‘Freaks and Geeks’: Busy Philipps Described James Franco as a ‘Pretentious Bully’ While Filming the Series

Working with James Franco was no easy feat for Busy Philipps. In fact, the talk show host called Franco a “pretentious bully” while making the coming of age series.

Their off-screen tension even led to a physical altercation between the two actors. What went down between Philipps and Franco behind the scenes of Freaks and Geeks?

Busy Philipps as Kim Kelly and James Franco as Daniel Desario
Busy Philipps as Kim Kelly and James Franco as Daniel Desario | Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Busy Philipps says ‘Freaks and Geeks’ was a ‘boys’ club’

According to Philipps, the set of Freaks and Geeks resembled a “boys’ club” where there were little to no consequences for bad behavior. She was only 19 when she starred in the series, and due to her inexperience in Hollywood, she assumed this was just how it was. Philipps said that she had to take the sexism on set in stride to get by, lest she wanted to be seen as difficult.

And while she claims the other actors were OK, things were different when it came to Franco. She describes him as “pretentious” and “a bully” in her memoir titled This Will Only Hurt a Little. Not only did he ignore her on set and treat her like she was invisible, but he would also steal her lines. It got to the point where she says the tumultuous relationship between their characters in the series was quite similar to how the two of them were in real life.

James Franco was a ‘bully’ to Busy Philipps on the set of ‘Freaks and Geeks’

James Franco as Daniel Desario, Busy Philipps as Kim Kelly
James Franco as Daniel Desario, Busy Philipps as Kim Kelly | NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

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Not only would Franco ignore Philipps, but he also physically attacked her while in the middle of shooting a scene. In the take, her character Kim Kelly was supposed to hit Franco’s character’s chest. When she did what she was supposed to do in the script, she claims Franco “grabbed both my arms and screamed in my face, ‘DON’T EVER TOUCH ME AGAIN!'” He then threw her to the ground, where she had the wind knocked out of her.

And instead of Franco having any severe consequences for his actions, he “barely got a slap on the wrist.”

Judd Apatow, the creator of the series, forced Franco to apologize to her, and that was it. “James was full of bad behavior, so why would this be treated any differently?” she writes.

Do James Franco and Busy Philipps keep in touch?

James Franco as Daniel Desario, Busy Philipps as Kim Kelly
James Franco as Daniel Desario, Busy Philipps as Kim Kelly | NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

According to Philipps, Franco has apologized for his actions. She said, “James and I have talked about it over the years. At one point, he apologized to me. I was always acutely aware of my expendability, so I felt I needed to never complain, always show up on time and not be difficult. If someone else was being difficult, it was my job to be the easy one or figure out a way to soothe the situation.”

And in an interview with Watch What Happens Live, Philipps talks about her current relationship with Franco.

“We’re friends now, and we really like each other now as adults,” she says. “But as kids, we did not get along.”