Did actor James Franco try to hook up with a 17-year-old visiting New York? Or is this just a "performance" stunt by the 35-year-old native of Palo Alto?
A leaked Instagram conversation and text messages seem to reveal flirtations between Franco and Scottish teenager Lucy Clode.
Daily Dot first reported the exchange that started when Clode allegedly met Franco at an autograph signing for his play "Of Mice and Men" in New York on Tuesday. An Instagram video she posted showed the actor saying, "You gotta tag me."
She did and what followed was a flirty Instagram conversation in which Clode admits to being 17 and Franco asks for her number.
The exchange then shifted to text messages, which Gawker released to the public. In those messages, Franco asked Clode: "You're single? What's the hotel? Should I rent a room?"
"April fools was an hour ago though...," Clode replied.
The teen then asked Franco to prove he was texting by writing her name on a piece of paper and taking a selfie, which he did. Clode eventually declined to meet the actor, saying, "I'll come back when I'm 18."
Although Gawker noted that the messages could be faked, it also verified that the exchange was shared on the image site Imgur.
Franco seemed to respond to the situation by posting Wednesday on Instagram, "I hope parents keep their teens away from me. Thank you." He later deleted the post, but the link remained on his Twitter account.
All of this has led to some media speculation about whether the incident was really just the latest publicity stunt by the actor.
Hillary Busis of Entertainment Weekly wrote about the possibility of this being "a stunt plotted by Franco himself in order to stealthily advertise his new movie, 'Palo Alto,'" which is adapted from his short story collection of the same name. In one of the stories, a soccer coach (Franco) has an affair with a teenager (Emma Roberts).
"This is just the sort of thing we've come to expect from Hollywood's most irrepressible meta-artist," Busis said. "Plus, someone as plugged-in as Franco is couldn't possibly think he'd get away with propositioning a teenage stranger, right? Right?"
Franco's history as a "meta-artist" started with him jumping on the trend of publishing selfies in the early 2000s.
In 2010, Variety reported the absurdity of Franco's performance art of combining a "General Hospital" taping and live art exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Los Angeles.
In 2011, he made news for opening an art museum that was completely empty and titling the project, "Museum of Non-Visible Art." He also came under fire for what some critics called his "disastrous" co-hosting of the Oscars that year.
Last year, Franco teamed up with "Spring Breakers" co-star Ashley Benson to create a parody video of Justin Bieber that went viral. Hollywood Life and other media outlets reported that Franco and Benson, then 23, had an affair while she was still in a relationship with Ryan Good. Both Franco and Benson denied the rumors.