Is this crazy James Franco story a viral campaign for his new movie?

On April 1, a selfie-loving Scottish teen named Lucy apparently went to see James Franco and Chris O’Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway — or, at least, waited outside the production’s stage door to meet Franco and O’Dowd after the show. Evidently, she got what she came to see… and then some. [Update: Lucy posted photos and videos of the two actors on her Instagram account, including one in which Franco asks her to tag him. She's since deleted her account.]

But that’s not the end of the story.

According to a series of screencaps — supposedly posted by Lucy on imgur, though they’ve since been removed — Franco later direct messaged the teenager (and, after that, texted her), proving his identity by sending over a few selfies and asking Lucy a series of friendly questions (“Where do you live?” “How long will you be in New York?” “You’re 18?” Wait — what?!). And also, uh, asking if she’d like to come to a hotel with him:

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(You can see their full exchange over at D Listed.)

The conversation leaked Wednesday; later that day, Franco responded to it on both Instagram and Twitter, though he later deleted the Instagram post.

Clearly, one of three things is happening here:

1. Academy Award-nominated actor and polymath James Franco actually just tried to pick up a 17-year-old girl.

2. The screencaps are fake.

3. The screencaps are fake… and they’re also a stunt plotted by Franco himself in order to stealthily advertise his new movie, Palo Alto, which is in part about a soccer coach (played by Franco) who has an affair with a teenager (Emma Roberts).

Given Franco’s very Francosity, I’m inclined to believe option no. 3 — this is just the sort of thing we’ve come to expect from Hollywood’s most irrepressible meta-artist. Plus, someone as plugged-in as Franco is couldn’t possibly think he’d get away with propositioning a teenage stranger, right? Right?


A rep for Franco hasn’t yet responded to EW’s request for comment.

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