James Franco and the 17-year-old: Dishy dish or creepy PR stunt?

<i>This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.</i>

Wait, James Franco did what? With whom? Really? It’s a story that sounds almost too perfectly dishy to be real.

Gossips were abuzz Thursday after screen shots surfaced showing a Tuesday text conversation that allegedly occurred between the actor, 35, and one Lucy Corde, 17, in which Franco seems to be trying to talk the Scottish schoolgirl into a hookup at a hotel.

The alleged exchange all started with Corde, who was visiting New York with her mom as an early 18th birthday present, meeting Franco on Tuesday amid a crowd outside his “Of Mice and Men” theater.


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She was shooting video of him for Instagram, which Franco apparently noticed, prompting him to shout to her, “Ya gotta tag me” (so he’d be alerted when the video went up).

According to screen shots still available online (there are links below), Franco contacted Corde via Instagram, quickly ascertaining where she was from, how long she was going to be in New York City and, after she told him the trip with mom was an 18th birthday present, was she 18. The answer to that last was no, which makes things sound pretty creepy even though New York’s age of consent is 17.

Where are you staying? Do you have a boyfriend? Can I have your number? The questions went on with Corde asking for photo proof that Franco was really Franco. Then the exchange moved to text messages.

“What’s the hotel?,” he asked, according to the screen grabs. “Should I rent a room?”

She replies that April Fool’s Day was over an hour ago (though a quick spin around the Internet suggests that in Scotland they spend 48 hours, not 24, celebrating the worst day of the year after Valentine’s Day).

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He presses her to answer yes or no, then suggests they meet the next day or day after. Her answer? “I’ll come back when I’m 18.” She then says it’s a story her “Scottish friends” will never believe, and he says “Don’t tell.” As he tries to sign off, she says she will meet him if he writes her name on a piece of paper and sends a photo of himself holding it, a request he obliges.

Of course, the screen shots could be faked, and all the source material has been taken down from where it was posted on Imgur. Clode’s Instagram account has disappeared, leaving only a “Page Not Found” in its wake.

A Wednesday morning tweet from Franco, also deleted, read, “I’M NOT! I HOPE PARENTS KEEP THEIR TEENS AWAY FROM ME. Thank you.” The first part seems to refer to people calling him a creep or perv.

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Take a look at the screen shots at Gawker or the Daily Mail (which still has the “tag me” video), or if you want to brave profanity and snark, check out DListed, which appears to have been first to the story.

Of course, knowing Franco’s penchant for performance art and general weirdness, there’s also the notion that the whole thing could be a publicity stunt for his film “Palo Alto,” which has been screened at the Telluride Film Festival and opens in limited U.S. release May 9. In it, he plays a teacher with his eye on a young female student.

Franco tweeted about the film Wednesday, including an Instagram shot of “Palo Alto” costar Emma Roberts taking a selfie while wearing only an “I [heart] James Franco” T-shirt and underpants.

If this were a PR stunt, the point would be to get people to look at the movie’s trailer, right? So we’ll bite: Here it is.

[For The Record, 11:05 p.m. PDT April 3: A previous version of this post named Emma Watson as James Franco’s costar in “Palo Alto.” Emma Roberts costars in the film.]


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