The issue, the last from storied Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Graydon Carter, is an assembly of Hollywood's top talent. In the striking cover image, Oprah Winfrey sits next to Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman. Tom Hanks poses next to Michael B. Jordan and Zendaya, while Jessica Chastain lounges nearby. Michael Shannon, Gal Gadot, Robert De Niro, Claire Foy, Harrison Ford, and the departing editor-in-chief round out the scene. According to the accompanying article, THR points out that this cover is a digital composite of several smaller portraits, so it would have been easy to scrub Franco's presence from the tableau.
Though he earned a Golden Globe for his performance in The Disaster Artist, Franco has become a source of controversy ever since sexual misconduct allegations surfaced in mid-January. Just days after the Golden Globes, the Times published the accounts of five women who alleged that Franco had exploited them. Through his attorney, Franco has denied the accusations, and the actor has shifted out of the spotlight. He attended the SAG Awards, but did not walk the red carpet, and he was not nominated for an Oscar. (Reportedly, Academy members wished they could change their votes after the Times published their report.)
Franco's presence on the cover would have been controversial, especially because Vanity Fair positioned the spread as a grouping of actor pushing the conversation forward.
"The films and TV shows represented by the actors in this year’s Hollywood Portfolio—which for the first time offers a behind-the-scenes look at the shoot—took the #MeToo movement in stride," the accompanying article explains. It would be difficult to shoehorn Franco's work into this narrative.
Refinery29 has reached out to representation for Franco for comment.
Amid all this, the VF cover has been its own source of (very, very mild) controversy. Yesterday, Twitter discovered that a Photoshop mishap had given Oprah Winfrey an extra hand. Now, we know that Photoshop might also be responsible for the ghost of James Franco.
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