Oscar-nominated actor James Franco has acknowledged sleeping with students of an acting school he previously ran, saying he struggled with a sex addiction and has been working to improve his behaviour in recent years.

In excerpts from The Jess Cagle Podcast made public on Wednesday, Franco, 43, said that while teaching, he "did sleep with students, and that was wrong". He said he did not start the school to lure women for sexual purposes.

"I suppose at the time, my thinking was if it's consensual, okay," he added in the SiriusXM podcast.

"At the time I was not clearheaded."

The remarks were Franco's first extended comments about accusations levelled against him nearly four years ago when the Los Angeles Times reported that five women had accused Franco of conduct they considered inappropriate.

At the time, Franco said the allegations were "not accurate" but did not want to "shut down" people who "did not have a voice".

Later, in October 2019, two women filed a civil suit against the Pineapple Express star, accusing him of exploiting aspiring actors at his now-defunct school and duping young women into shooting explicit sex scenes.

Franco said he developed a sex addiction after he became sober from an alcohol addiction he developed at a young age.

"It's such a powerful drug," he said. "I got hooked on it for 20 more years. The insidious part of that is that I stayed sober from alcohol all that time."

James Franco, seen here in his Oscar-nominated performance in the film 127 Hours Photo: Fox Searchlight

Franco co-hosted the Oscars ceremony in 2011 and was a nominee at the 2012 awards for his performance in 127 Hours.

The actor agreed this year to pay $2.2 million to settle the 2019 civil lawsuit, according to documents filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

In the podcast interview, Franco also said he has been in recovery from sex addiction since 2016 and has "been doing a lot of work" after the allegations against him "and changing who I was".

"I didn't want to hurt people," he said.

Addressing the 2018 allegations during the interview, Franco said: "In 2018, there were some complaints about me and an article about me and at that moment I just thought, 'I'm gonna be quiet, I'm going to pause'.

"It did not feel like the right time to say anything.

"There were people that were upset with me and I needed to listen."

He continued: "There's a writer called Damon Young and he talked about when something like this happens, then the natural human instinct is to just make it stop.

"You want to get out in front of it and (do) whatever you have to do, apologise and get it done.

"What that doesn't do is allow you to do the work and look at what was underneath.

"Whatever you did, even if it was a gaffe or you said something wrong, there's probably an iceberg underneath, of behaviour, of patterning, or just being blind to yourself that isn't just going to be solved overnight.

"I was in recovery before for substance abuse. There were some issues that I had to deal with that were also related to addiction.

"And so I've really used my recovery background to kind of start examining this and changing who I was."

Source: Reuters, Press Association