline of young women who were subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education.” The 43-year-old actor denies this was the motivation behind starting the school.

Two women filed a civil suit against Franco in October 2019. When the claims were first made, Franco rejected them, saying they were not accurate. However, earlier this year, the actor agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle matter, according to documents filed in a Los Angeles court.

As part of the settlement, the parties involved agreed to a statement. “While Defendants continue to deny the allegations in the Complaint, they acknowledge that Plaintiffs have raised important issues; and all parties strongly believe that now is a critical time to focus on addressing the mistreatment of women in Hollywood,” the remarks read.

Since the allegations were leveled against him, Franco claims he has “been doing a lot of work” to address his sex addiction, telling the podcast that he is seeking to change who he was.

The interview marks the first time the actor has issued a full public response to the claims made against him.